Filmmakers in Focus - Big Significant Things, Surviving Cliffside, Take Care

Written by Jim Kolmar | Friday, Feb 14, 2014

Filmmakers Liz Tuccillo, Bryan Reisberg and Jon Matthews

The three filmmakers in today's Filmmakers in Focus are making their feature film debut at SXSW 2014 While the films are very different, they share the tenacity that underpins so many of the filmmakers waiting to unleash their work this March.

Meet the filmmakers behind Big Significant Things, Surviving Cliffside and Take Care below. If you want to check out the full breadth of films at SXSW, we recommend picking up a badge. Head to this page to find out how!

Bryan Reisberg on Big Significant Things

Big Significant Things, courtesy the filmmakers

Tell us a little about your film.

Big Significant Things is my debut feature film it stars Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones, Iron Lady). We largely shot on location in Mississippi but also filmed scenes in North Carolina and Virginia.

Why did you start making films?

I started making movies at 15 because I wanted to make people laugh. Since then, I think the only thing that's changed is where I find humor.

Have you been to SXSW before? What are you most looking forward to?

I've never been to SXSW before, let alone Texas. My first extended stay in the south was when we shot our film last May over the course of 2 months in Mississippi -- and it was an incredible experience. So I'm just excited to head back south for the premiere and get a lot of our team back together under one roof. I'm also a big fan of food and beer, so I've been told I have that to look forward to.

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

A few of my favorite filmmakers include Alexander Payne, Hal Ashby and Billy Wilder.

Surviving Cliffside, courtesy the filmmakers

Jon Matthews Surviving Cliffside

Tell us a little about your film.

Surviving Cliffside is my first feature film and my thesis film at NYU's grad film program. It takes place in my hometown of Alum Creek, West Virginia. It's about my cousin's family who lives in Cliffside, a trailer park known for its drugs and crime. In the film, my cousin's daughter is a beauty pageant queen. She's been doing pageants since she's been old enough to walk. But when she was three, she got leukemia. She lost her hair and was in and out of children's hospitals. But, last year, she turned seven, she was in remission, and making a run for Little Miss West Virginia. My film follows her run for the title, while the family tries to keep it together long enough for her to compete.

Why did you start making films?

I was a lawyer, before I went to film school. I practiced civil rights law for seven years. My last job was legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut. Although my civil rights work was very important, it wasn't my true passion. Deep inside, I knew I always wanted to be an artist. And, then I turned 31, and decided I wasn't getting any younger. So I decided to apply to NYU's graduate film program. I knew I had to make a short for the application. But I didn't know anything about making movies. So I bought a camera at Target and shot my short. When I was finished, I had my friend look at the film and she said it was "bad." I had already returned the camera and gotten my money back. So I had to go back to Target and repurchase the camera and shoot the film again. I guess the second film was a little better because I ended up getting into NYU with a full tuition scholarship.

Have you been to SXSW before? What are you most looking forward to?

This is my first time at SXSW. I was in Austin, last fall, for the Austin Film Festival. And I absolutely loved the city. I can't wait to go back. I'm most looking forward to seeing Fort Tilden, by my friends, Charles Rogers and Sarah-Violet Bliss. They were in my class at film school and we had a friendly competition to see who could make the first feature. I think I officially won and they owe me ten beers and a quart of moonshine.

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

I grew up in a hollow (pronounced haw-ler) in West Virginia, called Booger Hole. "Boogers" are an old term for "bad people." And it was called Booger Hole because of all the moonshiners that lived down there. When I was growing up, I couldn't wait to get out of there. I had a map of New York City on my wall and everything. But now I've come to love West Virginia. I even have the outline of the state tattooed on my arm. West Virginians are the most authentic people in the world. And even though I live in LA, West Virginia will always be my home.

Liz Tuccillo Take Care

Take Care, courtesy the filmmakers

Tell us a little about your film.

Take Care is about a woman who comes home from the hospital after getting hit by a car, only to realize she doesn't really have anyone to take care of her. Hilarity ensues.

Why did you start making films?

I started as a playwright, where I got to be very involved in the creative process of seeing my plays come to life, being in rehearsals, collaborating with the director. It is really some of my happiest times. When I got lucky enough to actually start making money as a writer, that experience was lost to me. There were other wonderful moments, but the experience of seeing your individual work come to life comes few and far between. I really needed to go out and make something, prove to myself that I still had an individual voice, that I could successfully make something that was directly from me to an audience.

Have you been to SXSW before? What are you most looking forward to?

I have never been to SXSW before and I plan on attending every single thing I possibly can and not get much sleep. Also, I need to eat ribs, right?

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

I was the co-author of the relationship book "He's Just Not That Into You."

I am from Brooklyn and live in the West Village.

I wrote on Sex and the City for the last two seasons.

I graduated college with a degree in Experimental Theater.

I drink a lot of weak tea.

Photo credits:
Liz Tuccillo, courtesy John J. Carhart
Bryan Reisberg, courtesy the filmmaker
Jon Matthews courtesy the filmmaker
All film still courtesy filmmakers