An Interview With Kate Warren And Nicole Ansari-Cox


What draws you to filmmaking and the cinematic language?

I wrote Messy with a very visual story in mind and thought that it would come across better on film than on stage or anything else. The imaginings the protagonist has about her husband, the online dating dudes conversing with her and how absolutely inappropriate some of them were and also how absolutely exhilarating some conversations she had were, etc., It's all so visual and I wanted it that way. I wanted a visual story, rather than seeing the texts come up on screen. To me that's dull. I'd rather have a full blown personality come to life and use his or her words and brains (or lack thereof!) to show us how severe, sad, or ridiculously funny our protagonist sees how her life has transformed. I have always loved the cinema and just dove right in.


Do you believe in film schools or does making a film teach you more than film school?

I mean, I think that learning by doing is the ultimate way to learn. I love how the Duplass brothers encourage young filmmakers to just go out there and make a film. The use of smartphones is incredible. Completely immersing oneself into an unknown world is a way to go. From pre-production to casting, to SAG paperwork, to B roll, etc. is all really invaluable. Doing something like this and having never delved into the world of filmmaking really gives one a sense of accomplishment and being able to say, "Wow, if I can do this, I can do anything!" To be able to stretch oneself and live outside of one's comfort zone is really living life to the fullest. Having said that, I think there is a value to going to school and learning a trade, craft, business, etc. and really understanding, using the equipment and making short films, failing, and getting back up with the help of one's teachers is incredibly invaluable. what teachers have taught you.


What makes cinema stand out more than the arts for you?

The craft of storytelling and the ability, depending on your team and budget, to make it as visually gorgeous or bland or anything you want. It's all up to the creators. Problem solving with a team is really extraordinary. Like Nicole said, our fog machine wasn't working well, so she used our sound mixer's vape and blew these huge plumes of smoke for a couple of the fantasy scenes. It was brilliant! I also love how film work can be taken over and over, take after take, until the director sees the right take. In theater you don't have that. You have one chance to say it and you move on. Film can be manipulated and done to the director's vision.


Did you choose a certain directing style for making this film based on the script?

Nicole answers this best as she was the director for Messy, but I wanted Nicole to direct because she saw the humor in it during a reading I had where Nicole played a few characters. I knew that she could see the style of show I wrote, the visual aspects, the fantasies or imaginings the protagonist had.


How did you choose the cast and the crew of your film?

See Nicole's reponse.


How did you fund your film and what were some of the challenges of making this film?

I did a 45 day fundraising campaign through Seed and Spark. It was brutal. I was relentless, worked from 7am-9 or 10pm every day, plus had my kids to take to their swimming lessons and play dates. I also didn't have wifi at my house in upstate NY and "borrowed" my neighbor's porch on weekdays when they weren't there. The mosquitos ravaged me, my computer and phone died numerous times throughout the day, and had to run back and forth to my house for bathroom breaks and food. It was a nightmare, but we did it! One the last day of the last hour we made our goal!

Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker and what would most be the most difficult thing about being an independent artist?

As of now, an indie filmmaker, for sure. I do wish I had had a bigger budget to make things a bit easier for us and for every single person to get paid. There were over 60 people who worked on 'Messy,' but not everyone was paid- most, but not all. I find the challenge exciting and thrilling to get super creative on a limited budget and it turn out well or to read a bunch of articles on budgets for film, such as catering and crossing that off the list because I did the cooking and saved hundreds of dollars and was able to put the money to something else- like post production, which I didn't even think about until midway through the production! I do also like that we have complete freedom to do as we wish and not have a bunch of executives telling us we can't do this or that. Having said that, I would be quite happy if 'Messy' were to be picked up by a streaming platform. Money, money, money is definitely challenging when you don't have a lot.


What is the distribution plan for your film?

8. See Nicole's reponse. I'm also planning to hire a PR person to help push Messy along into a bigger audience, get some reviews, and hopefully get it into the right hands.


What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a filmmaker?

I would like to have 'Messy' picked up by a major distributor, me on board as a showrunner or head writer, have the women in the world (and men!) love that this story's being told and that we're all in the same kind of boat. An award? Sure, why not?


What kind of impact would your film have in the world and who is your audience?

What Nicole wrote.


Answers by director and Co- producer Nicole Ansari for "Messy."


What draws you to filmmaking and the cinematic language?

Filmmaking combines everything I am passionate about: Acting, the visual Arts, storytelling, writing, working with a team, my passion for visual composition and Architecture, Costumes and of course Drama and sometimes laughter.


Do you believe in film schools or does making a film teach you more than film school?

If someone is still very young and has the money and loves studying- that is a great way to get a well- rounded education in Film making. But ultimately it is in the making of movies that you learn. I audited at NYU in some Film classes while I was studying acting but never went to Film school. I have been in the movies since my Teens in front of the Camera and always had a fascination for the technical side of it (sometimes to the annoyance of the director and DP), so I learned a lot by observing and ultimately by making a couple of short films before Kate warren recruited me for "Messy." It was Martin Scorcese's advice to young wannabe Filmmakers that encouraged me to learn on the Job. He basically said to take the money you would have invested in Film school , make a movie and learn from your mistakes. These days it is so easy to get Information on the tip of your finger. Watching a lot of different movies from different times is a great way to find Inspiration for your own Film. Mark Cousin's book and DVD set of "the Story of Film" is in my book the most comprehensive Bible of Film and World Cinema, as opposed to Hollywood Filmmaking. The reason to go to Film school is the Connections you make. Those Filmmakers who went to a reputable Film school have a direct "in" to the Industry through the connections and Network of that particular school. As an autodidact you have to create that Network for yourself.


