Interview: Yorgos Lanthimos on The Lobster (2016)

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in The Lobster
Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos is arguably the most important and well-known modern Greek director. His Oscar-nominated Dogtooth is a hideous and hilarious dark parable about families, and its follow-up, Alps, further refined his highly stylized but heartfelt insights into how humans deal with life events – in this case, the grief of loss. His latest, the deeply surrealist but still thoughtful The Lobster, casts Colin Farrell as a man with 45 days to find true love – or be turned into an animal.

It sounds like a fairytale, but Lanthimos digs deep into what it is to be single and in a relationship, and the pressures that we place on ourselves, and that society places upon us.

It’s also Lanthimos’ first English-language film: with the nascent modern Greek film industry caught up in the economic slaughter that has hit the country, he found international funding and shot the movie in Ireland.

(Parts of this interview previously appeared at

RW: Who was the first person you cast?

Yorgos Lanthimos: That must have been Colin. It was very early on that I had discussions with Rachel Weisz, because we had met before I had even finished the screenplay. She had seen my work, and she reached out, and we met, and we both conveyed how much we liked each other’s work, and were thinking of working together. She was one of the first people that actually read the screenplay, but it took some time for it to work out for her to be in the cast. So first was Colin, and then it was Rachel.

Continue reading Interview: Yorgos Lanthimos on The Lobster (2016)

Interview: Dominic Rodriguez on Fursonas

The pack's all here in furry documentary Fursonas

Like many first time documentarians, Dominic Rodriguez decided to pick a subject close to home. In his case, it was the sub-culture of furries for his debut feature Fursonas. A furry himself, his portrayal isn’t exactly warts-and-all, but it’s more nuanced than either the PR pieces that the scene can produce, or the prurient and exploitative ‘reporting’ that comes from the cavalcade of daytime talkshows. His film may not endear him to everyone in furrydom (especially its self-appointed “storyteller,” Uncle Kage), but it’s lovingly critical of the anthro-scene.

(A version of this story first appeared at

Richard Whittaker: It always seems like there’s a group that it’s ‘OK’ for popular culture to be dismissive of or be mean about. It used to be LARPers, then it was Bronies, now it’s furries. Why do you think that it’s this group at the moment?

Dominic Rodriguez: I don’t know. I just think about when I started it. I didn’t know a single furry, I didn’t know any fur suiters, and all I saw was just this image of all these hundreds of people in costume. You don’t know who they are. They’re just furries. And because you don’t know who they are, they’re easier to judge. That’s why I thought it was so important in the documentary that it took its time, and you got to feel who these people were in the first half, so it’s not as OK to judge. So when it does happen, it’s not OK. How could anyone judge Boomer? How horrible. But then, of course you judge Boomer. Look at the first scene in which you see him – he looks like a crazy person. But all it takes is getting to know people and accept them.

RW: Why did you decide to make the documentary in the first place?

DR: I guess there are two answer to that question. One is because I needed to have a senior thesis film.

Continue reading Interview: Dominic Rodriguez on Fursonas

Interview: Adrián García Bogliano on Scherzo Diabolico (2016)

Daniela Soto Vell and Francisco Barreiro in Scherzo Diabolico
Daniela Soto Vell and Francisco Barreiro in Scherzo Diabolico

There’s a running joke that Adrián García Bogliano is heading north in the Americas, and every film gets him closer to Canada. The Spanish-born director had worked on multiple low-budget films in his adopted home of Argentina before his breakout festival success, 2010’s Cold Sweat. He followed that with the supernatural Penumbra, before heading to Mexico for Here Comes the Devil, and the US with werewolf thriller Late Phases. For his latest, rather than heading to the great white north, takes him back to Mexico, where Arran (Francisco Barreiro, Here Comes the Devil, We Are What We Are) kidnaps a teenage girl. However, his

(A version of this interview previously appeared at

Richard Whittaker: So far, you’ve directed films in Argentina, Costa Rico, Mexico, and the US. What’s the difference between working in those different countries?

Adrián García Bogliano: There are so, so many differences A lot of things in common, but I think that the biggest differences, industrywise, in terms of how actors approach tha metarila, in the United States I think the actors are a lot more used to working in cinema. So it’s easier for them to do movies, but at the same time I think that they risk less than Latin American actors do. I think that’s something that Francisco is very good at. He really risks a lot. You see that he;s putting a lot intyo everything that he does, and I think that American actors tend to be safe. Also, the difference in terms of how to make a horror movie there and here, is that I think that Americans are maybe a little too self-aware. Which is good in some things, because I think that they have a lot more perspective on the history of horror and where they are standing. Where the Latin Americans, we don’t have a lot of history of horror. Mexico is probably the country with a bigger tradition, but many of those horror films that were produced here are very difficult to see. So people are not really aware of the tradition of horror in Latin America, so you have to make the rules while you do the films. That gives you some freedom that, when you come from a very specific tradition, I think you don’t have.

