One of the more fascinating films that premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival was Live! Written and directed by Bill Guttentag and starring Eva Mendes, Live! is a fictional narrative that follows the behind-the-scenes of a reality show's struggles to make it on the air. What's different about this show versus anything that's currently airing on TV is that its premise is incredibly daring. Basically, six people compete for a chance to win $5 million. There's one gun, one bullet and each person holds the gun to their head and pulls the trigger. Survive, and you win the money. Not only is the show itself risky, but the film's main character (as played by Eva Mendes) is a ballsy network executive who's convinced our nation is ready for something like this. On the other hand, she also wants to be the one responsible for making television history. Essentially, we hate her for supporting this type of show -- but at the same time, we wind up rooting for her to succeed.
For Guttentag, this is his first feature narrative as a director. In the past, he's directed episodes of the hit HBO documentary series America Undercover, as well as Law & Order: Crime and Punishment and one of the more recent controversial docs, Nanking. Basically, if anyone should be directing a film like this, it's him. I recently sat down with Bill to talk to him about the film, how it came about and whether he thinks a show in which real people play a game of Russian Roulette on live television could ever exist. Check it out:
Cinematical: Realistically, in your opinion, do you see a show like this ever existing?
Bill Guttentag: The film is, of course, a satire. But like any satire, you don't want to go completely out there with something that will never happen; you want to go a little bit farther than what would be out there.
Cinematical: This is your first narrative feature as a director. Talk about how the project came together; what about this idea sparked your interest?
BG: I'd been a showrunner for a show called Law & Order: Crime and Punishment, and I've been to a lot of network meetings where a lot of crazy stuff happens. I thought to myself that this would be some pretty good stuff to build a film around -- coupled with the fact that it would allow me to address a comment that I really want to make; one that the events from the last few weeks have tragically pointed out. And that is that we're a nation obsessed with guns. This is a gun culture, and I think the country pays an enormous price for that kind of culture. So this was something I thought was important; something I wanted to comment on.