no grand secret that a number of local practices and cultural habits in Utah
are viewed by the rest of the country as ridiculous or near
bumpkin-backward. But of the more recent years, one that got us the
most attention was a privately owned business by the name of CleanFlicks. The
humble video store catering to a mostly LDS crowd took major studio
films and chopped the content down to a G-rating for distribution.
Ultimately drawing heat from the directors and the studios themselves
to take legal action, and in a twist ending fit for the very films
they were slicing up, a sex scandal and subsequent arrests that eventually became the final nail in the coffin.
During the last few years of their time open, two filmmakers were making a documentary about the business and its affects from Hollywood down to the dedicated families renting them. “Cleanflix” eventually made it to the Toronto International Film Festival this year with hopes of distribution and more festivals down the road for 2010. I got a chance to chat with the two men behind it about the entire experience, plus their thoughts on film in general.
Andrew James & Joshua Ligairi
Gavin: Hey guys! First thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Andrew: I was born in St. Louis and spent several years in Chicago before attending high school in Atlanta. I came out to Provo to attend BYU where I studied English and planned on either becoming a teacher or going to law school. I was even starting some philosophy classes and prepping for the LSAT. But after a short time, I knew that I wasn't being true to myself, so I decided to drop my plans for law school and focus my remaining classes on film, art, and writing.
Joshua: Joshua Ligairi. My family is from Fiji. I grew up in Hawaii, San Diego, and Idaho. Went to high school and college in Utah. Lived in Europe (Amsterdam, Vienna, Madrid, Barcelona) off and on for extended periods of time. Been working in the Utah film industry for about six years. My day job used to be in the Art Department. Now I Direct almost exclusively. I've directed two released documentaries and two upcoming documentaries as well as several commercials and music videos. Played the bass in several punk bands. Like to snowboard and play soccer.
Gavin: What got you interested in filmmaking and what were some of your favorite films growing up?
Joshua: Like most filmmakers these days, I was always the kid with the video camera, running around making movies with my friends. Unlike most kids, I was fortunate to have a successful cinematographer and production designer in my neighborhood growing up and they got me on professional movie sets from a very early age. Being a child of the eighties and nineties, I was into the typical mainstream blockbuster stuff like "Star Wars", "Back To The Future", and "Indiana Jones". I got into more serious film in high school, around the time I started working on film sets. Hitchcock, Truffaut, Kurosawa, and David Lynch changed my life, but my favorite movies are still "The Goonies" and "The Lost Boys".
Andrew: My interest in filmmaking came from "Star Wars" - no question about it. As a kid, I used to watch one of the three Star Wars films every day after school. I was so obsessed with them, that even as a kid, I would watch the behind scenes specials and try and learn how they made the films. I think this prompted me to experiment with my parents video camera. I started with stop-motion animation. I would use toys and bring them to life in my parents basement. I also experimented with more traditional animation. I would draw little scenes and bring them to life one page at a time. In fact, I spent many of my weekends and after school hours making videos. This trend continued for many years. I shot dozens of short films in middle school and high school. When I was thirteen, I spent the summer re-making "The Empire Strikes Back" with my friends. We built ships, painted backdrops, designed sets, bought models, and made costumes. It was epic. Unfortunately, by the time I got to college, social and cultural pressure had all but convinced me to give up on being a filmmaker.
Gavin: Andrew, you went to BYU for your degree in English Lit. What was their program like for you, and what did you do while going through their film classes?
