A scene from RID OF ME, a film by James Westby. Picture courtesy Phase 4 Films. All rights reserved.
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Rid of Me (2011)
Opened: 11/18/2011 Limited
|Cinema Village...||11/18/2011 - 12/01/2011||14 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Dark Comedy
From writer/director James Westby (Film Geek, The Auteur) comes RID OF ME, a black comedy that follows Meris, an awkward young woman trying too hard to perfect her marriage, amongst a new group of friends. With a breakthrough lead performance by Katie O'Grady, and an ensemble that includes Art Alexakis (of Everclear) and Theresa Russell (Black Widow, Bad Timing), RID OF ME follows Meris' rejection from the cool crowd down a path towards truth and salvation which includes a job at a local candy shop, a group of punk friends, community gardening and a newfound love for Cambodian rock music.
Cast and Crew Biographies
James Westby (Writer/Director/Editor/Producer)
Westby is an independent filmmaker from Portland, OR. He writes, directs, and edits provocative feature films with economical budgets, no compromises, and big laughs. He made his feature directing debut with FILM GEEK in 2006. His second feature THE AUTEUR, a romantic comedy about the world's greatest porn director, premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. RID OF ME, a black comedy about an awkward woman named Meris, is Westby's sixth full length feature film. He is currently working on an anti-bully documentary as well as his next feature, a screwball comedy set in 1947 Manhattan entitled HOT IN THE ZIPPER. His favorite movie of all time is Robert Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE.
Katie O'Grady (Producer/also stars as "Meris Canfield")
O'Grady works in both Portland and Los Angeles. Her production company, Alcove Productions, LLC, teamed up alongside filmmaker/director James Westby (THE AUTEUR, FILM GEEK) and produced RID OF ME (a black comedy), the upcoming HOT IN THE ZIPPER (a 1940's screwball comedy), Oracle's video WAKE, Storm Large's music video 8 MILES WIDE, and BULLY'D: a documentary/narrative about teen bullying. She also has two new projects in development with Westby. Over the last few years, O'Grady has made films with Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Justin Long, Diane Lane, and Tommy Lee Jones. She also recently guest starred on several episodes of LEVERAGE (TNT) as Amy Nevins. O'Grady can be seen on numerous National commercials; including M&M, Nintendo Wii, Clorox, and Nike. This this past year, she got the opportunity to shoot with Fred Armisen (SNL), in the pilot PORTLANDIA: PUT A BIRD ON IT episode. The show was produced by SNL creator Lorne Michaels and currently featured on IFC TV.
Jason Wells (Composer/Sound Designer)
RID OF ME marks the third collaboration of James Westby and composer Jason Wells, following their successes with THE AUTEUR and FILM GEEK. Wells is a versatile composer and sound designer with 20 years of major film, TV, and animation credits. But deep down he is fundamentally a bona fide film-junkie, which made working with Westby a perfect match. A soundtrack connoisseur, jazz/classical enthusiast, actor, trumpet player (Trashcan Joe, March Fourth Marching Band), multi-instrumentalist, and seasoned engineer, Jason Wells brings a lifetime of passion and experience to the haunting soundscape of RID OF ME.
John Keyser (Mitch Canfield)
Keyser, a native or Portland Oregon, seeded his acting roots in college. Though he voraciously watched films most of his life, it wasn't until a friend brought over Julian Schnabel's BASQUIAT that he become so inspired and passionate about the pursuit of this craft. John started his professional training in 1998. This included many years of experimental and mainstream theater, and then ultimately a move to Los Angeles, where he booked commercially and landed several independent films, as well as the NBC series NEXT ACTION STAR. His travels eventually brought him back to Portland, where he has since been writing, painting, and collaborating in local artistic endeavors. He was asked by Katie O'Grady to sit in a table read of RID OF ME and was immediately cast as Mitch Canfield.
