LGBT SPOTLIGHT: Exclusive Interview with IRA SACHS director of KEEP THE LIGHTS ON!
Ira Sachs' devastating KEEP THE LIGHTS ON examines the end of love from a dark place; the relationship between an addict and his partner over the course of nine years. Erik (Thure Lindhart) is a Danish documentarian living in New York City who spends his nights trolling phone sex chat lines for a hook up. When he meets Paul (Zachary Booth), the pair slowly make their way from sexual anonymity toward a relationship. But soon, Paul's decline into addiction slowly asserts its grip and things begin to fall apart. KEEP THE LIGHTS ON is an impressionistic portrait of the rise and fall of a couple. Take a look!
KEEP THE LIGHTS ON screens Saturday, April 21, 7:00 PM, encores Sunday, April 22nd, 1:00 PM.
THE INSIDER: Please tell us about the big news concerning Music Box Films.
IRA SACHS: They will be distributing KEEP THE LIGHTS ON. They are a great partner for the film. They really understand it and they understand the potential of its place in the landscape of independent film. I think they see it as a very special film that has a wide variety of possibilities in terms of audiences. And I think, in general, that there is a hunger for dramatic films about human relationships, of which there are perhaps fewer than we would all like.
THE INSIDER: Tell us about your motivations for making this movie.
IRA SACHS: The film at its center is about two men and their relationship. But it's also about a certain kind of urban population and what I consider a certain culture clash that we see that is no longer gay or straight. In the world I live in (and I'm assuming there is a similar world in Sarasota and in most major cities in America) the lines between people, the identity we take on as individuals, has been blurred. This is also a film about a community. It's an art community and a literary community. In New York the sort of downtown group of people that have moved here and their world in general is something I wanted to depict. You try to be specific to the characters and their experience. In that way I tried to be specific to what gay life has been for the past 20 years in New York City as I've experienced it.
THE INSIDER: You made New York City a living breathing entity in this film, really a character unto itself. Was that by design?
IRA SACHS: Yes. That's how I've always approached making a movie. Every film is a documentary, fiction or nonfiction. You are documenting a time and a place that you are putting in front of the camera. So I've always tried to get the details right as a reporter. First off I try to tell a good story that will affect an audience and then I try to build the world as richly and authentically as possible so that people are also getting a window into a certain culture and world. For example, the locations are real New York restaurants and apartments where the scenes that inspired these moments in the film took place. The birthday party scene is filled with people who were actually at that party years before. You always tried to get the faces of the world you write. That makes the film denser and more real.
THE INSIDER: What obstacles did you face getting this movie made?
IRA SACHS: I've spent the last four years as a community activist in New York within the art world, the film world and the gay world. I run a film series, I organized a group of film directors who get together once a month... I've sort of built a community that when I ultimately wanted to make this film, I was able to reach out to the community around me who came forward to support the project. To tell you the truth, it was the shortest development process I've ever done. I finished the script in January and I said at that point that I wanted to start shooting the film in July no matter what the economics allowed me to do. And I met that goal. That was a different way of approaching filmmaking because I said, 'I don't want to be in a process in which I am dependant on other sources. I'm going to be truly independent.' So it was much more like when I first started out. The biggest thing that I hope to communicate to other filmmakers about is just to commit to production.
THE INSIDER: Would you tell me a little about your extraordinary cast?
IRA SACHS: In many ways both emotionally and physically it's a very naked film. I needed to find actors, particularly for the two leads, who were willing to expose themselves. I've often found that I am attracted to European actors because they often have a non-puritanical approach to both the emotion and the body. So it was not a surprise to me that I ended up with this extraordinary Danish actor whom I'd been told was one of the bravest in Europe. I feel that bravery comes across in the film. Not just because he's physically naked in the film, but because he's exposed emotionally. That's really what I'm looking for: people who are willing to share themselves in front of the camera.
THE INSIDER: What do you hope audiences will take from your movie? It's a very brave portrayal of relationships and addiction and so much more.
IRA SACHS: The film is called KEEP THE LIGHTS ON and there is a reason for that title. It's a film that I hope encourages people to be transparent and open with the life they live. In a way it's about two people nearly destroyed by the power of their own secrets. And I think that's really a theme of the film, how these things we keep from each other are ultimately so destructive both in our relationships to ourselves and to other people as lovers, as friends, and family. So I hope the film encourages conversation about the way we live as individuals. That includes conversations about our behavior, about our relationship to sex, our relationship to monogamy, our relationship to addiction, our relationship to each other. All of these things are central to the film.
THE INSIDER: These are very moving universal themes that anyone of any age, any gender, any orientation can relate to.
IRA SACHS: I also hope people feel a connection to this story in which they reflect on their own histories in terms of love. The choices they've made and the mistakes they've made, as well as the risks they've taken in the course of trying to find someone to live a life with.
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