2012 American Film Festival in Wrocław
By Anna Bielak | November 23, 2012
Kentucker Audley… What is the easiest way of describing a person? Let’s say that we do not know anything about him. Getting to know somebody is a long process and we never know where that may lead us. Who do we see at this very moment? An extraordinary actor, talented director, and young producer. Does a typical US-indie filmmaker based in Memphis, craving for New York, stand in front of our eyes? Audley has been called one of the few Mumblecore directors from the South and the most fascinating actor in the current American micro-budget cinema. He came to American Film Festival in Poland with Amy Seimetz’s Sun Don’t Shine and Ricky Shane Reid’s White Fox Mask. He creates mysterious characters in both films. He has some sort of sensitivity to the cinematic world that exploring perplexing experiences seems easy for him. He does not need to talk much; a few phrases are enough for him to be understood by the audience. Why is that? He perfectly plays games with emotions — it’s as simple as that. And as many enigmatic objects, he looks pretty from a distance; yet, as always, it is much better to come closer.
Anna Bielak: Somebody asked you few years ago, who would you like to be when you turn thirty? Back then you had been imagining yourself as a thirty-something artist turning down all interviews. You’re 31 now, so you don’t want to talk with me?
Kentucker Audley: [laughs] Well that was just simple punk attitude I had back then. I was joking. Yet, when you’re eighteen years old, coming-of-age, you have this romantic idea that as an artist, you need to battle the critic. When you’re young, very often you may have this powerful feeling that [critics] do not understand what you are really doing; they put bizarre filters on it and just make it less meaningful than it is. I have completely changed my attitude during the last few years and I actually consider this process as equally important as the action of making films. And I actually enjoy talking with you now.
AB: I still have quite an opposite feeling than you had. I think that we –- the critics –- try to understand too much; therefore we over-interpret films too often.
KA: Speaking of my particular films, I think there is no understanding of how unintentional, fluid, organic and improvised they all are. The entire intent I have had from the very beginning of my career up until this point is just creating art out of nothing. I do not have preconceived ideas, just simple subjects of what those movies will be about.
AB: Sometimes writers have a feeling that they start thinking just after they start writing. The ideas come along while typing. Is this similar to your experience?
KA: Yes, it is exactly the same with me. Yet — either with directing and acting — there is always a moment of inspiration. I start working from that point to discover all of the rest during the process of creation. Every step I take, every scene I shoot, I am finding what is needed and uncovering ideas I had never thought about during the first day on set. Both of the films I have taken part in lately –- Sun Don’t Shine and White Fox Mask –- were incredibly unscripted. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing on those sets until I started working. Besides, I am not really an actor; which means that I had to basically work on and with my instinct. When you do not have proper background and preparation, you need to focus on and use every passing second within the scene to create the following one.
AB: Aren’t you afraid that at the very end it may occur that you haven’t found anything on the way?
KA: No, you are always finding something moment by moment. It may be more exciting than preparing yourself for the specific task and successfully meeting your own expectations. What you may discover within the moment is at the heart of why I am interested in doing films, living live, having friends. I do not want to prepare what kind of friendship I would like to develop with a certain person. I prefer to find moments of transgression, both in relationships with people and creating art. Unpredictability is what I want to capture while performing.
AB: Love is all about that.
KA: Yeah. Love and passion.
AB: Speaking of love –- when you were sixteen, you met Wes Anderson. Back then he was your favorite director, is he still?
KA: When I was a kid I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life. During that time I saw Bottle Rocket (1994), the first Wes Anderson movie, and became obsessed with it. It was the first film that I felt connected to in a different kind of way. It wasn’t just an experience of going into a movie theater. We were watching it every day for a long time with my friends. The late-1990s were the early days of the Internet and all I was looking for online was any pieces of information concerning Wes Anderson’s work. One day I found out about the tour he was going on. It was open to the public; anyone could go and meet him, but at that point hardly anybody knew him, so nobody was there. That’s why we — me and my pals — had an extended conversation with him. Meeting own hero was a very formative experience for a 16-year-old future filmmaker. Him being my hero is a stage that will never go away, but his films do not mean as much to me as they did years ago. I still appreciate them, because they are perfect and I still love them, but that initial level of excitement hasn’t remained.
