Here's Why Director Joey Izzo Released His Cannes Followup 'My Daughter's Boyfriend' Directly Online

Joey Izzo's 'My Daughter's Boyfriend'
Coming off his Cannes qualifying short film Stepsister, writer/director Joey Izzo decided to skip festivals entirely and go directly online with his followup film My Daughter's Boyfriend.

Released online yesterday via Short of the WeekMy Daughter's Boyfriend is a dark, intimate and funny exploration into the psyche of protective motherhood. The result is a sharply focussed, sensitive, and sardonic film that grapples with what it means to love. We chatted with Joey about his creative process and distribution decisions.

Watch the trailer here or the full film below:

NFS: What draws you to the short film format?

Joey: A lot of it comes down to pure pragmatism and economics. I've kind of crawled into narrative filmmaking. I came from the film analog tradition and working in more experimental routes. When I came to make short films, a lot of the narrative filmmakers I had come to appreciate definitely recognize and understand and incorporate experimental film technique and documentary form into their work. So shooting [Stepsister] in my apartment, in my neighborhood, creating characters that I feel like I've seen around town — it wasn't just a matter of pragmatism at that point, that's what to me felt like personal filmmaking.

Whitmer Thomas in 'My Daughter's Boyfriend' — Available Online Now

NFS: How did you make the shift from experimental to realism?

Joey: What experimental film taught me is that there aren't any rules — but you have to create the rules to have any kind of meaning or impact behind the work. So even if there aren’t three act structure rules, there are rules you need to identify and create for yourself. When I was dipping into narrative I wanted to make sure I wasn’t asking a performer to do something that I couldn’t do myself or something that I didn’t understand. It was very important that it was logically coherent to whoever is performing it, and not relying on their skills to bail me out.

I’m trying to create characters and scenarios that an actor can take ownership of.

NFS: What's your process of writing for and directing your actors?

Joey: I’m more listening and paying attention to what they’re doing. I’m never performing the takes themselves, but in terms of my writing process I’m trying to create characters and scenarios that an actor can take ownership of. Casting and writing are taking place at the same time, and that's important because I have certain people in mind. So when an actor is given a script, for the most part they already feel like it's something they can do because it's written in their voice already. Then it’s a matter of doing a lot takes and letting a lot of specifics be created by their performance and rolling with what’s actually happening. You’re documenting something that’s actually happening. That's what I got from the documentary world: a respect for performance, not as something that is a means to an end for "my story" — I think "my story" is just there to set up actors to then recreate the story. And hopefully if I've casted it well I'm delighted by how the story transforms.

Whitmer Thomas in 'My Daughter's Boyfriend'

The reason I didn’t want to get into narrative filmmaking because I had this idea of this domineering director shouting at people, this guy that knows everything about the script, who knows how to get the result that he wants. That idea just never appealed to me. So when I started to study more film and more naturalist filmmakers — like the Dardenne brothers, Cassavettes, Maurice Pialat — it was something I connected to a lot more. The idea of it being a partnership and finding what collaboration really means, which for me is a matter of making people feel empowered to make their own choices. So I try to create productions that cater to that even with a very small budget.

Beth Lisick in 'My Daughter's Boyfriend'

NFS: It feels like the actor is the one creating the moment and it makes you very present with the film. That's not easy to do.

Joey: Well thank you. That idea of presence and the sense of it actually happening, the sense of a real-time moment has always been really interesting to me. Movies that feel like they are just trying to lead to an ending — I just don’t understand how to make a movie like that. Sure, there is causality, a logical narrative cohesion to it, but hopefully every moment has a sense of real-time and unknowingness. These characters are vulnerable, or interacting with people who are hurting them. Everyone has their own reasons for doing things and that’s what I want to focus on. Letting people talk to each other, and not just using people to manipulate a plot.

To only look at the surface is to miss the point entirely.

NFS: Noticing some thematic ground between the two films, what interests you about things that happen behind closed doors, people's secrets and their interior lives?

Joey: I'm delighted that you picked up on that because that really is my supreme interest. I’ve looked for films throughout my life to form bonds with people, or to build actual intimate relationships. So even sometimes the characters in my films are doing bad things to people, I feel like by allowing an audience to see the inner workings of what's happening with somebody and how they express it and the hypocrisy of that, just feels real to my life.

