Sundance – Interview with Madeleine Olnek director of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
In what was, perhaps, the most pleasant exchange I’ve had with a filmmaker showcasing his or her film at Sundance this year, I spoke with director Madeleine Olnek. Her film, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same is a pleasant surprise among the usually darker films in the Park City at Midnight category at Sundance. Here’s the text of that interview.
BFR: Thanks for talking with us today, Madeleine!
Madeleine Olnek: It’s my pleasure.
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same is your first feature, is that correct?
Yes, it is.
And it’s be shown at Sundance, congratulations!
Thank you, it’s quite an honor.
Funding is always of interest to the Sundance crowd. Can you talk a little bit about how you found financing for your project and you how made the most of your budget?
Really, funding came down to those people I’ve had long standing relationships with. As a playwright, I’ve got many contacts with people who are interested in being involved in a feature film. The movie actually got made when my girlfriend had a few weeks off work, and she said, ‘Let’s just make your movie.’ Once we put things in motion, people started to come forward offering services and other things. Services were donated, the light kit we used was generously offered free of a charge by someone on the crew. When the film was in post, a lot of people realized that this was going to be a feature length film, and at that point, people just started coming forward. Secondly, I went to Columbia film school. While I was there, I made it a practice not to use any extra equipment. I would borrow what I could, but I wouldn’t rent anything. I think filmmakers can fall into these ideas that they need all these things they don’t. Like if something they think they need doesn’t come through, they think they can’t do the film. Also, I think being distracted by these things can take away from the film as a whole. Like if a camera is rented but it has to be returned on a certain day, that can impact the film making process in a negative way.
You wrote the script as well as directed it. Can you talk about how the script came to be?
It’s a combination of a lot of things. I love B-movies from the fifties, those sci-fi films with absolutely no budget. I thought it would be interesting to mix the paranoia of those 50s films with the idea of codependency, something that seems to me to be so contemporary. But really, I just came up with some of the basic ideas, and the people I showed them too really responded well. It just grew from there.
Can you talk about the decision to film in black and white?
Absolutely. It really ties into those films from the fifties. But it also feels realer in a way,it enhances the comedy of the film. The black and white really enriches the4 characters, and follows them in a way that I think color wouldn’t be able to. It somehow amplifies them.
What are some of your favorite films, the ones that inspire your own filmmaking?
I love the first three quarters of every David Lynch film. Also, Stranger than Paradise, by Jim Jarmusch. And, of course, Federico Fellini. Night of Cabiria is an outstanding film. I’m also a big fan of 8 1/2. I love comedies.
What are some of your favorite films to come out of Sundance in the last few years?
Wow, there are so many great films that come out of that festival. It is Sundance after all, the pick the very best films. I tend to prefer documentaries of narratives. Did you see the Yes Men Fix the World? It’s a wonderful documentary that’s almost sort of a narrative as well. These men, political activits go around exposing corporate malfeasance, getting these companies to hire them to speak. But at the same time, they’re acting, playing a the part. Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair was interesting, seeing that culture exposed. Oh, and I absolutely loved (500) Days of Summer. I thought it was such a great film. It was so accurate in its portrayal of the first time you really fall in love. It was so painful to see him in that situation. And I thought jumping back and forth in time throughout the narrative was a really powerful device. I have all the music of the film on my iPod.
What is your preferred genre?
Comedy. I love sci-fi, I have respect for it, but comedy. You can’t really say Codependent is a sci-fi film really. It’s most definitely a comedy first and foremost.
Would you ever make a drama?
No. I’ve decided its immoral to make a drama when you could make a comedy. The world is bad enough as it is. I long time ago, I went to a revival theatre, to a Woody Allen film, hoping to see comedy. I think it was Stardust memory. The film is about a director who’s fans reject his latest artistic work, longing for his earlier comedies. There’s a part in the film where aliens come down and say something about how they love the directors films, especially the ones about comedy. Everyone in the audience laughed, and we all kind of sighed ruefully, wishing we were seeing a Woody Allen comedy.
Do you have any projects in the works?
I tell everyone I have to keep quiet about my projects in order to maintain my mystique (laughs). But I am currently working on a script.
Does your film have a distributor yet?
Not yet. People have been requesting screeners, but we really want it to be seen first at the festival. Of course there, we hope to find one (laughs).
Will Codependent being doing the festival circuit all year?
Yes, definitely. There’s something about film festivals, and being a part of a film during its first moments in the world. I’m thrilled to have my film be a part of that. So we will definitely be showing the film at as many festivals as possible.
If people can’t make it to Sundance, and they want to catch a screening, what’s the best way for them to find out how?
Go to the website, http://www.codependentlesbianspacealienseekssame.com. We’ll be updating all screenings there. After Sundance, you’ll be able to sign up for updates on the site as well, in a newsletter type format.
Is there anything else you want people to know about Codependent?
It’s a comedy. I think we covered that, but people should know that first and foremost it’s a comedy. With lesbians. But it’s a totally family friendly film. I think it’s the only kid-friendly screening at Sundance on Monday at 11:30pm. So if people haven’t found a babysitter, they could feel comfortable sending them to Codependent. ! I’ve screened it to teens and preteens, and they all love it. I can’t even think of anything that would make it PG, it’s a G film. Its got lesbians, and flying saucers, it’s great campy comedy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and good luck with the film.