Off and Running

2.3.2010

By Gregory Miller

The movie has been a standout at film festivals left and right, from being a Top Ten Audience Favorite at the Tribeca Film Festival to the Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature at Outfest. Did you expect the film to fare so well with both audiences and critics?
I wasn't really sure what to expect. However, we didn't make the film in a vacuum. We did a lot of rough cut screenings along the way for a lot of varied audiences, and always with an eye towards, 'Do we have people representative of our audience here who are reflected in the film?' So while I wasn't heading out into the world with no sense of how audiences would react, I did wonder a little bit about how once we got into these sorts of niche and segmented festivals, would I pick up on patterns and would there be differences in the reactions? And people often ask, well what's it like when you go to the African-American festivals versus the Jewish film festivals and the LGBT festivals? It's been really meaningful to me to be able to say there are no patterns to pick up on. It's been impossible to generalize that way, which I think is really thrilling because hopefully that means we're speaking against stereotype here.

The film is set to join the ranks of some pretty powerful stuff on the PBS documentary series P.O.V. later this year. How did that opportunity come about?
I believe I just sent over a screener and I'm pretty sure it was while we were still in the rough-cut stage, right before we had our technical premiere. So we knew we had P.O.V. on board before we premiered. And that was a natural fit because it's an independent television service project so ITVS [Independent Television Service] automatically sends films in for consideration.

You've shot many short films but this is your first feature. Which do you prefer?
There's something really gratifying about being able to make a piece quickly [Laughs]. But, this has been really rewarding, to spend the whole three years on this project. And you know, I was producing other shows and things along the way too. I was producing a crazy show on queer culture for Here! TV while I was making this movie. But yeah, I'd like to continue to make feature-length documentaries and possibly some narrative work, as well.

You've been in the independent business for quite a while. Is there any desire to head to mainstream?
Fun question. Mainstream? I don't even know what that means. I mean, my life isn't mainstream and it would feel inauthentic to tell a story that wasn't somehow based in my own experience of the world and outlook on the world. And beyond that, I think what we need to see more of in the media are representations of rarely heard voices, and I'm just drawn to these stories of people who are kind of on the periphery or what have you. So no, I don't want to move to the mainstream, I like it here. [Laughs.]

What's up next for you?
Next, I'm actually headed to Mexico in about a month to begin shooting another feature-length documentary film about several teenage boys who have been abandoned by their families and who have spent years fending for themselves on the street, but move into a sustainable home created for abandoned youth where they live with 72 other boys. It will be another coming-of-age story and what it's like to grow up in a family like this. And ultimately, it was something that's a success story. Most of the kids who age out of this home, which is really more of a family than a foster care institution, end up going onto college and off to follow their careers. So I'm going to go explore that.

Off and Running is now playing in select theaters. Click here for a full list of dates.

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