Posts Tagged ‘Jarrod Whaley’

Interview with Jarrod Whaley, director of THE GLASS SLIPPER

And a third repeat Cinequest local! Jarrod Whaley moved to Palo Alto from Tennessee two years ago, just in time to premiere his first feature, HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE. This year he is back at Cinequest with THE GLASS SLIPPER, a film that also stars several Bay Area locals.

Jarrod Whaley

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE GLASS SLIPPER, from concept to financing.

In college I read a Flaubert novella called Un Cœur Simple (A Simple Heart in English), and was quite taken with the austerity of both the central character and the narrative style. Flaubert’s Felicity is a kind of pious naïf who fails at every turn to take charge of the trajectory of her own life; she eventually slides into the deepest depths of penury–and then death–because she trusts that the “Holy Spirit” (whom she confuses with a stuffed parrot) will save her. It’s a rather fatalistic story, and it lacks the typical character arc of almost all Western literature. She doesn’t change; she doesn’t learn (which is not at all to say that the reader can’t learn from her mistakes). I think most of us end up living a similar kind of life in one way or another, and that the standard structure of our narratives might therefore have a certain willful falseness at its core.

I’ve wanted to adapt the novella into a film for about seven years, and The Glass Slipper is the end result of that. Mind you, my film is almost nothing like the novella- there’s a character called Felicity, and I’ve certainly taken some cues from Flaubert in creating her, but there’s much going on in my film that’s completely unrelated to the ostensible “source material.” A large part of the film deals with another character who fails also to improve his lot, and we watch his family crumble while he flounders around. This thread is entirely mine.

Though we’ve recently, through more traditional channels, secured additional funding with which to finish the film, the lion’s share of the actual production phase was funded via a Kickstarter campaign. I’ve found it to be not only a great source of funding, but also an incredible way to build a community around the film from day one.

2Q: You were at Cinequest last year with your first feature which you had filmed in Tennessee. What differences were there between filming in Tennessee vs. Palo Alto, CA? Pros and cons? (more…)



It turns out that Morty IS the HELL IN OTHER PEOPLE.  Morty embodies everything in ourselves that we dislike.  And yet Morty, perhaps because he IS us, is someone we can’t quite help loving.

A clumsily manipulative loser, Morty shuffles through this film pissing off his friends, offending strangers, and generally making sure he never gets ahead.  “Sounds like you’ve got some stuff to work out,” says one character to Morty.  Don’t we all.  And if we’re not working through things now, everyone has at some point in their life – which is why we all cringe as Morty lets himself be degraded by one of the crazier characters in the film after he has run out of people to manipulate on his own.

If this is a mumblecore film, it is most definitely a mumblecore of a different sort.  The lilting Tennessee accents of the characters quickly drew me in, and even with the sometimes blurry handheld camera work the film has a beauty that director Jarrod Whaley’s incredibly touching short film PASSION FLOWER also exhibited.  There was a clear path to the story (a downward spiral, but still), the characters had dialog of value to speak, and there was a great deal of humor amidst the sadness that is Morty. (more…)

Around the Bay, a film by Alejandro Adams

Viewed Saturday, June 12 at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, along with Passion Flower (review following).

Daisy rides the train with her brother Noah

Daisy rides the train with her brother Noah

If TS Eliot came back to life reincarnated as a filmmaker, he would be Alejandro Adams. This is what I wrote on my notepad halfway through this movie, and while I firmly believe this comparison, it also makes a review of his movies very difficult. How could you write a one page review of Eliot’s The Waste Land and make the average reader understand the greatness of the work? I missed this film when it played at Cinequest 2008, so I was very happy to have this second chance to see Adams’ first feature film.

