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Juliet LandauJuliet Landau - "Take Flight" Documentary - Buzzymultimedia.com Interview
Saturday 27 February 2010, by Webmaster
Juliet Landau is a woman of many talents. As an actress, she has a long string of credits, though she is perhaps best known for her terrifying yet beguiling psychic vampire Drusilla on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and its spin-off ANGEL. As a writer, she recently penned a two-part comic about Drusilla for IDW and has scripted a short film, IT’S RAINING CATS AND CATS.
However, what’s uppermost in Landau’s mind at the moment is her work as a documentary filmmaker. Landau’s 25-minute TAKE FLIGHT captures the lighter side of Gary Oldman as he directs a music video for the Jewish hip-hop band Chutzpah. The video premiered February 25 on Landau’s website, julietlandaustakeflight.com. To promote TAKE FLIGHT, Landau also made a series of promotional interview videos with the likes of erstwhile ANGEL colleague Amy Acker, Sam Anderson, another ANGEL alumnus who is now on LOST, Adam Busch from BUFFY and the band Common Rotation, who has just co-directed the feature DRONES, Dawn Didawick of THE AMATEURS, Love and Rockets/Bauhaus bassist David J, stage star and BUFFY’s mayor Harry Groener, LEVERAGE star and rocker Christian Kane (another ANGEL veteran), Warner Animation director Andrea Romano, SMALLVILLE’s Michael Rosenbaum, Armin Shimerman of DEEP SPACE 9 and BUFFY, Kitty Swink of DEEP SPACE 9 and tattoo artist/photographer Kat Von D. Landau, who has spent years giving interviews about her own work, turned the tables and served as interviewer for the videos, asking her subjects about their own creative process and how they would market a film like TAKE FLIGHT if they’d made it.
Landau says that being the person asking the questions was a new experience. “The first day, it was such a different sort of mindset. I thought I would be completely prepared, having been on the other side of the interview so many times, but I wasn’t. It went really well and it was fun, but definitely, by the second time, I was in the space of, ‘Okay, I get this, I understand this animal.’ The thing that’s been kind of fascinating is that the interviews are so compelling and each person’s essence is really different, but there’s this through-line in the answers about when something comes together for each person as an artist, how that feels. Maybe the words that they choose are different, but it’s very similar and I’m finding that really interesting.”
Talking to Landau about some of the questions she normally gets asked as an interview subject leads naturally to how she got into acting in the first place. “I actually never thought I would do it,” Landau relates. “I thought, ‘That’s my parents’ thing [Landau is the daughter of actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain] and I won’t do this.’ But I was always a performer. I was a ballerina before being an actor and I loved performing and for me, dancing, even though I was very technically proficient, was always about expressing something, so it wasn’t such a leap – literally,” she adds, laughing at the turn of phrase. “So I started taking acting classes and I absolutely loved it and I had come to a point where I found the dance world rather insular and narrow and I loved the idea of collaborating and getting to talk with people about conceptual ideas and using physicality as a component, but getting to investigate other things as well, so it sort of went from there.”
Given her parents’ success as actors, did Landau ever ask them for advice? “I’m sure they gave me advice,” Landau says, “and I also really learned from watching them and taking stuff in. I think the biggest thing that I learned was to fully embrace and love the work that you do. There’s difficult stuff involved in the business side, but if you really keep connected to the spark of why you do what you do, you can keep moving forward and creating.”
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Drucilla, vampire Stage was Landau’s first medium as an actress. “I did a tremendous amount of theatre work,” she recalls. “I was supposed to go and dance with a company in New York and I was doing a nine-week run of an Irwin Shaw piece, and I got seen by a casting director who basically said, ‘Do you want to meet some agents?’ So I said, ‘Well, I’ll go and meet them, but I’m actually going to New York.’ And I met with this agent. She said, ‘Well, let me just send you out on a couple auditions. I know you’re leaving, but …’ And the second audition I went on was for a play, Wendy Wasserstein’s UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS, and I got it. So I thought, ‘Okay, well, I’ll do the play and then I’ll go to New York.’ And then I got actually seen in that play, and asked if I would audition for this Murray Schisgal play called THE PUSHCART PEDDLERS, a really fun part, and there was singing and dancing as well in it, and I got it. I said, ‘Okay, well, I’ll do this play and then I’ll go to New York.’ And then I actually got seen in that play, and Murray was doing a play that he was hoping to take to Broadway and it was Equity theatre. The director had seen me in [PUSHCART] and said, ‘Would you come and audition for Murray?’ and I did and I got cast in that, so one thing sort of led to the next. I did a lot of theatre first and then started doing film and television. I still do theatre as much as possible.”
On of Landau’s early screen roles was in Tim Burton’s feature film ED WOOD, starring Johnny Depp as the famously eccentric low-budget director. “I was a character named Loretta King,” Landau explains. “She was a real woman who met Ed Wood and promised him sixty thousand dollars – well, sort of. It’s vague, it’s ambiguous whether she did or didn’t. In the movie, Wood kicks Sarah Jessica Parker out of the part and gives Loretta the part and then comes to Loretta for the money, and Loretta says, ‘What money????’ It was so much fun to work on that movie. Tim Burton is amazing, as is Johnny Depp.”
BUFFY was a fairly major event in Landau’s professional life. “I loved working on BUFFY,” Landau enthuses. “Drusilla was such a rich character and had so much dimension. It was an actor’s dream part. It was fantastic.”