Joey Izzo's 'My Daughter's Boyfriend' Now Available Online

For example, if I'm about to meet up with my friends, but I know this guy has had an affair and I have to go to dinner with him and his girlfriend and I have to act like I don’t know he’s having an affair. So much of our lives is that thing — even if we don’t know it — everyone is coming with their own motivations, their own secrets, and their own desires. To only look at the surface is to miss the point entirely. I think my interest in secrets is just my interest in the internal mechanisms that drive our relationships and our bonds. Sometimes that can look ugly — the means to love or to protect somebody are sometimes ugly or manipulative or secretive or passive aggressive. They aren’t heroes or villains. My responsibility as a director is not necessarily to tell the audience how to feel about a character or a scenario, but just to pack it with enough meaning and agency from the characters that an audience can pick up on the reality and be delighted with the level of intimacy that they wouldn't get if they were to just hear this conversation happening on the street. So I feel like I'm using filmmaking in general to be intimate with people and to sort of air all our dirty laundry.

There’s a lot to be said about keeping the ball moving, and there’s so much to learn by getting it front of an audience, and a laurel doesn’t give you that.

NFS: How did you decide to release My Daughter's Boyfriend online after your last short went to Cannes?

Joey: The truth is, this one didn't get into the festivals. Stepsister got into Cannes, but this one got into like 2 festivals after applying for like 20. Even though I have these good festivals under my belt, the ratio is still well under my favor. I don't think I've ever made a film that's been a festival darling, I don't know how to do that. This one was odd, it always scored incredibly high marks with programmers but when it came down to the programming of it I think it rubbed some people the wrong way.

So I realized that if I believe in this film that maybe the best thing would be to find its audience online. That came after I posted Stepsister online and Short of the Week premiered it, and it got a Staff Pick and it got a lot more attention than it ever did at Cannes or San Francisco International. Even at these big prestigious film festivals, as a short film you're still at the bottom of the barrel, and there’s diminishing returns from that kind of thing. There’s a lot to be said about keeping the ball moving, and there’s so much to learn by getting it front of an audience, and a laurel doesn’t give you that.

...

Thanks to Joey for talking to us. You can check out Joey's other work by visiting his website.     

You Might Also Like

Your Comment

13 Comments

The problem though is people don't really watch films that well online -they skim them - they have other things they are doing -they are watching them at work or on their phones. For me, the cinema should be at night - its like a fire - storytelling by a fire. I tried my hardest to settle in and watch this film but I couldn't - I couldn't focus - I have work, I have my screenplay, I have to take the dogs for a walk, I have emails - I think you do have less people who watch at Cannes, but they are watching. Hit counts be damned - and comments even more - I find it very difficult to grab people online on vimeo or youtube and their cells as we move more and more to just watching a frame or two in instagram. Presents a challenge for me too - because I can't get any festival to accept my films.

August 4, 2015 at 2:57PM

0
Reply
avatar
Ed David
Director of Photography
1644

This is a great point Ed, and a really important thing to think about. It's definitely different for everybody, but I find this to be true for the kind of work that I make and the kind that interests me. The setting of a theater is almost a requirement. For independent filmmakers, especially with shorts, it's often hard to find theatrical outlets. There's a project I'm working on with a friend right now about how to promote and stimulate the theatrical experience for indies.

August 4, 2015 at 9:19PM

4
Reply
avatar
Micah Van Hove
Writer
director/producer

When I put a short online, I no longer have fanciful dreams of big view counts or a big hollywood mogul discovering it. It's just a home for the content that makes it easy to share and ensures it won't get lost. I'm sure glad to have the option, otherwise it would just be a DVD I bust out to universal groans at parties and family get togethers. Frankly, there really is no plan for it on YouTube, but maybe my great great great grandkids will watch it someday and think, wow, I can't believe they made movies with these crappy 2D cameras way back then.

