Shock and Guffaw: A Q&A with Filmmaker/Provocateur Dan Mirvish

Dan Mirvish wasn’t on our radar until now, but we’re glad someone hipped us to him.

A mentee of Robert Altman, Mirvish co-founded the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, recently directed the film “Between Us”, helped create the fictitious persona of publicist Martin Eisenstadt, and regularly blogs for the Huffington Post.

Mirvish’s resume extends beyond that, but you get the gist. He’s a funny, insightful guy with creative chops. And if you read on . . . he’ll tell you the two secrets to making a great film, especially if Finnish director Yrjö Kankari is at the helm.

Without further ado . . .

The NewsWhistle Q&A with Dan Mirvish
Date of Interview: Aug 29, 2013
Age: 45
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin (but consider Omaha my hometown)
Current Town:  Culver City, CA
Occupation:  Filmmaker, author, provocateur

1. What’s the funniest or saddest thing that’s happened to you this week?

This counts as both: While reaching for my printer on Monday, I stretched a muscle on my ribcage. Still hurts.

2. What’s your favorite movie? And why? Repo Man.  Terrific mix of humor, punk, sci-fi and music. It’s the movie that made me think if I could make movies like this, maybe I should make movies.  Naturally, I haven’t come close.

3. What’s the biggest risk you took in life?

Quitting my job as a US Senate speechwriter to apply to film school.  What was I thinking?

4. If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would that be?

I wouldn’t have stepped on the top rung of a ladder while remodeling the house.  You know the rung at the top that says “don’t step here”?  Well, it’s hard to read when your foot is covering it.  Three surgeries later, six months in a wheelchair, and another year on crutches and a cane, and I think I should have probably just gotten a taller ladder.

5. Tell us your favorite joke:

Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this!  So don’t do this.  (the classics never go out of style)

6. What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

I went to college on a full-ride math scholarship.

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard?

Harold Ramis once told me the secret to making movies comes down to two rules.  Rule 1:  Hire Bill Murray.  Rule 2:  Turn on camera.

8. Who’s your favorite celebrity? And why?

Joan Rivers.  Because if she dresses badly, who’s there to criticize her?  We should all have her wit and stamina at 80.

9. What’s your strangest phobia or superstition?

Fear of people finding out about my real phobias.

10. Last, but not least, is there anything you want to pitch, promote or discuss?

My newest movie, “Between Us,” stars Julia Stiles, Taye Diggs, Melissa George and David Harbour.  It just came out this summer after playing at 22 festivals in 7 countries (and winning a few awards along the way). The film’s gotten rave reviews, especially for all four actors, who I think all give career-best performances.  I’ve also gotten high praise about the way I adapted the original play with Joe Hortua, the playwright.  I’m very proud of the film. It’s still in select theaters, but most people can watch it on VOD, DVD, iTunes, Amazon or Netflix DVD.

Meanwhile, I also just re-released my very first film, “Omaha (the movie)” in a 20th Anniversary edition.  It’s been out of circulation for over a decade, so it’s nice that it’s finally available for a new generation to watch exclusively on Amazon Instant streaming.  This was the film that launched the Slamdance Film Festival, and I still get a kick out of watching it.  And if you’re a fan of “Looper” and “Breaking Bad” director Rian Johnson, you’ll note his first job in the business was as a production assistant on “Omaha (the movie).”

Oh, and a bonus curve question . . .

Who are five new directors we should be on the look-out for?

1. Jan-Ole Gerster (look for his film “Oh Boy” to be Germany’s Oscar entry this year)

2. Javier Andrade (best working director in Ecuador)

3. Andrew Edison (his film “Bindlestiffs” won the Audience Prize at Slamdance in 2012; hasn’t worked since)

4. Matthew Johnson (“The Dirties” won Slamdance’s Jury Prize in 2013; but do Canadians count?)

5. Yrjö Kankari (brilliant Finnish music video director – reminds me of a taller version of Icelandic director/DJ Atli Viðar Þorsteinsson)

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The first four directors appear to be real people. After a quick search, Yrjö Kankari’s name only shows up in a satirical novel about Martin Eisenstadt, which Mirvish co-wrote.)