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, vmapires, horror films Playing Drusilla – or rather, people’s reaction to the character – introduced Landau to genre TV fandom and fan conventions. “That definitely opened up a whole new world,” Landau says appreciatively. “I didn’t know about it at all. It’s really great. There’s such a wide demographic of people that have responded to the shows, all ages, all walks of life, and it’s amazing to meet people who are affected by it and love it. It’s been nothing but wonderful.”
Landau had expected to make her directing debut with her narrative script for IT’S RAINING CATS AND CATS. “I’m raising money for [CATS],” Landau says, “which is a very ambitious project. I wrote the piece and I’m going to play seven different characters in it, as well as co-direct and produce it. Greg Cannom’s Drac Studios is going to design and apply all the makeups. They won their fourth Academy Award for BENJAMIN BUTTON – they did HANNIBAL, DRACULA, MRS. DOUBTFIRE…”
CATS wound up on hold for TAKE FLIGHT for a very simple reason – if Gary Oldman asks you to document his creative process, the sensible answer is yes. Landau relates, “What happened is Gary was directing a video for the Jewish hip-hop band Chutzpah, and he asked me to direct the making-of, and it then bloomed from being just a behind-the-scenes making-of to being this documentary film about his creative process.”
Landau initially met Oldman through his director of photography Deverill Weekes. “Gary wanted to do a making-of and [Weekes] suggested me and I met with Gary and Gary said he was a fan of my work, which is amazing, because he is such an unbelievable actor, and we just clicked and he said, ‘Let’s give it a go.’” Oldman is very happy with the end result, Landau adds.
Weekes wound up serving as Landau’s d.p. on TAKE FLIGHT and co-directed the Godhead “Hero” music video with her. The imagery for the video, Landau says, “was first of all from the song and the lyrics to the song. Then we found these incredible paintings and photographs and got really inspired by those. We shot on the RED camera in black and white, like a silent movie. We really wanted the look to be very luminous, but the nature of the relationship [of the onscreen couple, portrayed by Landau and Godhead lead singer Jason Miller] to be at odds with that and be dysfunctional. The video is very movement-based, which we didn’t anticipate, actually. I brought my friend Roxanne Steinberg in to choreograph it and she took our resource photos and paintings and said, ‘Let’s put them in an order.’ We put them in order and she said, ‘Well, let’s do the shapes, let’s do the movement.’ And we did and then she said, ‘This will probably just be vocabulary, it won’t be the final video, but let’s just put the music on and see,’ and it all worked really well, and we said, ‘Let’s keep going in this direction.’ And that was the genesis of how that all came about.” buffy the vampire slayer, vampires, spike vampire The notion of doing the viral promotional videos for TAKE FLIGHT came about, Landau says, “Just as I was starting to know that I was going to get the film out and a release date. It seemed like it would be a great companion piece and interesting material to raise awareness about the film. And then as we started shooting them, I got really excited by what we had and so it has expanded into more than we initially were going to do. The interviews range from three minutes to eight minutes each.”
Editing each interview takes a long time, because Landau is very thorough. “For the promos, we sometimes had four cameras, so I’ll watch every angle and sort of figure out where what will be and have the time code, the ins and outs, and like, ‘Oh, for this answer, I’ll use this. I’ll borrow a piece of this.’ So that is what I call a paper cut. We’re shooting them on the Panasonic DVX. It’s not high-def, it’s actually standard-def, but they’re a nice camera and we had access to four of them, so it made that part easy, because it’s nice to have a lot of angles. The editor is Jon Vasquez. He produced TAKE FLIGHT and was the technical advisor on TAKE FLIGHT, and we have been sitting side by side now, yet again, with these promos. I like to spend a lot of time with the footage before I meet up with the editor, just so that I’m incredibly familiar with it and also so that I can get a real overview of what it is I want to be doing. With TAKE FLIGHT, I had fifty hours of footage and I watched all fifty hours three times through. I knew that footage backwards and forwards, but it was really, really helpful to me, and I feel it’s almost like the footage speaks to you and tells you – you obviously go in with an idea at the beginning… I’ll have an outline of what it is that I want, but then when you actually see what you’ve got on film, it sort of speaks to you and dictates a little bit of the structure of the story that needs to be told.”
Might TAKE FLIGHT come out on DVD with all of the promotional interviews? “Maybe,” Landau muses. “It really would make an interesting supplemental piece.”
In the midst of all this, Landau posed as the tragic HAMLET heroine Ophelia for a series of photos by promo interview subject Kat Von D. “She did the most beautiful photos,” Landau says. “We are going to release them. We met and she said she wanted to do some photographs. I went and looked at her book and they were so beautiful! Buffy The Vampire Slayer, vmapires, horror films I said, ‘Yes, let’s collaborate and let’s do it.’ She said, ‘Let’s think of some ideas.’ I pulled the paintings of Ophelia and we were off and running.”
Most recently on the acting front, Landau is costarring in a movie called MONSTER MUTT. “Drac Studios produced it – it’s their baby, it’s their first time producing. It’s a kids’ movie and I play the Russian villainess, a blonde, in it. So it’s very different certainly than Drusilla, although fairly diabolical. I don’t run around biting people. No biting,” she laughs. “I have a couple of other things brewing, but we’ll see what happens with those.”
TAKE FLIGHT and the promotional interviews can be found at Landau’s website, julietlandaustakeflight.com, and on YouTube at the Miss Juliet Productions channel.