Andrew: The English program at BYU was great. I read a lot and learned to think critically about art. I took some great classes on literature and film and watched a lot of great classic films. In one of my classes, I studied Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe's influence on his films. In particular, I remember watching Hitchcock's "Vertigo" for the first time and learning about his fascination with vortex imagery and the similarities in Poe's writings. I was utterly blown away and it inspired me to write a film of my own. I've always been a hands-on learner and I knew the best way to learn was to start making my own films again. So I wrote a short film based on The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and tried to employ some Hitchcock tension. I shot the film in an old house that we rented for twenty bucks a day and I cast my friends in the roles. The end result was certainly a mixed bag, but I came away from that experience with a renewed confidence in my abilities as a filmmaker. After that, I began writing another film, a social-political drama set against the backdrop of the immigration debate. I went through several drafts, modifying content to be more realistic with the shoestring budget that my wife Jolyn and I had set for ourselves. I decided to shoot the film in black and white and to approach the material like a documentarian would. I knew that this would lend itself to low-budget filmmaking and create a palpable style and tone for the film. We called the film "Una Vida Mejor", or "A Better Life". We shot the film over the course of two summers entirely on location in Utah, San Diego, and Tijuana. We cast local talent based on their passion for the script and found some great people who believed in the film enough to work for free. After two years of production and editing, we finished the film in December 2007 and submitted it to several film festivals. "Una Vida Mejor" was accepted to the 2008 CINEQUEST film festival in San Jose and won the Special Jury Prize for artistic vision. After that, the the film played internationally at Flanders International Film Festival alongside such films as "Man On Wire", "The Wrestler", "The Visitor", "Heavy Metal in Baghdad", "Wendy & Lucy", and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona". This was the same year that I graduated from BYU.
Gavin: Joshua, you studied under Trent Harris before going to college, how was that experience?
Joshua: It was pretty amazing. I'd been a huge fan of "Rubin & Ed" growing up, and I was excited just to meet him. I studied directing and producing under him. This was right around the time "The Beaver Trilogy" was having its huge resurgence. I've talked to Trent on several occasions since then, he even advised us on another documentary project, but I've realized since hooking up with him on Facebook that he has no idea who I am. But I'm still a big fan. I love his films. "Plan 10" is canonical for me. I love the spirit of his "Wild Goose Chronicles". He has such a unique perspective and approach to his work, but on the other hand he is just a very normal guy from Utah. He's got kind of a Dottie S. Dixon quality to him. Dottie S. Dixon on peyote.
Gavin: What made you decide on UVU, and how was their program?
Joshua: It had nothing to do with the school. Utah Valley is where all the filmmaking action was at back then. Say what you will about the Mormon-themed films, I've worked on some stinkers, but those guys were getting their movies made. They were scraping funding together and making feature films. There was a real independent spirit down there that just wasn't present in SLC, or really, many places in the country outside of New York and LA. UVU is fine. They don't have a film program. I went the Integrated Studies route and tried to create my own film program combining classes from theater, multimedia, and communications. I got theory, directing, editing, writing, publicity, and cinematography, so I guess it all worked out, but I'm not sure I'd take the same path again. There are a few really great instructors there, though.
Gavin: How did the two of you eventually meet up and start working together?
Andrew: Josh and I met through a mutual friend, Xavier Gutierrez. During production on "Una Vida Mejor", Xavier suggested that he and I make a documentary about CleanFlicks. CleanFlicks had just been forced to close by Hollywood and Xavier thought it would make an interesting documentary. Of course, I was pretty familiar with CleanFlicks as a BYU student. I knew lots of people who loved it. I had even seen the CleanFlicks versions of "The Matrix", "Saving Private Ryan", and "Traffic" with LDS friends who refused to watch R-rated films. As an aspiring filmmaker in Utah, I was very interested in the topic and would often debate with my friends about it. So, I agreed to work on the film. After a few weeks of discussion, Xavier suggested that we meet up with Josh Ligairi, another local filmmaker. The three of us met for lunch and discussed the film, our ideas, and our tentative plan to move forward. The next week, Josh and I were driving all over Utah shooting footage of CleanFlicks stores and trying to get interviews. So interestingly, we became friends and developed our working relationship as we worked on this project together.
Joshua: We met purely by chance through one of the co-producers of the film, Xavier Gutierrez. We met for lunch once, talked about our vision for the documentary, and then started shooting right away. During the three years we were making the film we also worked together on a couple of short films, Andrew's first feature, two of my music videos, and another documentary I co-directed called "The BYU 25" about the Dick Cheney debacle at BYU. I'd been thinking about doing something on the topic for a long time, but it was seeing "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" that made me realize what a movie about CleanFlicks could be. Xavier and I had been talking about it from time to time and he was the one that brought Andrew and I together.