Like The Waste Land, it is difficult to adequately review an Adams film without writing an entire 10 page essay. His films defy a one or two paragraph blurb; there is far too much going on, too much you have to figure out yourself. This is the beauty of his first two films; he will never tell you what is happening, and nothing will be explained to you. You are merely an observer in the film’s world and it is up to you to decide what the story is about. While this film had more of a beginning-middle-end configuration than did Canary, his second film, it is still just a section of time in the lives of these characters.

Around the Bay is a movie with four main characters: all four are protagonists of their own story, and antagonists in another. Such is real life. The four characters are all interrelated in some way: you have a father, a daughter and a son by two different ex-wives, and a girlfriend. The truth of this plot is that none of the four characters really know any of the others as they should, and they battle through the film trying, and failing, to understand each other. I could spend time explaining the intricacies of the plot, but the experience of watching the film is much more important than the details of the story.

Little snippets of scenes spliced here, there, and everywhere; some with jarring blackout cuts, some scenes and their dialogue simply overlapping each other. An unsettling puzzle of quiet scenes that ensure you will never know for sure what is coming next. Such a quiet movie with so little written dialogue, but it also contains so much noise; there is a constant stream of crickets or train noises drowning out everything else. Adams knows how to manipulate this minimalist use of sound to create a cacophony of unrest. If you took out all background sound and dialogue, and replaced it with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, you would still have the same experience watching this film.

Instead of written dialogue, many scenes are spent watching the characters sit silently; it is up to us to read their thoughts. This can frustrate the average moviegoer, but is also the beauty of Adams’ films; like a great poem, the viewer must interpret what is going on in the minds of the characters. This contributes to the feeling of being a voyeur into this world. At times the screen just goes silent – often when the character of the father is almost experiencing some emotion, as if he’s trying to use silence to drown it before it surfaces.

Will Alejandro ever get rich with his films? Probably not with this film, but I don’t think he cares. He is a true artist-slash-genius such as many literary authors who were never given the fame they deserved while alive. I predict his films will be taught in film school one day, but this does not mean the average viewer should forget his name. If you ever get your hands on a DVD of Around the Bay I suggest you set aside 96 minutes of quiet time to sit and observe the entire film in one viewing. When it is over you will be happy that you gave the film the attention it deserves.

I also saw the documentary film Passion Flower, by Jarrod Whaley.

Skip Cisto prepares the tattoo for Ann Law

Skip Cisto prepares the tattoo for Ann Law

This was a beautiful film about a woman with a double mastectomy who decides to get a passion flower tattooed around the area of her scars. The woman, Ann Law, is a dancer who has decided against being fitted with prostheses or submitting to reconstructive surgery. The entire film is set in the tattoo parlor, and Ann arrives with friends while chatting happily. Throughout the film she explains her story as tattoo artist Skip Cisto proceeds with the process. We see everything from the drawing being transferred to her skin, to the coloring in of the tattoo. Cisto treats Ann and her story with great respect, almost reverence, and appears to be aware of the part he is playing in this metamorphoses. Ann even chats happily about the rain outside. She says that the rain makes her glad she’s there in the parlor, that if it were sunny she would want to be playing outside. But of course the rain is also a symbol of rebirth, and it marks the transformation of Ann from cancer survivor to a work of art. When it is over she stands up and admires with the rest of us her perfectly smooth torso that is now a canvas for the passion flower. There is no cringing or wincing from anyone on film or in the audience as she displays her bare chest, just as there is no longer any sign of a scar. Her metamorphosis into a whole woman again is complete.

Bay Area filmmaker Alejandro Adams‘ first feature, Around the Bay, appeared on several critics’ top ten lists at the end of 2008. His second feature, Canary, prompted Dennis Harvey of Variety to hail him as “an arresting talent.” Babnik, a Russian-language sex-trafficking thriller, is currently in post-production. Amity and Child of God are currently being filmed.

Jarrod Whaley of Oak Street Films currently resides in Chattanooga but preparing for his move to the Bay Area this summer. He has also written and directed the upcoming dark comedy Hell is Other People.

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