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Punching the Clown premiered at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival receiving the Audience Award. This film demonstrates persistence sometimes required by the the independent filmmaker as this is the movie Hollywood did not want to get made. The industry did everything in its power to stop the stop the filmmakers: not returning phone calls, pretending not to know who they were, and even filing a few restraining orders. Subsequently, the film's director, Gregori Viens has become a notorious ambassador for independent film. Punching the Clown is currently playing on Slamdance’s Video-On-Demand Outlets.



This uproarious and smart new comedy tells the story of Henry Phillips, a hapless modern day troubadour who grinds his way through the heartland, living out of his car and singing his twisted satirical songs to anyone who will listen. After a booking mishap involving a Christian fundraiser, he decides he's hit rock bottom. Seeking to shake things up, he moves to L.A. where his luck changes overnight. Thanks less to his inept manager than to a wild case of mistaken identity, he falls backwards into a string of packed gigs, a record deal and even the promise of love. But he who lives by the whimsy of show business dies by it, and reality hits him like a fist in the face: an innocent miscommunication over a bagel makes him the victim of a vicious tabloid rumor. Luckily, somewhere between rock bottom and nowhere lies the perfect terrain for his dark and hilarious songs.


Director Gregori Viens at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival



Slamdance: What are the biggest issues you've faced, as a filmmaker?
Gregori Viens: Finding funding and financing (of course?). I imagine it's the biggest problem for any independent filmmaker.

SD: How do you typically distribute your films? What has worked for you?
GV: There's no typical route. Mostly self-distribution. Selling DVDs based on a strong film festival showing has worked well. Every film is different. The internet has allowed us to self-distribute, rather than sell the movie to a distributor.

SD: How does Punching the Clown fit into your repertoire?
GV: Like all my films so far, be they long or short, Punching the Clown deals with a person who doesn't blend into the society he lives in. It's also a film about music, performance and telling stories. These are strong elements in most of my work.

SD: Describe the magic moment when it all came together for Punching the Clown.
GV: The day we decided to finance it ourselves! After years of failing to find anyone willing to give us money, we decided there was no reason we couldn't pay for production ourselves. So we did and suddenly everything made sense. No more questioning our goals and our vision. No more rewrites to please a hypothetical financier. We just started casting, building a crew, and scheduling rehearsals...

SD: Do you consider your "target audience" when creating or writing your films?
GV: No. I try to put together a film that make sense. In other words, a movie whose content fits the form I've chosen, or vice-versa! Sometimes the form is determined by the chosen content. But either way, we have no target audience. Punching the Clown is a good example: The title of the film sounds like it's a product that could be geared towards teens or young adults. But in reality this film's audience seems to be made up of mature adults with life experience and a good sense of humor. People who've lived a little!

SD: Following your 11 year production odyssey with Punching The Clown what's the biggest thing you've learned about filmmaking?
GV: Well, we didn't spend 11 years in production! We spent 11 years not making the film. In other words, it took us a decade to actually get started, but once we did, production really only lasted 3 weeks. It was very swift. Very streamlined. It had to be, since we had very little money. The biggest lesson learned was that if (and only if) you have the technology, the script, the skill, the locations and all the actors you need to make a funny and original film, yet absolutely no one wants to produce it, why not just do it yourself? Not much of a scoop, but it's true.

SD: Tell us about your next project.
GV: Henry Phillips is still writing songs and came out with a new album, LA Dream. He and I are still working together, even though I live abroad. We wrote a series of stories that we think would make a good series. We're pitching that to various American networks. I also have another script I'm working on. Finally, I've been involved on an organizational and teaching level with NYU's Paris campus and a wonderful new French/American film festival they founded: The Edge Atlantic Film Festival in New York and Paris. It's a great project for me, as I'm French-American myself.