Gavin: How did you go about planning the initial story and what you intended to cover and document?
Joshua: Originally, the idea was the basic debate, to edit or not to edit, with the idea being that the movie would end with the David of CleanFlicks Media being crushed by the Goliath of the Director's Guild of America. CleanFlicks had lost a major lawsuit and were being ordered to close their doors. There was real human drama there and emotions ran high on both sides of the debate. It was an easy in and out story. I assumed we'd be done in a couple of months. But, on our first day of filming we found that many of the stores were defying the court ruling and were going to try and stay open under the radar. The story then became a study of these supposedly pious people running a morality-based business while knowingly breaking the law. Things only escalated from there.
Andrew: When we first started, Josh and I thought we were making a documentary about what CleanFlicks was and why it was shut down. In some respects, that's what the film ended up being about, but we didn't realize that there was much more to the story than that. During the first week of production, we learned that there were all kinds of edited movie retailers who were going to defy the judgment and try to stay in business. Of course, this excited us. We felt like investigative journalists. Honestly, we really had no idea what the future held. We were just shooting anything and everything related to edited movies - and there was a lot. In fact, it was challenging to keep up. We found sanitized video stores all over Utah and Idaho and spent a lot of time trying to get inside and secure interviews with the owners. We also found a dozen companies online who were still offering edited films. So for a while, our focus was to investigate the stores that were defying the ruling against CleanFlicks. Of course, we also followed the story of Daniel Thompson, the former owner of Flix Club in Orem. He was the most vocal and most willing sanitizer to participate in the film, so things kind of naturally went in that direction. I think the glue that finally held everything together for us was Mormonism. It didn't take long to see that Mormonism was at the root of the edited movie movement and that most customers not only here, but all over the country were Mormon. How Mormonism informed our characters became central to the film and allowed us to ask some interesting questions about a culture that consistently tries to repress sexuality in the name of family values.
Gavin: When you first started filming, what was the reaction from people towards CleanFlicks itself?
Andrew: We tried very hard to contact the DGA for a statement or possible interview, but they more or less ignored us. We had a bit more luck with individual filmmakers but were still unable to schedule an interview with any of the directors involved in the lawsuit. However, many of the filmmakers we contacted were very gracious, including James Cameron and Martin Scorsese, who both responded favorably to the idea of the film, but were too busy to participate. Finally, we landed an interview with Neil LaBute, who generously agreed to take part in the film and we ended up interviewing him on the set of "Lakeview Terrace" in Los Angeles. After the success of the LaBute interview, we decided to include Richard Dutcher, realizing that the Mormon background of both directors would be a good way to build connective tissue.
Joshua: There were mixed reactions from within the the edited movie community, but ultimately everyone decided to speak with us, although some hid their identities. Dealing with our subjects was a major challenge. Those that had been involved with the lawsuit were understandably guarded, and those that had stayed in operation were rarely honest and open with us. We had to do a lot of gum-shoeing to uncover the story.
Gavin: How long did it take you both to make this documentary and what were some of the challenges you met along the way?
Joshua: There were many twists and turns that kept us following these guys for two years. Then, we edited the hundreds of hours of footage for another year until we got it down under ninety minutes. But, as I mentioned earlier, we did a lot of other things in the meantime. This was a slow-burner and we just had to be patient and follow the story.
Andrew: The most obvious challenge that comes to mind is time. It took time for us to actually cover the story properly. It took time for important events to unfold. It took time for us to get the shots we needed. It took time for us to hone our vision. It took time for us to find the best way to approach the material in the editing room. It took time for us to actually edit the film. Everything just took a lot of time. Luckily, Josh and I were both in a place in our lives where we could afford to be patient with the material and allow things to progress organically. All in all, "Cleanflix" took about three years to finish.
Gavin: Were you shocked at the amount of content edited from these films, or did it make sense as you were exploring the culture and the people who buy them?
