11/27/11

Larry Longstreth and Mark Ordesky Talk Film, Creativity and the Magic of the Eighties - Part Two

Larry Longstreth
I've been saving the second half of my interview with filmmaker Larry Longstreth and producer Mark Ordesky. We first spoke on the phone all the way back in September when they were promoting the DVD release of their film The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty Something. (What's that? You're Christmas shopping you say? Well then...)

When we talked, I knew that Larry and Mark were already planning a series of other projects. The press has a nasty habit of only paying attention to what's happening right in that very millisecond. But the projects Larry is working on under his Eddy Spaghetti production banner are worthy of your attention, especially now when he's smack in the middle of working on them. (You can find the production company on facebook for updates.)

In the works and already happening are an animated series called Four Tanks and a Healer that already premiered on theonering.net, an animated feature called The Wanderer King, a documentary called Before the World Goes Boom, and an animated pilot called Captain Wilcox vs. The End of the World.

Did I mention that Larry and his team are essentially moving forward on all of these projects at once? In some way, each of these projects is in their own stage of development. Did I mention that Larry lives in the Midwest? Not Los Angeles or New York. The Midwest.

My hope is that this will inspire you. I directed a successful actress in a small project recently who shall remain nameless, but she tells this great anecdote about "making it". She says she was once sitting in a golf cart with Tom Wilkinson for hours waiting for the weather to clear on a shoot. They talked about life and he told her the one secret to making it. (I like to think he held his finger up like Jack Palance's "Curly"...) The secret is...never quit. Eventually, as the years go by, if you just keep going no matter what, others will quit but you'll still be there. Doing what you love.

That made me laugh, but in a way Longstreth represents that kind of anecdotal tenacity. So many of us talk about the need to recapture the magic of the eighties. While we talk about it over beers, Larry talks it about it on his film sets or in development meetings. If the eighties was the generation of Spielberg and Lucas and Howard and magic aplenty...then we're the generation after them that has to figure out how to deal with that. How can we aspire to match that spirit without directly ripping it off or not doing it justice?

Longstreth is doing something about that and there's something extra exciting about the fact that he's doing it from the Midwest.  Whether it's by choice or necessity, I don't know. But it adds just a touch of rebel sheen to the whole operation.

As I previously mentioned, this is the second half of our interview. Read the first half here and then check out the second part where we talk celebrity heroes, films of the eighties and yes...even a little Lord of the RingsIn the following interview - A: Audrey, M: Mark Ordesky, L: Larry Longstreth.




Spielberg directs Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the
Temple of Doom
.

A: What's the big celebrity hero that, if you could meet them tomorrow, you would just fall to pieces and turn into a really big embarrassing geek in front of them?

M: Wow...that's a good question. I have to give that a thought for a minute.

L: I never thought there was a celebrity I would just melt around. I think when I was a kid there were, but now I have a short list of people I would love to in some way work with or just watch work. Does that make sense?

A: Absolutely, as you get older...

L: I know he's gone now, but I always thought it would be so cool to see Paul Newman work.

M: Oh yeah.

A: Just to be around that...yeah.

L: And I would love to shadow Steven Spielberg quietly without him even knowing I was there so he wouldn't change anything. I would love to just spy on him and watch how he handles actors. How he talks to everybody. I'd like to watch the people I respect most work.

A: I'm like you, I watch a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff and Steven Spielberg always seems, as well as Peter Jackson actually, they seem to have such happy sets. That's the thing...I'm always thinking, “How do you have such a happy set?”

M: Yeah, for sure. By the way, happy sets, that's how you get...I mean, all filmmaking, even on the best day, all filmmaking is hard and challenging. So what you're trying not to do is bring added drama to it. Because there's already enough inherent drama in any creative endeavor that also involves commerce and finance.

L: Yeah, he's right, there's so much going on. Whether it's financially or with schedules. I mean, it's everything. There's so much going on.

A: So how about you Mark? Any celebrities you might embarrass yourself for?


M: I've been really fortunate. I've been able to meet a lot of the people who would've made my list. I'm very lucky that way. One of my big heroes was the producer David Brown who is no longer with us. But he made The Sting, he made Cocoon, he made The Verdict and it's not just because of those films. But to be able to work for decades in film and have longevity and be able to weather the vicissitudes of the industry with grace, that to me is the ultimate. People like that, like David Brown, Clint Eastwood, these kinds of people that have had a huge body of work, that have had ups and downs and yet at the end of the day only get better, those are the people that I dig.

L: Just adding on to that and to be slightly different, I think Ray Harryhausen. That's another guy who's been all over the place.

A: A total pioneer too. Somebody who truly originated something.

L: Mark's comments kind of gave me that idea.

A: Tell me about your long-term plan for The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty-Something. The DVD is out Oct. 4th, how do you hope to segue this film into your next project? Tell me about where you're headed next?

