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SXSW '07 Interview: "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" Director Stephen Kijak

by Erik Childress

The “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" Pitch: A film about the legendary Scott Walker: The man, the enigma, the songwriter, the pork-puncher.

Tell us about your own history with discovering Scott Walker.

STEPHEN: First discovered him in 1990, the first pressing of the "Boychild" compilation on CD from Fontana Records. Obsession set in shortly thereafter.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.

STEPHEN: By the sheer force of my will. A totally independent production. I faxed his managers in 2001 with this crazy idea. Three years later they agreed. Spent two and a half years on and off in London shooting, waiting for opportunities to shoot Scott, which is like waiting for a date with a Yeti, but we finally got what we needed. World premiere October 2006 in London. Last night? The work never ends, was probably processing "Scott Walker" tee-shirt orders (they're a very popular item by the way...)

As a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.

STEPHEN: Favorite? I'd say that first screening at a major film festival. Our first Berlin Film Fest screening for this was heaving, 500+ people, and the sound was really, really great. And then we nipped off for champagne and nibbles in the VIP lounge and I met Lauren Bacall. Doesn't get much better than that. Least favorite? Day two after coming home, you still haven't unpacked, and you realize you've been drunk for 72 hours in a row.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be "When I grow up I want to be a …" what?

STEPHEN: An enigmatic crooner. Oh well...

Not including your backyard and your Dad's Handycam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?

STEPHEN: It was less boring than my journalism major so I switched. Total accident. Got lucky by having Ray "John Cassavetes expert" Carney as my first film professor. That kicked the door open for sure.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"

STEPHEN: Given the reaction of the audiences thus far, I feel less terror and a bit of fatherly pride.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?

STEPHEN: Definitely one of those two grumpy old men in the balcony.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?

STEPHEN: Always. I actually imagine arguments/fights with people who write bad reviews.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?

STEPHEN: Always be able to have a laugh and a pint with your colleagues - it's just a movie after all - the process is almost more important than what happens afterwards.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?

STEPHEN: Lynch. Cassavettes. John Waters. Maysles ("Grey Gardens"). Agnes Varda ("The Gleaners" being a recent mindblowing inspiration)

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell "This! I want something JUST like this …only different."?

STEPHEN: Not for this.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?

STEPHEN: Remake: Arthur Hiller's "Nightwing", Adaptation: Martin Pousson's "No Place, Louisiana", Sequelize: The X-Files Movie: 2.

Name someone associated with your film that's absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.

STEPHEN: My producer Mia Bays, aka "Bay-Lo." She nabbed an Oscar for her first film, you do the math!

Finish this sentence: If I weren't a filmmaker, I'd almost definitely be...

STEPHEN: An enigmatic crooner.

Who's an actor you'd kill a small dog to work with? (Don't worry; nobody would know.)

STEPHEN: James Dean.

Have you "made it" yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say "Yes, wow. I have totally made it!"

STEPHEN: I hope I never "make it", i prefer the constant lurch towards chaos.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?

STEPHEN: No offense, but since Metacritic, IMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes reduce everything to percentages, stars and splats...I fear it is a dead art. There are SO many of them they drown each other out with all the chatter. And sadly, they can still sink you.

Who do you admire on the music scene these days?

STEPHEN: Neko Case. Scott Walker. Richard Hawley. Genisis P. Oridge (hell yeah to the Throbbing Gristle reunion)

Is there anyone on the film or music scene that you believe has either sold out and would wish would take a Walker-esque journey to rediscover the path of being a great artist?

STEPHEN: Johnny Depp has to stop making cartoons and get deep and freaky. You know he has it in him. Maybe if he listened to "The Drift"...

You're told that your next movie must have one "product placement" on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?

STEPHEN: Guinness.

What's your take on the whole "a film by DIRECTOR" issue? Do you feel it's tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film – or do you think it's cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?

STEPHEN: I'm on the fence. I don't particularly like it actually.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?

STEPHEN: How could you possibly pass up a film about a man who once had a compilation of his music released called "Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker".


Stephen Kijak’s Scott Walker: 30 Second Man will have its North American premiere at the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival on Tuesday, March 13 at 7:15 pm and screen again on Thursday, March 15 at 1:45 pm (both at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Downtown.) And check out for even more info!

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originally posted: 03/06/07 13:43:04
last updated: 03/07/07 08:50:15
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