'Getting to Know' a filmmaker turned UA professor

By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Getting to Know You" is a film with some unique qualities. It is an independent film with actors who were relatively unknown when the film was made, but have since been catapulted into fame. It received critical acclaim but could not find a distributor, so it ended up being shown in art houses and festivals all over the country. Actually, that describes almost every independent film ever made.

The difference between every other film and "Getting to Know You," however, is that this film was co-written and directed by Lisanne Skyler, a newly hired assistant professor in the UA department of media arts.

"(The film) came with the idea that (my sister and I) would adapt the stories of Joyce Carol Oates. I had read three different short stories of hers. And so what I wanted to do was to find a way to link all of her stories together," said Skyler. "It ended up definitely being an adaptation, but also our own sort of overall story. We were just trying to imagine the life of that character."

After writing the screenplay for "Getting to Know You," Skyler started casting in Los Angeles and New York, hoping to get a solid ensemble cast. They did casting for a year and a half, just to make sure they got the right people, Skyler said.

Patience with casting paid off and Skyler ended up with a great ensemble cast including Zach Braff ("Garden State"), Chris Noth (Mr. Big from "Sex in the City"), Bebe Neuwirth ("Cheers") and Celia Weston ("Igby Goes Down").

Unfortunately, as with many independent films, even though it had a great cast and reviews, "Getting to Know You" was not picked up by distributors.

"In terms of distribution it was really tricky because it was a good film, but it's always a question of 'how are we going to market it?' It ended up having some foreign distribution in place, but we were left with a question mark about how we would get the film out more widely, beyond festivals," Skyler said.

"We weren't very happy with what we were being offered, so we ended up showing it to exhibitors starting with the Film Forum in New York, which supports a lot of independent films," Skyler said.

After "Getting to Know You" was shown in art houses around the country, Skyler decided to turn her sights on the desert, because there was a job opening in the department of media arts.

"The description of the job posting was 'looking for an independent filmmaker.' So, I submitted an application. I'd done teaching here and there, but nothing like in this setting," Skyler said.

"I think this school has tremendous resources in terms of equipment, but also because the students get a chance to work with actual filmmakers. They are constantly learning how it really is as opposed to how it is theoretically. And they have a lot of role models for their field," Skyler said.

On Wednesday, Skyler's film will be shown at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., with a meet-and-greet reception afterward. So, after watching "Getting to Know You," everyone will get to know Skyler. The event starts at 7 p.m. and is free.