Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Being Elmo' creator interview (Wanous)

'Being Elmo' creator discusses her work of love




Kevin Clash and Elmo attend the Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C. The Kennedy Center Honors are awarded annually for lifetime achievement in the performing arts.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey. Rated PG. One hour, 16 minutes. Playing at the Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton St., Key West.

"Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey " is the story of Kevin Clash, the man who gives life to Elmo, one of the most popular characters on the "Sesame Street" TV program.
Directed and co-produced by New Yorker Constance Marks, the documentary -- winner of the Sundance Film Festival's 2011 Special Jury Prize for U.S. documentary -- is a touching portrait of the man behind Elmo who came from humble beginnings and, through dedication and perseverance, fulfilled his childhood dream of working with Jim Henson and the Muppets.
Marks recently took time out of her schedule to discuss the film and how it's been received.
Question: I read that filming took six years. Is that right?
Answer: It wasn't the filming so much -- it was the editing that was the real challenge.
Q: As a director, do you feel that you're more an artist or a manager? I know you wear several hats.
A: I think it's like 50 hats. There's definitely the artistic conception, then there's the managing everybody and keeping everybody happy. And then on the shoot when the door's squeaky, I'm there with the oil can. You don't have the staff and the crew you might have in a much larger production. There are lots of hats to be worn -- most of them are not pretty, not glamorous.
Q: Where did the money come from?
A: That's an area I'm not really comfortable talking about, if you don't mind. I raised some money on the outside, I borrowed some money from people but I don't really feel comfortable talking about the details of the financing.
Q: You had a lot of archival footage. How do you find old film and old TV shows like that?
A: There are people who can help you find that, and with the Internet it's really not that hard to begin to track things down. We had the new iPhone with Siri, the personal assistant. We asked her, "Where do we get so-and-so footage?" and within two seconds she gave us an answer. It was outdated but it was a good place to start. So it can be done.
Q: Who are Nancy Marks, Edwin Marks and Maria that you mention in the credits?
A: Nancy is my mom, my dad was Edwin and Maria was the Make-A-Wish child in the film, who died.
Q: That was a touching scene, with the little girl.
A: We were packing up to leave for the day. Nobody told us that this was going to be happening. We're walking out the door and it suddenly looked like something important was going to happen. If we had left one minute earlier, we would have completely missed that.
Q: Do you try to attend all of the film festivals that the movie was in?
A: We attended 95 percent of the festivals that we entered, starting at Sundance a year ago. It's really good when you're the producer and director, because they fly you out and put you up. I think if it had been a much shorter film, that might not have been the case, but most of the festivals hosted us.
Because the film went to Sundance and won an award there, we got lots of calls, lots of invitations. Otherwise, you send it out, you hear back, you go the regular route, which is what most people do, what I've usually done with short films. A few of the festivals said we'd like you submit the film. A couple of times it didn't get in, even though they wrote that letter, which I thought was odd.
Q: For Sundance, you submitted the film and they accepted it?
A: Yes, I submitted it, along with the other 10,000 people, and then I got an e-mail asking me to overnight another DVD because it was stuck and they couldn't see the end of the film. I was delighted and terrified, because we had sent them a rough cut.
We hadn't cleared any archival footage, we didn't have the music scored; there was so much yet to be done. But it was so much easier than having to do it from scratch.
Q: When your films come out, do you look at Rotten Tomatoes and other review sites?
A: Yes, and I like Rotten Tomatoes because we keep climbing. But there are people on the team who look at the box office and follow it very closely. We're doing a really respectable business but I'm less interested in following every tic. It just too nerve wracking.
Q: How badly do negative reviews affect you?
A: There have been so many positive ones that I really don't allow myself to go there. Call me crazy but I usually read them once and move on.
Q: Can you give me a hint about your next project?
A: I will as soon as I know.  

[from the Keynoter -]

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