I. Themes and Ideas
VI. The Dedication
I. Themes and Ideas
"I Will Avenge You, Iago!"
is a celebration of acting and actors, - says writer/director Zhenya
Kiperman, - it's a tribute to the people blessed or cursed
by the gift to perform, to become somebody else and make us believe
it's real. Some dramas and farces of the film happen in real life,
some turn out to be staged, but when the actors manage to move us,
when we root for them, and laugh when they're funny, and gasp and
cry when they die, the line between reality and fiction disappears,
it all becomes real."
|The sceptical Larry Pine:
"There are all kinds of performances in all
kinds of genres in Iago, - Kiperman continues, - there are family
dramas and farces, a suicidal tragedy, "Otello"
on opera stage and "Hamlet" in a prison theater.
Eve Zimmermann (Kate
Hodge) puts up a show to get away with her crime, Jack
Bandrowsky (Larry Pine)
improvises backstage to save his life. But ultimately art saves
and cures - Marvin's (Keith
Nobbs) turn as Hamlet in prison cures his psychosis and
helps to discover his artistic destiny - after his release he joins
Michael's theater and becomes a star. After recognizing Eve Zimmermann
as Hamlet's mother on the prison stage, Helen (Michi
Barall) doesn't turn her in, but gives her flowers -
in appreciation of a yet another great performance. Thus, art helps
"Iago grew from a 30-minute comedy
that I wrote, produced, directed and starred in while at Columbia
University Film School, - explains Kiperman. - In the short I played
two parts - the psychotic audience member and Rigoletto's daughter
Gilda. The short was much more farcical than the current version.
It won several awards at festivals around the world, was nominated
for a National Student Academy Award. And then it took
me ten years to make it into a feature."
|Zhenya Kiperman as the Psychotic
Viewer in the award-winning 30-minute version of I WILL AVENGE
YOU, IAGO! (1995)
||Larry Pine. Iago's Evil
"I think the film turned out better than
the script, - Kiperman continues, - and this is mostly because of
our actors. I've been very lucky with this cast, all of them. I
love Larry Pine
as Dr. Astrov in Louis Malle's wonderful film VANYA ON 42ND STREET
- that was why I sent him the script. Larry liked it, agreed to
play Bandrowsky, and recommended Michi
Barall for the part of Helen Brooks - they worked on
stage together in the past.
|Michi Barall as Helen Brooks
When Michi showed up for the audition, I saw
the exact quality I was looking for - a combination of physical fragility
and sensuality with the inner strength, and a tragi-comic sensibility
in the tradition of Giulietta Masina."
Another gift to the film was Giancarlo
Esposito, one of the most organic actors in the world.
In 2002 Giancarlo almost came to my Golden Age of Cinema film festival
as a guest speaker - we screened Jim Jarmusch's NIGHT ON EARTH in
which Giancarlo plays the unforgettable Yo Yo.
|The Director and his Leading
Lady. Giancarlo Esposito and Michi Barall.
He couldn't make it then - he was shooting a
movie in LA, but I kept his home phone number, and I knew his wife's
name - the invaluable pieces of information when you're trying to
cast a great actor in a very low budget film. So I called, and I
spoke with his wife Joy, and she remembered me and my festival,
and she said, "send the script", and I did, and they loved
it and he played the Director with his incomparable energy, charm
|Keith Nobbs as Psychotic Audience Member
in I WILL AVENGE YOU, IAGO!
Nobbs was the first actor aboard - since the summer 2002,
- continues Zh. Kiperman. - He was among the guests of my film festival
when we screened Tom DiCillo's DOUBLE WHAMMY in which he gives a
hilarious performance of a Tarantinoesque screenwriter. I approached
Keith right after the screening and told him about a character in
my future film - when all this was nothing but a dream - all I had
was just me and my script. Seems like Keith liked us both, and remained
a solid supporter of the project ever since - he attended all our
fundraising events, e-mailed dozens of casting suggestions. I think
his performance in Iago is one of his best - very funny and very
moving at the same time. Keith is an actor of remarkable intuition
and intelligence, especially impressive at his very young age. I
think he has a great future as an actor."
"When Kate Hodge
came to audition for the part of Eve Zimmermann, - continues Zh.
Kiperman, - she looked classy, and beautiful, and was emanating
sexual power that is so important for the character. But when we
began working, I suddenly saw that she can also be very funny and
eccentric if a scene calls for it. Kate is an actress of amazing
range, keen intelligence and a wonderful sense of humor - a joy
to work with."
and Zhenya Kiperman between takes.
|Parrot Alberto, the scene-stealer
"A part of the film called The Terrarium
was shot in the apartment of my good friends, they kindly let us
use it for free. When I came to them for the first time to do my
storyboards, I met their parrot Alberto and instantly thought that
he should be in the film - the tragic Terrarium needed at least
one comic creature. So I gave some Director's lines to Alberto -
Giancarlo didn't object. Now Alberto's
comments get the most laughs, he practically steals every scene
that happens in this apartment."
