I recently got the chance to talk to director Mike Ott about his new film, ‘Littlerock’. Here, Mike talks about how the idea came about in the first place and which films have inspired him as a director…
Hey Mike. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘Littlerock’.
You both wrote and directed the feature – how did the idea come about in the first place? How easy was it to put into production?
The film started from a very small idea. I had an experience when I was in Argentina with my thesis film, ‘Analog Days’. While I was there I had a romance with a girl who only spoke Spanish and I only spoke English so we had this crazy time trying to communicate, without language. This made me realize who much language connects us and makes us feel a part of the world. I could remember when I was there and everyone was speaking a language around me that I didn’t understand and how out-of-place that made me feel. It made me start thinking about what it must be like for people to come to the US when they don’t speak English and how hard it must be to assimilate.
As far as getting the film into production, it was surprisingly easy once I found the handful of people who were committed to the project. We had a very small crew, only about five us.
How would you say the film is different from other dramas released this year? What tricks as a director did you try to throw in?
I’m not sure how it’s different from other dramas this year…maybe I could say it’s a very small drama. I didn’t really try to throw any tricks as a director either, I feel tricks are for those who lack heart in their storytelling. I just tried to tell a really honest story that meant a lot to me.
How has the reception been to the film so far?
The reception has been great and has far exceeded my expectations…all of our expectations actually. We’ve screened at over 50 festivals, 30 of them being in other countries. We’ve won a number of awards, including a Gotham Award and Independent Spirit Award which each came with huge cash prizes.
The film stars Atsuko Okatsuka, Cory Zacharia, Rintaro Sawamoto and Roberto ’Sanz’ Sanchez – what was it like working with the cast and crew?
Atsuko and Cory are both close friends of mine so we have a very intimate way of working. To be honest, since we had such a small cast and crew the entire experience was more than inspiring. To date, making this film was the more artistic and rewarding filmmaking experience I’ve had.
Let’s talk a bit about you Mike. What made you want to get into the directing chair in the first place?
For me directing was the only thing I ever tried that seemed to come somewhat natural to me. Once I realized the power than cinema can have, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to pursue in my life.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in directing?
I would tell them to be self-motivated. Or as my mentor told me in grad school, the three things any successful artist needs are: curiosity about the world, ambition, and the ability to be self-critical about your own work. I think that sums it up better than I ever could.
What films have inspired you as an artist? Do you have any favourites?
Yeah, I guess it always is changing, but there’s classics like ‘Loves Of A Blonde’, ‘Antoine And Colette’, ‘Maculin Feminin’. I also like more recent films like ‘This is England’, ‘Dogtooth’ and ‘Attenberg’.
If you could have a dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Mark Borchardt from ‘American Movie’, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Jim Croce.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I produced a film called ‘Sawdust City’ which is currently on the festival circuit. Also, I just shot a new feature this summer. Hopefully it’ll be done in early 2012.
Thanks for the interview!