Penelope Spheeris

. March 17, 2014.
covernew

One of the most audacious and wry directors in the business, Penelope Spheeris walks the razor's edge between mainstream and independent. Her films celebrate and revile the culture of rock music, both in features like Wayne's World, and in her crushing The History of Western Civilization documentaries. Spheeris' work will be examined at The Ann Arbor Film Festival this March, and Nick Roumel sat down with Spheeris to discuss her work, in anticipation of this year's fest.

What draws you to the subcultures you feature in your films?

Being born in a carnival, and having an immigrant dad (he was the strongman) and a brilliant but crazy mother, I got to feel comfortable with chaos and insanity, and I recognize the connection between mental imbalance and brilliance.

Is it unusual for commercial filmmakers like you to also create independent works?

(Jokingly) We don't admit it but we take whatever job we can get! But seriously, for me, I have an addiction to making movies. I will make a movie even if I don't get paid, and it costs me to make the movie. I do it for the love of the art.

How is it that "I Don't Know"  and "Hats Off To Hollywood," short films you made in the early ‘70’s, were recently rediscovered and restored?

Mark Toscano and the Academy’s archivists noticed my name on film cans in the various vaults around town, and asked if they could restore my early work. I am so grateful! I had practically forgotten about these movies I'd made as a film student.

What do you hope to convey to the Ann Arbor Film Festival's audiences through your films and your personal appearance?

I hope to bring some fresh insight into the Hollywood filmmaking experience – offering stories about both the studio and independent projects I have been involved with over the last 30 years.

Trending

Monticello Van Odom – ‘In My Mind’

An essential way to craft a resonant piece of music is to unpack the existential pondering, the fleeting but insistent anxieties, the hard truths and easy reminders, that are swimming around up inside the head of the songwriter. The sublimity of Saline-based folk/Americana artist Monticello Van Odom‘s album is in how its spilling out all

Heavy Color’s River Passage

Toledo’s future beat/psy-jazz/hybrid electro duo Heavy Color recently premiered a new music video that commemorates an inspiring musical odyssey charted by one of its songwriters back in 2015. The group formed several years ago around the collaborations of Ben Cohen and Sam Woldenberg. Their Toledo’s answer to cerebral ambient electronica acts like Four Tet, Caribou,

Green Book is Worth the Trip

An elite black pianist tours the segregated south with a white roughneck chauffeur. Green Book combines two crowd-pleasing formulas—the road movie and the true story—with two stellar lead actors, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Mortensen plays Tony Lip, a white, working class second-generation Italian-American from the Bronx who works as a nightclub bouncer. Ali plays

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

The most recent book of Kalamazoo-native Bonnie Jo Campbell is as visceral as it is honest. A compilation of short stories, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters explores the lives and relationships of women in rural settings. With varied character perspectives, the book runs the gambit of trials and tribulations: sexual assault, substance abuse, unwanted pregnancies, neglect,