Virginia Anzengruber's short film 'Sick' was the Open Projector Night 17 People's Choice Winner. We sat down with Anzengruber to learn more about her film-focused work, and her future projects.
Who is Virginia Anzengruber? Give us a short bio.
I am a filmmaker, podcaster, writer, and producer from Titusville, Florida. In 2012, I moved from Los Angeles to Grand Rapids to work as a producer for Gorilla Pictures. In December 2013 my husband (then boyfriend), filmmaker Stephen Pell, and I moved back to Los Angeles to pursue opportunities we had there. I’ve worked on crews for television shows for Fox, MTV, VH1, BBC America, TruTV, OWN, and TVOne. I’ve worked as a Dailies and DI Production Coordinator on feature films like Captain America: Civil War; The Hateful Eight; Suicide Squad; and A Beautiful Planet. I’ve done background acting on shows like Mad Men; Masters of Sex; Speechless; The Middle; and Parks and Recreation. Oh, and I was also Bo Burnham’s assistant for the better part of a year in 2012.
My podcast, Super Hungry: Conversations with Not-So Starving Artists has featured interviews with R&B legend Brian McKnight; Parks and Recreation star Jim O’Heir; Tom Wilson of Back to the Future trilogy fame; and multi-platinum recording artist Aaron Carter. Last December my husband and I moved back to the Grand Rapids area to open up Snowball Studios, our full service marketing company that focuses on film and video, animation, virtual and augmented reality and motion capture.
What is/are your favorite film(s) and why?
I, like all filmmakers, have a few favorite films.
Hook is one of the most perfect stories ever committed to screen, and I would defend this (and have) anywhere, to anyone. From the sets and costumes, to the brilliance of the cast (including the effervescent Maggie Smith), to the fact the Phil Collins, Carrie Fisher, and Glenn Close all make incredible cameos -- this film has got it all. I promise you, it’s worth an adult rewatch.
I’m a bit obsessed with certain technical feats of filmmaking. The film Russian Ark is a stunning pre-Birdman attempt at a one shot film -- only it’s not smoke and mirrors and editing tricks -- they actually shot a full 90 minute feature film in one take. Top it off with the costumes, sets, and acting for a superbly fantastic film.
In the vein of movies I can watch over and over again, I have to mention The Village by M. Night Shyamalan. However you feel about the twist, I think we can all agree that it’s a particularly beautiful story that utilizes the very best talents of the director and its Broadway-bred cast. Also, the score by James Newton Howard with Hilary Hahn on violin moved me so much that I walked down the aisle at my wedding to the song “What Are You Asking Me?” Film nerd to the core.
Favorite films of 2016: Moonlight and The Lobster. Favorite film of 2017 so far: Get Out
Who and what inspires Virginia Anzengruber?
I am continually inspired by people who work hard. I think there is something so pure about people who have a dream and work ridiculously hard to realize it. My friends inspire me because they are all like this. Listen to the music of Matt Rose. Check out Satta Technologies for the most brilliant meld of music and tech I’ve come across in my short 28 years. Read articles and pieces by Kayley Vandenberg. Watch films by people like Stephen Pell, Caleb Slain, and basically anyone that is making stuff in Grand Rapids right now. I’m so inspired by the creative undercurrent of this city. Moving back has unleashed a tidal wave of ideas and I can’t wait to collaborate with the brilliant minds in this area.
Tell us about your music video 'Sick'. What's the overall narrative?
The song “Sick” tells the story of Matt’s relationship with his older brothers, both of whom have Sickle Cell Anemia. The lyrics touch on sibling dynamics, hospital stays, and was written from the point of view of someone who had an adult perspective on a time in his life when he felt helpless as a child. The video shows Matt interacting with a younger version of himself (thus the matching outfits) in various iconic Los Angeles backdrops. As Matt wrote the song as an adult about a time in his younger life when he was temporarily without that older sibling influence due to illness, I wanted to visually personify an older Matt taking a younger version of himself under the wing of future perspective to show him that everything will eventually be alright.
What's your next project?
My next project as director is a narrative horror short that I’d love to shoot sometime this year. I’m co-directing a few new music videos coming out this Spring for Grand Rapids musicians KOHNS and Rusty Vining. And I’m thrilled to announce that we are taking the Super Hungry brand on the road and will be filming a food and travel show this year called Super Hungry: Conversations from the Kitchen. I’ve always wanted to be an Anthony Bourdain, but have realized that I’m more closely a Phil Rosenthal and I can’t wait to host a show that feels like your quirky aunt is introducing you to incredible places, dishes, and experiences that neither of us has had yet. Season one will focus completely on Michigan restaurants, so I’m currently in the funding phase for that.
Can you talk about your creative process? Overall, explain to me from the point an idea is born to the finish product. What falls in between?
Ooh boy, this question is a doozy. Because I tend to fall into a spectrum of mediums, I find each process a bit different. The directing and editing process was something that felt like an intense study of human nature more than anything else. It’s very meditative, because you have to think about the story again and again and again -- until the pieces start to feel like they are organically falling into place. When I’m creating a podcast episode, the process includes a lot more nerves. I research a lot before each interview, spend time editing the conversations to their most potent state, and normally record the monologue separately after in final interview edit is complete. Doing live podcast shows is a complete other beast, much like I anticipate hosting my own web series will be. Hosting is almost an amplified version of yourself, and if it all goes right, you’re able to not only connect with your guest, but to also act as the conduit for the audience as they are listening. I hope my experiences translate to something real and tangible for my listeners. And that takes a lot of listening skill in and of itself, believe it or not.
Tell me about your first film related experience, what hit you and made you want to pursue the world of film?
My very first memories of film are watching Star Wars and the Indiana Jones trilogies with my grandma Norma Jean. She had them taped on VHS from tv, so we’d have to fast forward through the commercials when they’d come up. I remember seeing Princess Leia and Marion Ravenwood and thinking “I’ve got to be like them.” At the time that mostly just equated to me being a smart ass in school, but I knew I wanted to be strong like them. I knew I didn’t want to have to wait on a man to give me permission to try something. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore at Florida State University that I really chose filmmaking as the outlet. I applied to the film school and… did not get in. I was crushed. I was convinced that my only path to filmmaking would be the same path that greats like Barry Jenkins would eventually take, and when I got my rejection letter, I spent a whole day crying about it. The next day, I picked myself up; dusted myself off; took my acceptance letter to the College of Communications, and decided that a major in Media Communication Studies was the first step to my journey to filmmaking. I haven’t looked back since.
Can you provide advice to aspiring filmmakers?
Do not let “film school” stop you. A secret that a lot of people won’t tell you is that when you get wherever you are going to work in the professional film industry (Austin, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Vancouver), you’re going to likely start at the bottom. You’ll be someone’s assistant. Learn as much as you can. Work as hard as you can. Work on free shoots because they have interesting scripts. Try things. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t come out like you imagined they would. There’s always the next project to try to get right.
Want more of Virginia Anzengruber? You can find more of her work at http://www.virginiaanzengruber.com/