Dylan Kidd, a ‘borderline independent’

Dylan Kidd comes across as the typical New York artist. He spoke fast and passionately about his work while putting across his point of view in an interview with Kathimerini. As for his first long feature film, «Roger Dodger» (in its third week of screenings at local cinemas), the director has already amassed a series of awards. The film was also screened in the competition section of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival last year. Are New Yorkers as cynical as they appear in your film? I think that the term «cynical» suits anyone who doesn’t care about others, who doesn’t believe in something. Roger, on the contrary, is a fierce believer. What he believes in is a load of baloney, but he fervently believes in it. The basic characteristic of New Yorkers is their desire to succeed. They are selfish, they only take care about themselves and it is impossible for them to relax, even for a little while. But I don’t consider them cynical. I don’t want to generalize, but life in a big city such as New York, London, Berlin, or even Athens, dictates a certain way of life. Things move faster. You shot the film in New York, only a month after September 11. Was that a good time to go on location? As a matter of fact it was the best time, because everything happened so easily. On the other hand, of course, independent films do need a series of miracles in order to be completed. For me, this began when I bumped into the actor Campbell Scott in a cafe, while carrying my script. In a strange way, September 11 became an asset for the movie, as it was one of two being shot at the time. Due to the situation I was able to get a much better crew than what my budget allowed for and to make my movie look much better given the circumstances. How did you meet Campbell Scott? In America, the hardest part is to give your script to successful actors. Agents’ fees come through actors’ salaries, and so they discourage their clients from working in small-budget films. What I felt was that the film needed a well-known actor to lift the movie. Feeling so frustrated from the agents’ reaction, I started carrying around the script, thinking, «Hey, this is New York; I’m bound to come across somebody famous at one point.» I walked into a cafe and Campbell turned up. I gave him the script and he read it, even though most actors refer you to their agents. We started filming four months later. He was the one who approached Isabella Rossellini and Jennifer Beals. I couldn’t believe that I had such a cast for my first film. They are so good, that they make me look better. Every day I thank God for Campbell Scott. Being a first-time director, how easy was is to finance the film? It was very hard. But again I got lucky thanks to Campbell. He got me in touch with a production company which was about to finance a movie that he was going to direct, and so he encouraged them to give the money to me instead. Finally, they gave $1 million. No one was properly paid for working in the film and I owe so much to so many for actually making it. I might be attending festivals and answering questions, yet even during my most arrogant moments I never forget that this is very much a team effort. Is independent cinema still a matter of budget or has it developed into a matter of aesthetics? Something terrible is happening in America lately when using the term «independent cinema.» Twenty-million-dollar films cannot be defined as «independent.» Films financed by major studios cannot be termed as independent; take «Being John Malkovich» and «Frida» for instance. How can anyone refer to them as independent when millions are spent on their promotion? Even when it comes to my film, I feel that it is borderline independent, considering the actors involved. Is the hope once created by independent directors drying up? The problems these days is that everybody is making films in Los Angeles and New York. I don’t want to see another film about New York. I would rather see a small film that somebody shot in his home in Nebraska or Texas, for instance. I think that right now, hope is coming from Latin American cinema, while great things are happening in the Middle East as well. The interview was translated from the Greek original.

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