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VIFF 2008 Interview – When Life Was Good director Terry Miles

When Life Was Good - At VIFF 2008
by Jason Whyte

“Honestly, I feel that the programmers at both TIFF and VIFF absolutely nailed the “Pitch” in their respective programme guides. SO MUCH better than I could have put it, being so close to the film.” Director Terry Miles on "When Life Was Good" which screens at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival (September 25 - October 10).

Is this your first film in the VIFF? Do you have any other festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favourite and least-favourite parts of the festival experience. Do you plan to attend VIFF for the screenings?

This is my first VIFF film, and my only festival experience as a participant is TIFF 2008. I loved it, but the compressed time and the pace were hard to let go.

Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

I came to filmmaking through music (I made videos for my bands), and it just grew out of that desire to do more than just music. With cinema you have music, photography, theatre, and so much more.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!

Space Cowboy…Yeah, I’m still waiting for this to pan out.

While you were making the movie, were you thinking about the future release of the film, be it film festivals, paying customers, critical response, and so forth?

No. I made WHEN LIFE WAS GOOD because I saw a space in my collection of films (I’m an avid cinephile), a type of film that I wanted to see that hadn’t been made.

How did this project come to fruition? If you could, please provide me with a rundown, start to finish, from your involvement.

I came up with an idea for the stuff with Brooklyn coming home and leaving, and I knew I wanted to try guided improvisation. It just grew out of that.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it principal photography or post-production?

Getting the print and the blow up done in time for TIFF. That was crazy. I was running around working 16 hour days for a month just trying to get everything ready in time.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

Cassavetes, Von Trier, LaBute, Moodysson, Rohmer, and Woody Allen. I had to use my limitations (no money) as my strength. So I was the only crew, I didn’t use any lights, and this gives the film an intimacy of performance. If I had money, I would have made a different film.

How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?

As long as I can Write, Direct, Shoot, and Edit EVERYTHING I do (and have final cut), I’d be happy doing anything. I’d work in television without those stipulations. I’d enjoy that type of work, and I might be able to fund a few low budget projects of my own that way.

If you weren’t in this profession, what other career do you think you would be interested in?


Please tell me some filmmakers or talent that you would love to work with, even if money was no object.

Ulrich Thomsen.

Do you think that you have “made it” in this profession yet? If you don’t believe so, what do you think would happen for that moment to occur?

I’d like to think that one day I could pay my rent by making films, but we’ll see.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

If it means more people see the film, I think it’s very important.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

Alamo Drafthouse in Austin and the Angelika in NYC.

Do you have an opinion on the issue of “A Film by (Insert Director Here)” ? Is this something you use? Many people collaborate to make a film yet simultaneously, the director is the final word on the production.

When you’re the only crew it seems fitting. Although, it is true that you can’t make a film without actors.

What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?

I’d probably have to trick them.

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

Just make it. Don’t go for lunch and talk about it. Don’t get involved in Development. That’s a ridiculous concept.

And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?

Today it’s THE PASSENGER, but yesterday it was THREE COLOURS, BLUE. No real reason, except that those films are perfect.

This is one of the many films screening at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on when this film is playing and to order tickets, point your browser to – Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 10/06/08 19:40:41
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