The beauty about the Austin Film Festival is that you have access to all types of filmmakers, from the big-named stars to the first-time attendees. This festival generates a vibe of comfort and connectivity that allows one to approach and converse with a fellow filmmaker. Last night, Austin Fusion was afforded this opportunity with the team behind the new film “Congratulations,” which will have it’s world premiere at the festival.
“Congratulations” is a collaborative effort in it’s truest form, from the directors to the writers to the actors. Brian Dietzen and Abby Miller (who was not present) had originally written the story together, but then it was brought to life by directors Juan Cardarelli and Eric Levy, who came on board as not only the directing team but also as writers.
“They (Cardarelli and Levy) said they really liked the script, liked Abby and myself, and wanted to work together,” Dietzen says. “Then they asked if we could rewrite the whole script together, the four of us. Immediately you’re like, that’s commitment to total collaboration, and it was so much for the better.”
This process presents a whole new set of possible complications, one in which a writer’s ego, and subsequently their insecurities, must be thrown out the window. Luckily for the four involved, this proved to be a benefit instead of a challenge.
“As long as you have trust — and during our writing period we built that trust — by the time you are on set it’s great to have a safety net of people behind you,” Levy elaborates.
Finding these types of relationships in people is something to be cherished because they are covetted in a working environment. It’s not hard to believe that the three filmmakers plan to work together again — they even share ideas on other projects.
“When you find good people or a person you work well with, and with every problem that comes up you compromise and find a way out of and you don’t get into an arguement, those relationships are very special and you shouldn’t let them go,” Cardarelli says.
While it is unknown what the future may hold for the four of them, their main focus at the moment is what they were able to achieve with “Congratulations.” The plot of the movie is emotional in nature, one that they spent time developing and prodding for the ultimate truth, one which Cardarelli says simply is “what happens when you view marriage as a wrong step in a relationship and the anxiety and fear that causes.“
This emotional center isn’t what you are used to seeing, with the male lead being the one who wants to marry. This role reversal is what interested Levy in the script in the beginning and a theme he wanted to explore. This mirrored the home-lives of Dietzen and Miller, with Dietzen being a married family man, and it was this “nugget of truth”, as Dietzen put it, that set up the path for the tension of the film.
In the end, it’s simply not about what gender wants to get married and which doesn’t, it comes down to what the role of marriage plays in people’s lives.
“For me, the big take away is what is love and what is marriage,” Dietzen says. “What is it that defines that (marriage) for these people? The title, definition and stamp of marriage, the mere question of that can tear two people apart. I think that this movie comes down to that these two people love each other more than anything. It’s because of that that they tear each other apart over a stupid title of are we hitched or not. I think you can tear yourself to pieces all day long, but really the question is are you in love or not?”
The heart of this story is not only the profound conversation that will be awakened about marriage, but also the cast that was assembled to bring this tale to life. Many of the actors will be familiar, having had success on other shows throughout the years, but the characters they play in “Congratulations” is quite different from what they may be known for. This is a welcomed artistic exercise for all those involved.
In an age when marriage is not only the hot topic politically, but socially as well, with the average age of marriage moving further into one’s thirties instead of twenties. It’s a necessary conversation that should be unlocked, one that shouldn’t cause fear and dread. Hopefully, with a crafted story like “Congratulations,” we can do just that.
The world premiere of “Congratulations” will be held at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Austin Convention Center Screen 2 with Cardarelli, Levy and Dietzen in attendance. A follow-up screening will be held at 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Texas Spirit Theater (located in the Bob Bullock History Museum).