Sundance Features

January 15, 2008

Dana Adam Shapiro, My Biodegradable Heart

"It's just a fun little movie made in a loft above an old movie theater -- four friends drawing silly pictures."

(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)

THE REELER: So what is My Biodegradable Heart about, and how did you get started on it?

DANA ADAM SHAPIRO: It's an animated short. I was living in Lewisburg, Penn., at the time; it's kind of a farming community. I'd recently broken up with a girl. So it's kind of about guys and girls and biodegradability.

R: "Guys and girls and biodegradability." Can you be any more specific about that last part?

DAS: It's sort of about a boy who is chasing a girl, and she is explaining to him that it's never going to happen. She explains it by way of biodegradability statistics. For example, he is asking her how long it will take for him to put his hand in her back pocket when they cruise the mall the day after Thanksgiving. And she answers him by telling him about the time it would take a Styrofoam cup to decompose. So it was a way to get a bunch of biodegradability statistics into sort of a cute love story.

R: You are a pretty versatile guy -- a journalist, a novelist, and you were last at Sundance three years ago with Murderball. What drew you to directing animation?

DAS: I'd just never done that before. You can really do anything with animation. With documentary of course you're fining real people and real locations and capturing real things as they're happening. Animation, you can really just create anything: You get to work with actors; you get to write dialogue; you don't have to build sets. You get to draw everything. It was a lot of fun. It basically took about two weeks. I was living on top of this 1941 art-deco single screen movie theater -- one of the last in the country, called the Campus Theater. The people who work downstairs run a commercial production company, and they wound up doing the voices. And there's this guy named Manolo who did the animation. He also lived in central Pennsylvania. We sort of all got together and did it.

R: Two weeks?

DAS: That's about it. I remember I wrote most of it on the back of a napkin while at a bar watching Manolo's band play. It was all these questions: "How long would it take for you to kiss me at the breakfast table in front of your father?" All these things, all these questions. I remember seeing a biodegradability chart talking about how long it takes for a tin can to biodegrade, or a banana peel, and just being: "Wow! That's a long time." At the end there's a "Just Married" car dragging bananas instead of tin cans.

Advertise on The Reeler

R: This is a interesting follow-up choice after Murderball. Were there other projects developing since 2005?

DAS: I'm turning my novel The Everyboy into a film with Plan B, so we're actually out to actors now. I'm working on another documentary about a town in the South. I'm bouncing around.

R: Considering the previous experience you had at Sundance, what are you looking forward to about returning?

DAS:The greatest part last time was going with our subjects -- the guys. They all showed up, they all put snow tires on their wheelchairs and we were all there together. It was something we had worked on for two and a half years. Like I said, this was a much quicker process; the emotional involvement is significantly less. But I'm excited to go back; I like being there. I like skiing. It’s a four-minute movie, though; it's not like I had spent two and a half years of my life shooting 200 hours of people who had broken their necks. It's just a fun little movie made in a loft above an old movie theater -- four friends drawing silly pictures. We really just made this for ourselves.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


TrackBack URL for this entry: