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The Ross Brothers Talk The Lucky Moments Of 'Tchoupitoulas,' Capturing New Orleans At Night & Their Upcoming 'Western'

Photo of Katie Walsh By Katie Walsh | The Playlist December 4, 2012 at 1:11PM

The filmmaking duo of the Ross Brothers (Turner and Bill) have had quite a bit of success with their first two films. “45365,” their debut, won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW 2009 and an Independent Spirit Award in 2010, and their second, “Tchoupitoulas,” played to raves at SXSW this year as well as other festivals, and has since been picked up by Oscilloscope Laboratories and will be hitting theaters soon. Our own review from SXSW says “Tchoupitoulas” is “a fascinating development in the filmmakers' experiments with documentary storytelling, and a damn good time exploring the sights, sounds and sensations of New Orleans at night.”

After the extended shoot, the film faced another lengthy process of post-production, with editing and clearing music rights, which proved to be a learning experience for the brothers.
Bill described the editing process as “slow, breaking everything down, finding the right moments, put together something that was close to what we hoped for when we looked at each other and said let’s make a movie in New Orleans.” While shooting, they wanted to be in the moment, but knew that clearing some of the popular music in the film would be trouble in the end. However, they were lucky to be able to find support for the film’s release. “We actually had an extremely fruitful and inspiring fundraising campaign this year and learned a lot, and got a lot of support, and we were able to clear the movie and sign with Oscilloscope, and it will be out there," Bill shared. "And as we make the next one, hopefully we will be more considerate about the amount of music we put in.”

But ultimately, it had to be done because, “If you’re gonna make a movie about New Orleans, you can’t extricate the music, it’s gotta be in there. This is the movie that we wanted to make, and we did everything that we could to make it right, so it showed the depth. Even though we don’t exist in the multiplex world, there are a lot of people that support what we’re doing. It was very awesome, heartening and real.”

The brothers draw inspiration for their creative process from music and writing even more than film influences.
“It’s Bill and I having a conversation, and having an experience and trying to articulate it in the best and most obvious way possible. So far that comes out in a documentary sense. But I think moreso, for me, when I think about it, a lot of music, a lot of writing is more synonymous with what we’re doing than being able cite a film influence," Turner said about how he works with this brother. "I look at really great albums, and really great novels where you have someone who’s a third party to the action, who is witnessing this thing and experiencing this thing and rearticulating that to an audience so that they can experience that thing.”

He continued, “We made 4 a.m. really real and that’s the idea, to capture the night in all of its essence and try to rearticulate that.”

Their new project, the third piece in the Americana trilogy will be titled “Western” and was shot on the border between Texas and Mexico.
Bill said about the title, “We figured we’ve been walking around talking about this project and talking about it as our 'Western' for so long, we’d just call it that.” They are just starting the post-production process on the film, after having shot on the Texas/Mexico border for 13 months. Bill described the film as “in the same vein of our other two, it’s kind of part three of our Americana trilogy, we wanted to make this three-part, lo-fi, same palette, same cameras, vision of three distinct regions in America, and then move on.” As for the story the film, he said, “The approach was the same, but the writing of the film happens in the editing... it’ll be a portrait of that time and place that we had there, 13 months on the border.”

“Tchoupitoulas” opens at the IFC Center in New York on December 7th.

This article is related to: Interviews, Tchoupitoulas, Ross Brothers

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