Gregg Araki is an American independent filmmaker. He is involved in New Queer Cinema.
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Hi, I'm Gregg Araki, an independent filmmaker based in Los Angeles. WHITE BIRD is my eleventh film, and it based on a book by Laura Kasischke, and I just loved it and found it incredibly beautiful and haunting, so I adapted it.
WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD, starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green and Christopher Meloni is on demand now and in theaters today, you check it out
And view the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBHcT0hBmdQ
Victoria's going to be helping me get started. AMA.
Thanks everyone for your great questions, this was a lot of fun! I have to sign off but go check out WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD this weekend in theaters or on demand!
Gregg, I’m a huge fan. Mysterious Skin is one of my favorite films of
all time and I can’t wait to check out your latest film. Is there any
chance Criterion will ever be graced with something of yours? Mysterious
Skin, or perhaps The Teenage Apocalypse trilogy? A fan can dream.
yeah my dream too! ;)
Hi Gregg! I think every Araki fan would agree that we would love to see Nowhere on DVD. I read somewhere that it hasn't been released in the US on DVD due to copyright issues with songs on the soundtrack. Is that really the case?
this is the question i get asked ALL THE TIME! and yes i really want it to happen bc that films so dear to me! the rights to it revert to us in i think another 5 years or so so then it will be possible I hope! but yeah we had a screening of the 35mm print at USC a cpl years ago and it was SO amazing to see it on the big screen again! that movie was definitely ahead of its time lol
Hi Gregg! I found your adaptation of White Bird in a Blizzard to be beautifully done. You incorporated and kept a lot of the themes from the book. It was so refreshing to see a book done right. I have to agree that the surprise ending was such a twist! I did not see that coming at all and I am really great at guessing endings. Where did you get the inspiration or idea to deviate from the book in such a way?
In addition, what was it like working with Shailene Woodley and how what made you want to cast her as the lead? I've been a fan of hers since the beginning of Secret Life of the American Teenager and have watched/read everything she's been in since. She's truly an inspiration of mine and it's been extremely gratifying to see her come so far.
thanks! yeah I loved the book and wanted the film to be as faithful to it as possible - like MSKIN - but the way the book ended didnt really work i thought as a movie. I knew we needed more of a third act. So I just got into the adaptation, writing those characters, hearing them speak, and letting the story flow, and that ending just came about organically. it was weird. it just wanted to happen. thats the best way i can explain it
as for shai i am right there w u as her biggest fan. she is such an amazing actress and really centers the movie w her heartbreaking performance. her face in the airport scene at the end just kills me every time i see the movie. and there are new layers to her performance i notice w each progressive viewing
With Smiley Face did you try to accurately convey the feeling of being stoned? Also what was Anna Faris like to work with?
Yes! what i loved abt the script is it was REAAAAALLLY accurate abt how the mind of a stoner works - ie. I need to make a plan... I need to make a revised plan... I love that movie!
I want to know why, when you had the perfect opportunity to display some Chris Meloni nudity (we all know he excels at this), you chose to hide him behind the bed when he put his pants on? lol! But seriously, even a rear view?? ;)
lol ! this reminds me of a funny story! his agents and lawyers were SO worried abt the scene where he was beating off in the basement while eva green is upstairs, and i told them what do u think its going to be, him stark naked?! chris is so cool and such a dedicated actor and artist he would do almost anything I think for his character. but in WB the style is more classical and less in yr face, so...
What was your favorite part of working with Eva Green?
everything!! I LOVE EVA GREEN! but seriously she is SO amazing! she really transformed herself to play Eve COnnors it was really magical to watch it happen bc she is nothing like that character in real life! shes incredible and such a trooper! that scene where she is breaking thru the ice, that fake snow is horrible its little flakes of plastic that stings yr eyes and is really a pain. and she did take after take, shes such a true artist!
What was the best advice you received when you were an aspiring filmmaker?
Would you give that same advice to young aspiring filmmakers now?
hang in there and find yr voice what makes u individual as opp to the cookie cutter same old stuff thats already out there
I'm excited to see WHITE BIRD on a big screen this weekend, even though it's been available on VOD for a month. What's your take on VOD distribution vs. traditional theatrical method?
