Rifkin’s ‘Director’s Cut’ is a smart, creepy comedy
During the first few minutes of Adam Rifkin’s comedy feature "Director’s Cut," viewers are led to think that it’s a twisted commentary track about a crowd-sourced film where one of the donors, a stalker named Herbert Blount, kidnaps his favorite actress and forces her to star in his amateur movie he created by stealing footage from Rifkin’s shoots.
But it’s so much more.
"I guess you could say it’s the cinematic equivalent of the Droste effect, which is the visual sensation of infinity one gets when standing between two mirrors, Rifkin told The Park Record. "Even though the whole twisted mess seems like a puzzle within a riddle that leaped into an abyss, it actually makes prefect sense when watching it. No matter how complicated to explain the levels, when you see it, you just get it intellectually."
"Director’s Cut," which will premiere at Slamdance on Friday, Jan. 22, at Treasure Mountain Inn, provided Rifkin a rare opportunity as a filmmaker to make two films.
"I was able to make a slick, Hollywood-y looking thriller where I got to show off some Dutch angles and smoke machines and shadows through Venetian blinds, but I also got to go totally guerrilla and shoot with camcorders and used green bedsheets to make homemade green screens," he said. "It was opposite extremes from day to day, which was so much fun for me, because I love both versions of filmmaking.
"I love all the bells and whistles, but I’m also a lover of avant-garde movies," Rifkin said. "I love to grab a camera and, with no permission, to just start shooting and work whomever walked up to you into the plot."
The challenge was keeping the film’s focus on Blount’s character.
"We set up a rule that the finished film would have to be what Herbert Blount has created," Rifkin said. "So we could never do anything that showed him in any way other than what he showed himself and we couldn’t cut the film in any way that he wouldn’t have cut it."
Another mind twister was having the actors, who include Missi Pyle, Harry Hamlin, Penn Jillette – who plays Hebert Blount — and Teller, act terribly.
"They had to do things badly on purpose when we would shoot something from Herbert’s point of view," Rifkin said.
That included the sets.
"It never failed, every time we would make something it looked way too good, so, we had to tear it down and start over, but it was fun," he said.
Jillette came up with idea for "Director’s Cut" and reached out to Rifkin.
"I had made a movie called ‘Look’ that was all shot by surveillance cameras and I got a call from my then assistant who told me that Penn was tweeting about it," Rifkin said. "One Friday night, I went on Facebook and there’s a private message from Penn to me, which was fabulous, because I’ve been a Penn and Teller fan for all my life."
Not only did Jillette like "Look," he had a script that he wanted to show Rifkin.
"It being so late, I messaged him back and gave him my phone number with the instructions to call me anytime over the weekend," Rifkin said. "Two seconds after I hit send, my phone rang.
"He told me about this movie he wanted to make that he wrote and said it was a multi-leveled descent into Hollywood madness," Rifkin said. "I said I generally like to direct films that I write myself, but that I would be happy to read it."
Jillette emailed the script and Rifkin read it that night.
"It was 3 a.m. when I finished reading it and it was so unique and original that I couldn’t say no," Rifkin said.
From the get go, both men knew it would be a difficult movie to get funded.
"Penn was the first one to bring up crowdfunding, and at that time, there had already been a couple of big projects that had been crowdfunded," Rifkin said. "Penn told me that he would be front man of the campaign and if it failed, he would take the hit and be embarrassed."
So they mounted a crowd-funding campaign and it worked.
The actress Blount kidnaps in the film is Missi Pyle.
"We talked to a bunch of different actresses and ultimately decided on and were lucky to have Missi because she’s not only talented and beautiful, but she also got the joke," Rifkin said. "She knew how to deliver something that is supposed to look serious but understand intellectually that it’s supposed to be satirical."
"It’s a bold role for her and she went for it," he said. "That’s why this is able to be creepy, funny and weird all at the same time."
Rifkin also wanted to thank the 6,000 crowdfunders of the film.
"Not only did they enabled us to make this movie, but they became our partners as well," he said. "They were all not only generous, but great with ideas and support."
Groups of crowdfunders would come to the set and join the crew in the cutting room.
"They were so joyful about the process that it completely dissipated any Hollywood cynicism that we had built up in our arteries over the years," Rifkin said. "To see this film being made through their eyes made this much more fun than it might have been. I thank them for their partnership and it was a fulfilling experience for us."
Slamdance will premiere "Director’s Cut" at the Treasure Mountain Inn ballroom, 255 Main St., on Friday, Jan. 22, at 6:45 p.m. An additional screening will be held that same night at 9:10 p.m. Warning the film features some graphic scenes and harsh language. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.slamdance.com.
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