Phil Leirness

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PHIL LEIRNESS
Writer-Director-Producer-Cinematographer-Editor of THE LADY KILLERS

1.  How did you become a filmmaker?
Phil_Leirness03 I’ve always been a storyteller.  When I was a little boy, I wrote short stories in a spiral notebook.   I fell in love with theatre at an early age.   I was always writing and performing in some capacity, in some medium.   It wasn’t until seeing Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire just prior to film school, however, that I knew I had to be a director.  Der Himmel uber Berlin is a love story about the heartbreaking yearnings that bind us all together in the silences of our own individual personal despair and it’s an epic of the human heart full of the most nourishing truths about what it means to be human.  To this day, I’m motivated to discover whether or not I am capable of such an achievement.

2.  You’ve been living in Los Angeles for a long time. Do you think it’s important to live in a place like L.A. in order to build a filmmaking career?
Here is a quick list of my favorite directors:  Robert Altman, Federico Fellini, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, John Cassavetes, Michael Powell (especially in collaboration with Emeric Pressburger), Werner Herzog and Akira Kurosawa.   Of those, only Cassavetes lived and worked in Hollywood and there was never a more independent, un-Hollywood filmmaker!   In some ways, living in Los Angeles makes it easier in that you’re surrounded by people, companies, facilities and services interested in motion picture production.  On the other hand, it becomes very easy to get trapped talking about making films, rather than actually making them because there are so many people who would rather discuss than create.   Also, because it’s such a factory town it’s quite easy to become disconnected from the wellspring of your creative impulses and from the very joy of creating in the first place.
To me, the critical thing for any artist is to realize that the most important story you are telling is the one you are telling with your life. Are you living the story of your life in as artful a way as possible?  In order to do that, one most go where they feel most deeply connected with their humanity, where their soul will be most nourished.  It doesn’t matter where that place is, if a true artist lives there, the art will find a way.

3.  From where do you draw inspiration?
I usually draw inspiration from one of two sources, either from my love of people, from the bittersweet knowledge of how precious, fragile and fleeting our lives are, or from things that make me angry  and my desire to see how those things actually serve us as human beings.  Despair and rage, those are the two bedrock energies behind the creative impulse.

4.  This is the 7th Feature Film you have directed and they all boast great diversity in terms of the age, gender and ethnicity of the cast.  Has this been by design?
Phil_Leirness02This goes back to finding inspiration from the things that make me angry.  Growing up, many of my best friends were Asian-Americans, and it seemed strange that all the heroes we looked up to in American movies were white, that most of the people in those movies were white men.  That was not an accurate reflection of the world as I knew it.
I also became aware of the controversy that would always surround a white performer being cast in a part that had been written for a “person of color”.  It occurred to me that the reason for such controversy was because that doorway of opportunity did not swing both ways.  Performers of color would almost never be considered for roles that had seemingly been written for white people.   Fortunately, I believe that is starting to change and I feel good about having been a part of trying to change things for the full twenty years of my career.
Our strength is in our diversity.   The more people from different backgrounds, of different life experiences, can express and contribute their uniqueness, the stronger society will become, the stronger and more humane our species will become.



5.  Tell us about your latest project.
THE LADY KILLERS is a dark comedy that focuses on a game of sexual conquest gone wrong.  It explores the ways exploitation, in its many forms, always leads to violence.  It is suspenseful.  It is sexy.  It is thrilling.  It is disturbing.  It is equal parts harrowing and hilarious.

6.  Where did the idea come from?
As both a filmmaker and as a California state certified Violence Prevention Specialist, I have grown increasingly concerned with how often images of exploitation get passed off as “entertainment” without any appreciation for the deeper ramifications of that entertainment. Rather than criticizing the work of others, I have been taught that if the cultural conversation is not nourishing, it is incumbent upon us to start our own. My job as a storyteller is to tell better stories. And so, my collaborators and I set out to make a film that would be non-exploitative while exploring the many ways exploitation leads to violence.  I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished.  I truly believe THE LADY KILLERS has a chance to be that rarity, a dark comedy that resonates with audiences for many years, maybe even decades after its initial release.

7.  When will we be able to see it?
We are currently in post-production, feverishly trying to finish the film in time for the Sundance Film Festival deadline at the end of August.  Hopefully the film will premiere in January, get picked up for distribution and be released to audiences around the world!

8.  How can people become involved?
Until the end of Wednesday 4 June (Los Angeles time), we have an Indiegogo campaign where we are trying to offset the costs of post-production through donations from people who want to support independent film, dark comedy, diversity and talent.  Truly, any amount helps.  When people put their money towards what they admire, even a small amount can make a big difference.  I would ask everyone to visit http://t.co/mfSBufqZht.  Watch the trailer.  Read about the film.  View the photo gallery.  If you like what you see, join the game!

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