THANK U!!! this is my FAVORITE QUESTION so far lol! id give gold but i dont even know wat that is! i do love vod in that it makes the movie accessible to everyone inc those who dont live in a place like LA or seattle, but WHITE BIRD is meant to be seen and experienced on a big screen with big sound so the images and music can kind of sweep u away - thats how it works the best. I just saw it again for the 1000th time at the LA premiere at teh arclight and watched the whole thing, bc it was so gorgeous and kind of intoxicating
Can we look forward to you having a day screening your films along with Q&A sessions at any of the big Music festivals? for example : Bonnaroo? Coachella? Lollapalooza? I just think it would be fun to see your films in an environment that would appreciate your films.
lol! that takes me waaaaaay back to the 90s! DOOM GEN actually screened in a tent in an early early lollapalooza! and I remember going to seattle or someplace like it and it was kind of a disaster lol! it was hot and u could barely hear or see the film (uhh, its daytime and we're in a tent) but such a great memory! and i am too busy enjoying coachella every year to do a Q&A ;)
Chris Meloni was incredible as Brock. He said the character made him really sad. What impressed you most about his performance?
everything! chris is an AMAZING actor and besides that an awsome guy. he and eva both are 180 degrees from their characters so what u see on screen is all their artistic creation! i kind of love doing that in that its really exciting to see an actor in a role thats not the same old same old part they always play - and i think actors love stretching like that too
Gregg, I'm a relatively new fan but I absolutely loved White Bird in a Blizzard, as well as Kaboom and Smiley Face! I also wanted to ask--
What are some of your favorite contemporary shoegaze/dreampop bands? It absolutely rules how much those genres are intertwined with your work.
Would you ever direct a music video again? If I recall, you did one for Helen Stellar on the set of Kaboom, right?
What's next for you? Would you want to do another adaptation, or write an original screenplay, or do something completely different altogether?
Hope you're doing well! Thanks for doing this AMA.
KABOOM has some great nugaze music in it. I personally love Airiel - their last EP kid games was amazing! KABOOM also has auburn lull, who are awsome, depreciation guild, etc. i also really like daydreamers but they wouldnt let us use their music in KABOOM :/ ! id like to do more music videos - i did one back in 1999 for the Micronauts featuring nathan bexton from NOWHERE lol but they take up time and since i work pretty much on my own im pretty focused on getting my next film made!
as for wahts next i have a few things percolating! hopefully Ill be shooting soon!
Christopher Meloni was incredible in his role. What work of his had you seen that made you think of him for Brock?
lol nothing hes done is remotely like brock which is what made me so interested in him. Id seen him in OZ, etc so knew he was an amazing actor but hes never played a chac like this and that was really xciting
Are you planning to remaster and relelease O'Despair?
one day i hope lol! i dont realy know where the negative is however and im sort of busy making movies etc so dont have a lot of free time to be creating dvd masters of my old movies (esp since it only exists on 16mm)! im hoping to sneak it out there one day tho...
Is it true you were supposed to do a Drew Barrymore movie in the mid 90s?
yes it was a really cool project at new line called FRIGID AND IMPOTENT that michael stipes company was producing w drew and her company flower films
What are your all time favorite books and movies? What inspires you now?
hmm the movies i usually list as my top 5
FIRE WALK WITH ME, MASCULIN-FEMININ, BADLANDS, LADY EVE, (cant remember the 5th one at the moment!) also really like CHUNGKING EXPRESS. and my pal rick's BOYHOOD this year was great!
Is the project The Womb still happening? What's next?
Hope so!! its on the burners!
Your early 90s films feature lots of industrial music. How did you become interested in this genre and, given the recent resurrection of oldschool type of industrial, did you think of using it as soundtrack again?
Also, how was it working with Skinny Puppy during the making of The Doom Generation?
yeah funny story abt WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD - the line producers boyfriend is BON HARRIS from Nitzer Ebb!! how crazy is that? if ull notice in phils room there are a ton of NE posters etc on the wall. And I told shiloh his character that NE are his favorite band. And I told shai that This Mortal Coil is her fave band.
and Skinny Puppy were really cool guys tho they only worked one nite which like every nite on that movie was a crazy one!!
Mr Araki! Much love.
What sort of drugs were you into 20 years ago?
What's your favorite Slowdive album?
funny i dont really do drugs altho from my movies everyone thinks i do lol! ive tried stuff obviously and smoked pot, etc but i normally barely even drink. all the crazy stuff in my movies is just my imagination! as for slowdive question hmmmm sophies choice. Im going to pick Just For a Day bc I LOOOOOOOVE it so much and its the obscure one (most ppl would pick souvlaki id imagine
Am I right, the line Kat says-- Future bores me-- is from Three bewildered people?
hmm maybe it is. if so im not aware of it but it does rally sound like something one of the 3BP chacs would say. Another reason why laura's book resonated so much w me i guess. her charcs talk like mine! PS there are 2 other lines in WBIAB that are from my other films. one is "this club is so boring I wish someone would burn it to the ground" which gabby sidibe says in the goth club - its a quote from DOOM GEN. and thomas jane the cop says "it aint fancy but its home" is from MYS SKIN
Are there any scenes in White Bird you regret cutting from the final version?
see the deleted scenes on the dvd and find out! ;) no actually im really happy with the cut. the pace of the film feels exactly right to me
hey Gregg, i know you've been trying to make creeeps for a while. any new progress? will you ever reach a point where you'll release the script to the fans?
