Filmmakers in Focus - Wild Canaries

Written by Jim Kolmar | April 30, 2014
Alia Shawkat and Sophia Takal in Wild Canaries. Photo by Mark Schwartzbard

Laurence Michael Levine. Photo by Mark SchwartzbardNext up in our Filmmakers in Focus interview series, a conversation with Laurence Michael Levine, writer and director of Wild Canaries. His crafty urban caper screened at SXSW 2014 as part of the Narrative Feature Competition and starred Levine and Sophia Takal, as well as a wonderful, nuanced turn from Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat.

Read what Levine had to say ahead of the festival, and head here to read all the Filmmakers in Focus interviews.

Tell us a little about your film

Wild Canaries is a suspense-comedy about a couple that is forced to work through their relationship problems while unraveling a bizarre conspiracy that points to murder. The film pays homage to the lighthearted entertainment I loved as a child -- the suspense films of Hitchcock, the zanier side of Woody Allen, the adventure films of Steven Spielberg, the saturday morning cartoons, and, most importantly, the Hollywood screwball comedies of the 1930s. My goal was to make a film that couples could enjoy on a romantic night watching movies in bed and eating chinese take-out.

Why did you start making films?

I can't say for sure. I know that as I kid I spent a lot of time living in my imagination. I was always in my room drawing and creating characters or I was corralling the neighborhood kids into putting on wacky shows for the adults. My parents and their friends seemed to love the shows, or at least they pretended to, so my friends and I kept putting them on. When my parents brought home a camcorder, I naturally thought to use it to film our shows, that way, we'd have them forever and even be able to watch them ourselves. I'm embarrassed to admit how long that train of thought has sustained itself.

Was this your first SXSW?

I have been to SXSW (as producer of Sophia Takal's Green). This (was) my first time attending as a director. The advice I'm giving myself is to remember that anxiety is a negative valence emotion with high arousal, excitement is a positive valence emotion with high arousal. I'm going to try to stick with excitement.

Tell us a random fact (or two!) that would help readers get a better idea of who you are.

  1. As you might have guessed from my last answer, I am an avid reader of self-help books.

  2. I probably know more about the NBA than I do about making movies.