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South By Southwest 2014 Interview Ė WICKER KITTENS producer Mike Scholtz

by Jason Whyte

ďIf you were looking for the definitive documentary about competitive jigsaw puzzling, this is it. We follow all the top teams as they prepare for the biggest jigsaw puzzle contest in the country. And SXSW programmed it as a sports film. So you know itís got to be exciting.Ē Producer Mike Scholtz on WICKER KITTENS which screens at this year's South By Southwest Film Festival.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

This is my first time attending SXSW. Iím pretty excited to be attending our screenings. And Harmontown. And maybe Godzilla.

[i[What do you love the most about showing movies in Austin and Austin in general?

Iíve only been to Austin once before. I had time to do one thing so, of course, I visited the LBJ Presidential Library. I hope theyíve reprogrammed the LBJ robot with some new jokes.

Your favorite barbecue/food in the city?

Amy Elliott, the director of Wicker Kittens, has been to Austin many times. Her debut film, Worldís Largest, premiered here in 2010. But she has terrible taste in food. So I wonít be taking any of her advice.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?

I was always thrilled by the short films theyíd show on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood of Mr. Rogers visiting a graham cracker factory or a dairy farm or whatever. I loved that stuff even more than the puppets. Thatís how you know a kidís going to grow up to be a documentary filmmaker. My first feature-length film was an Arctic crime caper called Wild Billís Run that went on the road last year with the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

How did this whole project come together from your perspective?

My girlfriend is a competitive jigsaw puzzler, so this world seems shockingly normal to me. But we were explaining it to the director, Amy Elliott, while eating some bad Mexican food and she insisted on turning it into a film.

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

We took our time convincing some of the contestants in the film that we werenít going to make them objects of ridicule. Iím sure they worry people might make fun of them because of their unusual hobby. But it was important to both the director and I that we treat all of our subjects with respect. There are no villains in competitive jigsaw puzzling.

[i[If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?†

We asked a Minnesota-based band called Portrait of a Drowned Man to write the score for our film. They let me sit in on their recording session, which was in a church. It was so good, I think I might have had my first religious experience.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

I always pick a favorite shot or a memorable quote from the first or second day of production and keep that in mind whenever I get discouraged. If you canít find anything in those first few days of production to motivate you, youíre probably doing something wrong. Also? Dr. Pepper.

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.

Amy Elliott was both the director and the director of photography on the film. So we were a small crew. Actually, I should say we were a small but nimble crew. And attractive. And smart. We were a small, nimble, attractive, smart crew.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW?

I hope somebody stands up at the Q&A and accuses us of making up the entire thing. That happened with my last film and I think itís the highest compliment a documentary can get.

After the film screens at South By Southwest, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to screen?

Although itís not our next screening, the Free Range Film Festival outside of Duluth, Minnesota screens all of its films inside a big old barn thatís been converted into a movie theater. I help program this festival, so I think itís probably a lock to show there in July.

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?

Iíve always wanted to be invited to the White House screening room, but mostly so I could check out the bowling alley Nixon had installed during his presidency. I understand itís buried under boxes of old files now.

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

What can you possibly say to those people? Theyíre animals. Theyíre not human.

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?

Last time I checked, there were something like 10,000 film festivals. So donít give up. Make exactly the film you want to make. Thereís very nearly a film festival for every film now.

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

BENDING STEEL at the Free Range Film Festival in 2013. I programmed the film, so Iíd already seen it once, but it didnít really blow me away until I saw it with an audience. They were electrified by the film. It was incredibly inspiring.

This is one of the many films screening at the 2014 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 7-15. For more information on the filmís screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jasonrcwhyte

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originally posted: 03/07/14 15:08:45
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