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“ONCE MORE WITH FEELING” director, Jeff Lipsky

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Monday, Jan. 19, 2:30 pm — Prospector Square Theatre, Park City]

I’m known far and wide as a contrarian. Perhaps that’s a justified accusation. For in approaching my new film, the American Spectrum selection Once More With Feeling, I consciously elected to honor a very fine, very touching and very entertaining script by celebrating old-school filmmaking trappings within our very limited budget, though we did shoot in HD, a method I found to be more time-consuming and no less costly than shooting on film (but those are issues for a different article).

Once More With Feeling is both a throwback to lively, feisty and endearing family dramedies of the past, and a refreshing alternative to the bevy of historical biopics, earnest condemnations of recent wars and genocides, and tentpole epics that have dominated movie screens in recent years. I elected to use a 2:35 frame; this film focuses on a large Italian-American family (and a devastatingly sensuous, PG-13 femme fatale) wherein five to seven characters are miked and often speak within the same frame. I wanted to insure that all of them would be seen and heard at once without crowding any single image. My d.p., Ruben O’Malley, did great justice to this strategy.

The script boasted no fewer than 15 musical numbers, some sung to karaoke backing tracks and others to live bands and jazz trios. I was determined to cast great actors bold and brave enough to sing their own songs while remaining true to their characters. I also wanted the film to open, after the lights went down in the auditorium and before the (virtual) curtains opened, with a rich, atmospheric, old-school overture, bathing the audience in the right musical mood before a single frame hit the screen.

Our story takes place in the summer in and around the south shore of Connecticut in some towns abutting Long Island Sound. It also features a 1939 flashback (most of the tale is contemporary) and a night exterior on Manhattan’s SoHo streets. The film, I felt, would be best served by delivering strong primary colors, warm flesh tones and sharp, crisp lines. I quite fondly recalled Robby Müller’s breathlessly invigorating images of New York City in Peter Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed as inspiration for the imagery in Once More With Feeling. I hope we successfully honored his superb skills.

Perhaps the one unconventional path taken in the making of Once More With Feeling was in violating one of the most oft repeated admonitions of W.C. Fields: Our film features both children and animals.

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