Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Storytelling’ with director Todd Solondz

“Storytelling” director Todd Solondz recently spoke with The Herald from his Manhattan apartment.

Badger Herald: What’s it like showing your film in a festival?

Todd Solondz: I really just kind of come and go rather quickly. I never attend the movies when I am at a film festival. I pay my 10 dollars to see the movies with the regular audience.

BH: Make an argument for film school. Does somebody need a structured education to make movies?

TS: Oh course not, but I did. It’s not the structure, because it is terribly unstructured. What film school did for me was force me to make a film. I would have never made a film without school. I would never have had the confidence to get it together.

I made a series of shorts that I would have never done otherwise, and certainly when I went to film school I didn’t know anyone, so it gave me a lot of connections that I would never have had. It was very nice to be surrounded by people with such a similar interest. But will any of this yield a good movie? No. It’s up to you. But one of the great lessons from the education is that you can learn that you are not cut out for filmmaking.

BH: Describe the first day of shooting a film.

TS: You are busy preparing the film you are about to ruin. I think the last day is the best, because it is the last. There is always elation because you have survived, that is if there is energy for elation. The first day is horrible, it’s a nightmare and I don’t think I’m cut out for it.

I don’t direct because I want to direct, I direct because I don’t want anybody else to direct my stories. I don’t have the personality that gets off on the adrenaline rush that comes with all the power. I do like to work with actors, but very little time is spent with them. Most of your time is spent finding alternative locations for your first choice and second choice locations that have fallen through.
So, it’s really about managing the best you can under the assault of economic reality.


BH: Do you find locations falling through, even with a couple of pretty successful films under your belt?

TS: That is how we spent a lot of our time. It would be a wrap for the day and everybody would go home for the day except for me and the location manager, and we would go scouting for new locations because of all the troubles we were having.

BH: Did you follow Heather Matarazzo after you worked with her in “Welcome to the Dollhouse”?

TS: I think follow is a bit much. I was aware of what she was doing. I’m not really in touch with her–she is a bit younger than me you have to understand. Her scene for “Storytelling” was never shot because we had creative differences.

BH: Speaking of changing around the lineup, what ever happened to James Van Der Beek’s scenes? I have been told that he was making a great stretch with the part.

TS: All I have to say is that I had a wonderful time working with him. It would have been great for him if I could have found a way to keep his material in the movie, but it wasn’t working for the ultimate shape of the film. This kind of thing happens all the time when making a movie, unfortunately. It really is with regret that I couldn’t keep him in the film.

BH: How frustrating was it to have to change the film because of the MPAA ruling?

TS: It wasn’t really done with regret because I did have the power to do what I wanted, it was in the contract. I was protected. I had the ability to use a big red box. The audience has to know what they are not allowed to see. I was not frustrated at all because the studio did not want the big red box, but because I put it in the contract I was able to retain it. The attitude was, “over my dead body.” So this was a victory, it’s the first studio movie with a big red box in the middle of it. It really is only in this country that you have the opportunity to see this big red box.

BH: Would you like to see reform in the MPAA?

TS: Not the MPAA per se. The system is a little bit more complicated, and the studios are complicit in this. But certainly I do think that there is a problem when films like mine are not able to be distributed by studios without big red boxes. I would have had to use a big red box in “Happiness” if it was going to be distributed by a studio.

BH: Is New Jersey, New Jersey or is New Jersey America?

TS: Certainly no one would argue with you that it is New Jersey. As for America? There certainly are all sorts of places in which you can live here, but geographically I have always dealt with New Jersey in my films. I would shoot out there in Wisconsin, if Wisconsin were closer. I just don’t want to travel. It really is for pragmatic reasons that I shoot there. I am not making a comment on New Jersey per se in my films. It could just as well be out there in Ohio.

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