What makes cinema stand out more than the arts for you?

Cinema combines all the Arts that I am passionate about. As I mentioned before- it encompasses them all: Art, Acting, writing, lighting, visual storytelling,the creative process as a team, editing and in the end hopefully having the chance to share that vision with an Audience. It is absolutely thrilling, though sometimes tedious, from start to finish.


Did you choose a certain directing style for making this film based on the script?

Absolutely. When I read the script I literally saw the visual style in front of my inner eye. Kate incorporated a style that edges on farce in her script and I totally got her humor. When she saw my reaction to the script I think it became clear to her that I understood what she was hoping to convey in a very visceral way. It has happened to me before that I was recruited to be in something as an actor and I literally heard a voice inside say:

"I want to direct this!" Luckily, Kate had the same thought. I didn't even mention this to her. We had little means to create the visual effects necessary to show the switch from "real life" to "fantasy", so me and our DP James Strohsahl came up with back lighting and fog (that I literally blew through a Vape pen belonging to our Sound designer Mark Fraunhofer!) before some of the shots. It worked better than the fog machine we hired! The acting is also more stylized in those scenes, like the Postcard style Family Portrait, in which the parents tell the kids that they don't love each other anymore. All in all I feel that it was a really organic collaboration that served the script, first and foremost.


How did you choose the cast and the crew of your film?

When Kate asked me to direct the show she was already clear on wanting to play the lead and a handful of Characters were already cast by her. I brought in Matthew Sanders, who plays Kate's husband. He is a good friend of mine and I was thrilled when Kate agreed that he would be perfect. For the rest of the cast we combined our efforts and put the word out to our Network, including my manager Laurie Smith, who brought in a couple of actors willing to work on a SAG Ultra low project. Kate even ran an ad on Craig's list, which was a bit of a disaster and I wouldn't recommend it. In one of the episodes we needed Moms, so I brought in all of my girlfriends and some Moms from the elementary school where Kate and I met years ago through our kids. Casting is a lot of fun. I like being on the other side of the lens!


How did you fund your film and what were some of the challenges of making this film?

We ran a Seed+ Spark Campaign and raised enough money to pay everybody a minimum. Being on a shoestring budget, the weight was mostly on Kate. We shot in her Apartment, so her poor Family would occasionally come through and the kids had to witness their rooms turn into a Green room full of snacks or a Make up room, when it wasn't being shot in. Catering was also tricky as we didn't have enough money to hire someone so poor Kate would get up early and make breakfast or lunch.


I sometimes would bring Pastries as a treat when we had an early call. The weight was truly on Kate's shoulders as this was her baby. If we get to do this again I will make sure that won't happen again. It was too much pressure.


Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker and what would most be the most difficult thing about being an independent artist?

As of now I am definitely an Indie Filmmaker. The most difficult thing is to generate work for yourself when you are not part of a big machine or Network. I don't knock Mainstream Cinema and TV- I happily will take on a job where I get to create with a bigger budget and be able to pay everybody handsomely, including myself. Cinema for me shouldn't be exclusive to the few chosen ones. I want as many people as possible to see the work and learn from them.


What is the distribution plan for your film?

We are still putting our feelers out to some Networks to see whether we can get bankrolled to shoot more episodes and be streamed at a prominent platform. We are also working on expanding the Fan base, so that when Messy will actually be widely available it will have an Audience.


What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a filmmaker?

That is a big question! For the immediate future I want to write and direct a feature film. I have been working on it on and off for years. And shooting for the Stars- I would like for my projects to be seen all over the world by a wide Audience and win prestigious awards. An Oscar, a Palme D'Or, a golden Bear... all these would look neat on our Mantlepiece next to my husband's Emmy, Golden Globe and Bafta Awards (amongst others!) Most importantly I am ready to play in the big league and hope to make movies and inspire people until my last breath.


What kind of impact would your film have in the world and who is your audience?

I guess the message that Messy has is to step back and laugh about your situation in order to cope with a loss of this kind. Messy is a dark comedy, so it's not all Punch and Judy. There is a darkness to face in those transitional moments like a marriage of 20 years falling apart, but it doesn't have to break you.


Messy is a female driven story and I originally thought that our Audience are mostly women. At a Raw cut screening of Messy at MCM Production house (I had just worked with one of the owners, director Michael Canzoniero on his latest feature "Making the day", about Indie Filmmaking), in which we were hoping to get advice by veteran editor Michael Berenbaum, it became clear to us that Messy, the story of a marriage breaking up and dealing with the new way of online dating, resonates with men too. Our Audience is probably more middle aged than young hipsters, due to the subject matter. And it's not advisable viewing for people under 18 due to the explicit nature of the scenes.

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