Andrew: Yes and yes. It was shocking, but it also made a lot of sense. CleanFlicks was editing out every use of a curse word, every instance of nudity, and almost every suggestive comment. They would even edit out scenes that suggested that sex had taken place outside of marriage. For example, if a scene depicted a couple in bed together who were not married, that scene would be excised. Personally, I found it shocking, but of course it made sense. Most CleanFlicks patrons were Mormon, most edited video companies were started in Utah, and overwhelmingly, most patrons of other edited video companies were also Mormon. Of course, the idea of sanitized films appeals to a much wider demographic, and there were signs that CleanFlicks and their competitors were going to blow up nation wide, but it took the culture of Mormonism to create the edited movie movement. Ask a typical person on a city street in any state in the country and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who even knows what CleanFlicks is. On the other hand, Mormons all over the country know about edited films, even if they never supported the cause. This makes a lot of sense because of the cultural stigma with the LDS community surrounding the R-rating. In 1986, Mormon Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, mentioned the R-rating specifically, calling such content "pornographic." Since that time, it has become a Mormon faux pas to watch rated-R films. The LDS community cares deeply about family values and they perceive R-rated content as spiritually damaging. They place heavy emphasis on the negative effects of media and try very hard to be spiritually and morally clean. Of course, the meaning of the word clean within a Mormon paradigm refers to the idea of sexual purity. The fact is, sanitized movie supporters are not overly concerned with depictions of violence. They are instead worried about the negative effects of sexual representation. But I always found it ironic that even in LDS culture, sex (or in this case, the lack thereof) is what sold the DVDs.
Joshua: Considering the culture, I wasn't too surprised for the most part, but there were some things that would blow your mind and we've included them in the film.
Gavin: I've heard in a prior interview the ideal that a lot of it comes down to money, the fact that they know there's an audience for a clean R-rated film. Do you feel that cheapened the aspirations of their business?
Joshua: Honestly, I don't think there was too much crossover between the idealists and the capitalists. The guys who were in it for the money were always in it for the money. The guys who were in it for the cause claim that they would have gladly stopped at any time if Hollywood would provide the edits themselves. So, as far as cheapening it, I'm not sure. There were definitely a lot of these guys who were taking advantage of their good intentioned (if misguided) patrons. But they weren't all bad either. Many of them were trying to serve their community in the best way they knew how.
Andrew: I think the guys behind CleanFlicks really believed in what they were doing, but I don't think that the desire to make money and the desire to provide clean entertainment is mutually exclusive, at least not in the minds of the sanitizers. Most of the people behind the edited movie movement are very conservative, both politically and socially, and they share an intense belief in private ownership and private enterprise. So its hard to say if the business side of the sanitized movie industry cheapened the more religious aspirations that came with it. The desire to make money is deeply entrenched in their cultural and religious worldview. They would call it free enterprise and the righteous pursuit of wealth.
Gavin: What were your opinions about CleanFlicks as filmmakers going in, and now having documented it and researched it, what's your take on now?
Andrew: I try to appreciate an artist's vision, I like to be challenged, and I believe that art is one of the most important teachers we have as a society. So naturally, CleanFlicks and the ideas behind it, frighten me a little bit. I oppose censorship in all its forms, plus, it's clearly wrong to turn a profit by altering and selling copyrighted material that doesn't belong to you. That being said, I can understand a parents desire to protect their children from harmful influences. Of course, we can argue all day about what's harmful and what's not, but I respect the notion of protecting one's child. But there's a lot more to the sanitized movie movement than protecting children. According to Robert Rosen, Dean of UCLA Film, "This has very little to do with protecting children. There are all kinds of religious, political and ideological biases at work." To put it bluntly, I believe that for the most part, the men and women behind the sanitized movie movement were fighting a moral crusade. They were not out to expand the role of copyright law. They were not out to fight for the rights of the end user or the consumer. They were blanketly excising "objectionable" material with no thought of context in the name of religion and conservative family values. So no matter how I look at it, even now, after three years of thinking about it, its hard for me to see an upside to what CleanFlicks and their competitors were doing. Of course, I met many people who were involved with sanitized films, and I don't judge them. Many of them were great people, but I can't condone or defend the business they were involved with.
