Wednesday, February 21, 2007

FREE INTERVIEWS over at The Believer

I am a person whose life has become completely governed by what I can get for free. What movies can I get for free? What books can I get for free? Which friends will take me out for lunch or invite me over for dinner? Which publicists have the best swag? Which doctors' offices have the best candy on their counters and magazines in their waiting room racks that I can shovel into my pockets to nibble on later and smuggle home to read at my leisure for free? And being such a fan of magazines (they're so shiny, pretty pictures, perfect for my attention span), I frequently scour the Internet to find out which magazines offer online content for free, because you know how some of them are, they offer a paragraph or two, they get you hooked, and then they rap your knuckles with required registrations and necessary subscriptions. Or they offer it for one day and one day only between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. and just about the time that some friend has told you that there's this great article on Joni Mitchell's new ballet in Saskatchewan, bam, it disappears just like the Holy Grail and you feel like Galahad wanting to take it out on Guinevere. This is beyond marketing; this is human cruelty that veers into Geneva Convention territory or at least some hopefully-enthused pro bono legal advice. Because of these insidious tactics, I won't even bother with an article on line unless it is free from the first word to the last. Call me a purist if you will.

Why am I telling you this? Because I hate The Believer. Do you know this magazine? They publish only interviews. I like to read interviews. Not only do I like to read interviews but I especially like to read my own interviews, published on shiny pages with pretty attention-grabbing photos (or, in the case of The Believer, pastel caricatures by the gifted Charles Burnes). And I very much wanted to read one of my interviews in The Believer because their interviews are very well-written and I thought it would be kind of fun to be included. So I contacted them and they said absolutely we are not interested in any of your unsolicited interviews. Go away. Scram. Well, I thought. So for weeks now I have been having these reoccurring fantasies where someday, somewhere, somehow The Believer magazine is begging me for one of my interviews and I really rake them over the coals before agreeing to let them publish it. I dangle it in front of them until they're about ready to strangle themselves with the telephone cord or—for those way into the 21st century—gagging themselves to death with a cellular while it's in vibrate mode. The pleasure of this petulant fantasy evaporates when I realize that—to get back at me for raking them over the coals—the editors over there at The Believer will insure that my interview (with whoever) gets published in their magazine but is not offered for free on their website.


The very thought of that makes my face go red and my knuckles white. Grrrrr. So to get back at them waaaaaay ahead of the fact (ha! Neener neener), I have scoured The Believer's online fare and have pulled out each and every film-related interview that is completely intact and free. Because sometimes an embittered cheapskate's gotta do what he's gotta do just to keep his sense of humor. Enjoy!

In their August 2006 issue The Believer invited Scott Indrisek to interview Steven Soderbergh. Indrisek, you might know, is the New York editor for Anthem (who I'm probably going to hate next), and he also writes regularly for BlackBook, the New York Observer, and Clear. Apparently Mr. Indrisek has a self-inflicted mullet and has lingering memories of when the interior of his apartment was turquoise. You can't blame him for that. When all is said and done, turquoise is a memorable color. In this clever interview Soderbergh discusses who he would cast as gay cowboys, addiction to reality t.v., porn as a third political party, the difference between a movie that has failed and a movie that is bad, Bubble, Schizopolis, Full Frontal, how garden-variety frustrations seep into dreams, how everything is the director's fault and how hard it is for a director to create a film that's good and clear.

In their May 2005 issue, The Believer invited Meghan Daum to interview Steve Martin. Martin opines on situational depression, the usual criticism of his work from Germany, the preparatory nature of relationships and how the failure of one guides you into another, the unique nature of mental aberrations, his essays for The New Yorker, and how you can be too famous when it's better to be "just right" famous.

At this point I have to say that you don't get all these synopses for free. Huh-uh. You're going to have to read these interviews yourselves but, trust me, each interviewee has something to say. I mean, they always do. Which leads me to a café conversation I was having with my SF360 editor Susan Gerhard the other day where she basically stated that interviews really aren't that hard to conduct, especially when folks are on the press junket and want to talk about their movie. Most come primed with pat answers and all you have to do is jog their memory a bit with brief questions. That might be partly true, but if it were wholly true I would be bored in no time flat. I feel I have failed as an interviewer when I hear my subjects saying things I know they've said a million times over.

Anyways, the rest of the Believer film-related interviews that I found notable are with Todd Solondz, Errol Morris, The Simpsons' producer and writer George Meyer, and Amy Sedaris.

Eschewing interviews for a moment, there is a great essay on film critic Manny Farber by Franklin Bruno that warrants an entry all in itself but for now here's the source material.

Finally, Salman Rushdie drafts up an onstage conversation he had with Terry Gilliam at the 2002 Telluride Film Festival. More bang for your buck. What am I talking about? This is all free!!

Don't say I never gave you anything.

Illustrations courtesy of Charles Burnes.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, they're crazy to pass up a chance to publish your interviews! Who do they think they are? They should be so lucky as to get your interviews. I hope they eventually come begging. Meanwhile, thanks for the free stuff. I'm with you!

Anonymous said...

thanks for all the interviews. i was looking for your email. i have one question for you, can you write me thanks!

Michael Guillen said...

Thank you, Kendall. I enjoyed catching up on your quest and was glad I browsed your site because you referenced Joan Halifax, who is an old friend of mine. I wasn't aware she had her own blog so it made me very happy to think we might connect again on that level.

Hanna: Email sent.

David Lowery said...

A hilarious entry!

One of my favorite interviews from The Believer, by the way, is this (free) one with David Gordon Green.

Michael Guillen said...

Glad I made you chuckle, David, and how in the world did I overlook that great interview with David Gordon Greene? I must have been blinded with bitterness. Thanks for the quick catch!

andyhorbal said...

And here's Eric Spitznagel's March 2006 interview with Harold Ramis, also free!

Michael Guillen said...

Heh. We got The Believer on the run now, dudes!! Thanks, Andy!