SxSW 2020 Interview – SHITHOUSE director Cooper Raiff

“It’s about the first few years away from home, figuring out your second home. Alex is a homesick college freshman 1500 miles away from his first home and he’s struggling to find a reason not to go back. Maggie, Alex’s sophomore RA, has been crushing college since day one but actually had a rough day today. The two end up spending the night together. They’re really different people but they both really want to spend this night together. It’s really about the gravity of spending time with somebody. Whether a parent for so much of your life or a pet turtle you’ve had since you were a kid or a random person you’re trying to hook up with one night, relationships and the minutes spent inside those relationships determine so much of who we are and where we’re headed I think.” Director Cooper Raiff on SHITHOUSE which screens at SxSW 2020 Film! 

Welcome to SxSW! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Yes I’m definitely going to attend the first screening of SHITHOUSE. Not sure about the rest. I’m very excited for that first screening though!

How did this wonderfully titled project come together?

Two years ago I made a movie with my two best friends for zero dollars via borrowed equipment from a college, then I put it on youtube and tweeted a link to Jay Duplass saying “Bet you won’t click on this link then email me after!” Then he emailed me and started mentoring me. He helped me remake the movie I had made with my two best friends. This time, actors weren’t holding a boom while acting.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

At first it was wanting to make the thing I care about so deeply. And really wanting to do it right. Then that wore off sometimes and it was just about not letting people around me down. Everyone was working so hard for so little so I had to keep going and it had to be good. Yikes but true at times!

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The biggest challenge was acting in and directing something I wrote. The best moments were all the many moments someone brought in something new and great. I got very sick of myself, and I’m sure everybody else did too, so somebody coming in with something entirely new always provided a boost, especially when it felt in the ballpark. Some of the most rewarding moments were also the moments something felt the way I felt it while writing.

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

Rachel Klein is the director of photography. She’s the most talented DP on the planet. We shot on an Arri Amira camera with Panavision ultra speed lenses. Rachel was completely in charge of the way this movie was photographed. In terms of telling the story, she knew every single question to ask me. I answered all of her questions and she just ran with the wind.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

I’m very excited for people who love spending time with movies to spend time with Shithouse.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

Not sure! Depends how SxSW goes I guess!

If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

Arclight Hollywood is the worst answer to this question ever but it’s my honest answer. Just absurdly nice, the audiences are somehow always amazing, and the energy is just really great.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Know exactly what it is you want and why you want it.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

I’ve actually never been to a film festival before. My favorite movie that premiered at SXSW is SHORT TERM 12. Favorite movie of all time is hard but I have said BRIEF ENCOUNTER in the past and I like that answer.

This is one of the many films playing at SxSW 2020! For more information on this film, screening times and info on the entire SxSW experience, point your browser to!

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