giuseppe andrews, the eccentric trailer park auteur
Giuseppe Andrews went from child actor in Independence Day to a trailer park filmmaker, but he’s got no desire to do interviews so we spoke to Adam Rifkin, director of documentary Giuseppe Makes a Movie, about this outsider auteur.
Giuseppe Andrews makes extremely low-budget indie films. Not low-budget indie films like Rushmore, which was made for $20 million,or Little Miss Sunshine, made for $8 million. No, I mean real low-budget indie films - and deeply strange ones at that.
For seven years, Andrews has been making movies in the trailer park where he lives. He shoots each film for roughly $1000 over the course of two or three days, with a hand-written script that he barely glances at, and a cast assembled from local homeless people whom he offers $50 to star in his movie. But it's never exploitative. It's never, "Hey, look at these weirdos!" He's their friend and he'll clean up their shit if he has to. Literally.
Rewind to 1996. A young Giuseppe Andrews had begun his career as an actor, with a small role in the alien invasion blockbuster Independence Day. He followed that with parts in Pleasantville, American History X and Detroit Rock City, but he always remained an outsider and used the cash he earned as an actor for his own projects.
Now 36 years old, Andrews is as beautifully eccentric as his cobbled-together casts. On set he dons an aerodynamic spandex suit because he wants to feel like a spider when he's filming. He eats the same food every day: tofu, a can of sardines, brown rice and salad. Oh, and did I mention he's also a prolific musician and artist? In other words, he's a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, and as such, he refuses to do interviews. So to learn more about the trailer park auteur, I called up Adam Rifkin, the director of Giuseppe Makes a Movie, an intriguing new documentary about the little-known outsider.
So who is Giuseppe Andrews?
He's a former child actor, who has transitioned into a maverick filmmaker. All of them are the most bizarre films you've ever seen, they all star the homeless people and the winos that live around the trailer park where he lives. My documentary chronicles the making of one of his films.
How exactly did he go from starring in Independence Day and Detroit Rock City to living and working in a trailer park?
He actually grew up in a van with his father, who used to be a very successful session musician in Florida but circumstances led to them living in a van together. Then they drove out to California and they graduated from living in a van to living in a trailer park. So when Giuseppe uses homeless people in his films he's not exploiting them, because he understands them, he's one of them.
In your documentary Giuseppe says, "I don't find money exciting or creative. It excites me not to have it". What do you think he finds attractive about the underclass lifestyle?
I don't think it's that he finds the underclass lifestyle attractive; I think he lives what he knows and what he's always known. And I know that the only thing that excites him is the process of creating his art, whether it's music, films or art, and he does it all. And whether one person sees it or 1000 people see it is irrelevant to him, it's the process he loves. The movie that I chronicle him making he made for $1000, but he's made entire feature films for $100. I've seen him do it. So it's just a different mindset.
What filmmakers would you compare him to?
I think Giuseppe is in a class of his own. I know that people have compared him to Harmony Korine; I know people have compared him to a young Werner Herzog. I think he's his own genre, and very few filmmakers could actually be defined as having their own genre; Fellini or Russ Meyer maybe? Giuseppe falls into that category.
He's also a prolific musician and artist. Why do you think he's not more widely known?
For one, his stuff is very weird. I don't think that the average person would necessarily appreciate all of his work. You have to have a taste for the Giuseppe-style work. He doesn't play the game of promoting himself and marketing himself and doing interviews, he could be a lot more "successful" if he did all those things. He just has absolutely no desire to do them, he just wants to operate in his own world and create what he wants to create, the way he wants to create it, and he doesn't care if people find it or not.
Giuseppe eats the same thing everyday and he always wears the same thing when he's working. Was he an eccentric in your eyes?
He's always been eccentric - eccentric in a very lovely and touching way. Yes, things like eating the same thing every day and wearing his shoot-suit as he calls it - those are all amusing quirks, but what I find touching is, he has assembled this family of outcasts with these films, which he treats with dignity and respect and treats them like equals and creative collaborators. In his world these people who you would otherwise avoid if you saw them walking down the street - most people would - he treats them like movie stars, and in his world they are movie stars.
How does he discover the old homeless guys?
He'll literally just approach people in the street or in a bar or on the beach or in the bushes, and then say to them he's a filmmaker and makes films locally and if they'd be interested in acting in his films he'd be happy to pay them to do it. And more often than not they say yes, initially for some money and some free booze, but once they see Giuseppe is earnest in his pursuit of his art, they get into it and start to really be a part of it.
He pays them roughly $50 to do things we generally don't see old people doing. Were you ever uncomfortable with what you witnessed?
Well, I mean that's part of what I found to be endearing about Giuseppe, you know, he loves these people like they're his family, so when you're dealing with geriatric derelicts, if one of them shits their pants, he's got to be the one to clear it up. And he does it because he cares about these people. So I didn't feel uncomfortable when I saw that, I felt moved.
One of Giuseppe's actors, Vietnam Ron, describes him as "sick and warped". Would you agree with that characterisation?
Yes, but he says those words with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye. Out of context you could take those words and put a darkness to them. There's nothing dark about Giuseppe, he's all about love and all about creating and all about art. So when he says "sick and warped" he's laughing when he says it and yes, he's sick and warped in the most wonderful way.
Since you finished filming, he's left the trailer park; what's he up to now?
I actually shot the film in 2005 so he didn't leave the trailer park for another probably eight years, but it took that long for me and my producer Mike Plant to assemble the film and actually make the film that you see. I shot it all with the intention of editing it right away but I got busy with things that actually help me pay my rent. Little by little we put it together and then finally about eight years in we finally brought in an editor, David Nordstrom, who really whipped it into shape and did a great job with the cut.
Giuseppe Makes a Movie is released on Blu-ray on July 14th.
Text Oliver Lunn