They approached me as two people who wanted to finish a film. What I didn't realize was how that fed into all the reasons why they've had a difficult time finishing it over the years.
How did you first meet Robert and Ruby, these two eccentric filmmakers who were trying to finish their 40-year-old movie?
You know how New York just kind of happens? I do a bunch of work for Harper's magazine, and their receptionist was at a party with Ruby about five years ago. They transferred a tiny bit of Robert's film to video, and they were looking for someone to sync up the video with the audio. A guy recommended me, so Ruby came in to my office and had crazy red hair and was wearing a bunch of punker clothes ... She sat down and we took a look at what she had, and I just kind of fell in love with it. She was really interesting, and she told me about Robert. They were both just incredible characters, so I pitched them - I said, 'Why don't you let me make a movie about you trying to finish your film? I can probably get a lot of the expenses taken care of.' It just made sense to me, and it made sense to them - so that was the beginning.
Was there a lot of negotiating, or were they really open to the idea?
They were incredibly open to it, and there was a lot of negotiating. It took about a year and a half to gain their trust. It's very New York - when you start to smell something good, everybody kind of retreats into their camps of 'I'm not going to get screwed.' Robert and Ruby were together during the making of the film like 40 years ago, and I think there was a lot of old business between them. It was almost like they picked up right where they left off. The fireworks began, and they got very ... protective.
These two were bright young stars that never really reached their potential - why was everyone so sure they'd be great?
Shooting this film, I got kind of a crash course in the '70s in New York. I'd heard of it all, but I never really understood what was happening with the Warhol stuff. And there were a bunch of brilliant filmmakers coming out of NYU. New York had a different mindset back then - media was still young. If you were a star in your own mind, then you were a star. And you were destined for stardom. It was a lifestyle they lived. People just wanted to change the world in their own little way. Glamour and the sexual revolution were new - anybody who could draw attention to themselves was going to be famous. Being a star now is very different. The bar is set very high. Back then, people thought the ride was going to go on forever.
But it didn't - at least not for Robert and Ruby ...