Joshua: For me, the film was a way to explore the issue. I had never watched an edited movie before we began, I wasn't a supporter of edited movies, and I probably leaned toward protecting artistic vision, but I also saw that there were some very reasonable arguments for edited movies. My goal was to stay as objective as possible and ask a lot of hard questions to everyone on both sides. It is a really grey issue. It is polarizing and easy to defensively take sides, but for me it is grey. I am apposed to censorship. I want to make that clear, but I also think the end-user has some rights and, moving into the digital age, Hollywood needs to catch up with the reality that their audience is going to remix, mash-up, and re-shape their products in any way they see fit, just like they do now with music. There are so many issues at play here. I hope our film will make audiences think about and discuss those issues. I hope that the people who watch our movie will feel as conflicted as I do and have to deal with the information we present them with on their own terms. A movie can't answer all the questions, but it can tell a good story and be the jumping off point for some good conversation.
Gavin: Does it feel odd being a film using Fair Use rules doing a documentary on people who, for lack of a better term, ignored those rules for the most part?
Joshua: Yeah, that was a tricky part of the equation, so we just decided to leave it up to our lawyers. Anything that they felt was questionable we pulled. When we were in production we followed general guidelines accepted by the documentary community and when we were done we ran everything by the pre-eminent Fair Use attorneys in the industry.
Andrew: Honestly, it wasn't that odd because we worked closely with our lawyer to make sure we were following fair use rules properly. There are number of movie clips in the film which had to be trimmed or cut according to the guidelines provided by our attorney. However, I should point out that CleanFlicks and their competitors did not completely ignore fair use. One could argue that they did not totally understand it, but the fact is, they tried very hard to argue fair use for themselves.
Gavin: How was it adjusting to the real-life happenings of both the major lawsuit and the surprising arrests that happened down the road?
Andrew: During the two year period we were in production, events were taking place that we did not foresee, and it caused us to re-evaluate a bit. We realized that the story was unfolding before us and that we really couldn't plan on anything. The fact is, we never imagined that Daniel Thompson would become the main character of the film, but his refusal to stop selling edited movies and the popularity of his store provided the narrative that we were looking for. Of course, his arrest was shocking. We were all shocked. But we had been shocked before. We were shocked to find out that dozens of sanitized movie retailers were still open after the lawsuit and we were equally shocked that Daniel opened Flix Club. I think adjusting to the arrest was the most difficult though. We had to make a decision as to whether or not we were going to cover Daniel's allegations and trial or just focus on what had happened with CleanFlicks. Ultimately, we decided to follow Daniel's story to the end because we felt like he and his store represented something important - the cultural struggle to hold on to edited movies.
Joshua: It was tricky because we were dealing with what had become long-standing relationships and real people. Friends start texting and emailing you, congratulating you on your subjects getting arrested, and it is a weird thing to deal with ethically and emotionally. Again, we just tried to be fair and professional. You've got to keep going. Some people don't like that the documentary goes down that road, but it would have irresponsible to leave it out, and yes, it ups the ante in terms of real human drama.
Gavin: When all was finished filming, what was the process like putting everything together while keeping an eye on them for possible updates?
Joshua: That was always the question. When do we end this film? Things are still happening, even now. At some point you just have to draw a line. We had characters with arcs, we were telling an interesting story, we were as honest as possible, we had a twist ending, and had represented both sides as best we could. We decided that was enough.
Andrew: The editing process was daunting, to say the least. We had hundreds of hours of footage. So at first, Josh and I were just editing little clips. Eventually, those clips helped form a 45 minute preview which led to a rough cut. From there, we screened the film to close friends and colleagues who took notes and provided feedback. Josh would come over to my house and we'd take turns editing and have meetings to discuss our progress. Then last April, after a year of intense editing, Josh went on vacation and we decided to take a three month hiatus. It seemed like a great plan and a well-deserved break, but shortly after Josh left, we found out that the Toronto International Film Festival had heard of the film was interested in seeing a cut. So we had no choice but to finish the editing once and for all. We barely finished the cut in time and fortunately, the programmers liked the film and accepted "Cleanflix" into the festival.
Gavin: When it was done did you immediately start looking for a distributor or were you more interested in going the film festival route?