Theresa Russell (Mrs. Lockwood)
Russell began her film career after being discovered by famous director, Elia Kazan. He saw the teenaged Russell in Lee Strasberg's acting class and promptly cast her as Robert Mitchums's daughter in THE LAST TYCOON. After that, Russell starred in over 30 feature films including opposite Bill Murray in the remake of THE RAZOR'S EDGE; opposite Debra Winger as the stylish serial killer Catherine in the hit film BLACK WIDOW; opposite Harvey Keitel in BAD TIMING: A SENSUAL OBSESSION; in WILD THINGS oposite Neve Cambell and Matt Dillon; in Henry Bean's THE BELIEVER opposite Ryan Gosling; and recently in films such as SPIDER MAN 3. In addition to acting, Russell can be seen singing at clubs around Los Angeles.
Storm Large (Briann Lockwood)
Storm Large has been singing and slinging inappropriate banter at audiences around the globe for more than 18 years. While an actor, rocker, and occasional fetish model, Storm is best known for her huge voice. She's been on HBO's Realsex twice, done a few tiny indie films and in 2006 she was tapped to be on CBS' Rockstar Supernova. In 2009 she wrote her one-woman musical memoir, "Crazy Enough", which was produced at Portland Center and won numerous awards. She then went to LA to perform in the world premiere musical by Randy Newman, "Harps And Angels." She is currently writing her first book, scheduled to be published in June, 2012 by Simon and Schuster. Storm Large lives wherever she is at the moment.
Orianna Herrman (Trudy)
Herrman recently guest starred on the hit TNT series LEVERAGE. Soon after, she was asked back for Electric Entertainment's new pilot BRAIN TRUST. Other recent films include FOLLOW THE PROHET and Aaron Katz's COLD WEATHER. In tandem with her acting career, Herrman has been pursuing the role as lead singer in her electro-pop trio, Oracle.
Ritah Parrish (Dawn)
Parrish has appeared in many indie films including Westby's FILM GEEK and THE AUTEUR. Parrish truly enjoyed playing the character Dawn. She had always known there was a slightly racist tight-ass buried deep inside her and thanks to James Westby, now the whole world knows it.
Art Alexakis (Virgil)
As the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter of the rock group Everclear, Alexakis penned some of the most popular alt-radio hits of the late '90s ("Santa Monica," "Everything to Everyone," "Father of Mine," etc.). While pursuing a music career, Alexakis has also dabbled in acting. In 2000, he made brief appearances in the Heather Graham comedy Committed. Two years later, he made cameo appearances in two episodes of The Chris Isaak Show. He also had a lead role in the 2006 short film ROOM TO BREATHE. When Alexakis was approached by Westby to play the role of Virgil, they immediately bonded over a shared dark sense of humor.
John Breen (Bry-Guy)
Breen's film and TV acting credits include WENDY AND LUCY, RID OF ME and THE AUTEUR (the latter two with Westby). Breen has also made several appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. As a screenwriter and director his short films have screened at festivals in New York and Portland. His experience as a stage director has mounted numerous performances in New York, Los Angeles and Portland including sold out sensations, Road House: The Play! and Sweat.
Morgan Hobart (Jeremy Bunquist)
Hobart is a location sound man professionally, but has played a few cameos in several of the films he's worked on, including THE AUTEUR and Matt McCormick's SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS. He was also featured as an extra in Steven Spielberg's AMISTAD.
Filmmaker Q&A: James Westby
What was the genesis of this project?
This film started when I culled together a lot of painful memories from past relationships. Also how much I hated most of my ex's friends when I first met them. And how obsessive I would sometimes get about my ex's previous relationships.
Those things, combined with my own social awkwardness, helped shape a very personal story full of horribly embarrassing situations. But funny!
How is this film similar to any of your past films (Film Geek, The Auteur) and how is it different?
RID OF ME is the first film I have made that was not intended to get a big laugh every couple of minutes. It is a comedy (albeit very dark), but not the kind where you feel that you fucked up if people aren't laughing out loud. Like Film Geek, a good portion of Rid of Me features characters who work in a retail environment (as I myself did for over a decade). The petty politics, the mundane atmosphere, and the people you work with behind the counter-- these are memories I haven't gotten out of my system. The Auteur was intended to feel like a mainstream romantic comedy, but with bursts of semi-x-rated content. I want Rid of Me to feel like a weird narrative home movie. But uplifting and sweet! All of the films have a few themes in common: Oregon, bodily fluids, cannabis.
What do you hope Tribeca audiences take away from this film?
