Vancouver International Film Festival 2010 Interview –“Ride Rise Roar” director David Hillman Curtis

By Jason Whyte
Posted 10/11/10 09:05:49

“Ride Rise Roar is a David Byrne concert film that blends riveting onstage performances with intimate details of the creative collaborations that make the music and performance happen. My greatest point of pride is that it's been compared favorably to my favorite music documentary of all time "Stop Making Sense".” Director David Hillman Curtis on the film “Ride Rise Roar” which screens at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.

Is this your first film in the VIFF? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to attend Vancouver for the screenings?

This will be my first in the VIFF. We've screened RRR in many different festivals around the world but besides a short film that made it into GenArts, this is really my first experience with festivals. I likely won't to be there in beautiful Vancouver due to scheduling conflicts...which is regrettable.

Could you give me a little look into your background and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

I ran a design firm for over ten years and on the side I started fooling around with a Panasonic DVX100 and final cut pro; about two or three years ago I closed the design firm and opened up a production studio. Not a huge or drastic change since the firm,, remained basically the same, just the content of my online portfolio went from web sites to commercials and short films and this feature.

The desire to make this film was simple; it's David Byrne!

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

“…someone who remembers details about his childhood.” I think the first real desire I can remember was to be a writer. I think I was fourteen and I set up a little writer's nook in my house and played old Gershwin records and wrote Chandler-esq short stories. I don't think I actually finished any of them, but I did go on to study creative writing in college.

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

I had made a short film about the designer Stefan Sagmiester and David saw it (he and Stefan are friends and Stefan has designed several of David's CDs). I put out the word that if David had something on the horizon I'd love to film it. At that time David and Brian Eno were set to release their record "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" and they thought a short film would be a cool addition to the deluxe set. So I made that film and from there we got to talking about the tour David had set up to support the record. David had hired three NY choreographers and a team of dancers and was working through building this show. We were lucky to get a green light from David and get it early enough to capture some of what they went through in this real collaborative process of putting together what turned out to be an amazing show.

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

It's all challenging from start to finish. I can point to one period where I thought the film was done and David didn't that was real stressful for me; David was right and the film is so much stronger for his guidance, but at the time I was very protective about what we had and I thought we'd lose things I loved, which wasn't the case.

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.

The DP is my daughter's Godfather and one of my closest friends. Ben Wolf is the only DP I work with. He shoots on the Red One and that camera just seemed to be the obvious choice for the film. It shoots wonderful images and it's cheap.

Talk a bit about the experiences that you have had with the film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings?

A woman broke down after a screening in Seattle which was interesting because I always felt the film had an emotional depth...but I never really spoke about it when describing the film.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

I like Peter Weir. I like Bob Fosse. Both were inspirations on this film.

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

I was a carpenter for a few years in my twenties. I liked it and could see doing that again, but I can't imagine anything that fits my sensibilities as well as filmmaking.

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

Wes Anderson and his gang come to mind at the moment.

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

Personally it means a great deal, and I think it's crucial to an independent film's success.

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

I think it would be the Court Street Cinemas because that's our neighborhood theater here in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn yo.

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

I wouldn't say a damn thing...

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, and especially for those with films in the festival circuit?

I started with the purchase of a camera and FCP. I didn't know much about filmmaking and in fact set the camera on auto for the first few short films I made. I think that's my advice; make films.

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

“8 ˝” by Fellini, “All that Jazz” by Bob Fosse, “The Year of Living Dangerously” by Peter Weir, “The Royal Tennenbaums” by Wes Anderson; I can't name just one. I like these four because they are originals.

This is one of the official selections in this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival lineup. For more information on films screening at this year’s fest, showtimes, updates and other general info, point your browser to

Be sure to follow instant happenings of VIFF ’10 on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a Tweetphoto or two. #viff10 is the official hashtag.

Jason Whyte,

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