Meet the 2012 AT&T $10,000 cash grant winners Bill and Turner Ross

Rooftop Films caught up with our 2012 Filmmakers Fund recipients, the talented Bill and Turner Ross for a talk about bullfights, border issues, and being in the game for the adventure.

The Ross Bros are currently working on their third feature film, Western. The film is a documentary portrait of the lives of cross-section residents in Eagle Pass, Texas. Viewers will be given the chance to embrace the rich mythology and culture of a border region, while peeking behind the curtain of stereotyping and sensationalism, and into the lived experiences of a unique region in the world.

Rooftop screened the Ross Bros award-winning documentary 45365 in 2009. Their current film Tchoupitoulas will be in theaters Friday, December 7.

Rooftop Films: Rooftop Films is very excited that Ross Bros are our 2012 Filmmakers’ Fund recipients. How has the AT&T $ 10,000 cash grant helped support your work, any specific details you want share?

Turner Ross: We went for broke six years ago now, and we’ve stayed that way. We’ve put everything we have into the work that we make – work that is inherently un-commercial. Windfalls like the generous one provided here by Rooftop and AT&T allow us to continue pushing the boulder uphill, as it were, without being crushed under the weight of our expenses. We’re in post-production now, and these monies will help ensure that our new film sees the light of day.

RF: Tell us a bit about your most recent, third feature film? How is it coming along, how are you working on documenting a portrait of daily life at the U.S. – Mexico border community, and what attracted you to this unique subject matter?

TR: We spent 13 months down on the border in South Texas. The fruits of that endeavor are meandering into a film that we’re terribly excited about. Western will be a document transcending the one dimensional portrayal of the border region, but also embracing the mythology and imagery that has lead to it. We found what you’d expect – cowboys and bullfights and border issues – but also an awful lot more. The border is a unique region in the world, and the culture and history run deep.

RF: You had this truly inspiring John Steinbeck quote on your Facebook page: “Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.” – could you explain how this quote inspires your work, and if you have one person real or imagined in mind during your creative process?

BT: That’s something I try to keep in mind always. You can mess yourself up pretty good thinking about imaginary people/expectations. I’ve cut everything I’ve done with two life long friends in mind. As long as I think I’ve arrived at something close to what I was after and they get into it I figure I cant be too off the mark.

RF: Speaking of poetry, your cinematic style is widely recognized as form of visual poetry. How do you feel about that sentiment?

BT: This is where Turner would say something like ‘we were born poets’ and I would turn, punch him in the face and say ‘we shoot standard def pictures, and use final cut pro’.

TR: I can still kick your ass.

RF: Fellow filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky’s talks about how a filmmaker should and discover both himself and the world while filming, in his 10 rules for documentary film. How does this idea apply to your experiences, perhaps your most recent ones in and around Eagle Pass, Texas?

TR: These films are documents of experience on both sides of the camera. First and foremost, these are adventures. With these cameras and the films they create, we are able to live the lives of others – to share their experiences and see the world through their eyes. We wouldn’t be in a lot of these situations without the craft as a guise.

BR: I only recently became aware of Victor, but man, he goes about all this the right way. Only a soulful human could make a film like Belovs. He’s right, It’s about the life experience, the adventure. I really don’t get people who aren’t in this game for the journey.

RF: In your previous film Tchoupitoulas, William is drawn to the sounds that emanate from bars, clubs and sidewalks. How do you work with music-and sound-design in your films?

TR: We try to think of film as a 4 dimensional experience. The image should be equal to the sound should be equal to the content should be equal to the experience.

RF: You’re off to CPH:DOX in Copenhagen this November, are there any Danish films you’re particularly interested in seeing?

TR: I’m interested in seeing Copenhagen. Movies are great, but there is also life.