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SxSW 2016 Interview: THE SLIPPERS director Morgan White

by Jason Whyte

"THE SLIPPERS follows the unbelievable story of Hollywood's most famous shoes, The Ruby Slippers. They have been bought, stolen, and coveted by many. They are the catalyst to a now multi-million dollar a year industry of movie memorabilia collecting, are worth upwards of two million dollars, and one pair has been missing since 2005 after being stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota." Director Morgan White on THE SLIPPERS which screens at the 2016 edition of South By Southwest Film.

Congratulations on THE SLIPPERS showing at SxSW! Are you planning to attend your screenings?

I am planning on attending three of the screenings, including the world premiere on Friday March 11th, which I am very much looking forward to!

Talk to me a bit about how you got your start in the industry and your previous work!

I started working for the production company, Tricon Films & Television, who produced the film almost a decade ago in their post-production department. During that time I produced my first documentary, THE REP, which follows three film geeks in Toronto as they try to make a go at running a single screen independent cinema in todays' dying world of movie theatres. While that film did not prove to be a massive success, it did prove to my company that I could make a movie, and from that they decided to fund THE SLIPPERS.

So how did THE SLIPPERS begin to make its way to being filmed?

While I was finishing work on THE REP the Ruby Slippers sold for 2.2 million dollars and made world headlines. My friend, and eventual editor for this film, told me upon discussion of the sale that there was a book all about the crazy real life story of the Ruby Slippers. I read the book in about a day, and knew right there that I had to make this story in to a documentary. That was over five years ago. From there it took a couple of years to get funding and people on board. We started shooting just a little over two years ago.

Great back story! So what keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

The story is what kept me going. It has taken me over five years to get this film complete, and after all the effort, stress, and hard work, I had no other choice but to see it through!

What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?

My film not only deals with the Ruby Slippers but also the man who found them, Kent Warner, who tragically died in 1984. Kent is a big part of the story, and his efforts in preserving Hollywood costumes are paramount to the creation of the collecting industry that exists today. A big challenge I had was trying to find Kent's voice. How do you tell the story of someone's personal journey without them? I was lucky enough to be able to interview a number of people who knew him, and that helped me with his voice, but I struck gold when I was given old 16mm home movies from the daughter of the auctioneer who led the famed MGM auction of 1970. Finally here was Kent in motion. I knew that footage was special, and I am so grateful to have been able to find it and use it in my film.

Speaking of footage, I must get technical, as I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie.

The visual style of the film really relates to the archival materials I have used in the film. When making a documentary that deals with the past you need a lot of archival materials, but footage can get very expensive very quick. To keep costs down I sourced materials directly from the subjects in my film as much as possible. I raided their archives for photos and footage, and from that I was able to create a more personal look at the story because it was seen through the eyes of my subjects and their lens. I carried this visual style of collected elements through to other parts of the film, tracking down film prints, old magazines, newspapers, and photographs, all on eBay. My film is about collecting, so it became very important to me to collect as many elements as possible for the final product.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

I was lucky enough to have my previous film, THE REP, screen at The Austin Film Festival, and so I know how great Austin audiences can be. There's something really special about the film scene in Austin, and I can't wait to be a part of it again!

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?

Right now we are working on a festival run for the film, with the hopes of releasing the film to a wider audience later in the year.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

I would love to show the film at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. That's the theater that Oz, and so many other great movies, premiered at. It would be an honor to have my film play on the same screen!

What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?

Have a little respect. You go to a movie to watch it, not to kind of pay attention to it. People who text during movies are rude, inconsiderate, and have no right to ruin the movie going experience for others around them.

For the aspiring filmmakers out there, what is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

Believe in the story you are trying to tell and others will follow you. It takes a lot of people, and a lot of effort to get a movie made. If you are passionate, and believe in what you are doing, other will too, and they'll help you get it made!

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

The best film I have ever seen at a film festival was OLD BOY when it played at TIFF. I was in my first year of film school, and had very little exposure to foreign cinema. A few of my classmates were going to see it and I thought I would give it a shot. What a film to walk in blind for. I still think about that screening!

Be sure to follow the progress of THE SLIPPERS by following on Twitter at @theslippersdoc and on Facebook!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview as part of our coverage of SxSW 2016. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. 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 2016 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 11-19. 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

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originally posted: 03/10/16 18:59:46
last updated: 03/10/16 19:03:37
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