For my review of Plain Us, a new short film about a touring musician who visits his home town, go here. And now, the interview with Amir Motlagh, the director of Plain Us:
Sujewa: So let's start with some basic stuff; what lead you to pick the subject of a touring musician dealing with a domestic issue (visiting his young daughter, attempting to reconcile with his estranged former lover/the daughter's mother)?
Amir: Well, I feel that given my own circumstance as a person who plays in a band, blending this alter-reality is very interesting. I felt that I could give this world some personal realism but in a narrative, fictional type of way in which I play out issues that I wanted to write about. I have my own band, but obviously the circumstances in this film are made up. The character is make believe. I don't have the same issues and conflicts as this character, well, not entirely, but to the degree presented is a fabrication. It's post modern in a whimsical way, the idea of it, not the film. I also wanted to do another character piece, and try to get as deep as I could within my time constraints working in the short film form. But because its short, I could also really work much more on character then worry about plot. And these days, instinctively I think about having kids. I wouldn't mind it, but it's not so easy right?
Sujewa: Having kids is probably easier than shooting some indie movies. What were the technical challenges encountered in making Plain Us? Was it as easy to work with 35MM as it was with digital (same amount of prep & set up, w/ just a different type of capture media in the camera or did everything have to be done differently than when using digital in order to accommodate the use of 35MM film?)?
Amir: Well, really there wasn't. Time I think is the only real burden when it comes to shooting on this type of budget. Oh, and shooting in a tiny room with two 35mm cameras is a bit tricky, specially when its about 90 degrees in the room. This isn't the first time I shot on 35mm so, other then set up time, it's just a damn camera. The medium is just one part of what it is you are actually doing, which is, filmmaking. But I worked again with the same cinematographer as
knock. knock., Zamir Kokonozi, who is always a pleasure to work with. He is very patient and talented.
Sujewa: I saw that you used digital for a couple of scenes - the opening scenes where the main character is performing & is on the road with his band. Did this come out of the fact that these scenes were added later to the film/not originally planned & thus were easier to capture on digital or was it because you wanted to have a low-budget tour documentary type feel or even fan footage type feel to those scenes?
Amir: No, those were always planned. It's mostly about how it feels. It's intended to be a video diary of the character on the road for lets say, a DVD release when his new record comes out, right. It's the three stages of conceptual realism I was after. That intro is how many of us view the world on YouTube these days.
Sujewa: I guess this wouldn't be a DIY Filmmaker interview if we did not touch on some issues related to "race", specially if the film warrants it :) So, here's a question: even though there was little dialogue in Plain Us, you chose to have the lead character mention, perhaps jokingly, perhaps seriously, that his band was not getting enough press because he was "brown". In your personal experience, has this been the case - have you felt that media was ignoring your music work because your band was lead by a non-"white" person/you? Or have you observed this happening to other bands that are fronted by non-"white" performers?
Amir: Ha, you had to take it there. The issue of race is a small through line within the film. But there are other character issues as well. It's a small piece of a living, breathing character. I don't buy that argument about race holding someone down anymore, at least as it pertains to me, and even if it did, I refuse to get into that debate because it's just a hindrance and an excuse. So, with that said, you would have to address that question to Cyrus, the character in the movie. Maybe he was joking, but maybe he is hung up on things.
Sujewa: Tell us about your future plans for Plain Us; distribution wise, etc., and when we can expect to see the couple of feature films that you have been working on for the past year or so.
Amir: Well, what can we do but first try the festivals? It's a short film, so that's were it goes first. I am certain that a new DVD compilation of my works will come out soon and it will include this, but until then, if you are interested, please talk to your local fest programmer and get this damn film screened. The trailer is up, and if you are a reviewer, curator or programmer, contact me and I will send out a screener. I have a feature film (it was titled Whale and it might still be) that I will release in a month or two at the most. It's part of a broader work palette, with Plain Us being its distant cousin. Other that that, My Darling Dia, the Shanks and the Dreamers new album drops in the Summer, and I'm working on a new feature script.
For more on Plain Us, go here.