In The Time of “Tangerine”: A Q&A

Filmmaking and other festivities from a NOLA movie maven

There are few New Orleans moviegoers/filmmakers I admire more than Randy Mack. Whenever there is a special screening, he is there. Whenever news is posted online about a local film production, he shares it. Whenever you need someone to “walk the walk”, it’s him you call.

I’m teetering back and forth on making a movie for his Tanger-Screen Device Fest (inspired by the iPhone shot Tangerine). With no restrictions on content and having purchased a new smart device, I feel excited and overwhelmed by the task. Ideas are percolating…

… To help brew these ideas, I sent Randy a series of questions — about the fest, about his filmmaking and about the local community. To say the least, they got me off my butt.


  • How long have you been making movies?

Randy Mack: I made a few short films in high school, including a documentary parody of Michael Moore’s Roger & Me that won a prize. I didn’t
really explore it seriously until I moved to LA in 1998.

  • Is Laundry Day close to getting a public showing soon?

RM: We are talking to producers reps & agents & programmers, trying to find the optimal path to a film festival premiere. Premature screenings are tempting but have been the downfall of many indie
films. This morning in fact I was reading how Jeremy Saulnier
submitted Blue Ruin to a bunch of regional festivals only to yank it from consideration after realizing it needed to be finished before he could truly gauge its potential. (Spoiler: he finished it and then it got into Cannes)

  • Recently, you made the following statement on facebook:

RM: Waters is a genius, a cineaste who combines comedy and politics into
a singular vision that plays on multiple levels and uses every tool in
the box (Polyester opens with an aspect ratio change; eat your heart
out Wes Anderson). Snyder is a VFX supervisor gone mad with power.

RM: It was my idea. It came to me in a flash during a meeting with Blake
Bertuccelli on Thursday, by Saturday everyone was on board, and that
Tues was the first event. When the timing’s good, things come together
fast.

  • What happened when you first watched Tangerine?

RM: I was blown away by it. It’s objectively a great film, nothing about
it is a gimmick. I was also struck by the similarities to Laundry Day: takes place in one day, has multiple storylines that emerge from, then converge in,
its opening location, at Christmas time, among people who are forced
to live their private lives in public spaces. Tangerine was shot at
the exact same time, too: we both started principal photography on Dec
2, 2013. It’s like a sister film, except of course we had no idea
about the other.

  • What do mobile made movies mean to you?

RM: I am agnostic (maybe not right word; perhaps “polytheist”) about
capture media, so not much per se. It’s awesome that HD cameras are
ubiquitous and I’d like to see young aspiring filmmakers take
advantage of it more. It has a stigma I’d like to see fall away. As
Steven Soderbergh tweeted…

  • Tanger-Screen appears to be cross organizational, with multiple groups
    helping out in promoting and staging. Was this a difficult feat?

RM: TimeCode: NOLA isn’t doing their film festival this year so I came up
with this so local filmmakers have a spring project in the manner of
TC NOLA’s annual anthology project (Where Y’at Hello, Humidity
etc). Blake Bertuccelli just got funding for Open Screen: Editions and
there was a spot in NOVAC’s Sync Up Cinema. Shotgun Cinema are
projecting. I’ve tried in the past to get the film groups to work
together like a big Voltron but it takes a miracle. Yes, the Device
Fest is a miracle, I said it!

  • What do you hope filmmakers and audiences will get out of taking part in
    Tanger-Screen? Can we expect this to be an annual event?

RM: I hope it empowers people to explore low-/no-budget filmmaking, to
tell New Orleans stories. Let’s see how it goes. TimeCode: NOLA will be back next year with their film festival (I assume) and I won’t step on what they do so well. Perhaps this can be a fall thing, or absorbed into TC NOLA FF.
Maybe TC NOLA FF and Sync Up Cinema can coordinate. Lots of
possibilities. Things work best when everybody’s working together.

I’d love to see more inner-city students involved, as well as
people of color of all ages, and folks from the poorer areas of town.
Filmmaking shouldn’t be a plaything of the bougeoie.

  • What are the positives and negatives for moviegoers in NOLA?

RM: It is incredibly hard to keep up with the Film Business when we get
our indie films many months after NY and LA. My favorite film event of
the year is Filmorama, because for two weeks after I can converse on
equal footing with my coastal peers. We need a Filmorama in summer,
fall, and winter too.

  • If we’re not “Hollywood South”, what are we? What needs to happen for the film community to thrive in NOLA?

RM: Hollywood South is Hollywood and the locals that service them (choice
of words intentional); indie film in New Orleans is just indie film in
New Orleans. It would be nice if there was a connection between the
two — mentorships, apprenticeships, paid internships, some kind of
ladder up — but none of the powers-that-be (City Hall, NOFS, Baton
Rouge) seem to care or understand that the indigenous scene is the
path to long-term sustainability. What we have now is the equivalent
of growing a sunflower from the bright yellow blossom down, instead of
up from the soil (no wonder it’s blowing away).

Without programs to teach down (e.g. my proposal to make community outreach a condition of the tax credits) Hollywood South is rich people passing money to each other in a closed loop. The artists who have a commitment to New Orleans filmmaking will remain, working in the shadows as they do now. Hollywood South is like a 100-foot ladder with only six rungs; if you go to a healthy filmmaking community you’ll find 100 rungs and people climbing it from every side.

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