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Interview With Ido Mizrahy, Director of THINGS THAT HANG FROM TREES

Saturday, June 10----An Israeli director for a Southern Gothic story set in 1960s Florida may seem like an odd choice, but for Ido Mizrahy, the director of the American Independent film THINGS THAT HANG FROM TREES, his foreigness allowed him to bring subtle observations to this story of small town life.

The film, which is screening in the American Independents Competition here, is written and based on the autobiographical novella of Aaron Louis Tordini. Tordini grew up in St. Augustine, Florida, which has the distinction of being the oldest town settled by Europeans in America (founded in 1540 by the Spanish). However, by the 1960s, when the story takes place, the town is a rather neglected place filled with eccentric characters and decaying homes.

The story's lead is a strange young boy, who is mistakenly thought of as being retarded but actually is intuitive and slow to respond. His mother is the town scandal, since she owns a lingerie shop and likes to pose, mannequin-like, in the store's picture window. His father is a n'er-do-well who is drunk and abusive, and mostly not on the scene. Mizrahy brings a moody quality found in the Southern novels of Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connorand Harper Lee to this engaging coming-of-age story.

Sandy Mandelberger sat down with director Ido Mizrahy to discuss the film.

Sandy Mandelberger: What inspired you to create your film project?
Ido Mirahy: It was mostly the foreignness of the story. Growing up in Israel I was fascinated with American culture, which I was exposed to through books, Film and television. I was born in the US (in the south), but had no real connection to America other than the cultural representations of it that flooded Tel Aviv, where I grew up. I enjoy being on the outside looking in.

SM: Did you have a special way that you worked with your actors?
IM: Actors come from different schools, different acting backgrounds. I found it easier to let them show me how they like to be directed, what kind of notes they respond to better than others. And mostly when it’s time for me to shut up. The one thing we did that was interesting and unusual was workshop the film as if it was a play. Many of the actors who are in the film are New York actors who do a lot of stage work. For two years leading up to production we would get together every few months and read the latest version of the screenplay. We were able to iron out certain things and have discussions that are so scarce on the set because of the lack of time.

SM: How much time passed from when you preparing for the film and when you did the final edit? What kept you motivated and focused during this period?
IM: We went into pre-production in March of 2005 and finished editing by the end of July 2005. Once we got green lit everything went very quickly. The effort required from me on a daily basis kept me very focused. It was harder to stay focused when we were waiting for the film to get green lit. That was torture at times, but it forced Aaron (writer) and I to go back to the script and make it better. That ended up being the biggest (the only!!) plus of having that waiting period.

SM: Describe the first time the film was shown to a general audience (at a film festival or other screening) and how you felt about the experience.
ID: The film’s world premiere was at the South By Southwest Film Festival. It was unreal to see it on the big screen with a theatre full of people, absolutely amazing. And once the film started I realized it wasn’t mine anymore. It was the audience’s film just as much as it was mine. In that sense the world premiere of my film was like a goodbye party – I said goodbye to the film and passed it on.

SM: What was the most important lesson you learned working on this or previous films that you would want to share with someone who is doing their first feature?
ID: You’re the example on the set. How you respond to a certain situation, how you put together the endless puzzles thrown your way every single day, and the attitude you maintain while going through those motions set the tone on and off the set. People around you will take the cue from you. Throughout the process I had incredible people mentoring me and sometimes really getting their hands dirty, helping me solve problems that at times seemed unsolvable. Try to have someone like that around, I would say.

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Online Dailies from the 22nd Troia International Film Festival

Dates: 2-11 June 2006

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