20 Questions and a Song Request With Heather Fink

As Emerson aptly noted, “…a man may be known by the books he reads”; at The Gaze we maintain that we are best known, perhaps, by the films we hold most dear. The format is simple: one fellow cinephile, 20 Questions, and a song of their choice. In this installment, I sit down with independent film writer/director and former stand-up HEATHER FINK to talk her debut feature INSIDE YOU, the staggering brilliance of Sarah Silverman, and how a “magic sex toy” propelled her on a cross-country road-trip to show her film.

  1. The last film you saw, in which city, and with whom?

The last film I saw was Logan Lucky playing in Brooklyn’s Nighthawk Cinema with my friend and collaborator Alfredo Viteri who was the boom operator on that movie. I loved it! Such a smart and fun movie.

2. You graduated NYU’s prestigious film program- which former NYU film alumni would you MOST like to collaborate with in a project?

Wow that is a hard question because these are people we have the opportunity to know or work with personally! Comedy filmmakers Michael Showalter, Todd Solondz and John Hamberg (Along Came Polly, I Love You Man, Safe Men) popped into my head and I was so lucky to have them all as teachers. But I think my answer has to be John Hamberg.

3. Explain!

I’m going with John not only because I learned so much from him, but because he’s also mastered blockbuster comedies that don’t compromise the quality of the work for the sake of broad appeal — that’s a difficult thing. I want to direct blockbuster comedies. We don’t have a Kathryn Bigelow or Ava Duvernay for comedy movies, and for crying out loud can these big budget female written and starring comedies hire a female director at some point?! We don’t have a female Judd Apatow or Ivan Reitman yet (though there are several fantastic female comedy directors making indies and tv). I want to be that.

4. What was the FIRST film you ever recall seeing in a theater?

When I was very little, I faintly recall Cinderella on the screen at the movie theater in town, must’ve been a re-release because that was the 80s! The VHS tapes we recorded of movies off the TV were most treasured to me and I’d watch those over and over again. Some highlights included Police Academy 3, Gremlins, and Ghostbusters.

5. On the spot: Most Underrated and Most Overrated COMEDY film so far this year?

Most Underrated — Girls Trip. I can’t say it enough, and it was especially underrated by the studio that released it because I felt that the post production budget/work was unfinished and did not result in a movie as good as it could be. The performances were so funny, and the scenes heightened in the most hilarious way — in spite of what I see as a poor sound edit, weak graphics and VFX, and what could’ve been a more polished cut of the movie. Most Overrated? Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 was a total let down.

6. You hail from Brooklyn- name a film set in your stomping grounds that most GETS it?

Very interesting question because Brooklyn is so diverse and constantly changing. I’ve got to call out my film school friends Sarah Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers (he’s got a cameo in Inside You) who I’m so proud of and their indie film Fort Tilden, which hilariously skewers hipster culture. Be sure to check out their TV show “Search Party” as well which does a great job of capturing Brooklyn’s most ridiculous essences.

7. You have roots in stand-up- which THREE living or dead stand-up comics make it to your dinner party?

Joan Rivers, Richard Pryor, Sarah Silverman

8. You are the writer, director, and star of INSIDE YOU, playing tonight at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, CO. Which independent writer/director/star triple threat has most influenced your career?

David Wain of the 90s MTV comedy show “The State” and current movie director/writer/star. “The State” came on when I was in high school and I saw myself, my spirit, and who I wanted to be in every sketch. They released a book in 96 and I went into NYC for their book signing and an audience member asked where people could see them live. They answered that they had a live show called “Stella” and I ended up going to that show from 1997–2005 when the live show ended. They made comedy shorts, did bits, had the most incredible guests, and I said to myself — I want this. As a comedian I can be and do all of this. The State alums have made TV, movies, books, and have found success as live performers and actors as well. They are also kind and still around making lots of work. I’ve taken a sketch comedy class with Kevin Allison, screenwriting with Michael Showalter, personal advice from David Wain in making this movie that very much influenced me. They are still a vibrant part of the film and comedy scene and I feel so lucky to be making work a the same time they are. I mentioned David Wain specifically because of his directing work but there are several great feature filmmakers from that comedy group: Michael Showalter, Tom Lennon, Ben Garant, plus Michael Patrick Jann and Michael Ian Black who make tv (they all do, you probably know “Reno 911,” same group). I’m a true fangirl of all that they do.

9. In addition to deconstructing gender roles and expectations, your film also plays extensively with the evolving construction of the idea of traditional marriage within in modern society. How does your decidedly feminist auteursip shape your view for the film?

While more and more female voices are getting a chance in TV and Film, it’s still a new thing and there’s a whole lot of different viewpoints and personalities we’ve yet to see depicted from women in film. I quite purposefully want to change that with my work. I want to create truer female protagonists, and in this film there’s a focus on sexuality that I think provides a unique perspective that’s shared by many women, but rarely depicted. For example, both myself and my character quite adore sex and wieners! Lots of women do. Let’s see more of that in movies! But like, not “those” kinds of movies.

