Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Interview: Penny Lane

One of Filmmaker Magazine's “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2012, writer-director Penny Lane exudes a winning blend of intellectual curiosity and sheer effervescent humor that shapes her films as well as her personality. In arty DIY shorts and two feature-length documentaries, 2013's Our Nixon and this year's Nuts!, Lane often investigates science or history in weird and wonderful ways, imbuing subjects like space travel, Nixon's presidency, and the use of goat glands to treat impotence with sly humor and unexpected emotion. In Nuts!, she also encourages audiences to explore their own susceptibility to charlatanism by first telling her conman subject's story as it's laid out in his authorized biography, then revealing the lies that story was built on and the price people paid for believing those lies. I spoke to Lane about why it's best to make art for an audience of one, the pros and cons of using animation, and what makes so many of us want to believe the whoppers spun by people like Donald Trump and John Brinkley, the self-styled doctor Lane anatomizes in Nuts!

Let's get the name out of the way. Were your parents hippies?

No. They were just teenagers with the last name Lane. It wasn't that thought out. Lois Lane was another option, so all I can do is be happy that they didn't go with Lois, from the depths of their 15-year-old stoner minds.

Your movies aren't quite documentaries in the traditional sense, but they're not quite video essays either. How do you describe your work?

I love that you're starting with this, because this is what I think about all the time. I went to art school and studied video art and experimental film. Then I started making things that seemed more like documentaries than experimental film, but I'm still a little bit between those two idioms. It's, like, experimental in the mainstream doc world, but in the experimental film world, it's accessible. [laughs] I like to be on the periphery.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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