IV. The Team
"One good thing about my teaching, - continues writer/director
Zhenya Kiperman, who is also an Adjunct Professor of Film at NYU
and New School University, - is that I found many Iago collaborators
and investors among my students. My producing partner Anthony
Grillo is my former student. After he took "The
Art of Film" class with me at New School, we began collaborating
on my Golden Age of Cinema film festival that Anthony helped to
produce. Without him I'd never have gained enough courage to start
Iago. Anthony has solid business and financial background, so he
handles the business end of the project. What's most encouraging
about his enthusiasm for Iago is that throughout his very dynamic
and versatile business career he's never participated in a losing
project. I certainly hope his intuition is right once again."
"I courted the cinematographer Wolfgang
(Wolf) Held longer than any of Iago actors." - Zhenya
Kiperman remembers. - "The courtship started ten years ago,
when I, then a student of Columbia Film School, was trying to get
Wolf to shoot my thesis film - the 30-minute version of Iago. It
didn't happen - he was too busy shooting other things. Many years
later, when Iago began to materialize as a feature, I began calling
Wolf again, every week, for months. He liked the script, but still
was very busy with other projects. Finally, I managed to get him
to come to one of our fundraising parties. At this party we didn't
raise a dollar, but something else happened - Wolf Held saw my short
version of Iago and liked it. So I got my DP, the major creative
and technical force, one of the most experienced members of the
crew (28 films!). The fact that we shot
Iago in 21 days is mostly to his credit. Wolf is the most artistic
and articulate Director of Photography I've ever worked with. He
is also incredibly patient and gracious - invaluable qualities in
the hyper-stressed reality of the low-budget filmmaking. Working
with him, seeing how respectfully, quickly, and exactly all his
requests are fulfilled, for the first time I understood and appreciated
the meaning of his title - Wolfgang is indeed THE DIRECTOR of Photography."
|Director of Photography
Wolfgang Held and Kate Hodge between takes
"Another most experienced member of the crew was costume designer/make-up
artist Nadia Fadeeva.
- continues Zh. Kiperman. - Nadia worked on 39 films, on two of
them - with me. In 1995 she did costumes and make-up for the 30-minute
version of Iago. It's been a privilege to work with her again, to
learn from her, among other things - about my own characters. I
never thought you can learn so much about the people from the costumes
|Nadia Fadeeva transforming
Larry Pine into Iago
"I found my 2nd producing partner/casting director, Alyssa Black, through www.mandy.com. - Kiperman continues. - Alyssa put
the rest of the team together. We've got the most multi-cultural
film crew ever: a German cinematographer Wolfgang Held, an Italian
1st assistant director Rita Capasa, 2nd assistant director/associate
producer Monika Cholewa from Poland, me and costume designer Nadia
Fadeeva from Russia, line producer/production manager Mohammed Naqvi
from Pakistan, my assistant/technical coordinator Sergei Krasikov
from Byelorussia, storyboard artist/illustrator Brett Curtin (my
former student) from South Africa, and many exciting Americans...
This international crew created fantastic energy. I remember my
good friend (and also my former students and one of Iago investors)
Ken Schwartz, who plays the crooked doorman/the King in the film,
visited the production office for the first time, saw all of us
together, talking on our cell phones at the same time with all our
wonderful different accents, and said, "I have no idea what's
going on here, but it's very exciting!"
directing Ken Swartz and Kate Hodge as the King and the Queen
in the prison staging of "Hamlet"
V. The Investors
"Iago has about sixty private investors, - continues Zhenya
Kiperman, - almost as many as the Coen Brothers had on BLOOD SIMPLE.
I'm among them - I took over $70,000 from credit cards and put it
into the film. Most of our investors are my former students and
the people who heard about the film on the Russian New Life Radio
(620 AM). My friend Seva
Kaplan is the most popular Russian radio talk show host
in America. We've raised a substantial part of the budget thanks
to him - several times he invited me to discuss the project on the
air. So people began calling and offering money. It was very moving,
actually, - people who've never seen me in their lives. I think,
it's a Russian thing - they were excited about the story of a fellow
emigrant who's trying to fulfill his big American dream - to make
a real movie! - in English!! - with American actors!!! - and they
wanted to help me to fulfill my dream. Many of these people are
not rich at all, some of them tried to give me their entire savings,
which I resisted. So my sense of responsibility to the investors
is quite acute."
|Associate Producer Seva Kaplan
(front right) as Inmate Seva in the Comedy of errors Penitentiary
VI. The Dedication
"Making Iago was the most exhilarating experience of my life.
I've been very lucky that the budgetary and schedule constraints
didn't compromise my vision. The actors brought so much humanity,
energy and wit into the film that the results exceeded my expectations.
Whatever happens to Iago commercially (of course we hope for the
best), artistically I'm very proud of it. Hundreds of people (literally
- hundreds!) participated in the film in various ways, believed
in it, supported us. Many worked on Iago for very little or no money,
others gave us the money of their own. I will never forget the generosity,
faith and respect of these people. We tried our best to acknowledge
everyone in the final credits (all our sixty investors are in the
'special thanks' section), but if, by mistake, we missed someone,
please note the dedication at the end of the film which means a
lot to me:
Dedicated to all the people who invested their
into this film.
February 9, 2005