Toronto writer/director Jonathan Sobol is a filmmaker to keep your eye on. Making his feature debut in 2006 with Citizen Duane , Sobol followed that up with A Beginner’s Guide to Endings which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, introducing his off-beat sense of humour to a whole score of film fans.
Sobol graciously agreed to be Toronto Film Scene’s inaugural Filmmaker of the Month and answered a few questions about his career and A Beginner’s Guide to Endings , which is out on DVD this week.
Why did you become a filmmaker?
It’s not so much a question of why I became a filmmaker but rather when. I was in Visual Arts and was doing a lot of video-based art and took a film production course on a whim. That was it for me.
Was there a specific movie that got you interested in film?
There’s been many. Fellini’s 8 1/2 sticks out. While it has little bearing on the work I do, when I first saw it at 18 I was struck by its lyrical nature and subjective beauty. But that sounds a bit pretentious so I’m going to change my answer to Gremlins .
What’s your all-time favourite movie?
Impossible question. It changes from week to week… day to day, really. Off the top of my head: Paths of Glory sticks out. I flat-out love everything about that movie. Great ending.
Do you have a favourite Canadian movie?
Where did the idea for A Beginner’s Guide to Endings come from?
It was a clearing house for scenes and characters that I never had a chance to place in other films. Odd ideas that I had floating around. I wanted to weave a story around all of them. It’s kind of like the island of lost toys – a collection of misfit characters and scenes found in the same place.
What’s your favourite part of the film or the part you’re most proud of?
I like the ending scene. It feels satisfying to me. I guess I shouldn’t say too much and give it away, but the ending feels equal parts happy and slightly melancholic.
Do you have a favourite story from the set?
The story I tell the most involves a daily extra and Harvey Keitel. It usually comes out over a few drinks as it requires some pantomime, but let’s just say that this daily extra was very excited to be in the same scene as Harvey. This extra also had a tendency to stare directly into the camera. And ad lib lines. And walk straight into the camera. It was baffling. Was he nervous? Was he taking a shot at fame? I really don’t know. Nine takes later and we finally got the shot – with him being instructed to stand still with his back to the camera in the far distance. Essentially we turned him into a human rock.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen so far this year?
I just had a baby girl (Hi Greta!) so for the past 5 months my viewership has never been lower. Lots of home viewing, though. I tend to like a lot of different films and naming a “best” is a tricky thing. Yesterday I saw Wanderlust and 21 Jump Street . Both were pretty good. But I’m going to go with 21 Jump Street . 21 Jump Street is the best movie of yesterday.
If you could make your dream film what would it be?
Hannibal versus Scipio. A big, sweeping, bloody historical epic. Plus there’s elephants.
What are you working on now?
I’m in post-production on a con-artist heist-comedy called The Crunch (formerly know as The Black Marks ) starring Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel, and Matt Dillon. It’s the story of a third-rate motorcycle daredevil and former art thief who steals one of the rarest books in the world. It’s due out next year.
A Beginner’s Guide to Endings hits DVD shelves on August 28, 2012. Check out one of Toronto’s fine indie video stores to get your very own copy.
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