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South By Southwest Film Interview – THE HAPPY POET director Paul Gordon

The Happy Poet - At SxSW 2013
by Jason Whyte

“An earnest, idealistic man starts a vegetarian food stand with little money or business experience. New friends help him keep it going, but eventually are a source of trouble.” Director Paul Gordon on “The Happy Poet” which screens at this year's South By Southwest Film.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience?

This was my third film to play at SXSW. The first was a short, back in 2001, title GOOD. In 2006, my feature MOTORCYCLE screened here, and then in 2010, THE HAPPY POET.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker.

I moved to Austin in 2001 to attend film school at UT, where I met great friends that I still work with. Prior to attending film school I had mostly written short fiction, but now I mostly just write scripts. MOTORCYCLE was a feature I made in three parts, my three film school projects; chapters, if you will. THE HAPPY POET was my first feature shot all at once. It was a wonderful, collaborative experience with talented friends.

What was the biggest challenge, or challenges, in making the film?

The editing was the most challenging, because I had to look at myself on the screen all day, and it took a long time because there was so much footage.

What was your single favorite moment out of the entire production?

There were many special moments, but I remember when we finally wrapped on the last day, having shot everything on schedule in three weeks, with great lucky weather the whole time (there are a lot of exteriors), I almost cried, but didn't!

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

My friends/collaborators, fun, and the material kept me going. I really believed that if we got everything shot how I wanted to that the movie would be pretty good.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

My good friend Lucas Millard, a very talented director of photography, shot the film. We know each other from film school. We shot on the RED. We got a really good deal on it from another friend, and it looked way better than any other camera we could've afforded, so it was a no-brainer.

How has the film been received at other screenings? Any fun stories or comments from Q&A sessions?

At the Tokyo Film Festival, one person asked me if I exercise a lot, because my muscles looked big. I had to tell them that my muscles looked big because my laundry had been lost at a Polish hotel, at a previous festival, and all I had to wear in Tokyo were small Happy Poet shirts and some tight pants I'd bought there. I had a hard time finding pants that would fit me there.

What do you want audiences to take from the film?

You can do it.

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

It's fairly important, especially for a small film. Without any stars in a film, a review--good or bad--is sometimes all people have to go on, and it will decide whether people go see the film. 

After the film screens at South By Southwest, what is the future release plan for the movie? Where would you like it to go?

It's going to play for a week at the Laemmle Monica 4-Plex, in Santa Monica, starting March 22nd. After that it might play in some other places, and will also be out on DVD this summer, and then streaming. I'm excited.

Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

Maybe some huge historic theater in Paris or Moscow. I've never been to either of those places, but would like to go!

What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film?

I saw someone texting during my film MOTORCYCLE back in 2006. I didn't say anything to him. It was outdoors, at a Rooftop Films screening, so I figured it was a generally more interactive environment, being outside in a park and all.

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Just do it. Have good acting, and write good. 

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

That's a tough one, but I'll go with KINGS OF THE ROAD, by Wim Wenders, followed by a Q & A with Wenders. That was pretty bad-ass!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2013 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 8-16. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte Facebook: jasonwhyte

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originally posted: 03/07/13 06:14:38
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