Foremost, I want audiences to embrace the character of Meris. To me, she's like all of us. She has contradictions. She's sweet, she's stupid, she's smart, she's funny, she does horrible and wonderful things and never seems to know exactly how she feels about anything. Secondly, I want audiences to cringe and then squirm. And then laugh and then cry (in that order).
How long was the shoot and where did you shoot the film?
We shot the movie in 20 days, mostly in a neighborhood in Portland called Multnomah Village (where I used to live and where I wrote the script). Most of the locations in the film were written into the script. The neighborhood is very charming, and very preserved-in-the-1950s, and it stood in nicely for a small town.
What is your favorite scene in the film?
My favorite scene is Meris's drunken meltdown at the dinner table about a half hour in. It is the apex of her stature as a serious outsider. It also shows what damage a lot of anxiety and plenty of red wine can do.
What were the biggest challenges in developing or shooting this film?
One of the biggest challenges in making this film was committing to the idea that RID OF ME did not look or feel like a regular movie. A lot of care was taken with the way this film is shaped. In the first half, it is pretty formal and locked-down, as it deals with the horror that emanates from Meris not being able to become part of her husband's group of old High School friends. The second half is much more playful, with music video elements, as Meris starts to find herself.
I edited this movie for a year and a half.
There are some interesting actors in this film. How did everyone come onboard the film in terms of casting, particularly Katie, Art Alexakis (of Everclear) and Theresa Russell?
I cast Katie O'Grady in my previous film, The Auteur, in a small but effective role as a foul-mouthed Hotel front desk clerk. At first she seemed way too pretty to play Meris, but when she dyed her hair brown and started slouching and chewing nervously on her lower lip, she suddenly became ideal for the role. Katie is an amazing actor, and has the most beautiful face. Her face is perfect for the movies. Art Alexakis is someone I met through mutual friends; we had lunch and bonded over movies. He really liked the character of Virgil, and Art turned out to be a very good deadpan actor. For me, an actor cannot usually be deadpan enough. He seems to have deadpan in his veins. The sex scene with Meris and Virgil on the sofa is maybe the second-most-awkward scene in the film. Katie and I pursued Theresa Russell because we are both big fans. We grew up on Black Widow and were both very star-struck when we worked with her. I love Bad Timing, Straight Time. When we were filming the bookstore scene, I needed to stop and reset. Theresa asked "oh, are you switching lenses?" And Morgan (my soundman) and I giggled to each other after I said something like "uh-- no, not just yet." We only had the lens that came with the camera, the Sony EX-1 (which doesn't allow for interchangable lenses anyway, without an adapter), and this is the woman who made SO many films with Nicholas Roeg!
She didn't say anything about the fact that there were no lights. Maybe she felt sorry for us. Theresa Russell is just cool.
Who are your favorite filmmakers?
Terrence Malick, Wong Kar-Wai, Robert Altman. French New Wave. Kubrick. Woody Allen. Old Hollywood.
What do you like in Independent filmmaking today?
Primer (2004) by Shane Carruth, was a mind-blowing film. Whatever happened to him?
Old Joy, Tarnation. Alex Karpovsky, the Duplass and Safdie Brothers' films, Bryan Poyser, Caveh Zahedi, Harmony Korine. Also Margaret Brown's documentary on Townes Van Zandt, Be Here to Love Me.
You are returning to Tribeca as a filmmaker. How many times in the past have you been to Tribeca as a filmmaker and how will it be different for you this time?
I was at Tribeca once before, in 2008, when The Auteur had its world premiere. It was awesome.
Tribeca will be different this time out in that I am older now and have a much more personal project in tow.
What is your next project?
The feature we are shooting next (in five 20-minute takes) is called HOT IN THE ZIPPER. It is a screwball comedy following the (bi)sexual adventures of three women in 1947 Manhattan. "Hot in the Zipper" is hepcat slang for "really horny." Katie O'Grady is the lead in that one, too, playing a bitchy cosmetics counter girl with ten boyfriends and a lesbian roommate. I really look forward to working with her again. The twenty-minute takes are very complicated, and the sets extravagant, but there will be no editing. Well, five cuts. After Rid of Me, I am so excited to make a film with only five edits in it.