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December 09, 2016
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‘Simon Killer’

It’s been over a year since “Simon Killer” premiered last year at Sundance. And even longer since Antonio and I finished editing the film out of his small duplex apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Now he and his partners at Borderline Films have a deal with Fox Searchlight that allows for a proper editing room and office, so finishing “Simon Killer” may have been the last of the good old days. There is no sarcasm in that statement. I’ve loved the process of making independent movies with close friends in various apartments. It felt like an extension of film school and has been my life for many years.

Antonio Campos is a brilliant filmmaker and also a dear friend. As are the other two of his Borderline partners, Josh Mond and Sean Durkin. I’ve known them all since my sophomore year at NYU, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to have been working with them since.

It can be a very personal thing to work on a film with someone, especially if they are as passionate as these fellas are. It’s a process of investigating and embracing ideas, working with those ideas and boiling them down to their essence. When working with someone you trust, there is a certain shorthand to communication that develops over many hours of working together. It’s easier to get on the same page.

When it’s at its best, the edit room is a safe place where anything and everything is possible. At its worst, it feels like a prison where whatever is not working is never going to work. You ride the wave between the two and hope for more of the best case. It’s kind of as simple as that.

“Simon Killer” stars Brady Corbet as Simon, a young American college graduate who has recently broken up with his girlfriend. He befriends a prostitute (Mati Diop) and the two of them decide to rip off one of her Johns. Things go (not surprisingly) downhill from there.

I hadn’t seen “Simon Killer” since the Sundance premiere, where I remember nervously chewing through a whole pack of toothpicks as the film screened in front of a sold-out crowd at the Eccles Theater. Now at the NYC premiere at the Museum of Modern Art, I am surprisingly calm. I’m sans toothpicks and mostly just excited to watch the film again. It feels like seeing an old friend I haven’t seen in awhile and catching up. I enjoy watching the film.

At an NYU screening Q and A, Antonio and I speak about the flashing light interludes that are intercut through the film. They were one of the last things we got right and one of the things that we went back and forth about their placement for a long time. They turn out to be one my favorite things about the film, perhaps because I know that they did not come easily.

After the NYU screening, we all mill about in front of the very same auditorium where we had classes together. It’s impossible not to feel nostalgic about being this close to the beginning.

(“Simon Killer” is playing at the IFC Center in New York and opens On Demand and in LA this coming weekend.)