Meet The Filmmaker: Adam Rifkin

Giuseppe Andrews, a former child-star living in Ventura, California has made 30 feature films to date. Made with little to no money, and a cast of his trailer park friends and homeless neighbors, Giuseppe’s films are unique underground entities that hardly follow our mainstream code of what makes a “film”. Adam Rifkin’s documentary Giuseppe Makes A Movie follows Giuseppe as he works to complete his next feature, Garbanzo Gas, in a mere two days. A Rooftop Films Filmmaker’s Fund Grant recipient, Rifkin paints a fascinating portrait of a one-of-a-kind character, displaying Giuseppe’s intense and loving relationship with not only his work but the various unusual characters who inhabit his life.

We spoke with Adam Rifkin about his process making the film and the unique experience of working with Giuseppe.

Giuseppe Makes A Movie plays this Friday at The Old American Can Factory in Gowanus! Get your tickets today!

RTF: How did you find out that Giuseppe, whom you had directed in Detroit Rock City, was making his own films? What made you want to make a film about him?

RIFKIN: I first met Giuseppe when he auditioned for Detroit Rock City. He came in on the first day and I knew immediately that I wanted to cast him. As the film unfolded, and as he and I got closer, he confided in me that he wanted to be a filmmaker. At that time he was still a teenager and had never directed a film before, but he was obsessed with foreign maestros like Fassbinder and Herzog. I encouraged him to just pick up a camera and start shooting. Luckily for all young filmmakers today, the technology is so inexpensive that you can make a movie for literally any amount of money you have to spend. Little did I know Giuseppe would take this concept to the most creative heights imaginable. He started cranking out movies faster and more furiously than I thought was ever humanly possible. He would cast all the homeless people and derelicts that lived in and around the trailer park where he and his father lived, they became his cast of players. His repertory company. The movies were so unusual and the stories behind how he would make each one were so hilarious and bizarre, I had to document his process. I had to make a documentary about how Giuseppe makes a movie.

RTF: How does it feel to be back at Rooftop Films as a Filmmaker’s Fund Grantee? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in getting projects off the ground that resources such as the Filmmaker’s Fund can help people overcome?

RIFKIN: It’s always hard to find money to make a movie. Always. I don’t care who you are or what films you’ve made in the past, getting money to make movies is always an uphill climb. I feel very very fortunate that Rooftop Films gave us such a generous grant to be able to make GIUSEPPE MAKES A MOVIE. The fact that Rooftop is actually lending a hand and helping interesting, unique and unusual independent films get funded is a wonderful gift to all moviemakers out there. I can’t thank you guys enough.

RTF: In your career you’ve been involved in big-budget films as well as small independent projects. Can you speak about the pros and cons for each of these forms of filmmaking?

RIFKIN: I love movies. Movies of all kinds. Big movies, small movies, scary movies, sad movies, crazy movies, all kinds of movies. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been afforded the freedom to be able to make small independent films that I’m very passionate about that are personal to me, and I’ve also been very lucky in that I’ve been able to be a part of some big studio movies. Every film is A challenge. Just because a film has a lot of money to spend doesn’t mean that makes it easy, or that means it’s going to be a better film. If that were the case the best films would always be the most expensive films. Each film is its own unique experience, has its own set of challenges. But the thing I love about the process of filmmaking is the problem-solving aspect. Everything always feels like it’s all going all wrong all the time on every film, but it’s how you roll with the punches, how you adapt creatively to the ever-changing schedule, and ever-changing obstacles that come your way that makes the experience challenging and fulfilling. That’s what makes it fun.

RTF: Why did you choose to film the documentary in lo-fi resolution and a 4×3 aspect ratio? How does this type of filmmaking uniquely affect the viewing experience? How do you think audiences will react to this style when the mainstream norm are polished and widescreen productions?

RIFKIN: I shot the documentary on a HVX 200, which believe it or not, was a pretty nifty camera way back in 2005 when I shot GIUSEPPE MAKES A MOVIE. But much more important than the technical side of how this movie unfolded, I wanted the documentary to reflect the style of film that Giuseppe is known for making. Giuseppe is a master of low-fi filmmaking. He doesn’t care at all about technical perfection. Quite the opposite, he almost seems to have contempt for technically proficient filmmaking. Giuseppi’s all about original ideas, crazy characters and unique scenarios. He’s often said that it’s his dialogue that gives his films their production value, and he’s right.

RTF: Did you learn anything about filmmaking by interacting with Giuseppe? Is there anything that budding filmmakers could take away from Giuseppe’s process, such as the way he worked with his actors?

RIFKIN: I am constantly inspired by Giuseppe Andrews. His ability to make films with absolutely no compromise whatsoever is an inspiration. Giuseppe answers to no one, he makes movies the way he wants, about what he wants, starring who he wants, with absolutely no concern for anything other than remaining true to his creative inner voice. I think everybody who wants to make movies should take a lesson from Giuseppe, he proves that you don’t need to ask for permission to make movies anymore. If you want to make a movie just get out there and start shooting. You you don’t have to make crazy bizarro movies like he does, you can make movies in any genre, any style you want. The lesson here is that you should not wait for the perfect scenario, the perfect amount of money, the perfect cast, the perfect team, if you want to make a movie…just shoot!