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SXSW '06 Interview: 'S&Man' Director J.T. Petty

by Scott Weinberg

The 'S&Man' Pitch: Directed by J.T. Petty, this film explores the relation between voyeurism and horror films, utilizing a wide array of sources to shed light on the psychological underpinnings of the genre as well as what the desire to be horrified says about certain aspects of society. Centrally concerned with voyeurism, the film delves into related issues such as objectivity/subjectivity and audience sympathy.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
S&Man is a snuffumentary about voyeurism and underground horror. And it’s pronounced “sandman.”

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
This is my first trip to SXSW, but I’ve done a bunch of others. The best part is going to really interesting places and then ignoring them entirely because you’re watching 4 or 5 movies a day. The worst part is being schmoozed by people who probably won’t see any movies that week.

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?
Air Traffic Controller.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
When I was 20, I shot a movie called Soft for Digging that took me around to festivals and got me a few jobs.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”
Not so much. Just the gut-churning anxiety of actually revealing the thing to an audience.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Can I include Fraggles? I relate to Doozers. But if we’re being Muppet Show puritanical, I’ll relate to Sweetums.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Lawsuits, mostly. But really, production is generally enough of a rolling potential disaster that there’s no use or time to think about reviews.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
A lot of it generated from the creepy bastards who would contact me through my website for Soft for Digging. Whole hell of a lot of certifiable / convictable underground horror filmmakers / fans in the world.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition? Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
S&Man is a lot different from the other movies I’ve made. My comfort blanket movie is Millers Crossing, though that had nothing to do with this. For this movie, I was probably thinking along a Werner Herzog line. I admire that man’s life and work both separately and combined.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Kevin Spacey.

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?
Anything? "Katamari Damaci." And I would make it terrifying. (This isn’t me being funny and absurdist. If some studio executive is reading this, give me a call, I’ll give you a pitch.)

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
I’ve got “subjects” more than I’ve got “actors.” But either Eric or Bill Zebub should have their own sit-com within a year. They both walk a line between charm and criminal perversion that screams UPN.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
A short-order cook.

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

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!”
No idea.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I read what film critics write, and I think a lot of people do. Kind of terrifying and wonderful both that sites like aintitcool have elevated 15-year-olds in Paducah to a near-equal status with Elvis Mitchell and his ilk.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
I put Krispy Kreme Donuts all over Soft for Digging out of sheer fandom. But now. Um. How about Make Magazine? Seems ripe for reference in some MacGyver-esque escape sequence.

You’re contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that’s absolutely integral to the film or you’re getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
Maybe this is the point when I can tell whether or not I’ve “made it.” If I have enough power to say “fuck all y’all, release an NC-17 movie,” and they do it, then I’ll have made it.

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?
Yep, “film by” is way tacky.

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?
This is me barking outside the carnival tent, so take it with a grain of salt. But - I think a horror film audience goes to a theater to be attacked by the movie. People flood movies like Hostel and Saw because they want to be hurt. I think S&Man attacks an audience more insidiously and directly than anything in a long time.

--

S&Man, directed by J.T. Petty, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for festival information, and be sure to check out the official S&Man website.


link directly to this feature at https://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1716
originally posted: 02/11/06 20:46:11
last updated: 02/14/06 19:59:47
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