SIFF 2017 'FilmInWA' short film program: Interview with filmmaker 'Ian Ebright'
Memorial Day weekend is a sort of "festival within a festival" for the Seattle International Film Festival, which features several short film programs during the weekend. The "#FilmInWA" program, screening May 28 at the SIFF 2017, packages several short films created by local film makers.
Among the ten films selected for the program is "The Devil Needs a Fix," the latest from award-winning director Ian Ebright. His previous film, "From the Sky," won a number of honors including the Humanitarian Award Grand Prize from the Oscar-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival. His latest work focuses on a reporter's potential big break as he gets a chance to interview the devil.
Ebright offered his thoughts on the short films craft and his new film premiering at SIFF.
Question: Where did the idea for this film come from?
Ebright: I cite C.S. Lewis's "Screwtape Letters" as the influence, but the setup itself - where someone meeting or interviewing an entity, like the devil - is as old as literature. "The Screwtape Letters" is sort of about a senior devil teaching a younger devil the ropes, and I had some other influences that crept up quickly. There's a band from the U.K. that my wife and I like called Elbow. There's a song on one of their newer albums called "Charge," that's about an old man at a bar. He's saying things like "I'm from another century. These fuckers are ignoring me." I didn't hear some old man at a bar. I heard some reluctant devil who was pissed at humanity for moving on. That was the true entry point for me. I knew I could do something with that."
Q: How does this new film compare with your previous film, "From the Sky"?
Ebright: They are very, very different in a way that makes me happy. "From the Sky" is spacious. "Devil" is claustrophobic. "From the Sky" has this slow boil tension. And, if we're successful with "Devil," there's a sort of snowballing. If there's a similarity, it's about being faced with a decision and what are the consequences of that decision. In an exciting way for me, I think they are very different.
Q: How does the short film format affect making a genre film?
Ebright: I think the older, the more pickier I get - which makes me an lousy audience member but a better filmmaker. I feel checked out or that things are derivative pretty quickly. I tend not to like when people use the short format as an opportunity to do "slice-of-life" vignettes. The real opportunity, and the greater challenge, is telling a full three-act story in a short running time. I feel like I've betrayed the short format if I haven't said everything I have to say within the time frame.
Q: What does it means to you to create a film locally or regionally?
Ebright: The Seattle filmmaking community has been a really welcoming and eager place. And the great thing about Washington itself is it's ridiculously diverse, from a geographical standpoint. On "From the Sky" we flew our actors in from L.A. and they landed in the rain and the grey of Seattle. Then we drive an hour and a half east, and it's like we're passing through Alaska in Snoqualmie. And another hour later, we feel like we're in Yemen.
"FilmInWA" has a running time of 85 minutes and a number of local filmmakers are scheduled to attend the event at the SIFF Uptown on May 28.