As for marriage, I think we live in a wedding obsessed society that’s extremely negative on marriage — the wife is always bemoaned as a ball and chain. TV and Movies depict marriage as depressing — of course that is going to affect people! But we are all expected to salivate over weddings. I tried to explore these topics in a fun way with the body switching concept — because I am committed to making fun movies. I love the power of cinema to produce joy, adventure, and laughter, and that’s what I want to do with my work all while pushing what I feel is a meaningful feminist agenda.

10. Best performance by a comedian in a dramatic role?

Fun question! Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back.

11. Last film to make you cry?

Hidden Figures, which I saw at home right after seeing Wonder Woman in theaters — and to see two movies in a row where you the audience knows the little girl in the first scene of the movie is the hero. It just ripped my heart right out in the first frames. This is a new and rare thing — these kinds of depictions of female heroism. It’s so overwhelming to realize all your life as a woman, you’ve never gotten to *be* the origin story of such heroism. Though Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor are awesome heroes I’m so grateful for, they are always on this higher platitude where it’s hard to see yourself in them. With the heroes in both Hidden Figures and Wonder Woman, we are guided through a story with women who make us feel like we could be heroes too. It’s remarkably powerful stuff when you’ve only seen this through the eyes of men your whole life.

12. Which actress NEVER fails to make you smile in the dark?

For some time now, Amy Poehler, but emerging star Tiffany Haddish is like nothing I’ve ever seen! Pure delight.

13. You also freelance as a sound-mixer. Name a film for our readers that has just DEVASTATINGLY BRILLIANT sound design that we need to revisit within that context?

Wuthering Heights by Andrea Arnold. It’s such a sensual film. All about making you feel and experience sensations that the characters experience. Beautifully constructed sound design — especially their work in recording wind. Wind is extremely hard to record without distortion but they did it and used this sound in such a truly sensual way. Even when a character touches a wood table, the sound of the hand brushing the wood is totally sexy!

14. Which television show or film comes closest- in your experience- to correctly capturing life as a comic?

Don’t Think Twice by Michael Birbiglia does a beautiful job of capturing the improv comedy world. As for standup I have never seen a movie that gets it quite right. It’s such a desperate and icky world, which is weird because I also love and miss it and will be returning to performing stand-up for the first time in 10 YEARS once I land in Los Angeles Sept 23rd. I guess sometimes we like icky things. Like sea urchin. Looks like nasty lil squishy tongues but those weird squirmy things are so damned tasty.

15. You’ve owned your guilty pleasure love of GOSSIP GIRL back in the day- what is your current guilty pop-culture obsession?

Rapper and reality star Cardi-B. Have you seen her interviews? She’s hilarious and in her own league as far as being totally raw and authentic. A MUST Google.

16. Best film soundtrack of the 21st century?

Woah with the fun questions about things I’m passionate about! I can’t say best of all time, but best for me personally, as a 90s kid — the Tank Girl soundtrack was epic: Portishead, Veruca Salt, Belly, Bjork, Hole, Ice-T!

17. Stand-up show-down. Maria Bamford or Sarah Silverman?

Sarah Silverman … if you can’t tell. She’s meant a lot to me. To be so ruthlessly funny and also a babe and also political, and consistently outspoken and smart. Very thankful she’s been out there all this time.

18. You are an unabashedly avid reader- what is on your nightstand (or Kindle) right now that is making you happy?

“What Happened” by Hillary Clinton. It’s a story full of joy, pain, tears, and laughter — and for crying out loud it hardly even talks about “you know who” — it’s such a tiny part of the book but ya know how the internet is: loves to grab on to all the clickbait bits and tear it up. I hope more people listen to her story and unique perspective regardless of their feelings about her.

19. You cast yourself in your film after initially looking for actors. In your inevitable biopic, who would you cast AS you?

Well for one I never wanted to act in my movie, it was a force of necessity after an actor dropped out and I needed to get this thing made! As for someone to play me? I feel like Kristen Wiig would nail it.

20. Reduce your film to one sentence (and yes, sex toy can be part of it).

You got it! “Inside You is a comedy about a couple that switches bodies after a night with a magic sex toy.”

What is your song request?

Faith No More — Epic

Heather Fink came to filmmaking from comedy. She has been making funny videos since she was a kid growing up in small town New Jersey, raised by a Dutch mother, Jewish American father, schizophrenic grandmother, and an older sister. She started performing standup comedy in NYC in 2005, and continued making funny videos, doing improv, and sketch comedy. In 2009 she began NYU’s Grad Film program as Writer/Director. She currently pays the bills as a Sound Person for film and tv, including Marvel’s Daredevil, and Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. Previous jobs include PR for a gay porn company, Senator Kennedy Intern, and Content Strategy for Digital Media companies.

INSIDE YOU is Heather’s debut feature- she is currently on a road-trip to LA screening it in select cities, including TONIGHT at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, CO. Visit her site for all the latest!

Jack Hanley is a Boulder-based writer, coffee enthusiast, and cultural critic who has been singlehandedly ruining films, television, and music for friends and family for over 20 years. Should you have the stomach for it, you can follow his unsolicited rants via Twitter and Facebook, or read his film musings at the Alone In the Dark Film Blog and The Gaze. Follow 20 Questions and a Song Request with Jack Hanley for all the latest interviews.

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