Look opens in theaters on December 14, and to say the least, this is an unusual movie. We now live in George Orwells nightmare world of 1984. Big Brother abounds in the form of surveillance cameras, from your ATM, to the Gas Station, cameras are everywhere. I was very impressed with Look, which explores this brave new world of the 21st century. I had the opportunity to talk to Adam Rifkin, he is both an engaging character, and a great filmmaker. We spend our lives under the microscope, Look examines the eyeballs behind the microscope, and the potential consequences. This is dark and stark film making. Adam breaks from the standard mold and has produced what at least one well connected source claims may be Oscar material.
Adam, thank you for spending some time to talk with us. I know our readers would like to know a little about yourself, who is Adam Rifkin?
Well I grew up in Chicago, and even as a young kid I had a passion for movies, I have always loved them, I knew that I wanted to make them. At age 17 I moved to L.A. and just started writing scripts, lots of them! I did everything I could think of to break into the business. Actually I am lucky, I have a two pronged career, I am still writing and that allows me the freedom to also explore the directing and producing avenues.
How long did Look take to bring to fruition?
Oh, it was very quick. It all started about a year and a half ago, one day the mail arrived and there was a traffic ticket for running a red light, there was even a picture included. There was no doubt about it, it was my car, and it was me driving. It got me thinking about surveillance cameras, I became much more aware of them. The timing was right for Look, there has been so much publicity about security cameras. Privacy versus safety, where is the dividing line? The script itself came together very quickly, I had it mapped out in a couple of weeks.
You scored some serious hardware on the film festival circuit, and I imagine that you were pretty happy about that. Look is new moving to the mainstream theater, and that is no mean feat, I think I read somewhere that the mainstream outlets show about 2% of the movies made. How does it feel to be playing in the major league?
Absolutely thrilling! This is the lowest budget film I have made, and it was highly experimental. I was amazed that the topicality of the subject would get so much attention. Look has been talked about in the mainstream media, online, the response has been amazing.
I noticed that Fade In Online has you listed in their Oscar Watch, that must be pretty exciting.
It is unbelievable. You set out to make a little movie, and you have no idea if anyone is ever going to watch it. In fact my theory was that if nothing else I could bring it out every Christmas and watch it on my DVD player.
I have interviewed a number of Indy filmmakers, and virtually every one of them tells horror stories about finding funding. Did you have problems finding backers for this project? It is a radical divergence from the regular movie techniques, and change often times change scares the bankers.
I have had problems with other projects, but not this one. It had good timing, it was topical, and I managed to get the idea in front of the right people. Barry Schuler was instrumental in making it happen. Barry was involved with AOL way back when, in fact for 3 years he was the CEO. He had just created a new film production company, and he liked the concept behind Look. In fact this was their first project.
As I understand it the idea for Look came from you being photographed running a slightly ‘red’ light. What is your personal opinion about the proliferation of surveillance cameras. Are they a necessary evil, or just plain evil?
As I became more involved in the project, I began to realize that this is a complex dilemma. There are both good and bad aspects. They have brought many criminals to justice, kidnappers, child molesters, thieves. They have all received their just deserts as a result of the cameras. Of course there is also the dark voyeuristic aspect as well. Did you know for example that in 37 states it is legal to place cameras in changing rooms and public bathrooms?
The part that really surprised me was when we started researching for the film. We visited a number of shopping malls and talked to the people at the ‘other end’ of the camera. We had expected to find non judgmental professionals whose sole mission in life was to ensure public safety. Often times we found that to not be the case, we found voyeuristic High School kids wearing baggy pants controlling the joystick to zoom in on young ladies boobs, or capturing footage of them bending over. A quick ‘up-skirt’ shot destined for You-Tube.
Obviously you have received a great deal of positive feedback for Look. I am curious though, with Look using such a radical technique have there been detractors?
Yes there are. But in many ways they offer vindication for the project. We recently ran a screening in L.A. there was something like 500 people in attendance, this made it our biggest crowd yet. There were about 20 people that walked out during the performance. I happened to be in the lobby, and none of them knew that I was connected with the movie. I asked them why they were leaving. Mostly it was the voyeurism aspect, â€œit made me feel like a peeping tomâ€, â€œit made me feel dirty peering in on peoples livesâ€. It wasn’t the film they didn’t like, it was the harsh reality of the life and times we live in.
What is next for Adam Rifkin?
Well as it happens I shot two movies back to back Right after we had finished Look, we produced a comedy ‘Homo Erectus’, and yes it is set in the cave man days. National Lampoon have picked this one up and it is scheduled for a March 2008 theatrical release.
I want to thank you again for taking time to sit down with us, and I know I speak for all of readers when I wish you every success with Look, and your future projects.
Simon, it has been a pleasure talking to you, and thanks for the kind words. I hope that your readers will go out and try Look. Incidentally, I am always happy to answer questions, so if there are any, please me know.
Post Script: This is a director to watch for, this guy is going places.