Exclusive: Whit Stillman Talks DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, Future Projects, and the Last 13 Years at TIFF

by     Posted 2 years, 324 days ago

Whit Stillman DAMSELS IN DISTRESS interview TIFF 2011

One of my highlights of this year’s Toronto Film festival was getting to sit down with writer-director Whit Stillman.  As a huge fan of Stillman’s first three features (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco), I never thought I’d get the chance to talk with him.  But with Stillman writing and directing his first film in 13 years, Damsels in Distress , he was at TIFF to talk about the project and I jumped at the chance to interview with him.  Since Damsels doesn’t get released until next year, I decided to use more of the time to talk about what he’s been doing for since The Last Days of Disco and what’s coming up in the future.  While I hoped he’d jump into another film immediately, he tells me:

“I doubt if, in the best case scenario, there’d be anything underway in 2012. I have to write a commission, get some money, a paid job that I hope might lead to something. I do have these other scripts, the only one I talk about now is the Jamaica one, because I don’t wanna talk about stuff that doesn’t happen and that one’s already lost its virginity, and so I can still talk about it, so that’s one of sort of three projects.”

In addition, if you’re like me and patiently waiting for his first three films to hit Blu-ray, he revealed Criterion is trying to get the rights to Barcelona but he had no idea when the films would hit HD.  Hit the jump to watch the interview.

Here’s the time index of the interview with a few quotes.  The video is further down the page.

whit_stillman_imageWhit Stillman Time Index

  • :27 Talks about his 13-year hiatus from filmmaking and why he decided to come back. “It’s more the hiatus filmmaking took from me. It started out I was doing other things so I was finishing up with Disco. I somewhat indulgently, but interestingly I think, worked on the dubbing into French and Spanish, dubbing subtitles into French and Spanish, which is kind of a cool experience cinematically because you get to remake the film as far as the soundtrack, and I love doing that. Then I wrote the novel that came out in 2000, The Last Days of Disco, With Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards, and that was kind of a big project. At the same time I was getting all of these sort of TV commissions, this and that, I joined the Writers Guild. I kind of became a writer, I became a paid writer for the industry, and I kind of lost track a little bit of my own destiny as a self-producing filmmaker. Someone advised me, ‘Oh Whit you’re doing things in such an eccentric way, now you have to do things the industry way,’ and trying to do things the industry way meant not making a film for 12 years. So I had all these dramatic projects I wanted to—you know I felt I had burned through my own material with the first three films, I really felt like I didn’t want to make another one along that line, I had done the dramatic stories I knew. I had these beautiful projects, one was Red Azalea based on a wonderful memoir by Anchee Min, then I had a film originally called Creation set in Jamaica in the early 60’s, young Jamaican kids at Kingston Church who come into the working world against the backdrop of great music in Jamaica in that period. Various people were backing the writing of these scripts in order to make the films or not make the films. We did casting in Kingston and scouting locations, and the industry said ‘No.’ I was living in Paris and trying to make the films out of London, and from London I could get very good support for writing the scripts, but I couldn’t cross over to do the films. So that’s my story.”
  • damsels-in-distress-movie-image-013:00 Was it easy to land financing for Damsels in Distress? Talks about how the film finally came to fruition.
  • 5:30 Talks about finding the cast for Damsels.
  • 7:05 Was there room for improv on set or did the actors stick directly to the script? Talks about the fast shooting schedule and the unique approach some of the actors brought to their characters.
  • 9:05 What’s the status of the Blu-ray release of his previous films?  Says Criterion is trying to get the rights to Barcelona.
  • 10:05 Future projects. Says he hopes to eventually shoot his Jamaica movie.
  • “I doubt if, in the best case scenario, there’d be anything underway in 2012. I have to write a commission, get some money, a paid job that I hope might lead to something. I do have these other scripts, the only one I talk about now is the Jamaica one, because I don’t wanna talk about stuff that doesn’t happen and that one’s already lost its virginity, and so I can still talk about it, so that’s one of sort of three projects. This one might involved Great and Adam, I’d like to team them up really soon. I think Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody are great onscreen together, and we all get along well. I’d love to maybe do that or the Jamaica film.”

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