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Vancouver Film Festival 2012 Interview – APE director Joel Potrykus

Ape - At VIFF
by Jason Whyte

“Small-time stand-up comic Trevor Newandyke is frustrated. He’s broke, his boss is a jerk, and he can’t get a laugh on stage. His secret love of fire keeps the frustration at bay. However, a deal with a fruit salesman, or possibly the Devil, gives him the courage to take his rage to the streets. It’s a realistic world with unrealistic consequences. Or it may all just be a fantasy.” Director Joel Potrykus on “Ape” which screens at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.

Is this your first film in the Vancouver International Film Festival? Do you plan to attend Vancouver for the screenings?

Yes, this is my first film here. And I will be front and center.

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

There were two things I did as a kid – make forts in the woods and watch stacks of VHS. After a while, the forts turned into movies.

How did this project come together?

The lead actor, Joshua Burge, and I had made a short film a few years ago in Super 8, called “Coyote”. The film surprised a lot of audiences. We were both psyched about the movie, and wanted to keep working together. I began writing down my experiences as a two-bit stand-up comic in Michigan and New York, and just how mundane and annoying it was. On top of that, I just had a lot of silly ideas that I wanted to cram into one somewhat cohesive script. “Ape” is weird that way. It doesn’t fit into any genre, although people call it a comedy. Whatever.

What was the biggest challenge in the making of this movie?

Surprisingly, there were very few challenges. We never worked 14 hour days nor had a big crew. It was filmed casually on the weekends, with only 3 or 4 people helping out. Sometimes it’d just be Joshua and me. We were denied permission to film at certain locations, so it’s easier to sneak shots when you don’t have a crew.

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.

Along with writer and director, I was also cinematographer. I had only worked with film previously, and never liked the look of video or digital. That is, until I saw footage from a Canon DSLR and thought it was 16mm. I was sold. It’s incredibly easy to shoot in low light and practical for locations that require you to be inconspicuous. I wanted the look to be realistic and almost documentary-like. Nothing flashy, no CGI, no cheats, no Magic Bullet color correction. It’s hand-held, but not shaky. It’s low budget, but not cheap.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are? Any inspirations for this film in particular?

For this film in particular I was following the Alan Clarke model. All the work of Michael Haneke and Jim Jarmusch are very direct influences. Luis Bunel made absurdity high art. I like that. “Taxi Driver” is always in the back of my mind. Otherwise, the French New Wave, punk rock, metal, old school hip hop, fireworks and junk food are all huge inspirations.

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

For awhile I’ve wanted to resurrect Eddie Furlong’s career. Although I finally met him last year and I’m not sure it would work out. I’d love to get into an on-set fist fight with Vincent Gallo. I’m hoping to someday put my brother, my sister and Harry Enfield in a movie about a wacky donut shop or dysfunctional reptile zoo. But really, I’m just psyched to work with Joshua again.

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

I think it’s huge. People have instant access to blogs and podcasts and holograms. I write for a film book and put a lot of stock into critics, even if they’re all a bunch of liars and egomaniacs.

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

Probably in an airplane.

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?

Enough with the zombies.

How can people keep in touch with the film at this point in the festival circuit?

There’s the official website, and both the movie Facebook page and my own personal page on Facebook.

And finally, what is your all time favorite movie and why?

An American Werewolf in London. It’s completely surprising and shifts tone every 10 minutes. My parents rented it for me one summer when I was stuck inside with a broken leg at age 10. It was the best, and still holds up; the scares, the humor, the Rick Baker of it all. You can disregard what I said earlier about zombie movies as long as you have your zombie giving advice to a werewolf.

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 ’12 on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a Tweetphoto or two. #viff12 is the official hashtag.

Jason Whyte,

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 10/06/12 02:56:15
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