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South By Southwest 2014 Interview – DOUBLE PLAY: JAMES BENNING & RICHARD LINKATER's Gabe Klinger

Double Play - At SxSW 2014
by Jason Whyte

“A documentary portrait of the friendship between the renowned filmmakers James Benning and Richard Linklater that combines filmed conversations and extensive archival material to explore connections and divergences in their respective approaches to life and cinema.” Director Gabe Klinger on his film DOUBLE PLAY which screens at this year's South By Southwest Film.

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

Yes and yes!

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

We shot our movie partly in Austin. When you talk about the quality of a place, the first and most important consideration is the concentration of interesting and talented people that you find there. In no particular order: Richard Linklater, Terrence Malick, Robert Rodriguez, the Zellner bros, Andrew Bujalski, David Gordon Green among many others. Austin is a stimulating environment for creative pursuits like filmmaking.

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

It was never a calculation to become a filmmaker. One thing lead to another. I think art-making should come from an organic place, no one should be a careerist in this field. At the end of the day filmmaking is a compulsion; you make a film because you have to do it. You’re the only one who is going to do it and it’s not because of any external considerations like money or status. I don’t believe that those things drive the great filmmakers. When those external considerations are there, you can see them on the screen, and it’s a big waste of time for the audience.

In the past I’ve worked as a museum curator, university professor, and critic. I’m interested in history and context.

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

The planning, the shooting, the editing, every other aspect of it. I don’t mean that to sound dismissive of your question. I just think it’s important to remember that films aren’t made on assembly lines. They’re an artisanal process through and through. By its very nature filmmaking is challenging.

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

I don’t know, you’re really never happy while you’re shooting or editing. As James Benning says in our film, referring to his own process: “It seems like a simple job to order thirteen shots or ten shots, but thirteen factorial is somewhere in the millions, so I’m sure I don’t have the best order, ‘cause there’s so many possibilities.” You can drive yourself crazy, or you can just surrender to your limitations. I guess in the end I like my movie. I think we did a good job. I don’t think anyone involved in the process felt like they wasted their time getting involved. That’s satisfaction enough.

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.

Our film is a “documentary” but I really hate categories and I never wanted anyone to look at Double Play and say, “Oh, that looks like a doc.” Because usually that connotes a kind of poverty or hastiness. I guess it’s saying that the work is more about the content than the form. So I worked with our DP, Eduard Grau, to try to create a look that had as little to do with contemporary documentary as possible. I mean, it’s not a fucking Josef von Sternberg film; the intention wasn’t to do anything stylized. I just wanted the framing to be elegant and purposeful. I think we managed to do pretty well under the circumstances. And we never did standard “coverage”; for example, in the movie theater scenes there are no shots of the audience. I told our guys not to waste their time shooting that kind of stuff. Everything was planned out, framing was very important, and certain scenes, like the lunch scene in the film, were blocked pretty carefully. Once in a while there’s a bit more movement than I would have liked. You can talk to Eduard about that, I think he’s less willing to risk boredom than I am. You’re not going to fight your DP on this kind of a shoot, I found it was better to just go with the flow.

We shot with two Red Scarlet cameras at 4K. Except for one scene we only used available light. If I had money I would have shot it in on film. Eduard operated one camera and Peter Simonite, who has worked a lot with Emmanuel Lubezki on Malick’s films, operated the other.

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

Reconnecting with our local crew and the Austin Film Society folks who were extremely friendly.

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

It’s already played festivals in Venice, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, Geneva, São Paulo, Mexico City, Berlin, and it’s going to be released in the United States and France in spring and summer this year. We also have festival engagements in many other cities all over the world, but since the line ups for these events have not been announced yet, I can’t divulge where exactly. But it’s in 20 other festivals this year.

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?

I made a list of my favorite movie theaters recently, so here goes, in rough order of preference:

1. Debussy – orchestra level (Cannes), 2. Chaillot (defunct, Paris), 3. Félix Ribeiro (Lisbon), 4. Doré 1 (Madrid), 5. Music Box (Chicago), 6. Walter Reade (New York), 7. Uptown 1 (defunct, Toronto), 8. Gartenbaukino (Vienna), 9. Odeon (Rio de Janeiro), 10. Kino International (Berlin). Special mentions: Lugones (Buenos Aires), AGO (Toronto), Castro (San Francisco), Austrian Filmmuseum (Vienna), Cinema Borealis (Chicago), Max Linder (Paris), Maya Deren – Anthology (New York), Pathé 1 (Rotterdam), Cinerema Dome (Los Angeles), Fox (Atlanta), Louxor Palais (Paris), Odeon (London) and São Luiz (Recife). And the outdoor cinemas set up in the Piazza Grande and Piazza Maggiore during the Locarno and Il Cinema Ritrovato film festivals, respectively. I’m probably missing some.

Why? If you’ve been to any of them, you know.

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

There’s only one answer to that question.
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?

There are a lot of answers to that question.
And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

I’ll just go with the most recent greatest movie that I saw at a film festival: Alexei German Sr.’s Hard to Be a God (2013) in Rotterdam this past January.

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

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

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originally posted: 03/07/14 15:55:54
last updated: 03/07/14 15:56:52
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