SOOOOOOOON.... i hope!! keep yr fingers crossed!! mine are!!
I was wondering if you’re planning on making any more appearances in the LA area (like the one you’re going to make today at the Nuart Theatre) in the near future? I have a previous engagement and seriously can’t make it, even though it pains me to know that I’m only blocks away and going to miss a chance to see the film, Q&A, get an autographed CD, and even hypothetically take a picture with you. :(
Sincerely, hoping to meet you.
omg cancel yr plans and come to the nuart! u might even win a signed CD of the gorgeous score!
What did Laura Kasischke say to you after she saw the film?
laura saw the movie at sundance and loved it which meant a lot to me. I was really nervous abt that but she was really into it. i think it actually kind of overwhelmed her a bit bc it was in a HUGE theatre packed w like 1000 ppl and my sense is the book is very intimate, very personal to her, so it was a bit weird like 1000 ppl reading yr diary. but she really loved it which meant a lot to me
Out of many of your transgressive and powerful films, Mysterious Skin headlines as a deftly and unflinching film that suffuses haunting themes like pedophilia, childhood trauma, and coping all in one film. For such a grand and raw topic to tackle, how did you prepare for this project?
thanks i love that film too. So much of MSKIN just as w WHITE BIRD is in the book. its really from that source that the energy and the raw emotion comes. kudos to scott heim and laura kaschiske!
What is the best way to encourage young actors to take risks in their performances? How do you open them up, and make them vulnerable while remaining focused on the action of the scene?
its really abt casting the right actors. as the cliche goes directing is 90% casting and that so true. when u work w great ppl amazing stuff just happens! like shai, eva, chris, shiloh, gabby, everyone in WB, they all just brought their A game
Are there clues throughout White Bird in A Blizzard to foreshadow the resolution of the mystery? Having only seen it once, I was shocked by the twist (of who was having the affair, and how the mom went "missing"). But I'm wondering if you have hidden some clues that make it possible for the audience to solve the mystery before the end?
twist? what twist?
i actually like the idea that ppl have no idea whats coming and they just go on the journey of WHITE BIRD w no expectations
but i guess that jimmy fallon going on abt the ending on national TV kind of messed that up! ;)
HELLO, GREGG! Thank you so much for doing a screening of Kaboom in SF a couple of years back! Such a pleasure to meet you!
Are there gonna be any special screenings for White Bird in a Blizzard (or any plans to have special screenings of your other classics--eg. Mysterious Skin, Doom Generation, etc.) in SF? I know it's so much to ask, but I really really really do hope so! FANGIRLING wishful thinking
no plans at the moment but I think the movie opens in SF next week! halloween weekend! dress up like eva green and go!!! ;)
Gregg: I just want to say thank you for making your art. It's been hugely inspirational. You articulate things swimming around my subconscious and I really appreciate that. I was first exposed to your work in 1995 at the Dobie theater in Austin, TX where I saw Doom Generation. Wowsers.
I sort of see your stories in 3 categories at this point: 1) sex lust and love in the midst of doom and apocalypse 2) coming of age (gayge) 3) stoner comedy (Smiley Face is the all time classic stoner flick. Seriously.) What do you think? Could you comment on the types of stories you've taken on?
Hey, check out this other AMA going on today. I think you'd be interested! http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2k6y9r/hi_were_eric_sarah_director_producer_of_beautiful/
Take care Gregg! Love ya!
aww thanks! yeah i dont really categorize my movies per se I just make movies that Im passionate about and sort of follow my instinct in terms of what i want to do next. i appreciate that my movies tend to be different from each oter as I find it kind of annoying and lazy when directors seem to make the same movie over and over - so i try to mix it up and work in different styles and genres but i think my sensibility is pretty strong so even when the movies are different they all feel like a movie of mine lol!
Do you have any screenwriting advice?
write every day. as much as u can
what was it like directing the huge stars in this film compared to your more independent actors?
nothing really the actors in WHITE BIRD were all so dedicated and focused. really serious artists. coming to set every day was super fun and exciting
do you have any advice on set control?
yr the captain of the ship so u need to know where yr heading ;)
What was the hardest thing about working on this film and easiest?
WHITE BIRD was really an amazing experience and one I will always remember. everyone in the cast and crew loved the project so much and were all so dedicated to getting every image and every moment just right, no matter what it took. It was really cool
what was it like adapting?
i really like adapting a novel or rewriting other ppls material bc its easier than doing something thats 100% original. its a different set of muscles but fulfilling in a diff way i think
Did Chris, Shailene and Eva have to audition or did you just call them up?
none of them auditioned but i didnt just call them up lol! i had meetings shailene and chris (separately of course) and eva i think we talked on the phone - she was in malta or something like that shooting 300