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A conversation with: Dan Lindsay

Oscar-winning filmmaker discusses his True/False projects past and present

February 28, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST


Dan Lindsay's documentary Undefeated opened and closed the film festival in 2012. He will attend a screening of his short film My Favorite Picture of You at the fest this year.

In May of 2000, during his senior year at MU, Dan Lindsay walked into Ragtag Cinema for the first time — a moment he says changed the trajectory of his life. “It was the place that I really discovered theatrical documentaries,” he says. “I didn’t even know that people made films like that.”

My Favorite Picture of You

WHERE: Feb. 28 at Missouri Theatre; March 1 at Jesse Auditorium
TIME: Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m.; March 1, 7 p.m.
COST: $8, $10 at the door
CALL: 442-8783
ONLINE: truefalse.org

Lindsay’s first documentary experience led to a career in filmmaking. Last year he and his directing partner, TJ Martin, won an Academy Award in the category Best Feature Documentary for Undefeated, a film that follows an underdog high school football team. But a modest Lindsay hasn’t stopped working since his big Oscar win. His short My Favorite Picture of You will screen at the festival this year.

Describe the final screening of Undefeated last year.
Honestly, if you asked me what the highlight of the last year was, that’s probably it. We screened at Jesse, and I went to school at Mizzou, so I was excited to be able to do that. I used to perform at Jesse for the Greek Week skits, so it was such a trip. I just have a fondness for Columbia, not just the school but for the town itself. There was a great pleasure of being able to come from this great highlight of winning the Oscar to Columbia and then to screen it at Jesse; it was really something.

TJ’s school (Western Washington University) had asked him to come up that same weekend, and they had asked him to bring his Oscar, so we brought it on stage, and we could’ve been talking about aliens invading the Earth. I don’t think anyone was paying attention. Everybody’s eyes were transfixed on this thing, and they’re coming up and taking pictures with it. It was really cool. I think it was David (Wilson) who said you can never predict what kind of effect that can have on somebody who wants to be a filmmaker someday to see that in person.

What has your life been like post-Oscars?
It’s been busy. A lot of people want to meet you that you haven’t met before. It has been reading a lot of scripts that we’ve been sent. We did a fair amount of going to some festivals and some special screenings of the film. I think TJ described it once as a victory lap; we’ve traveled a lot, went to places to speak about the film and the experience of making the film. Maybe it’s easier to get calls returned, but I still live in my same crappy apartment in Koreatown.

Talk about My Favorite Picture of You, your short that’s playing at True/False.
It’s heartbreaking, it’s moving, but hopefully it’s somewhat thought-provoking. My filmmaking partner, TJ Martin, filmed a conversation between his grandfather and his grandmother almost a month before she passed away. She was dying of cancer, and her husband is reminiscing about their life, and she’s having a hard time remembering things. It just happened that they filmed a lot of footage of themselves and had a lot of great photographs, so one day we thought it would be interesting to take that conversation and tie in the idea of what memory means to identity. It’s really cool for us because we, again, just kind of made this because we wanted to. Then to know that it’ll be screened in front of a bunch of people, it’ll be interesting to see what that experience will be like, to have it played in that big of a setting because it’s a very intimate piece.

What is it like to direct documentaries vs. scripts?
Well, the way TJ and I work in a documentary sense is we don’t have a crew with us. We shoot. We do sound. We perform every function of the profession, so people can hopefully forget about the fact that they’re being filmed. It creates a way more intimate environment and allows you to capture, for lack of a better term, more authentic filming. We’ve met for a lot of different scripts to possibly direct, and that’s always the first question. ‘You’re documentary guys. How are you going to do this?’ But for us there isn’t that much of a difference. You just look at it kind of in a very general sense. You’re just trying to tell a great story whether you’re making a documentary or whether you’re making a scripted narrative.

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