M: We're already heading there actually?

L: Yeah, we're already working on our next few things. To me, it's like, I know I couldn't blow anybody away with production quality. But I could grab 'em with heart. That sounds so pretentious, but I really...to me it was about laying the foundation. About proving myself just a little bit more which I tend to do each time. Taking another step. I think over the years it's really gonna get some steam.

A: Is there anything I can get out there for you? Anything you want to spread the word about?

L: We made an animated pilot together. It's called “Four Tanks and a Healer” and it's set in an MMO. I don't know how much I can say, but there's an animated feature that my heart is really in called “The Wanderer King” and I mean, my heart is really in it.

M: That might be the first thing, chronologically speaking, that's the first thing we actually started collaborating on. That pre-dates Twenty Something, Four Tanks...

A: So a long-term dream project then.

L: Yeah, what it is to me is, again, I always sound like such a ham.

A: You're talking to Queen Ham, it's okay. Trust me.

L: Not just because it was our childhood, but do you remember how in the seventies and eighties where there was Star Wars reaching the mainstream or Wizards or Neverending Story, they had a heart that I don't think kids movies have anymore.

A: Totally agree.

L: I'm trying my hardest to tap back into that. It's going to be real and it's going to have weight. But it's gonna be fun. Not everybody's gonna live. I really think that needs to be brought back a little bit and its my ambitious goal to do that.

A: It can be done. It should be done. Production always goes though phases and there are trends and I think there's a place for remakes. But some of the remakes of movies from the eighties, they're trying to recreate the magic of those movies. But part of what was magic was the risk. Characters died. Bad things happened.

L: It's like they always miss what made it good to begin with. To me, it's like...and now it's gonna sound like I'm kissing Mark's ass. But to me,  Lord of the Rings was the first thing to come along and it's been ten years now, that really made everybody go, “Oh shit, this is still awesome!”

(Here Mark tries to get a word in edgewise, but Larry and I keep shutting him out. We all get so excited talking about Lord of the Rings, that we're cutting off the producer of the films! They're going to take my girl scout badge for interviewing film producers away...sorry Mark!)

A: Oh yeah, it cracked open the genre.

L: It can be nerdy, but it can still be cool. Like, oh boy, I don't have to be talked to like I'm six! It can still be fun. I don't think anything capitalized on that. I'm not saying we're making the next Lord of the Rings. I'm just saying, there was a weight that nothing that came after has.

M: I think audiences can smell when filmmakers are taking something seriously. Not being pompous, just taking it seriously. That doesn't mean no humor either.

L: Right.

M: It just means, you're honoring the conventions of the genre and making a real honest run at it. I think audiences appreciate that. I think when things feel manufactured or focus-grouped, you can sort of tell.

L: This is the vibe I always get, I think people underestimate how willing the audience is to go for the ride if you make it worthwhile. Like they're willing to suspend disbelief. But I think people are scared of that and think that they're not. That you always have to pull back and wink at them and say, “Hey, it's just a movie.”

A: If there's one thing that you wish people knew about Eddy Spaghetti Productions, one thing you wish people knew about your production company, what would that one thing be?

L: Most people who are twenty nine and trying to figure out filmmaking, if they ask you to check out what they're doing, you might go, “Eh, that wasn't worth it.” But I really do think that we've got something special. I really do. And I'm not trying to be arrogant. I just want people to give us a shot.

M: Yep.

A: Mark, I'm sorry. I feel like I ignored you a little bit in this interview.

M: No, I think this interview was exactly proportionate. Because, this is really Larry's journey. The way my attitude about producing is, it's about enabling and facilitating the work of artists. That's what it's always been about for me on whatever scale. Whether that's at the scale of The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty Something or the scale of Lord of the Rings, that's why you can do it year after year. Because even though you're working in the same medium, it's always a different experience. I met Peter Jackson in '86, '87 and Lord of the Rings was 1998. So that was over ten years. This is what's great about this industry. You make relationships and you try to do things together. It's it's own reward. Sometimes you get to make something together and it's fantastic.

A: It's totally surreal. I never get tired of doing interviews with people who I've watched on special features. I'm a super geek, but it kind of says something that before this interview as excited as I was to talk to you Mark, I was equally excited to talk about The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty Something. So, like you say Larry, not to sound cheesy, but that's got to be a good sign. Because I'm a huge nerd for LOTR.

L: I'm taking all of that as a good sign because I am getting a lot of emails from strangers that sound a lot like what you just said. People who I have no idea who they are are telling me they want to see the movie because it sounds like their life. I am taking that as a good sign, that's what I wanted.

M: It's relevant, as an artist you should make things that you're passionate about. If you do it well, they become relevant to people and that's high praise.
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So. Please follow these projects. Throw in a little financial support. Tell your friends. Blog about it. Or take a note and move forward on your own dream project that you've been sitting on. Just do something...

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