AB: As film critics, we assume that the young generation of American filmmakers is still inspired by the indie-pioneers (John Cassavetes, etc.) — do you agree with that supposition of ours?
KA: Well, speaking about myself, I have to agree that I was absorbing all of their films when I was coming-of-age. Yet, at this point the films that are being made nowadays primarily inspire me. Moreover, I think that there is new sense of the world’s influence right now. All is vibrating; people are being instantaneously influenced by pioneers rather than masters. The change came along with the style of filmmaking. Everything is quicker now than ever before, so the films are widely different from the old ones. Thanks to available technology, people are making lots of strange movies that no one would have dared to make even in the 1970s, when a whole bunch of weird movies had been shoot. Most of those 1970s movies had some sort of genre; and today people are rather dismissing every sense of genre-like plot. I think that is a revelation, which makes me focus on what’s happening now rather than looking back to the older times. However, those old films obviously took me and other filmmakers to the point where we understand the idiosyncratic spirit behind underground cinema of the past, therefore I think directors like John Cassavetes or Monte Hellman had a great influence on us just initially.
AB: I would like to talk about genre for a moment. In 2011 you launched the No Budge website to stream low-budge films for free. You personally choose all of the films to stream, obeying two rules only –- the film is over 5 minutes long and it’s not a direct genre movie. What’s wrong with genre, though?
KA: Well, I don’t have personally anything against genre-movies. Yet, I think that there is no market place, venue or a real home for films that are not driven by a story, but by characters, tone or vibe. With No Budge I am just basically trying to provide an incredible venue for that kind of cinema.
AB: Yet, in my opinion there is an exclusive indie-genre: Sundance-like films. It took some time, but now everybody knows what a “Sundance film” means.
KA: Oh, yeah! There is definitely a Sundance-type-of-movie. If you want to make a Sundance film, you should check out what that festival likes and what was appreciated there during the last few years. In the 1990s Tarantino-styled films were the darling of the Sundance, which means men with guns having intense conversations, gangster-types of situations, etc. Now — since 2000 — it started being quirky comedies with lot of dialogue and jokiness. However, in America and the scene that I am involved in, doing a Sundance-type of film is not popular and appreciated. Those films are too slick, deprived of edge. I don’t want to say that there are no beautiful and edgy films at Sundance, there are many meaningful and powerful films there; but I think that a lot of the films they play are kind of cheap and schlocky compared to what is really going on in the independent industry.
AB: However, while the whole world is falling in love with the Beasts of the Southern Wild, you are making fun of it with the mash-up video you posted on No Budge. There is sound from Benh Zeitlin’s trailer edited with Lana Del Rey’s video.
KA: [laughs] Oh, I am not really making fun of it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with doing it in public, because lots of my friends were involved in the production. I actually love that Lana Del Rey video, completely non-ironically, so I am not quoting something I don’t like. I really find the music video’s images fascinating. What rather struck me was the similarity between what I perceived that video to be and what I think this movie is about. I am not doing it in a negative way; I was having a spiritual connection with those two in my mind, the poetic, romantic and sort of simplistic idea that those two pieces of art are based upon. They both lead me to the same thoughts – despite the fact that Beasts’ heroine is an eight-year-old Black girl from a poor, stricken nowhere land and Lana is a rich, white woman from California who has no actual problems with the outside world; yet, they split the same romanticism of escaping and the seeing the beauty of life.
AB: You prefer romanticism to realism?
KA: You know, I am at one end of the spectrum, which means that I may be inspired by romanticism, but I am based in realism. Yet, simplicity is never a bad idea for me. If something is simple I can easily find access to it. My background and my heart lie more in naturalistic, realistic parts of the world. However, maybe that is why I cannot experience joy to the degree that most people can, which is a negative thing…
AB: But still, your life is a perfect example of your artistic ideas, which is great.
KA: I will always be the expert of my world; outside of that, I don’t know how much I have to say. My piece of the world is the only thing I have. I can gradually start interacting more with the outside world and go outside myself, but what I can offer is my ideas and myself. Hopefully, I can incorporate a larger world, juxtapositions and variations on what I am going for now; yet, everything always has to start in a very personal and a bit selfish way.
Check out Anna Bielak’s review of White Fox Mask.
Check out Don Simpson’s review of Sun Don’t Shine.
Check out Linc Leifeste’s review of Sun Don’t Shine.