Ira Sachs on Little Men: It Doesn’t Work Economically

Ira Sachs is an American filmmaker. His newest film, Little Men, premiered at Sundance in 2016. In a recent discussion he said the film doesn’t work economically. His first film was the acclaimed short Lady (1993). Sachs was born in Memphis, Tennessee. His films include The Delta (1997), Forty Shades of Blue (2005), Married Life (2007), Keep the Lights On (2012), and Love Is Strange (2014).

On ‘Little Men’ he said:

“I have begun to think of this film as a symbol for the place of personal cinema in our culture,” Ira Sachs told me one recent morning over coffee in New York’s Marlton Hotel. He was referring to his new movie, Little Men, which includes redevelopment among its themes. To describe his movie succinctly in interviews, Sachs has been borrowing a quote from Jean Renoir: “The awful thing about life is this: Everyone has their reasons.”

Here is a brief description of Sachs’s intricate plotting, Jake’s pre-gay sensibility, and making a quiet movie like this in an industry that is increasingly blaring with blockbuster bombast.

Ira Sachs told, ‘‘I think the actors and the people who paid for the film and myself, we understand that in a way, there’s nothing that’s bigger than these very small moments—the drama that’s going on in these people’s lives. And more personal in some ways, in terms of each of our attempts to hold onto our homes and take care of our families or ourselves. These are the questions of every single day.’’

Ira Sachs was asked if he choose to shoot in Williamsburg for that reason, he answered:

In my mind, [the neighborhood portrayed] is a fictional neighborhood. It’s not a precise neighborhood. In my fictional world it’s more Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. That corner of Williamsburg is a longtime Italian community.

This story is so carefully constructed. Everyone’s situations are propped up on each other’s—the kids’ connection is at the mercy of their parents’ feud, for example.

“It feels like a suspense film of emotion. And that’s satisfying.”

When you think about making a movie like this, what is the best-case scenario in terms of reach? That it’s a sleeper hit? That it does $40 million, like a Woody Allen-sized hit?

He replied: No, no. I’m not naive to think those numbers. That it finds a distributor, that it finds an audience, and that it’s well-received. And that individuals enjoy and appreciate it. That’s partially what you have to do as a filmmaker. The fact that you like it means something to me. You have to hold onto those interpersonal experiences. There was a decision in the course of making this film not to go to one of the larger outlets, meaning the television outlets. That, in a way, gave the possibility for this film to be released individually in countries throughout the world. There was a question of: Do you go the global route, or do you go the individual theatrical distributor route? We chose to go that [latter] route. This is a larger question, because what Netflix and Amazon are doing are taking away the role of the arthouse distributor internationally. They can’t participate in the global economy.

Did you notice any alteration in terms of funding or response given that this film is less openly gay than many of your others?

Those are always factors. The choices we make in terms of who we tell stories about are profoundly affected by our culture and economy. None of us can resist that dialectic. I would say it matters as much that I chose to make a film about a Chilean woman instead of a white American woman. That has an impact on the reception.

I think what’s happening in that moment is that you’re also aware of how things work. And part of that awareness is growing up.

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