HIFF 2018 Closer Look: “Bathtubs Over Broadway,” “God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut” and “Hesburgh”

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Heartland Film is happy to partner with students from Anderson University during the Festival on several projects. Students recently interviewed filmmakers to give you a closer look at these three films.

Bathtubs Over Broadway Q&A

Bathtubs Over Broadway is a film that follows Steve Young on his quest to find all he can about the hidden world. This interview is with the director, editor, producer, and screenplay, Dava Whisenant to understand more of the creation of this film. This film will be showcased in the upcoming Heartland Film Festival.

Tell me a little bit about your film, what’s it about?

Bathtubs Over Broadway is a feel-good music documentary about a comedy writer, Steve Young, for David Letterman. He stumbles upon a hidden and hilarious world of corporate entertainment and his life is unexpectedly changed forever. Ultimately, it’s about art and why we make it, and about following your passion no matter how odd it may seem to other people.

Where did you get your inspiration from?

I took my inspiration from my main character, Steve Young, who started this journey of collecting corporate musical albums purely as something to make fun of on The Late Show, but who realized there was something deeper there and cared enough to take another look. When I started diving into the history of these corporate musicals and experiencing them for myself, I felt that same pull to show the world what we’d discovered. I was also very inspired by Steve’s willingness to open himself up for my camera and to allow me to tell what becomes a very personal and heart-warming story as he begins to meet the people who actually made and performed in these shows.

Have you participated in the Heartland Film Festival before?

No, and I am so thrilled to finally have made it here! Especially with this movie.

What made you want to be a part of Heartland?

The festival has a stellar reputation and is known for its great lineup and wonderful hospitality. I was also completely bowled over by the passion that Programming Director, Greg Sorvig has for great cinema. He is out on the festival circuit searching for fantastic movies to bring to the festival, and it’s clear that he really cares. Inspired people inspire people, you know?

Is this your first feature film?

I’ve been editing and producing film and television for more than 20 years, but this is my first feature film as a director.

When you released it did you expect it to receive the love and support that it got?

We premiered the film at Tribeca at the end of April and the love that we’ve been receiving from people who’ve seen the film since then is truly awesome. It’s resonating on an emotional level, which is what I’d hoped for, but it’s even more than I expected. I think people connect to it because it’s funny and heartwarming, and they love Steve as a character, but also because it’s a film about the best of humanity and the best of America, and obviously we all need more of that right now.

On your website, I saw that you’ve received awards for Bathtubs over Broadway. Could you tell me a little bit about those awards and why they’re important?

Yes! We have received some incredible awards. At Tribeca, we won the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director, which meant quite a lot to me because Albert Maysles is one of my heroes and the jury comment about the heart of our film blew me away. We won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Nantucket Film Fest, the Sidewalk Film Fest and the Hamptons Film Fest Summer Docs series, and we were listed in the Top 10 of Audience Favorites at Hot Docs in Toronto. We also received Special Jury prizes at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Fest and at the Nashville Film Fest.

Liam Crays is a senior from Indianapolis, Indiana, majoring in public relations. Liam is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.

Harting debuts Vonnegut film in Indiana

“God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut” is a beautiful film directed by J.J Harting about one of the greatest writers of the 20th century: Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut passed in 2007 and was a titan in literature. Harting believes this film about his life paints a clear image of what the man was all about. “Kurt had a very unique viewpoint about life. He was a simple man and incredibly humble” says Harting. Great men with even greater humility seem to be too far and between nowadays which makes the story of one of America’s greatest writers an even more incredible tale.

Filming didn’t take too long, Harting says, but many years have gone into the editing. With the world premiere looming, the team behind the film couldn’t be happier with the results. While everyone can see the film and come away inspired by the man, Harting recommends opening one of his classic books first for two reasons: you may catch subtle details throughout the film if you are a little familiar with Vonnegut’s work; and why not read some of the best books you can get your hands on?

Kurt Vonnegut was a WWII prisoner of war who was returned at the end of the war. He came back to the states to write. He began writing as a journalist and had his breakthrough in the early 60s. His breakthrough came with his novel “Cat’s Cradle.” His career took off after its’ success. Harting recommends starting with “Cat’s Cradle” as well if you haven’t been introduced to any of Vonnegut’s work before.

The family of Vonnegut plays a prominent role in this film and are featured throughout. They help the audience see directly into the heart of Kurt and what he was like personally. Harting and the family are thrilled to be showcasing the film in Indiana with Heartland. They specifically chose the Festival because of how good of a fit they think it is. For those of you also trembling with anticipation at getting a closer look at one of the more brilliant minds of the 20th century, Harting says “Relax. Enjoy. And be ready for a truly touching end to the movie.”

Tyler Bradshaw is a senior from Oklahoma majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. Tyler is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.

Hesburgh’s influence still resonates in 2018

Timely. Powerful. Gripping. These are words director Patrick Creadon used to describe his film, Hesburgh. “The film offers an alternative to the way our leaders go about their business today,” said Creadon.

“Hesburgh” is a documentary film about the life and legacy of Father Theodore Hesburgh. Hesburgh served popes and presidents while serving as the director of numerous boards of banks and various foundations. In 1952, he was handed the keys to the presidency at the University of Notre Dame. He was one of the most influential men in America and an unconventional leader. This powerful film takes a look into the deep life of his life story.

A giant of the 20th century, Hesburgh behaved in ways we now find foreign amongst our most powerful leaders in America. Brilliant at finding common ground in a respectful way, he made it his life mission to build relationships between people who otherwise couldn’t get along. The timeliness of this film was something Creadon is especially proud of: “It’s the timeliest film we have ever made. We have never made a movie that resonates in the moment quite like this one.”

While this film is seemingly about a man who did his greatest work 50 years ago, Creadon wants people to know it is truly a story about America in 2018. With the current political climate and how polarized America has become, Creadon believes Hesburgh could teach us all a few lessons. Hesburgh teaches us that being powerful doesn’t mean you can’t be kind and generous.

Creadon believes documentaries give us this special opportunity to see the world in a completely different light. Seeing someone’s life up close and personal on the big screen has a way of transforming your mind.

Creadon’s goal was to paint a picture illustrating the true life of an incredible man. He had no idea the film would be as timely as it has ended up being. Its powerful message echoes throughout the film in a way you can’t help but be inspired. It grips you emotionally in ways a great documentary can. Creadon’s “Hesburgh” tells a wonderfully entertaining story that gives the viewers the opportunity to see the world around them in a new way. And in this lies the beauty of this profound film.

Tyler Bradshaw is a senior from Oklahoma majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. Tyler is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.

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