RW I was talking to Paulo Biscaia Filho about his new film Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains, and as a Brazilian, he’s got Coffin Joe and that’s it. There isn’t the tradition, so while there are Brazilian horror directors coming through, they’re feeling their way.

AGB: Absolutely, absolutely. When we released Cold Sweat in Argentina, it was the first release for an Argentinian horror film in 50 years. It was scary to have to full that void.

Continue reading Interview: Adrián García Bogliano on Scherzo Diabolico (2016)

Interview: RWBY Creative Team


Richard Whittaker: RWBY Volume I introduced characters, Volume II broadened the world, and Volume III is where the plot really fits together. The Twitter response when everything came together – and started falling apart for the characters – was basically ‘what the hell?’ Where you prepared for the response from the fanbase?

Kerry Shawcross: When we started off with this story, it was important to us to pull a Lost. We didn’t want to start in a cool place, not know where it was going, and then try to figure it out as we went. When we came up with this initial story, we tried to think years and years ahead. We knew the events of Volume III were going to happen before the show even started, so it’s really been a case of biting our tongues and not letting anything slip. We really wanted to hit the fans hard, in the same way that the characters were hit really hard with all this. We wanted them to share in these emotions.

Miles Luna: When it came to introducing the characters in volume I, the thing that we tried to do with them is that you think you know the archetype at face value. A great example is Yang: when the audience first meets her, she seems like that party hard kind of girl, the popular preppy girl, and that’s what you get the first time you see there, and then you learn she’s like a mother figure to Ruby, she has this very compassionate side, she has this history with her mother. We wanted to do the same thing with the tone of the show, whereby it’s introduced as a Hub anime, it’s this fun show where it takes place in a magic school, but then we wanted to do an about face and pull the rug out from under the audience as say, no, this is not what the show is about. It’s just as intrusive to the audience as it was to the characters, that suddenly, woah, everything that was going according to plan is suddenly out the window.

Gray Haddock: And Rooster Teeth has never put a parental advisory on its videos in the company’s history, and we didn’t want to start now, but halfway through this season was a good time to remind all the parent andf babysitters and uncle and aunts who would have been sharing the videos with the much younger end of the audience that, hey, we’ve been trying to make as much noise whenever possible in the behind-the-scenes supplements on the DVDs, or at panel appearances at conventions, that there was more to this story than what they had seen in the first couple of volumes, and the full story of RWBY is going to involve a lot of changes and emotions. So halfway through volume III was a good time to re-start the conversation with the audience, just to let them know, hey, no reason, but if you’re sharing the world of RWBY with the most extremely young members of the audience, maybe you want to start watching the episodes first and seeing whether it’s suitable for them.

Continue reading Interview: RWBY Creative Team

Interview: Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer on Darkon

Skip Lipman, star of Darkon: The Movie
Skip Lipman, star of Darkon

When Ian McKellen pretends to be a wizard, he gets $8 million and an Oscar nomination. When a bunch of ordinary working people get together to pretend to be barbarians, warriors, and trolls on the weekend for fun, they get called geeks. Call them instead LARPers – live action role-players – and the subject of Darkon, an overwhelming favorite on the 2006 festival circuit.

In their debut documentary feature, co-directors Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer enter Darkon, a high-fantasy world in which orcs rampage across nations, mages cast arcane conjurings, and dark elves plot in caves. In reality, Darkon is a set of gaming rules, a map of fictional countries, and a series of weekendlong live-action events on borrowed farmland. Players come in homemade costumes, and vie for power and hexes on the map through negotiations, treachery, and intrigue. When that fails, they battle with padded maces and foam swords.

Continue reading Interview: Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer on Darkon

Interview: John Dean


(In 2008, former Nixon administration counsel John Dean was in Austin for the Netroots Nation convention. I sat down with him to discuss the state of American politics).

There’s a famous story of heavyweight Republican consultant Karl Rove brushing off poor GOP poll numbers just prior to the November 2006 election, telling a reporter, “You have your numbers; I havethe numbers.” Former White House counsel John Dean argues that the Republicans have taken the same approach to basic freedoms. “I think it’s probably true with all provisions of the Constitution,” explained Dean. “They pretty much read them the way they want to.”

