HFF 2015 Interview: My Grandpa’s Garage Director/Writer/Producer Adrienne Wagner

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My Grandpa’s Garage is a 2015 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection, Indiana Spotlight Competition, Documentary Short about a collector and the cherished items within his a-frame garage.


We spoke with Director/Writer/Producer Adrienne Wagner about her film:

HF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

AW: My film explores my personal relationship with my grandfather through his accumulation of things over his 83 years of life. The film walks through our family history told through his collections and the memories that they hold. The idea came to me while I was sitting and having coffee at my grandparents’ kitchen table. We were remembering all of the time I spent at their house as a child, and talking about my inevitable move away from the state I grew up in. As hard as it sometimes is to grapple with, I know they won’t be around forever, and the production process not only left me with an abundance of footage, interviews, and pieces of my grandparents, but also allowed me to spent a lot of time with them during the filming that lead up to my move across the country.

HF: What was your role in the production?

AW: I wore a lot of hats. I produced, directed, shot, edited, and narrated it all together.

HF: Why did you submit to the Heartland Film Festival? Have you been to the Festival before?

AW: I submitted to Heartland because it felt like a good way to reconnect with the city and state that I had spent so much time with, but was also about to leave. I knew I wasn’t going to be in Indianapolis much longer, but I needed to leave it with something. I found out I was accepted to Heartland right after I moved to Portland , OR. I think sitting in my apartment for the first time thinking about my most recent life chapter and beginning such a very new one out in the Pacific Northwest – I think it just seemed sort of fitting that I leave a piece of me with a city and a festival that I grew up with, going to films in high school with my aunt, driving North to the “good” theatres. I couldn’t have imagined not sending it to Heartland.

HF: This year’s tagline is “Movies That Stay with You” –what last effect will your film have on moviegoers? 

AW: My film is quite reflective of my own life. I set out to make a film that showed my grandfather to the world- but could also stand alone as a visible, watchable artifact that I could take with me and watch again and again through my lifetime. I think the thing I want most for my audiences to feel – if anything at all – is to think about who came to their mind while watching the film. Everyone seems to think of someone else who can somehow fit into the relationships I try to explore in my own narration. There are so many different stages, and explorations of different times, that I was able to document, and though only a fraction of the material might have made it into the short, I think everyone who sees it can relate to some aspect of the nostalgia, collective memory, and ultimate mortality of ourselves and the ones we love.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

AW: I am the oldest of 8 cousins who all grew up next door to one another. I started making movies in my basement with a camera my dad used to film our soccer games. I wanted to record (and remember) everything that I could. I think a lot of me still wants to do that. I am a firm believer that everyone has a story worth telling, and I want to tell as many stories that I can about the people who don’t normally get a spotlight. It’s humanizing and always a therapeutic process for me.

HF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you weren’t told when you started your career?

AW: I am still trying to get the hang of how to know when a project is “finished.” It’s really tough for me to ever consider a film complete, but I am certainly working on it.

HF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

AW: As far as big movies go, I’m a big Wes Anderson fan. His color pallets and symmetry never get old. I go through phases of other things, from early Billy Wilder to the latest Meryl Streep film. I will never miss a Meryl movie. I also try to consume as many online shorts as I can. It’s a big bonus (and sometimes competitive con) to have so much creative content at my finger tips at any given moment.

HF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

AW: My Grandpa’s Garage took first place at the Culver Film Festival in Culver, IN this summer. It was also a national selection for student films for CINE, which is holding an awards ceremony in November in LA. I think festivals are important for artist exposure and filmmaker camaraderie. There are so many people outside of Hollywood that are making incredible statements and art, and I think festivals are one important way for them to get some well-deserved recognition.


 See My Grandpa’s Garage in Shorts Program 3: Lean on Me

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