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Interview With Jeff Lipsky, Director of "Flannel Pajamas"

Monday, June 5----One of the more anticipated programs at the TROIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL is its annual competition for American Independent films. The Festival, over the past 22 years, has been an important showcase for films made outside the Hollywood studio system. This year, six worthy films are competing for the award. The first of them kicks off the section this evening.

FLANNEL PAJAMAS, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is unique in two important ways. It is a film that attempts to deepen a genre that Hollywood churns out almost in its sleep. The romantic comedy-drama is a Tinseltown staple, but rarely does it have the depth of feeling or inherent truth that director Jeff Lipsky brings to his second film feature.

The other unique point to mention is that Lipsky, now into his second career as a writer-director, was one of the prime movers in the independent film world of the 1970s and 1980s. Together with Bingham Ray, he founded October Films, which distributed many seminal independent and international titles in the United States (that company eventually evolved into USA Films and its current monicker Focus Features). Lipsky's experience in the distribution trenches informs his instincts as a filmmaker, while emboldening him to push the envelope in a film genre that has been popular since Hollywood's heyday.

Sandy Mandelberger sat down with director Jeff Lipsky on the day of the European premiere of his film for a frank interview.

Sandy Mandelberger: What inspired you to create your film project?

Jeff Lipsky: Few filmmakers today aspire to tackle the themes most common to people in any society, those themes embraced by that quartet of filmmakers who are my heroes – John Cassavetes, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman and Mike Leigh. I also wanted to honor my screenwriting idols. I really feel that in this age of the democratization of filmmaking, the art of screenwriting is all-too often lost. So, I dedicate my film to Herman J. Mankiewicz, Paddy Chayefsky, Ernest Lehman, Penelope Gilliatt, and Eric Rohmer.

SM: What was the greatest challenge in realizing your film project?

JL: Strangely, and I know it sounds ingenuous, the only challenge was in keeping a lid on the daily exuberance and childlike excitement I felt each and every day I got to write, direct, and edit the film. I suppose the only challenges, or frustrations, were confronted in the editing room – we cut fifty two scenes from the film which we’d shot, most of which were beautiful scenes containing wonderful performances.

SM: Did you have a special way that you worked with your actors?

JL: The cornerstone in working with my actors was trust, to establish trust, and to develop the same acute intimacy between director and actor as there needed to be between my two principal characters, characters who, essentially, appear in every scene of the film. We rehearsed for six days. Before filming each scene I would remind the actors where the characters had just been in the story and where they were about to go. I seldom give too much direction prior to the first take. I prefer to see how the actors might surprise me before electing to tweak a performance, a gesture, a motivation, an emotion.

SM: How much time passed from when you preparing for the film and when you did the final edit? What kept you motivated and focused during this period?

JL: The script took eighteen months to write as I was still distributing films during that time. “Flannel Pajamas

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Online Dailies from the 22nd Troia International Film Festival

Dates: 2-11 June 2006


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