Andrew: We've been interested in both festivals and distribution from the start and acquired a sales rep, Submarine Entertainment, shortly after being accepted into Toronto. Our plan is to screen "Cleanflix" at as many festivals as possible because that's where a good number of buyers like to make acquisitions. In fact, there is a lot of interest in "Cleanflix" at festivals nationwide and we are currently making plans for more festivals in the coming months. We should be announcing specifics on our website sometime in January.
Joshua: We've always felt that this was a festival film. We think there is a market in Utah, but for the most part this is made for film fans and festivals is where you find them. Of course, distributors and bloggers and critics are all at the festivals as well, so it works out perfectly.
Gavin: How was it getting into the Toronto Film Festival, and what was the experience like for both of you being a part of it and seeing the audience reactions?
Joshua: Toronto was a dream come true. It was wonderful being associated with the best filmmakers in the world. Screening alongside films by Steven Soderbergh, The Coen Brothers, Werner Herzog...it was a singular experience for a young filmmaker. The staff was amazing. The audiences were great. We'd never watched the film with an uninitiated audience before and hearing their shocked reactions to daily life in Utah was priceless.
Andrew: Well, the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the top three film festivals in the world and being accepted was very exciting. Really, it was like a dream come true. I'm not sure how else to describe it. We all celebrated for several nights in a row. But after the initial excitement wore off, reality set in and there was a lot of work to do to get the film ready. We had to acquire insurance and there was paperwork to be done and so on. Our festival experience was wonderful, and it was largely due to the fact that we had a great audience at every screening. After each screening, a large number of people stayed for the Q&A's and asked very thoughtful, intelligent questions. Our audiences were very gracious and complimentary of the film and showed no hesitation in approaching us to talk about the film, take pictures, and show support. We were also lucky enough to have several really great reviews written on the film, so all in all, people seemed to be liking the film. Its just a total blast to see your film on the big screen in a crowded auditorium. Audiences laughed and cheered and clapped. It was surreal. We also met some other great filmmakers and were able to participate in dinners and various social events for directors. Thom Powers, one of the documentary programmers in Toronto, took a special interest in us and made sure all of our needs were being met. I really can't say enough about how special the experience was for us and the entire crew.
Gavin: With everything you've done so far, what are the plans for the film from here?
Andrew: We have several festivals lined up over the next few months and we will continue to screen the film all over the country, as well as internationally. We also hope to acquire DVD and television distribution in the near future.
Joshua: We want to keep playing festivals for awhile and then distribution. I think we could play theatrically in major cities where documentaries do best, as well as in Utah. The documentary market and the Mormon movie market are almost exactly the same size, so if we can serve both niches, we'll be happy. This film will have great television and DVD distribution, but we're also looking into online distribution because that is where the industry is going.
Gavin: Moving to local filmmaking, what’s your opinion of the Utah film scene, both good and bad?
Joshua: Well, like I was saying before, there have been a lot of sub par-movies made around here, and sometimes I'm embarrassed to say that I worked on most of them, but those Mormon filmmakers created a huge independent film community and have left behind the legacy of infrastructure. The next generation will really benefit from their pioneering. There are extremely talented crews here, great rental houses, and sound stages, all waiting to be utilized.
Andrew: There are many talented artists here and I'm always excited and thrilled to see great work coming out of Utah. I've worked with some great people here and have nothing but the highest regard for the other filmmakers that I've met. It's an exciting time to be working on films in Utah.
Gavin: Anything you think could be done to make it bigger or better?
Andrew: I think the most important thing is to be true to yourself and to your story. As long as artists strive to be honest and to tell a good story, good work will follow.
Joshua: Unity. As one, step together. There is a lot of competitive back-biting. The Disney guys don't like the horror guys don't like the Mormon guys, etc. Film students are the worst. There is a lot of talent here and a lot of hands to hold each other up.
Gavin: Are there any local directors or production companies you feel are at the top of their game?