Before his panel appearance at the Netroots Nation convention, the onetime White House counsel to President Richard Nixon and, in recent years, constitutional commentator, appeared at a July 17 fundraiser for Austin’s North by Northwest Democrats at the North Lamar Waterloo Ice House. Much of the Net­roots community has reacted strongly against the July 9 U.S. Senate vote passing the new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law effectively rewrites the Fourth Amend­ment, the protection against unreasonable search and seizure, to fit the administration’s world-view – that national security trumps the Constitution and the president makes his own law. Dean decried the decision and said, “It’s just amazing that the weakest president since Nixon can get through the amendments to the FISA bill he just did, when most Amer­i­cans who know anything about it are horrified by it.” But he added that the Internet community shouldn’t feel singled out by the administration in its spinning of the Constitution. “With the Second Amendment, long before the Supreme Court ruled that [the right to bear arms] was about personal rights, they’ve been reading it that way,” he noted.

Continue reading Interview: John Dean

Interview: Bill Moseley (2015)

Bill Moseley and friend at Housecore Horror Film Festival in 2014
Bill Moseley and friend at Housecore Horror Film Festival in 2014

(Horror stars tend to be the polar opposite of their on screen persona, and none more so than Bill Moseley: the star of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, Repo! The Genetic Opera, the remake of Night of the Living Dead, and dozens more, is infamously one of the nicest, softest-spoken members of the horror community. I had the chance to talk to him at the Housecore Horror 2015 festival about his career.)

Richard Whittaker: The first time I saw House of 1000 Corpses, it was at a midnight screening at the Leeds International Film festival, and it was immediately clear that Otis was a hit. What do you think it is about him, and what you were able to bring to the part, that really affected people?

Bill Moseley: I don’t really know. It’s something that Rob saw in me that I did not necessarily see in myself, which was a sinister, sexy quality. There’s that element that I never saw. I was more of a Chop Top guy. I always differentiated the two from centers of gravity. With Chop Top, it’s all up in the shoulders. There’s more of a sketchy feeling. There’s the coat hanger and the lighter, I’m scratching my head. It’s all shoulder stuff. With Otis, it’s all in the balls. It’s thumbs under the belt, sitting back, ‘fuck you.’ I didn’t really see that in myself, Rob did, which was very fortunate.
Continue reading Interview: Bill Moseley (2015)

Interview: Bob Ray and Werner Campbell on Hell on Wheels (2008)

hellonwheelsIt was a big few weeks for Bob Ray of Crashcam Films: A second child, a “Best of Austin” award for best emergent filmmaker, and the DVD release of his Roller Derby documentary Hell on Wheels.

The film tells the story of how modern-day rollerderby in Austin almost didn’t happen. For the 300-plus leagues around the world, it’s a lesson in the potential problems and internal politics of getting to the first bout (it’s amazing how many leagues have gone through very similar problems, and how many survive to thrive like both the flat track Texas Rollergirls and the banked track Lonestar Rollergirls.)

Continue reading Interview: Bob Ray and Werner Campbell on Hell on Wheels (2008)

Interview: Scott McClellan (2008)

(In 2008, President George Bush’s press long-time press secretary Scott McClennan published his autobiography, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House. I talked with him in the middle of the press furor that it caused.)

Scott McClennan as a young boy, casting his first ballot. His mother, future Austin mayor and Texas State Comptroller Carole Keaton Strayhorn, used it to introduce he and his brothers to politics. Image courtesy of Scott McClennan.

A third-generation child of a family always in the public spotlight. A frat boy who went into the family business of living on the campaign trail. A veteran of Texas bipartisan politics who traveled from the Governor’s Mansion to the White House, a journey few early observers expected to see.

The similarities between George W. Bush and Scott McClellan, who served as Bush’s spokesman when he was governor, candidate, and president, are sometimes greater than the differences. But now the schism between the two over his memoir, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, has put the Austin-born and -raised McClellan at the heart of the debate about the current and future presidencies.

But when McClellan called from Washington, D.C., his first thought was about someone else from his White House years. “I don’t know if you’ve just heard about Tim Russert,” he asked. The NBC News Washington Bureau chief’s death had been announced only hours earlier. “Reality sinks in when something like that happens.” Of course, McClellan is back in the public arena because of the self-contemplation in his new book, which he will be discussing at BookPeople this Saturday. “I was born in politics. Most people choose it, but I was born into it,” he recalled. “I dedicated this book to those who serve, and none more so than those who want to get involved in politics. They will be able to learn some lessons from my painful experiences.”

Continue reading Interview: Scott McClellan (2008)