August 5, 2015 at 10:53AM, Edited August 5, 10:55AM

0
Reply
Derek Olson
Directomatographeditor
698

Attention is a problem for every content creator today. Too much content, and many opportunities to consume just a little bit of it at a time. Plus, while most people who visit this site might prefer to settle down with a good film on a big screen, many people simply don't care about that. They'll watch a low-res video on their phone and be happy that it downloaded faster.

All that aside, there's never really been a way for short films to make money. Maybe a dedicated category on Netflix would help, or a curated service that Vimeo could offer?

August 6, 2015 at 4:19PM

0
Reply

If the work is strong enough people will stop whatever else they're doing and devote their attention to it. If browsing online is more interesting than the film you have a problem anyway.

August 12, 2015 at 4:52AM, Edited August 12, 4:54AM

0
Reply
JAY T
248

I'd this is a problem for ME, but I'm sure that I'm not alone in this sentiment (although, possibly so here on NFS).
I can't really sit through most of indie films within festivals because...well quite frankly, the characters are primarily White male and female protagonists w/ a few sprinkles of Color here n' there as supporting characters.

While there are always exceptions to the rule, there's a reason why folks of Color aren't inspired to delve into independent film scenes too much and this is one of the primary reasons. Much as it works in favor for White societies as they're always catered to (who tend to believe that being White is the "default", when in reality it isn't). Children, teens and adults of various backgrounds enjoy seeing representations of themselves on screen and it does affect your perception of the world; it's subconscious. It inspires them to pursue these endeavors and most importantly, reaffirms worth in who you are as as individual; as a human being. White kids don't see this because they're identity never comes into question, it's served from the get go, so this isn't an issue of concern for them. However, for the majority of us (yes, we ARE the majority), we get bored w/ seeing White kids, White 1st world problems, White subject matter 24/7 on our phones, billboards, media and being taught White-is-right either subtle or blatantly. Very aggravating and draining.

That said, I believe many of these films would strike a chord w/ a MUCH WIDER audience if they didn't always focus so much on these subjects all-the-damn-time. It's very boring overall.

I don't expect [most] here to agree w/ me or even chime in on potential solutions. Just my $.02

August 5, 2015 at 9:02AM, Edited August 5, 9:03AM

15
Reply

Even as a White male I don't relate to much of what I see in independent cinema. The people tend to be cosmopolitan and artsy, seemingly living in a different world than my own. But this lack of representation (in your case with of people of color), creates a vacuum to be filled by enterprising movie makers interested in representing their people in prominent roles, and with narratives reflecting their culture, values and aesthetics. That alone is motivation for the under-represented to pick up a camera, not a deterrent.

August 5, 2015 at 11:09AM, Edited August 5, 11:12AM

1
Reply
Marc B
Shooter & Editor
1040

This is the exact train of the thought that I teach; perfect that you've said that too. For many young artists, it can be intimidating as some just want to shoot because it's fun. The ones who look deeper, or the "true artists" rather, tend to reflect their experiences in their work and I like to push that aspect in them.

You're exactly right; this alone should create motivation for the under-represented. Now if only the festivals would cater to many of these submissions EQUALLY so many filmmakers of Color can get an equal shot. Something we rarely see at Sundance, Cannes, Toronto or even Tribeca.

August 5, 2015 at 11:29AM

0
Reply

My solution would be for you to volunteer and mentor young kids in the ways of filmmaking. Be the change you want to see in the world.

August 5, 2015 at 11:15AM

0
Reply
Derek Olson
Directomatographeditor
698

Already on it :)

August 5, 2015 at 11:25AM, Edited August 5, 11:25AM

0
Reply

Wow, that was a good movie. I don't say this a lot, but really, this was astonishing. Those characters... ah, marvelous....

August 5, 2015 at 1:54PM

1
Reply

Good job, Joey. Interesting piece, well shot and well acted. Would definitely watch more of your work in the future.

August 12, 2015 at 4:55AM, Edited August 12, 4:55AM

6
Reply
JAY T
248

Found this interview very interesting in the sense that more and more filmmakers seems to recognize that with online you may get an audience you would never get in festivals. However I still see a lot of resistance to go online especially in Europe where I am from.

Joey,you will also find the short in http://shortfilmconnection.com/film/my-daughters-boyfriend/?bp3.

October 6, 2015 at 12:45PM

0
Reply