Joshua: I'm not sure about the top of their game, but many of them have continued to progress. Dave Boyle and Duane Andersen, who just made "White On Rice", are huge talents that are finding success. Jared Hess, whether you like his films or not, is at least making wholly original work. E.R. Nelson is going to continue to be successful. Maclain Nelson is one to watch for. There are a lot of great documentarians out there right now. The team behind "New York Doll" and "Resolved", the guys who made "Hi, My Name Is Ryan", and "The Best Worst Movie" guy are all having major success right now. The guys who made "The Sonosopher" are poised to strike. So many up-and-comers. Of the old guard, Richard Dutcher and Kurt Hale have gone in very different directions and are both doing horror now, which is pretty interesting. Trent Harris is still working. Andrew Black should be making some great films from scripts by Kynan Griffin and Jason Faller. Ryan Little and Adam Abel, who made "Saints & Soldiers", seem to make bigger and better movies each time out. That is all you can ask for, a community that is trying to progress.
Andrew: There are many local filmmakers who are doing remarkable things, but I would like to mention Torben Bernhard and Travis Low, the directors of "The Sonosopher". Torben and Travis are first rate filmmakers and their film, "The Sonosopher", is first rate as well. Its an experimental documentary that chronicles the life and work of Alex Caldiero, an avant-garde poet who lives in Utah County. Its a very powerful film that both challenges and inspires while simultaneously expanding our perceptions about art, film, and the documentary form. Like us, Torben and Travis will be screening their film at festivals throughout the coming year.
Gavin: Since we're approaching the season, what are your thoughts on the film festivals that come through every year, and are there any changes you wish you could make?
Andrew: Well, Sundance is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world and we are lucky to have it here in Utah. In fact, I attend the festival every year and have yet to see a film that I didn't like. I hope to be able to screen a film there at some point in the future. There seem to be more festivals opening up every year, which is great because that means that more films will find an audience. I'm happy to be a part of it. As the festival circuits expand, I hope that the ability for festivals to connect filmmakers with distribution opportunities will also expand. I have seen evidence of that happening and hope the trend continues.
Joshua: We're very lucky to have the entire film industry show up in town every year. That doesn't happen anywhere else in the US other than New York and LA. I think a lot of people take it for granted. Sundance is one of the best things Utah has going for it, film wise, and I hope local politicians and filmgoers will continue to support it. We can't afford to have the festival move to New York, as is rumored. We just lost Tromadance after ten years. Slamdance is great too and I would recommend that anyone into independent film check them out. It is a smaller affair, more punk rock, and they have some good movies.
Gavin: What have you got planned for your next film, and what can we expect from you both going into next year?
Joshua: We'll be taking "Cleanflix" around to festivals all over the world off and on for the next year. We're currently looking for a good venue for a US premiere. Our next screening is in Sweden. My next film is a documentary called "Skeleton Picnic". I'm doing it with a really talented guy named Ben McPherson and some of the guys behind Nitro Circus. The plot is kind of under wraps right now, but it deals with important Native American issues and will feature reenactments with major Native actors including Adam Beach from "Smoke Signals" and "Flags Of Our Fathers". I'm more excited about this than anything else I've ever worked on. We've already shot some footage and are finishing it up in February. I've also got a doc called "Gay & Mormon" on the way, which I'm doing with the director of "The Up Beat", but we are holding off on that for a while because there is a competing project coming out first.
Andrew: The next year should be a busy one for both us as we promote "Cleanflix" at film festivals all over the world. Plus, I'm already in pre-production on my next film, a documentary called "Salt City Pusher". It's an incredible true story that takes place amidst Ronald Reagan's war on drugs, about a man who smuggled cocaine from Lima, Peru to Salt Lake City, Utah, disguised as a Mormon missionary. "Salt City Pusher" will make use of dynamic interviews and visionary re-creations, transporting audiences from the jungles of Peru, through the sewers of San Diego, and ultimately here, to Salt Lake City. I'm directing the film with Torben Bernhard, co-director of "The Sonosopher", and we are planning on shooting it in the fall of 2010.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you’d like to plug or any final thoughts you wanna voice?
Andrew: I would like to encourage your readers to keep an eye out for a "Cleanflix" screening in Utah. Sometime during the next year, we'll be screening the film in Salt Lake City and we would love to have some local support. So check out our website and become fans on Facebook.
Joshua: Hup Real Salt Lake!