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September 01, 2005

I think it's easy for both the Interviewer and the interviewee to become less than human during a day of press. But I strongly feel that life's way too short and fragile for either of us to go numb. I decided to take a picture of everyone that interviewed me on August 30th in New York City, and try to remember their name. I feel for the journalists that have to go through the machinations of a junket. From my perspective, it's very healing to have someone listen to you so carefully. Obviously, all the press is a chance to help the film, but even more interesting and hopeful, it's an opportunity to go beyond the film and just connect with someone about things we both care about. Of course, in my enthusiasm, (narcissism?) I forgot to take a picture of my first two interviews. But this is the chair that Andrew O'Hehir from Salon.com sat in between 10:15 and 10:45. And this is where I sat while I did a phone interview with Vanessa Lawrence from Women's Wear Daily from 10:45 to 11:00 am.

Everyday I do press I try to think of Allen Ginsberg's interviews. One of my favorite books is "A Spontaneous Mind", it's a collection of all his interviews through the years. They're so inspiring to me - he's fearlessly personal, explorative and generous. He tried to take his interviews as seriously as his poems. He saw them as another place to widen consciousness, and so he tried to speak to the"Buhdda spirit" in each interviewer and the audience imbedded in the interviewer. I know, it sounds super high and mighty but he also had a great sense of humor about it and was very good at making fun of himself. So, as I try to figure out what all this press stuff means to me, I literally imagine his face every time I'm in this situation.

11:00 I move to the TV studio that they made in a hotel room.

My 11:00 to 11:10 interview cancelled, Sharon Johnson from CBS. So I read 10 minutes worth of the NY Times and I took a picture of the article I read in place of Sharon Johnson. It was a piece about Bob Dylan and his contrarian ways. The article talked about how he refused to be pinned down as "Folk" or "Rock," didn't care if his audience was happy, and was aggressively allusive about who he really was in his press. How funny that I read this is on my morning of press. Especially since Dylan and Ginsberg, my press hero, were contemporaries and friends, but even more because they had opposing ways of dealing with their mediated selves: Ginsberg was revealing, emotional, he bonded with the interviewer while Dylan was always wearing masks, always changing masks, and a little hostile with the interviewer. I don't think I could be like Dylan if I tried, I'm not made like that, and I find him a little emotionally chicken to be honest. But I can see how he was creating his own space, a form of kindness, by refusing to play-nice with consumer society. His secrecy was a way to preserve himself, to not reduce the confusion that we all are into something more digestable, To the parent-like power we give to papers, magazines and TV, his unwillingness said: "your idea of me is not so important". Man, I could stand to hear that several times every day. Dylan's outlook makes me question how I bring my relationship with my parents into every conversation of what influenced my direction of Thumbsucker. I say I'm doing it because it's generous to the audience to reveal your self in press, or else you really are just selling a film. And that kind of personal interview excites me as a reader. But what do I really know about any of this? And then there is this tricky thing that happens: After you say the same thing for a long time ( as you do in press) you begin to feel like you must be lying. So after a few days of press I begin to wonder if these very personal things I give out are just fabrications I made up to sound "real". So I begin the day struggling with Ginsberg and Dylan in my head.

11:10 Tom Brook, BBC America. I remember him from Sundance in January, I wish I had more caffiene in me.

11:20 Alison Bailes, IFC Channel.

11:30 Boaz Frankel, Clips and Quips. .

11:40 Maria Candida, Domingo Espetecular (Brazil).

11:50 Eduardo Zaca, HBO Latin America.

12:00 Matt Zaller, National Lampoon TV.

12:20 Chris Geer, A&E Biography.

12:30 We travel to the Sony screening room. Outside our hotel men wait to get autographs from Tilda. I have seen this with her in Berlin, Edinburgh and now here in NY. Tilda has a great relationship with these guys. They remember her from years before and she happily signs all their photos, which they will later sell. She admires how hard they work and they always seem very kind to her. Tilda is another press hero for me. I feel like she is an activist more than an actress. She's fighting this battle to make the world more permissive to different kinds of people, less judgemental, more open, a world where having doubts and not knowing everything is not something to feel guilty about. She performs this activism in her films, through her interviews, and in her everyday interactions with people. Sometimes when we do press in the same room I get distracted and just want to listen to what she's saying.

1:00 Lou, Tilda and I are taken to the Sony Theatre for a Q +A with the National Board of Review.

1:30 Lunch. Tilda, Lou and I eat together. Tilda had a white fish, Lou had a hamburger, I had Salmon. Peter Falk was eating across the room from us, but we were too nervous to approach him. Cassavetes' film, A Woman Under The Influence, (starring Mr. Falk) is one of my all time favorites. After he left we went to his table and I took this picture of Tilda sitting with the absence of Peter Falk.

Somehow this wasn't emotionally satisfying so we upped the anti and gave his absence this award. Yes, it may just be an over-designed salt shaker but it represents our appreciation for his willingness to be so himself.

3:30 - 4:30 Lou, Tilda and I have three consecutive Print/Radio/Online Roundtables. I will list the names of all these journalists at the bottom of this blog. In this format these different journalists have to share about 20 minutes with each of us. They have to work together, politely sharing the time and questions with each other.

These are their recording devices. To make this all more human and tangible, I try to imagine that camera lenses are the faces of different people I know, and sometimes I imagine that these machines are small silver people listening quietly. I want to offer them water or maybe a tiny little sweater. I want to take them for a walk outside, take them places we've never been, share things that allow us to know each other. Maybe I should take them back up to my "holding room" and tuck them into bed, all in a line, their little heads sticking out from the covers. I'm tired, they must be tired too, maybe we can all rest, watch TV together, and order room service on Sony's bill.

Somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30. My next "Roundtable". I remember Daniel Robert Epstien on the top right was from Suicide Girls. I thought he doesn't look like a Suicide Girl, really he's not even a girl. If you look closely, you can see their three little recording people eagerly waiting for me at the edge of the table. Hang on little people, I'm coming, I just have to go pee again and then I'll be right there.

Must be close to 4:30. My last roundtable. The woman from MTV had one of those microphones with the ball on a little stand. I found my self leaning into this microphone and I could hear my voice in headphones even though I was not wearing any headphones. By this time my voice is getting horse, I'm feeling pretty dizzy, but everyone is really so enthusiastic and nice it makes you excited.

4:30 Phone interview with Marshal Fine NY Daily News.

7:45 I am getting into the car to go to the PAPER magazine party for the film. The guys that had pictures of Tilda before now somehow all have pictures of me and my dog Zoe. How completely strange. This is such an intimate picture, a snapshot of me and my kind-of child. They say they got this photo off the internet and they want me to sign them so they can sell them. They're very polite and wish me luck with the film. If you somehow end up with one of these pictures please take care of Zoe. While she acts tough, she's afraid of many things: trash trucks, empty plastic bags blowing in the wind, children who are running, shopping carts, the twin elderly Chinese ladies that walk in my neighborhood, babies riding in those stomach mount things, people in halloween costumes, fireworks, city streets, skateboarders (even the sound of someone skating on TV), and to be honest anything she hasn't seen before.

8:00 We arrive at the PAPER party. There's more press to be done here? At a party?

About 9 pm. A very nice guy who liked the film a lot from The Hollywood Reporter. I'm sorry I forgot your name, but don't take that personally. You were very considerate and you seemed genuinely interested in what the film was about. I really appreciate how much energy you brought to our short discussion.

Sometime after 10:00, these women write for an entertainment column in the New York Times. The day has come full circle: I am now talking to the paper that I was reading in the morning. Again, my apologies to these women, I do not remember your names. At first everything seemed very nice, they were enthusiastic, they said they wanted to give a whole column to Thumbsucker. But as the interview went on, something felt different. They had not seen the film. They asked me a lot of questions about Tilda - her religion, her spirituality, her androgony, what she's really like. It felt like they were hunting for something and it wasn't the film. I tried to remain honest and straight and revealing, to stick with my Ginsberg approach, but at one point one of them encouraged me to be "funnier." And she had a point, all my sincerity just seemed ridiculously serious in this context. But if I'm not going to be sincere than who the fuck am I and why am I doing this? Right, obviously there's some middle ground, but I hate that boring answer. During the interview I began to feel like I wasn't in safe water anymore and maybe I never was. Perhaps we who ride the Thumbsucker boat have entered new and trickier seas. Dylan's secrecy and games were making more sense than ever, and that was a drag.

The next day, Aug 31, 11:00 am. I'm flying home, reading the New York Times again, an article about the leader of the Zapatista rebel movement - Subcommander Marcos. It's a very serious article about a serious subject, detailing recent town hall meetings he's been conducting with leftists, labor leaders, students, Indian rights advocates, and gay rights advocates. But halfway through the article the writer reports that he carries a mascot with him; a crippled chicken named Penguin, "because he waddles like one". I'm instantly totally moved by this man. Now Subcommander Marcos' heart and the revolution are clear to me. Penguin stands for all of our vincibility, and Subcommander Marcos embodies the openheartedness that allows you not to kill your weakness and vulnerability but bring it along to the revolution. Oh, I so identify with that chicken, or I so want to identify with him. Everything would be a lot easier if it was okay to just be Penguin. Subcommander Marcos talked me back into bringing my Penguin to every interview, especially to the one's that seem less than sincere.

3:00 LA time. I'm finally home with my dogs Bowser and Zoe. I'm quite surprised to see that they have learned to read while I was gone. Zoe is trying the Grace Paley book my girlfriend turned me onto to, that makes sense since they're both Aquarians. Bowser (the thirteen year old) is checking out Alan Watts' The Book On The Taboo Of Knowing Who You Really Are; it's almost annoying how he's always one step ahead of me. I have to call my girlfriend immediately, she's the only one that can make sense out of all of this.

Thanks to all the journalist for letting me take their picture and for the thought they put into the interviews.

Roundtable Journalists:
Brad Balfour, Am NY
Jon Bauer, Aquarian Weekly
Marcelo Bernardes, Epoca Magazine
Charles Bottomley, VH1.com
Karen Butler, UPI
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon.net
Jed Dylan, Movietimes.net
Daniel Robert Epstein, Suicide Girls
Devin Faraci, CHUD
Stephanie Green, Urban FIlm Premiere.com
Elaine Guerini, Revista Joven Pan
Brandon Judell, Indie Wire
Pedro Dias Leite, Folha de Sao Paulo
Phillip McCarthy, Fairfax Newspapers
Luis Merten, O Estado de Sao Paulo
Marie Moore, Phenix Press
Marcelo Paolillo, Ioncinema.com
Tony Phillips, HX
Bruno Porto, O Globo Newspaper
Julian Roman, Latino Review
Rodrigo Saem, Revista
Stu Van Airsdale, The Reeler
Dan Deevey, Launch Radio
Sasha Hamrogue, MTV/VH1 Radio
Shelli Sonstein, Time Radio

Posted at September 1, 2005 11:38 AM