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SxSW 2016 Interview: ACCIDENTAL COURTESY: DARYL DAVIS, RACE & AMERICA director Matt Ornstein

by Jason Whyte

"ACCIDENTAL COURTESY is a documentary about a black musician whose hobby is meeting guys in the KKK, many of whom he becomes friends with. It's sadly more relevant today than we ever dreamed it could be." Director Matt Ornstein on ACCIDENTAL COURTESY: DARYL DAVIS, RACE & AMERICA which screens at the 2016 edition of South By Southwest Film.

I am thrilled to hear your movie is showing at SxSW! If this is your first time having a movie show in Austin?

My previous festival outing ATLANTIS played The Austin Film Festival which was a great experience. I'm back for the breakfast tacos.

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

I got my start in music videos which were and to some extent still are a place where you are given a lot of freedom to make terrible mistakes as a director. In 2012 I was lucky enough to get to make a short film about the last space shuttle launch (ATLANTIS) which was a documentary narrative hybrid.

How did ACCIDENTAL COURTESY come together from your perspective?

Pretty organically. I met Daryl and did a pre interview and then we started filming the next month. We shot it over a period of two years and each time it was like another layer unfolding. Smart producers and editors contributed a lot of brain hours and eventually it began to take shape in the form you see today.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/tea are we talking here?

I am actually still trying to cycle down the coffee as we just finished post and my tolerance is at an all time high. Aside from that, the desire to do right by the material was always a big help when it got tough. This is such an unusual and fascinating story that if the film came out flat we really only had ourselves to blame. Please don't tell me if it did.

What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

Finding a beginning, middle and end in an ongoing real story is tough. You want to be faithful to the reality but you also want to deliver a filmgoing experiences at the same time. Hopefully we struck that balance. I think for me seeing an audience respond to an early version of the film at a small test screening was the moment I started to think we were on to something.

I must get technical. I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie.

We shot the film on the Pocket Black Magic Cinema with great old 16mm lenses. It was definitely a pain in some regards but I think it looks great, shout out to our colorist Beau Leon. The main cinematographer Sam Gezari I actually went to Bard College with and know in my blood, for better or worse. He brought a lot of vision to the project as did Peter Castagnetti who DP'ed the southern shoot and one of the DC units. Your relationship with your DP is maybe the most important one on a film like this and I was very lucky to have two such good ones on hand.

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

The audiences in Austin might be the best in the world. It's debatable. Also, La Condessa.

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

We're on tour to Cleveland, Atlanta, Nashville and hopefully a theater near you.

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

The Zigfield theater in New York because it would mean they hadn't just closed it killing a small part of the heart of every film loving New Yorker. That or the White House screening room.

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

I am the wrong person to ask about this. I terminate with extreme prejudice.

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?

You have to actively be making stuff as much as possible, both to hone your craft and to build the relationships that will allow you to make your eventual masterpiece. Not everything you get to do will be your dream project but you always learn something.

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

That is a hard one. I'm going to go with the AFI screening of Bela Tarr's THE TURIN HORSE from whatever year that was. He got up and announced it would be his final film and then played this devastating masterpiece and just walked off into the night. Good stuff.

Be sure to follow the progress of ACCIDENTAL COURTESY by visiting!

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 07:21:32
last updated: 03/11/16 07:23:01
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