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"Rid of Me" - Interview with the Director at Tribeca Film Festival

When homebody Meris and her husband, Mitch Canfield, move from Irvine, CA to Portland, OR to pursue a job at his friend’s company, Meris feels like an outcast among Mitch’s fraternity/sorority like circle of old high school friends, and everything she does and says to try and fit in is perceived as awkward, freaky and bizarre. It is not until she finds her niche in punk rock, chocolate covered gummi bears, and wiping her “menses on a woman at the market’s face”, when she can finally break free and feel comfortable in her own skin. “Rid of Me”, filmed in a neighborhood of Portland, known as Multnomah Village, or Laurelwood, as it is referred to in the film, was directed by writer/director/editor/producer, James Westby, also known for his features, “Film Geek”, “The Auteur”, and his next project, “Hot in the Zipper”, and stars Art Alexakis, of Everclear, Katie O’Grady, John Keyser, and Theresa Russell.

Q: Discuss the casting. How did the lead guitarist and songwriter from “Everclear“, Art Alexakis, get involved?

A: James Westby: “I cast Katie O’Grady/Meris Canfield, in my previous film, The Auteur, in a small but effective role as a foul-mouthed Hotel front desk clerk. At first she seemed way too pretty to play Meris, but when she dyed her hair brown and started slouching and chewing nervously on her lower lip, she suddenly became ideal for the role. Katie is an amazing actor, and has the most beautiful face. Her face is perfect for the movies.

Art Alexakis, Virgil, is someone I met through mutual friends; we had lunch and bonded over movies. He really liked the character of Virgil, and Art turned out to be a very good deadpan actor. For me, an actor cannot usually be deadpan enough. He seems to have deadpan in his veins. The sex scene with Meris and Virgil on the sofa is maybe the second-most-awkward scene in the film.

John Keyser, Mitch Canfield, is a native of Portland, and although he voractiously watched films most of his life, it wasn’t until a friend brought of Julian Schnabel’s BASQUIAT, that he became so inspired and passionate about the pursuit of this craft.

Katie and I pursued Theresa Russell, Mrs. Lockwood, because we are both big fans. We grew up on Black Widow, and were both very star-struck when we worked with her. I love “Bad Timing, Straight Time”. When we were filming the bookstore scene, I needed to stop and reset. Theresa asked, “oh, are you switching lenses?” Morgan, my soundman, and I giggled to each other after I said something like , “uh-no, not just yet.” We only had the lens that came with the camera, the Sony EX-1 (which doesn’t allow for interchangable lenses anyway, without an adapter), and this is the woman who made SO many films with Nicholas Roeg! She didn’t say anything about the fact that there were no lights. Maybe she felt sorry for us. Theresa Russell is just cool.

Q: Who are your favorite filmmakers?

A: “James Westby: “Terrence Malick, Wong Kar-Wai, Robert Altman. French New Wave. Kubrick, Woody Allen. Old Hollywood.”

Q: What do you want Tribeca audiences to take away form “Rid of Me”?

A: “James Westby: “Foremost, I want audiences to embrace the character of Meris. To me, she’s like all of us. She has contradictions. She’s sweet, stupid, smart, funny, and does horrible and wonderful things and never seems to know exactly how she feels about anything. Secondly, I want audiences to cringe then squirm, then laugh, then cry (in that order).”

Q: What is your favorite scene in “Rid of Me”?

A: James Westby: “My favorite scene is Meris’ drunken meltdown at the dinner table. It is the apex of her stature as a serious outsider. It also shows what damage a lot of anxiety and plenty of red wine can do.”

Q: How long was the shoot?

A: James Westby: “We shot the movie in 20 days, mostly in a neighborhood in Portland, called Multnomah Village (where I used to live and where I wrote the script). Most of the locations in the film were written into the script. The neighborhood is very charming, and very preserved-in-the-1950′s, and it stood nicely for a small town.”

Q: What indie films do you like?

A: James Westby: “Primer, 2004, by Shane Carruth, was a mind-blowing film. Whatever happened to him? Old Joy, Tarnation, Alex Karpovsky, the Duplass and Safdie Brothers’ films, Bryan Poyser, Caveh Zahedi, Harmony Korine. Also Margaret Brown’s documentary on Townes Van Zandt, Be Here to Love Me.”

Q: Discuss your next project.

A: James Westby: The feature we are shooting next (in five 20-minute takes) is called HOT IN THE ZIPPER. It is a screwball comedy following the bisexual adventures of three women in 1947 Manhattan. Katie O’Grady is the lead in that one too, playing a cosmetics counter girl with ten boyfriends and a lesbian roommate. The twenty minute takes are very complicated, and the sets extravagant, but there will be no editing. Well, five cuts. After “Rid of Me”, I am so excited to make a film with only five edits in it.”

Friday, April 22nd 9:00pm, Clearview Chelsea Cinema 7

Monday, April 25th 10:30pm Clearview Chelsea Cinema 9

Wednesday, April 27th 3:30pm Clearview Chelsea Cinema 1

Article by Sharon Abella


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