Teaming Up: An interview with Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden


Though I was excited when I heard I would get to interview Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, the filmmakers behind such ND/NF films as Gowanus, Brooklyn, Young Rebels and Half Nelson (which screens Friday at 3, with a conversation with the filmmakers Sunday at 12), but I was slightly disappointed when I found out the terms of the interview.

I had offered beer and ice cream delivered to their hip-Brooklyn locale, along with an informal hang-out session.

They countered with 10 minutes over a cell phone.

(Got to keep interest up for the conversation with them on Sunday I suppose :p)

To be fair, they had just returned from a press tour for their new film Sugar, the story of a Dominican baseball player’s journey to the U.S., which just received a rave from A.O. Scott, the Times’ film critic, who described it as “wise and lovely”.

“We’re shells of our old selves,” they explained.

I should explain that when I say “they explained” that Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden collaborate on seemingly everything from emails to phone conversations to screenplays and motion pictures. They even signed off their emails (under their one synchronous email address) from “R/A”.

“Well, filmmaking is collaborative art,” Ryan explained.

“Yeah,” Anna offered up. “Think about it, you’re always working with someone else, like your director of photography to your producer to someone on set you ask for coffee.”

“So yeah, we work well collaborating.” Ryan concluded.

I asked them as very young filmmakers (graduates of NYU ’04), if they were any more inclined to do digital filmmaking or content for the web.

Ryan: “We shot Sugar on 35mm. I didn’t even know about the RED Camera beforehand, but I think film’s not dead. I think there are still going to be filmmakers out there, young or not, who choose to have that sort of grain and look to their film. But yeah, digital and film are getting very similar. I mean I did really like what Soderbergh did with Che.

Anna: “As for web stuff, I mean, yeah. We’d like to do stuff for the web. We don’t exactly, well, know how yet. But sure we’d do somethings. I think the internet could be a powerful place for films in the future, if it isn’t already now.

Following my personal predilections, I asked them whether Brooklyn was a filmie hangout  and whether they missed video stores (a question dear to my heart).

Ryan: “I don’t know. I mean I guess just all these neo-realist guys like us live out here in the boroughs. So Yong Kim, Ramin Bahrani… I think Kelly Reichardt lives somewhere around here.”

I pointed out she teaches upstate at Bard.

“Maybe she commutes.” Ryan offered.

Anna: “Well I’m from Boston-y suburbs, not Brooklyn, but I miss video stores. I guess you have Netflix now, but the suggestions feel so cold, so computer-generated. I remember moving out here and seeing a video store open and close just like that, full of great movies. I’m worried for these kids today.”

Speaking of kids today, since my 10 minutes were almost up, I figured I asked if they had anything to say to them.

Ryan’s advice was simple: “Go out there and make something.”

Anna tried to elaborate: “Tell a story and don’t be afraid to tell any story. Sure, it’s true that you should write what you know. But you should also find stories you love; you can learn about them, know them and then tell them too. Be unafraid. Be–”

But Ryan informed her that our ten minutes were up.

Collaboration, yet again.

-Nicholas Feitel, ND/NF New Voice

See Half-Nelson today at 3, and join us on Sunday at noon for Teaming Up, a discussion with the filmmakers about their process.

Explore posts in the same categories: festival dispatches, Filmmaker interviews, New Directors/New Films, New Voices

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One Comment on “Teaming Up: An interview with Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden”

  1. Lisa Says:

    pithy and love the way they ‘finish each other’s sentences’ or expand on each other’s thoughts. Great ending, Nick!

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