Ira Sachs has been bringing queer cinema to the screens since 1996, making him one of the few pioneers who have challenged the status quo of Hollywood's (and the indie world, for that matter) white, hetero-dominant stories. For this year's Sundance, he has brought Love Is Strange, starring Anthony Molina and John Lithgow. It's a sadly sweet story about a gay couple on the verge of their marriage after 39 years of being together (because, well, now they can) who are forced to live apart for a little while.
ScreenAnarchy: At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer/director?
Ira Sachs: I started to come to Sundance when I was 14 because my father lived in Park City. When I was a junior in college I spent three months in Paris, but I didn't speak any French. I didn't have any friends and was very lonely. I ended up going to 197 films that summer, and discovered cinema - Cassavetes, Vincente Minnelli, Truffaut. I knew then that's what I connected to. I was already a theater director and that transition came from a more organic connection to storytelling through cinema.
If you weren't writing and directing what would you be doing?
IS: I'd be a psychoanalyst. I think my profession know is very similar. They're both about attention to the details and how people think and behave and to try to understand that while at the same time remaining outside.
Who's the person that has had the most influence on you/your work?
IS: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He died at a young age, but he made 38 films. He was a fearless, breathless filmmaker from Germany. He would make three features a year and when he would be finishing up a film he'd say, "I'll fix it in the next one." I think that's a great attitude to have in film - be imperfect, but alive.
In three words or less, what is it like to see your film up on the big screen?
IS: Comforting and scary.
If you had $100 million and no restrictions, what would you make with it?
IS: would set up an organization which carefully and with great thought supported the work of others. That's inspired by Sundance.
Would you rather have six months of prep time and 15 days to shoot, or 15 days of prep time and six months of shooting?
IS: I would rather have six months of prep. I would not want to be in production for six months. Of course, I would scale the film to the appropriate size and scope where 15 days would be easy, comfortable and fun.
How do you define success in the marketplace for your film?
IS: Success is a word that is conditional on the question of what is value. To me, value is an even more interpretive term. Value has the ability to affect people and affect change. But within the marketplace it gets all the more complicated.
What would have been different if you'd made this film 5 years ago? What do you think will be different in 5 years?
IS: This film is very timely on the surface, but it's roots are a humanist film about people and it could be 100 years old. I think five years ago... well, five years ago I couldn't have married my husband. Now, I can. So the whole story couldn't have existed five years ago. Five years from now, I think the difference would be in the marketplace. The concept of this film feels like to some it could be about other people instead of ourselves, but that is a very old-fashioned idea.
What did you do the moment you found out your film had been accepted into Sundance?
IS: I created a schedule to finish it on time.
What are some websites/magazines that you think are the most important to read as an indie filmmaker?
IS: I read IndieWire.com because I want to know what's happening, and I trust their taste - I believe news outlets are defined by taste not just by information. I read the New York Times daily because I want to know stories. I read the gossip magazines for fun!
What was the last mind-blowing film you saw?
IS: I just saw Dancer in the Dark again, on the big screen, and I was shocked by how good it was. I actually learned a lot from it, as I was working on Love is Strange. It encouraged me to go full out to try and make tearjerker. I feel like I wanted to make people, and if Lars Von Trier could do it, so could I.
When have you been most satisfied with your life?
IS: In my relationships. And I'm a new father. Actually, the last time I was at Sundance was two years ago [with Keep the Lights On] and my kids were born seven days before the premiere of my film. Now here it is two years later, and they're just wonderful little people. Having kids is worth doing.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
IS: I don't want a superpower.