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Podthoughts: The Q&A

Vital stats:
Format: Q&As, often post-screening, with directors, writers, writer-directors, and other filmmakers
Episode duration: 40m-2h30m
Frequency: often weekly, though it varies

I moved to Los Angeles for the filmgoing, sure — how many other cities offer the chance to experience all eras of cinema, theatrically, pretty much every week? — but also for the post-film-Q&A-watching. Enough filmmakers and filmmakers’ collaborators live in or regularly pass through town that theater programmers don’t have to strain to add an enticing liveness to a screening: “Director in person!” “A conversation between the writer and cinematographer to follow!” “Three of the supporting cast will probably turn up!” Some become regulars: the guy who wrote Electra Glide in Blue’s screenplay seems happy to appear whenever and wherever the movie gets projected, for instance, and Los Angeles Plays Itself director Thom Andersen fields an hour of audience questions every time I catch his documentary. And sometimes you hit a surprise jackpot, as when not just Quentin Tarantino but Robert Forster and Pam Grier took the stage after the Los Angeles County Museum of Art played Jackie Brown. That Q&A fired on all cylinders, which not all of them do. But this very element of suspense keeps them interesting, as does the fact that you can never quite know in advance which ones will, to mix the metaphor, give off sparks.

Having held no particular expectations for a conversation between Looper director Rian Johnson and someone named Jeff Goldsmith, I in the event found them far exceeded. Were I inclined to listen again and scrutinize what, exactly, so impressed me, I could do so by downloading the very same Q&A as an episode of the podcast The Q&A [iTunes], Goldsmith’s own. Instead, I listened to a whole range of his other Q&As, one-on-one and sometimes one-on-two sessions with a variety of directors and writers, writer-directors, and occasionally producers and actors working today, creators as rooted in the mainstream as the writing team behind Horrible Bosses and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and ones as strictly independent as Man Push Cart and At Any Price auteur Ramin Bahrani. Most often, Goldsmith engages people like Johnson, established filmmakers entrenched in neither Hollywood nor the arthouse. I saw him do so at Cinefamily, a theater on Fairfax Avenue that, before I actually moved to town, displayed such acumen screening rarities and bringing in guests (and especially bringing in guests who had a hand in these rarities) as to force me to pull the trigger and rent a U-Haul. “This reminds me of the sixties,” a well-known broadcaster friend who lives in the neighborhood said of Cinefamily during their potluck showing of Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó, “the last time life was unquestionably good.”

Read the whole thing at Maximum Fun.

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