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Sundance Pre-Production: EULOGY Writer/Director Michael Clancy

Famke Janssen, Kelly Preston, Ray Romano, Hank Azaria and Zooey Deschanel - some cast!
by Chris Parry

THE 'EULOGY' PITCH: "A family is summoned home to celebrate the death of a loved one. Kate, the favorite granddaughter, is entrusted with preparing a eulogy to celebrate the life of dead Grandpa Collins. Once everyone arrives, you have to question the sanity of a patriarch who could spawn such a dysfunctional bunch. Kate's attempt to unearth fond memories is met with resistance. The four children can only remember a distant father who could barely keep their names straight."

"It’s dangerous to put people in boxes."

1. Will this be your first time at Sundance? If not, what else have you been to Park City with?
No, I came to the festival with a short film (Emily’s Last Date) several years ago.

2. When you were 14 years old, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would your answer have been?
18 years old. I’ve always believed in small, attainable goals.

3. How did you get started in filmmaking?
I was trying to avoid taking a foreign language at NYU when I found out they had another school. A magical school without any language requirements and very few normal classes. A film school.

4. How have things changed for you since your film was accepted into the festival?
I’ve had to answers lots of questions about it.

5. When you were shooting the film, did you have Sundance in mind?
No. When I was shooting the film I didn’t have enough room in my mind for any thoughts of festivals. I couldn’t even keep track of whether or not I’d eaten.

6. How did you get your film started? How did you go from script to finished product?
I wrote the script. Howard Cohen at UTA liked it. He got Steven Haft to produce it and Nancy Nayor to cast it. But after showing it around for a while nobody wanted to give us enough money to make it. So just as we were about to throw in the towel, Todd Harris (my manager) had the idea to announce that we were going into production on a specific date. We backed it up by making firm offers to actors. Unbelievably, the actors we wanted to do it, wanted to do it. Then, Myriad Pictures, Ovation Entertainment, Cherry Roads Films, Equity Pictures and Artisan all chipped in enough cash to fund it and after a few false starts we put film into a camera in late February 2003, and with the expertise of Michael Chapman we exposed sixty hours of stock in 28 days. Richard Halsey edited it. Richard Marvin scored it. And now Sundance swore they’d show it.

7. What’s the one glaring lesson you learned while making this film?
Always sit as close to the actors as you can or you might miss something. Always make sure a take is totally blown (or over) before you call CUT or you might miss something.

8. When you were in pre-production, did you find yourself watching other great movies in preparation?
I watch Wonder Boys, It Happened One Night and Groundhog Day way too much.

9. If a studio said ‘we love this, we love you, you can remake anything in our back catalogue for $40m’ – what film, if any, would you remake?
I’d never want to remake any of the old films that I love because… I love them. And I’d really never want to remake the ones I don’t love.

10. Two parter – which actor would you cut off an arm to work with, and which relatively unknown actor on your own film do you want the world to start recognizing sooner rather than later?
I would never cut off an actor’s arm because it could lead to a loss of trust, which could affect their performance. But I would love to work with a symmetric Bill Murray because he is getting more and more interesting to watch.
I got to work with so many truly brilliant (and well known) actors on Eulogy (Zooey Deschanel, Ray Romano, Debra Winger, Hank Azaria, Kelly Preston, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Jesse Bradford, Glenne Headly, Rip Torn) but the one actor that people may not know as well is the unbearably talented Mark Harelik (Burt, the silent husband of Debra Winger). Also, The Brothers Garcia (Keith and Curtis) are quite astounding. And Michael Panes is too funny. Can I roll the rest of the credits now?

11. The festival circuit: what could be improved, and what couldn’t be?
I couldn’t really say because I’ve only ever been to Sundance. Although, I wouldn’t mind more tickets for filmmakers to see the films of others.

12. Have you ‘made it’ yet? If not, at what point will you be able to say ‘yes’?
I don’t believe I’ve “made it” and I can only hope I never do, only because my definition of making it is being allowed to stay in bed and eat pound cake all day.

13. A film is made by many people, as well as the director, but often films will open with a credit that says “a film by…” – Did you use that credit in your film? If so, defend yourself! If not, what do you think of those who do?
I did use the “a film by” credit because all of the other credits were taken by people who did those jobs.

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originally posted: 01/25/04 09:45:57
last updated: 01/31/04 11:23:24
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