DECD: Quick Chat with John Viener

Quick Chat with John Viener

Director, “Lighten Up” Sundance Film Festival

By Ellen Woolf


Actor, writer, and Connecticut native John Viener can now add director to the lengthy list of his accomplishments.  Best known for his quirky sense of humor as staff writer on the FOX animated television series “Family Guy” and for his recurring roles on “Family Guy” and “The Late, Late Show with Craig Furguson,” Viener makes his directorial debut at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival with the short film, “Lighten Up.” “Lighten Up” is a hilarious, and surprisingly thought-provoking film in which one friends reveals to another that he had shoved a light bulb where normally the sun don’t shine. There’s no telling what’s in view for actor, writer, director, John Viener, all that’s for certain is that his future sure looks bright.


EW:      Where did you grow up? 


JW:      New York City and Litchfield County.


EW:      When did you decide that you wanted to make films? 


JW:      I had thought of being a director as much as being an actor.  However, I think I'm actually better at writing and directing than I am at acting.  Directing to me is essentially a technical exercise of capturing the writing.  I enjoy working with actors and getting a moment just right.  I hope I get to continue, as it is quite a rush when it works.


EW:      How do you make your living now?


JV:       I am a writer on the animated show Family Guy.


EW       Describe the plot of “Lighten Up” and what inspired you to make the film?  


JV:       There are essentially two stories happening at once.  It started out as a film with a jokey premise about a guy who has an object lodged in his person and it grew into a piece about two friends trying to find their own happiness.


EW:      Is your cinematographer the Bret Stern that lives in Fairfield, Connecticut and is an accomplished director, himself?


JV:       Yes.


EW:      Why did you decide to submit “Lighten Up” to Sundance? 


JV:       Sundance is a great showcase and I thought this film would fit with their style of programming.


EW:      “Lighten Up” was entered into the Shorts Program.  Was that a  competition category? 


JV:       No.


EW:      What did it  mean for you to be at Sundance?


JV:         It meant taking a week off from work.  It ultimately is a personal benchmark and accomplishment that encourages me to continue making films. 


EW:      So how was it? 


JV:       It was freezing and a bit too commercial.  It often seems that the people with the least access to everything are the filmmakers themselves.  If you are a PR agent or any kind of celebrity, you can go to every party and get lots of free stuff.  If you are an intelligent, creative filmmaker who beat out thousands of films to be able to show yours, then you can get a clap on the back and a bouncer at a bar tells you that you aren't on the A-list.


EW:      What did you hope to accomplish? 


JV:       I wanted to meet people who are looking to finance a funny, character-based feature.


EW:      Did you get picked up by anyone? 


JV:       I met a cute girl from Virginia, but she played hard to get.


EW:      What is the next step for “Lighten Up?”  And you? 


JV:       I'm going to make a feature in NYC this summer.  As for the film, I hope it goes to more festivals and ultimately gets distribution on IFC or the Sundance Channel.


EW:      Did growing up in Connecticut  have any bearing on your film - the experience or the process? 


JV:       I love Connecticut because it can be so beautiful and rural and still be a few train stops from New York.  I had worked with Bret Stern before, and as he was shooting this pro bono, we shot it near his house in Fairfield.


EW:      Did you move permanently to California? And why? 


JV:       L.A. is purgatory and you hope to get rich and famous enough to leave.  Otherwise, you eventually, move twenty minutes away from L.A., and tell everyone who comes into your diner how you almost made it.



Content Last Modified on 3/20/2006 9:52:19 AM