5Q's w/A. Lauren Lee "Artemis and The Astronaut" Director



#1: Can you describe your movie and why somebody should see it in less than 280 characters?

I was thinking about love, memory and Kafka's "Metamorphosis". A few years ago, we lost our friend, John, to Alzheimer's. Soon after he was diagnosed, John and I became strangers. After he passed away, I wanted to rewind, like a film, the last two years of our lives to a time when John would be telling us another juicy gossip about one of our neighbors.

#2: What do you want the Borrego Springs Film Festival audience to know about your film that isn’t obvious from its title?

I wanted to make a film about Alzheimer's, but not a clinical film about the cruelty of this disease, but a poetic film about the struggles experienced by a wife who loved and cared for her stricken husband, and her longing to see him one more time the way he was before Alzheimer's erased everything that she loved about him.

In Artemis & the Astronaut, I experimented with time because time and the lifetime of experiences that make us all so unique, is what Alzheimer's victims and their families lose. So within each scene, I move time backwards from the end of Henri's life-- when he didn't recognize Artemis and was unable to speak to her, to a time when Artemis and Henri were happy together.

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#3: What is your movie making background? Tell us about yourself.

I was trained as a classical violinist until severe tendonitis put an end to that career. I'd always loved photography and movies. After a couple of years raising a son, I applied to and was accepted to the Film Division at Columbia University. My thesis screenplay, "The Legend of Pig-Eye" won the best screenplay award the year I graduated... when the dinosaurs roamed the earth as my younger son likes to say. The ingrate!

I took some time to raise said ingrate son, then about 6 years ago, I decided to go back to filmmaking. My first film back, "the good boy" has played in over 70 film festivals and has won a bunch of Best Film, Best Foreign Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography awards. "Artemis & the Astronaut" is my second film. This was the hardest film I've tried to make. I wanted to make a film about Alzheimer's but not make it about Alzheimer's. "Artemis & the Astronaut" is just this side of being an experimental film. There are days that I think the film is pretty good. Then there are the days that I just think, "What were you thinking!!!" Sigh!

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#4: What was the biggest lesson learned in getting your film made?

Never shoot a film where there is a helmet with a reflective visor if you don't have tons of money for CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). Not only does your DP (cinematographer) have to hide the camera, the lights, the dolly and the crew... your actress, Lynn Cohen, bless her soul, can watch herself act because the reflective visor is like a mirror! Actors hate watching themselves act! Sigh!

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#5: What does the future hold for your film and you?

"the good boy" (Hell) and "Artemis & the Astronaut" (Heaven) are part of a trilogy. The third film, "Purgatory: A Love Story", is a screenplay that I would love to shoot. The film is about a man who disrespects the wrong witch in Central Park and gets turned into a toad... who cannot lie. He needs to find his true love and loyal heart in 24 hours to reverse the spell, or forever want to remain a toad.

I've never submitted screenplays to festivals, only films, but I thought I'd give it a try. It's been accepted to several festivals and won first place and second place so far.

The obvious difficulty in making this film is, is this film an animation? Is it live action? If it's live action, will the toad be animated? How big will the toad be? If the toad is man sized, it will be a horror film. Which could be interesting, but I wanted to make a love story. Will the toad be wearing a costume? Decisions, decisions, decisions. Sigh!

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Matthew NothelferComment