Meet the Filmmaker: David Zellner (“Kid-Thing”)

The always looney Zellner brothers bring their latest film Kid-Thing to the rooftops of New York.¬†With David taking solo credit for directing and writing the film, and Nathan assuming a more technical role, the Zellner Bros present a fantastically eerie “anti”-coming of age story through the eyes of a pre-pubescent girl named Annie. Kid-Thing will screen Thursday, June 14th at the Automative High School in Williamsburg (Doors open at ¬†8:00PM). The Zellner Bros and Rooftop Films chatted about this mesmerizing feature and you’ll have the same chance! Join us June 14th for the screening and a Q&A with David and Nathan.

Rooftop Films: Given how audiences have received Kid-Thing at various other festivals, how do you think a NY audience will receive Kid-Thing?

David Zellner: We hope they’ll like it.

RF: I’ve noticed people comparing Kid-Thing to David Gordon Green’s George Washington and Gummo by Harmony Korine. Reflecting back on your film do you recognize that at all? Or agree/disagree with it?

DZ: We’re huge admirers of those films and their sensibility, and I’m sure they were an influence on one level or another, as were many other things that come to mind. At the heart of this project we wanted to make a naturalistic story about childhood combined with the heightened elements of a fable. From the perspective of a child in terms of the beauty, the horror, the newness, the confusion that the main character(a ten-year-old girl) deals with. And because of this specific perspective we wanted to avoid any sentimentality, which is something adults tend to project on childhood in hindsight. When you’re that age, and you’re experiencing everything for the first time, testing boundaries and trying to figure the world out, there’s no such thing as nostalgia.

RF: What made you consider the location of Texas for this film?

DZ: It wasn’t a conscious decision as much as what we were simply familiar with. We spent much of our youth in Texas, and while our upbringing was very different from Annie’s, we associate that locale with our childhood. We played and explored in the same woods used in the film. Her activities and interests- video games, convenience stores, prank calls, rummaging, BMX bikes and paintball guns were all staples we could relate to.

RF: Sydney Aguirre is splendid as the young Annie. How did you know she was the one for the role? Did she enjoy shooting her scenes?

DZ: The year prior we had cast Sydney in a music video we made for David Wingo’s band Ola Podrida. Along with having a great presence onscreen, she was incredibly intuitive, curious, and able to connect with the tone we were going for, which was similar in many ways to Kid-Thing. At that point we knew she could carry the feature, which was crucial since the character of Annie is in most every scene. We wanted this performance to unfold naturally as much as possible, with long takes as opposed to being heavily manufactured through editing. Since we were asking a lot of a kid that age it was important that the experience be a fun one, more of an adventure than work. She had a great time, was a joy to work with and brought a lot to the role.

RF: What’s the inspiration behind the title Kid-Thing?

DZ: Unfortunately “Annie” was already taken. In a way it represents her identity, this sort of transitional state she’s in, in terms of how the world works and her place in it. Aesthetically I liked the way it looked and reminded me of “Swamp-Thing” or the song “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth.

RF: Tell us about filming Kid-Thing-the process, the camera you guys used, etc.

DZ: This film was made very modestly with limited means and a tiny crew. We had a larger project get pushed back, which left the perfect window for Kid-Thing, both in terms of our schedule and the age of our lead. If we’d made it a year later she’d have been too old for the role.

RF: The film has a hypnotic, almost thriller-like feel to it. What was the inspiration behind the visual look and feel of the film?

DZ: We wanted the film to have a sort of abstract, haunting, dream-like quality, reflected through the images, story, music, sound design. There’s so much inherent mystery involved in childhood and the world around you at that particular time(at least in my experience), so this tone seemed appropriate for the film.

RF: What’s your past film festival experience and how do you feel about your screening at Rooftop films?

DZ: We’ve been fortunate to have had a great run so far with this film, having screened at Sundance, Berlinale, SXSW, BAFICI and (the upcoming)Edinburgh among others. Not a lot of our previous work has screened in NYC, so we’re excited to be sharing Kid-Thing with a Rooftop audience.