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The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Jonathan Caouette, Director Of Walk Away Renee

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Jonathan Caouette, Director Of Walk Away Renee

Outfest 2012 is happening in Los Angeles from July 12 through July 22. To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Los Angeles LGBT film festival, we will be sharing interviews with filmmakers and persons involved with movies being screened. See all of our Outfest Interviews here.

Outfest ended yesterday but we have one final interview to share on a very special documentary that screened twice during the festival. The film is Jonathan Caouette‘s Walk Away Renee, where Caouette shares the personal journey he and his mentally ill mother Renee took as they moved her from one end of the country to the other. The movie incorporates music and psychedelic sequences, weaving in and out of the past and present. Like many films at Outfest, Walk Away Renee is very much picking up tons of momentum. Most notably? The film is now available to rent on demand through SundanceNOW’s Doc Club. In our interview with Caouette, we speak about the film’s LA premiere, going through Cannes, and how difficult and relatable his film is.

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Jonathan Caouette, Director Of Walk Away Renee

Outfest is one of the most well known LGBT film festivals in the world and has had films shared that have gone on to have profound affects on the world. Can you tell us a little bit yourself and your film? Is this the first time you’ve had a film shown at Outfest?

I have been making films since I was about 8 years old. The first “films” I made were childhood illustrations. It was pre-VCRs and I had a very insane imagination. For a while as a child, while other kids were playing G.I. Joe’s I was “making films.” I used to go to the cinema with my grandfather with a tape recorder and record the audio of the films and then go and get tons of typing paper and draw out the film scene by scene so that it coincided with the audio of the film. I would entertain myself for hours upon hours doing this. Another thing I did was walk around my neighborhood and write these rock musicals or horror films in my head and sort of play out each character and sometimes it would look like I was talking to myself. It must have appeared as though I had been on the autism spectrum to folks who saw me in the neighborhood, because no one I knew did anything like that. It is strange to think about now as an adult, but back then, it was a nice diversion and a form of total escapism. Later I graduated to Super 8, VHS and Hi 8 and that’s around the time that I inadvertently began making my film Tarnation. Tarnation appeared at the Mix Film Festival in 2003 and was executive produced by Gus Van Sant, John Cameron Mitchell and produced by Stephen Winter and edited by myself and the great Brian Kates. My life changed exponentially in 2004 and the film went on to festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, Roger Ebert’s great Ebertfest, and Toronto. I will forever be grateful to the people who helped shepherd that film along. I have made another doc since then on the post-post-post punk festival All Tomorrow’s Parties and another experimental dream-like short film with the beautiful Chloë Sevigny (who I adore), called All Flowers In Time. My new film Walk Away Renee is here at the amazing Outfest for it’s LA premiere. It first screened as a “work in progress” at Cannes in 2011 and also was at the BAM cinemaFest film festival in June.

There is a lot going on at Outfest this year–and it is the 30th year of the festival! What are you hoping it brings to the wide variety of different films being shared in the festival?

I hope that it can make folks think about having more empathy for people with mental illnesses. This is by no means a popcorn movie. It’s a difficult film that is still infused with hope I think, as was my first film Tarnation (which was the pre-curser to this film). It’s about one person taking care of another person and I would assume that most people can relate to that.

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Jonathan Caouette, Director Of Walk Away Renee

People will be coming from all over the world to share and see films at Outfest. What are you hoping people take away from your film?

To love the one you’re with…to always keep in mind that life is short and precious.

Similarly, is there anything specifically Angelenos can take away from your film?

Well I am not sure specifically, but I do want to shout out to LA that I love your city and wish that I sometimes could be bi-coastal.

Your work speaks to multiple audiences; however, are there certain themes, images, or concepts that may hit Angelenos deeper than other viewers?

This may be a silly response…but on a lighter note about my film (which is not a light film), I think the MUSIC that is in the film is actually something that people in LA could be into. There is an almost post-modern hippie/freak folk soundtrack happening in my film andmusic like that is historically a part of the DNA of California in general. I think if anything, people with hopefully dig the music (laughs).

Looking into the future, what’s next for you and the film after Outfest?

Well, I am doing ONE MORE DOC! I can’t say what it is about just yet, but it’s going to be big and special and filled with music, poetry, and stories that are going to hopefully floor people.

Where else will your film be going?

It’s on VOD on SundanceNOW.

What are you hopes for the film?
It would be cool to find other people who can relate to the story, to be able to talk with them and compare and contrast stories. After this next doc I am making, I will be making my first fictional feature film.

Walk Away Renee is certainly fantastic and, although Outfest is over, you should take some time to check it out. It’s incredibly powerful and a film that will certainly inspire lots of conversation. If you missed the screenings at Outfest, you can rent the film via Sundance.

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