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SxSW 2016 Interview: BEFORE THE SUN EXPLODES director Debra Eisenstadt

by Jason Whyte

"Someone described it as a feminist take on AFTER HOURS. I like that." Director Debra Eisenstadt on BEFORE THE SUN EXPLODES which screens at SxSW Film, 2016 edition.

A bit more of a synopsis: Ken Cooper (Bill Dawes) was a successful comedian in the 1990's, but his single-guy jokes are irrelevant twenty years later. Now he's an anxiety ridden, stay-at-home dad, clinging to a TV show dream that his breadwinner wife (Christine Woods) doesn't believe in. Tonight could be a big break for Ken- a final shot at selling his pitch. But after an epic fight with his wife, Ken's no longer welcome home. Their clash alters everything- on stage and off. Ken is crushed, with nowhere to turn, until he meets Holly (Sarah Butler), a bright, charismatic comedienne, who lures him out of his shell and into her bizarre world. Their very real connection leads to a somewhat surreal, unforgettable and possibly unforgivable night.

Talk to me a bit about how you got your start in the industry and your previous work!

I started working as an actress in New York City right after college. I got the starring role Off Broadway in David Mamet's OLEANNA from an open call in the newspaper. I worked as an actress in theater, film and tv throughout my 20s, but I was more interested in writing and directing, so I went to film school. I made a feature film for my graduate thesis that won the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance and an Independent Spirit Award.

Great backstory! So how did BEFORE THE SUN EXPLODES come together for you?

I had another project that was in limbo and I was tired of waiting for other people to make things happen. So, I decided to make something myself. I approached my friend Zeke Farrow, who was in a similar situation. We joined forces and wrote a script together that attracted actors. We raised the money, enlisted a crew, we found the locations, a composer and so forth, and I directed and edited the film.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

I love the entire process. It's an escape for me, so it's not hard to keep me going, although strong coffee helps.

What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?

The biggest challenge was convincing myself to make something before there was anything. Then, the challenge was writing the script and committing to realizing the script and getting other people to dedicate their time and talent to such an independent project.

There were a lot of little moments throughout the making of this that were very special. The one that stands out to me was our very first reading with the actors of the script. That reading was kind of magical. Everyone in that room committed themselves to the project that night and most of those actors are in the film.

I must get technical, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie and how it came to screen visually.

We used the RED camera. The cinematographer and I had a very specific idea of how we would visualize the script; I was very clear about the look/the tone, but it's challenging working with no budget. There were films that inspired us; films that used natural light and were limited as well. There were many inspiring images we passed back and forth. I applied specific images and a color palette to each scene/location, to give the DP a clear idea of what I was going for. We had many challenges, especially since so much of the film took place at night and we had very little to work with.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie to audiences here in Austin?

I am looking forward meeting new people, watching the film with an audience for the first time and seeing how they respond to it.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?

The Nashville Film Festival!

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

My whole family is in Brooklyn & Queens, where I grew up, and I miss it. I would love to have my family and friends see it in a theater. So, if I had to pick one, it would be BAM, for Brooklyn.

What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?

Please stop? What can you do? People are addicted to their phones.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

My advice, and this applies to anything really; don't wait for someone else to believe you can do something before you do something.

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

Brett Morgen's films; ON THE ROPES, THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, CHICAGO 10 and KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK. Each one is incredible and completely original.

Be sure to follow BEFORE THE SUN EXPLODES on Twitter at @btsefilm!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview as part of our coverage of SxSW 2016. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 11-19. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/11/16 05:02:51
last updated: 03/11/16 05:09:22
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