Victoria Film Festival 2011 Interview - "No Fun City" director Melissa JamesBy Jason Whyte
Posted 02/04/11 17:22:58
"No Fun City is a Vancouver-set documentary what happens to independent music and nightlife when faced with the issues of gentrification, noise complaints and stringent city by-laws. It is about a loud vibrant underground music scene, the promoters, bands and fans that support it; and their struggle for space in a city that is rapidly being commercialized, where their culture isnít deemed as valid anymore. Itís also about determination and DIY culture, how people have chosen to do things their own way, open venues regardless of laws and play loud music despite it being difficult. Itís a classic battle of us against them I guess, and hopefully itís a chance for the underdog to be heard." Director Melissa James on "No Fun City" which screens at this year's Victoria Film Festival.
Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival? Tell me about your festival experience, and if you plan to attend Victoria for the filmís screenings.
How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? Do you have any interesting stories about how this film has screened before? What do you think you will expect at the filmís screenings at Victoria?
So far we have screened at fests in San Francisco, New York, London, Montreal and others. And trust me, we were initially surprised with the amount of interest outside of Vancouver. It isnt just a local problem; people are facing similar issues with venues in other cities and we made sure that the film wasnít too Vancouver-centric so that other people could relate. It was great to be able to expose the music in the film to a wide audience too as people love the soundtrack. Our screening in London was amazing! We had two bands play in the lobby of the theatre and the screening was sold out. We did an event at the Rickshaw in Vancouver and were lucky to have bands from the film play including the Subhumans which was a thrill. A lot of people in Victoria will know the characters personally and the bands so I think it will be a blast this weekend.
If you werenít making movies, what other line or work do you feel youíd be in?
Kate and I would be brain surgeons. Just kidding. I have always worked in a media related field so something in that realm. Filmmaking gives me the opportunity to express myself in my own words which I love. And my current job at Make Believe with documentary research I find very fulfilling. I do lots of things on the side though and so does Kate. She is a dancer in a band and will be going back on tour shortly.
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
I think for a DIY film like ours with little to no budget media is totally critical. It played a huge role in getting people interested in the film and on board to help. This only really works for issue driven projects though or subjects that touch a lot of people, otherwise it can be very hard to get media attention or anyoneís attention for that matter especially in this oversaturated media-driven world we have created. I also think people shouldnít take critics too seriously; at the end of the day you made a film and accomplished something and if you are proud of the end product, thatís all that should matter.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
It already played at the Prince Charles Cinema in Londonís west end which was surreal. Other than that I am not sure. Maybe at the old CBGBís before it closed down.
If you could offer a nickelís worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?
If you canít get it done any other way, do it yourself!
What do you love the most about film and the filmmaking business?
Collaboration, creativity. The combination of journalism, photography, music and promotion makes documentary filmmaking the perfect thing for me, and like I said it gives me the opportunity to express myself in my own words which is important and not many people get to share their view point with an audience like I have. I am honoured when anyone watches my film! I also love documentary because it never gets better or crazier or sadder than real life and itís important to keep showing real peopleís stories.
What would you do or say to someone who is talking or being disruptive during a movie?
In our film thatís just par for the course! Its loud and raucous and donít be surprised to see people drinking too.
A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite film of all time?
"Naked" by Mike Leigh, "The Rivers Edge", "American Movie", "Visitor Q", "Paradise Lost", "A Clockwork Orange" ... I could go on and on...
"No Fun City" screens at Victoria Film Festival, Friday, February 4th, 9:30pm at the Odeon.
This is one of the official selections in this yearís Victoria Film Festival lineup. For more information on films screening at this yearís fest, showtimes, updates and other general info, point your browser to www.victoriafilmfestival.com.
Be sure to follow instant happenings of VFF í11 on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a Tweetphoto or two. #vicfilmfestival is the official hashtag.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
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