<< Entertainment >>
Sunday, 30 March, 2014 1:21 PM
Penny Stamps Series: Spheeris' Night in AAFF is Worthy
Spheeris talked about her vital independent filmmaking career, including her early radical shorts and pioneering music films, as well as her documentary and narrative features.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Penny Stamps Series reserved its Ann Arbor Film Festival segment for a legendary director whose career origin and synonymy is pure Los Angeles: Penelope Spheeris. So it was appropriate for her to be courted for insight and background by Mark Toscano, a film preservationist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive who was on hand to provide her and the audience a clip-arrayed look back spanning from her early shorts to the trilogy that broke her through to many: The Decline of Western Civilization.
Spheeris was open about the traveling lifestyle she grew up in, being born on a carnival show and the loss that came with it; her father was murdered while inquiring about a minor dispute. For most of her childhood and the subsequent father-in-law encounters (her mother would marry up to ten times), Penelope had to be “the leader of all the four kids.”
She was open on how she came to evolve her film work from UCLA enrollment to music video, from being lambasted over her choice of homosexual narrative characters in early shorts to production blocks of shooting five to ten bands.
She admitted that her similar background is what endeared her to the punk scene and became the driving force behind the Decline series and other features in spite of distribution struggles. The highlights of such struggles were detailed in two fantastic anecdotes: one being of a theater owner cancelling a screening in fear of immense damage, despite the only incident of damage being a jacket flushed down the toilet. But the crowning recollection came thanks to Joel Schumacher, who encountered Penelope about poor distribution while she was waitressing and gave a loud cry of “Bob, would you release her f***ing movie already?”
Despite poor turnout upon their release, Penelope today is driven by her films’ current acclaim and has confirmed that DVDs are being worked on for her compiled short work. “What surprised me is that interest has grown.” It is something she is hesitant about retrospection, however. “It’s a burden for me because I don’t want to look back. I don’t want to remember all the depressing crap.”
To those in attendance with interest in getting into the movie industry, she put like it like this: “I had my clothes ripped off during a music video… Get ready to be treated like crap.” Still, she added that the benefit of legacy satisfaction was possible: “My favorite is when someone said, ‘Your movie changed my life.’ If you can do something that affects a person’s life, that’s worth it.”
But the sit-down confessions didn’t stop there. When speaking on how she was approached for This is Spinal Tap, Penelope recalled, “They told me the concept, and I said “I can’t do this, I love metal music too much to make fun of it.” Then there’s her first unaware meeting of Richard Pryor, egged on to approach him until she jumped forward and went, “Ta-Da!” Or long believing she was chosen for Wayne's World because of Decline II only to concur it was more likely due to her and Lorne Michaels’ Albert Brooks connection (Spheeris having produced Real Life).
The way Penelope Spheeris revealed so much and the audience volleyed off the impact of such a look back left her with the ultimate conclusion: “My god that was so much fun!”
Related Stories: 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival Preview: Features in Competition and Special Guests; 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival: My Take on the Opening Night Program; MORE PHOTOS: 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival at the Michigan Theater -- Part Two
The discussion was sponsored by University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
Christina Hamilton introducing the U-M Penny W. Stamps Discussion
Interviewer Mark Toscano with Filmmaker Penelope Spheeris
Often referred to as a “Rock ‘n Roll anthropologist”, Penelope Spheeris is an American director, producer and screenwriter.
BACK TO THE AMERICAJR ONLINE HOMEPAGE
© 2014 AmericaJR.com. All