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SxSW 2015 Interview: ONE & TWO director Andrew Droz Palermo

ONE & TWO - At SxSW 2015
by Jason Whyte

"ONE & TWOis the story of the deep bond between two teenage siblings with extra-ordinary abilities, who grow up on a farm which has been cut off from contemporary society for generations." Director Andrew Droz Palermo on ONE & TWO which screens at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.

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

I have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time in Austin while never officially living there. I have shot two features and three shorts there. All have played the festival, including one in competition this year called 6 YEARS. I should be at every screening of both films.

Your favorite barbecue in the city?

Franklin's. The hype is real.

Your favorite beer in Austin?

I almost never drink Tacate outside of Austin, but after a long day on set, nothing tastes better than a cold Tacate with a lime.

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

The festival has a great vibe! Everyone is really positive and excitable. Everyone seems happy and healthy. I just screened ONE & TWO at the Berlinale, which was such an honor, but I couldn't help but notice how many people in the audiences had colds. This fortunately was not exclusive to my screenings, otherwise I would have been worried that people were restless. But I don't imagine many people are going to be coughing all the way through screenings in Austin. However, on the other hand, they may all be nursing hangovers.

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

I took a rather circuitous route to becoming a filmmaker. I studied graphic design in art school, because I was afraid I would never have a sustainable career as a filmmaker, even though it was what I always wanted to do. Ultimately I couldn't suppress those desires, and ended moving to New York to start work on what would have been my first documentary. I was following an up and coming indie band on the road and through the creation of their sophomore effort. Unfortunately, our apartment in Bushwick was robbed one night while we were in the studio, and I lost my computer which housed two years of footage and editing. I couldn't press on with the film and decided to move back home to Missouri and focus on music videos and short films.

From there, I started shooting and was given an amazing opportunity to work with Adam Wingard on YOU'RE NEXT and then Hannah Fidell on A TEACHER. After that, I was looking for what my next project would be, and I struck up a conversation with my cousin about our family hometown in Southwestern Missouri, and before we knew it, we embarked on a three year journey of making RICH HILL, which unbelievably won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

How did your movie come together as a director?

While I was living in Missouri, I started thinking a lot about what type of feature I'd like to direct, and I had long conversations with my producer Kim Sherman about her producing whatever it might be. We talked a lot about wanting to make a film with genre elements, but told in a very realistic and character driven way. So I wrote a really rough first draft, and then my childhood friend Neima Shahdadi came on board to help me whip the script into shape.

What was your process in getting the film together?

My producer, Kim Sherman, was invited to the Sundance Creative Producer's Lab with the project, and that really got the ball rolling. After the lab, we went to IFP and met Protagonist, who later became our foreign sales company, and an investor in the film. I was really excited about them because I knew their name from Ben Wheatley's films, and also SNOWTOWN MURDERS. WME introduced us to Bow & Arrow an amazing new company in LA that came on as the last piece of the puzzle. They've been great partners, and we're discussing doing another film together soon.

What was your biggest challenge with this movie, and how did you over-come it?

In the script the home is encircled by a giant log and clay-filled wall, but of course, the location home was not. On top of that, I wanted it to be fantastically huge. So we approached it two ways: first, our amazing production designer Sara Jamieson and art director Tom Obed actually built a big 20 foot by 20 foot section. Which in itself was extremely difficult with their limited budget and resources. But they pulled it off with a lot of help, and because it looked so great we were able to shoot some of the scenes which feature the wall practically. And second, the VFX team, lead by Josh Johnson, created a CG wall, which was great for shots where we wanted to show some scope. The sounds a lot easier than it was though, because it was always our opinion that it had to look completely realistic, and the second it was noticeable, we were screwed. So they really had their hands full.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be? The moment where you thought "I had something"?

There are very few films where all four family members are together, but they were always pretty special to me. It is hard to describe without discussing spoilers, but the first dinner scene was great to shoot. Everyone was so fantastic in it, and it was amazing to just watch the monitor and see everyone doing their thing.

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

I'm normally just so excited to be doing what I'm doing, that I don't have any problem getting up in the morning, or going very late. But I'm really bad to myself, because I will push too far, and get really sick as a result. When I'm not shooting, I just drink one coffee a day in the afternoon. On set, sometimes that number starts to climb. Grant Bowler, who plays Daniel in the film, pretty much chain drinks coffee all day. I don't know how he does it.

For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, 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.

Coming from a cinematography background, the relationship with my cinematographer was really important to me. I had a lot list of people I wanted to talk to, and Autumn won out. We talked quite a few years before the film came together, even before she shot Palo Alto. She was just really sensitive to the material, and I knew she'd do a great job, which I think she really did. In discussing the look of the movie in pre-production, we knew it was going to be anamorphic...dreamy and ultra-cinematic. In an ideal world, we would have shot 35mm, but it was too costly for us in the end, so we shot Alexa.

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

Selfishly, I am most excited to see old friends. There are lot of people going to be there that I haven't seen in a long time, and I can't wait to catch-up, drink too much, and eat tacos together.

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

Next up it's headed to the Cannes market and after that I have my fingers crossed for a festival or two in Australia and Asia.

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?

The Big Theater at Ragtag in Columbia, Missouri. I'd have a beer and chocolate chip cookie.

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

"Umm, excuse me, could you go fuck yourself?"

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?

Go make something. Don't wait for permission, or the right camera, or the right budget. Just go make stuff. Self assign projects, and work on your craft.

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have ever seen?

The best film I've seen at a festival was THE ACT OF KILLING at True / False. I went with a friend, Dustin Guy Defa, and after the movie, we both looked at each other and affirmed that we had just seen something truly special.

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 35+ filmmaker interview series. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 03/11/15 12:40:32
last updated: 03/11/15 12:41:08
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