Meet Crime Wave director John Paizs

Crime Wave comes to the Borders on Friday 10 November, courtesy of Glasgow-based cult film programmers, Matchbox Cineclub. It’s a hilarious, unique, absurdist work from the multi-talented mind of John Paizs. We asked John some questions to help us get to know his filmmaking approach and tastes, and he obliged with some quit-witted answers, and links to his favourite tunes.

First, a little on John Paizs’ career:

John Paizs was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Originally his ambition was to be an animator and while still in high school he created a four-minute Disney-style animation which in 1978 received a special citation from The British Film Institute.

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Manitoba in 1980, Paizs decided to switch to live-action filmmaking. Equipped with a secondhand Bolex camera he embarked on a series of ultra low-budget comedies which would earn him in the mid ‘80s the reputation as Canada’s leading independent filmmaker. He wrote, produced, directed and starred (as the Silent Man, a nod to Buster Keaton) in these six outstandingly imaginative films. Taken together they remain today one of the most impressive and influential bodies of independent film work produced in Canada.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Breaking for a coffee and a muffin.

2. What lies at the heart of your own desire to work with film?
The desire to tell stories, I’d say. As a young kid I liked to draw, and I liked to think up stories. Before long I’d combined the two into making my own comic strips. That eventually transitioned into making my own animated cartoons. Then I switched over completely to live-action filmmaking. But always at the core of it was the story. Without that I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have stuck with any of it.

3. What are the first things you do in developing a film idea in response to a subject?
For me it was always important to just jump right into writing the screenplay. Usually I didn’t start with more than a title, and maybe a main character and a setting. But I had to get going on it right away or I’d probably lose it. And since my stories were pretty much always coming from my own life experiences, I’d usually have all I’d need to start right in.

4. What’s your favourite film and why?
I’ll say 2001: A Space Odyssey because to this day seeing it that first time remains for me the most affecting experience I’ve ever had in a movie theatre. I was fourteen, I saw it during its I think first re-release, in a theatre that could actually project “Cinerama,” which was onto a very large curved screen. I was practically the only person in the theatre — I put that down to it being a week night on this particular night in Winnipeg, in the dead of winter — and emerging from the theatre some two and a half hours later, it was with mind blown. The film moved me like no conventional film narrative ever could, earthbound or not. I actually felt transformed — a feeling that clung heavily to me for days afterwards. I was even inspired three years later to remake the film in super 8, retitled: Beyond the Universe.

5. Choose 1, 2 or 3 of your all-time favourite music tracks!
Of my million or so to choose from!, I’ll say, on this day: “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” by Billie Holliday with Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra

“Sweet Jane” by The Velvet Underground

and, a newish one that gave me a very agreeable earworm recently, “Using You” by Mars Argo and Titanic Sinclair (there are three versions of this one that I know of: an EP version, which is good, an “official” music video version, which isn’t as good in my opinion, and this homemade acoustic version, which is also good.

6. From your favourite poem – could you give us a few lines that mean something to you?
Sorry, I haven’t got anything like that. I’m just a regular Joe. Though if pressed hard on the matter, I suppose I could offer up, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

I remember that poem from University, and the feeling that it was cool shit. And for some reason that particular line stuck with me — in fact I can still hear it in my head today, as if mocking me (low-rent artist that I am!).

7. If you were to die and come back as a person, animal or a thing, what would it be?
Hopefully something with a girlfriend.

8. What is your final word?
Rosebud. No, redrum! Or, plastics? Sorry, can’t decide!

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