Please explain what just happened.

The more I know, the more I realize I have no idea. What happened? Who cares really. Where am I now, and where can I get a good cup of coffee.


What is your earliest memory?

I remember being a monk who made beer in an abbey in France. I’m pretty sure I flogged the shit out of myself for no good reason. And the personal attaché for a power hungry cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Or was the earliest memory waking into consciousness as a protozoa in a murky tide pool. I’m sorry, I’m still sleepy. I think my earliest memory—in this life anyway—is holding on to the tall boot of my father as he walked across a snowy driveway, dragging me along, watching the dry snow spray up, feeling the cold flakes melt on my hot cheeks, listening to him whistle some Randy Newman song.


If you weren’t a writer/director, what other profession would you choose?

I think I would’ve been a photo journalist, though I don’t know how long I would’ve lasted. Those people are tough as nails. But I love photography and have been shooting film and looking through cameras since I was 10 years old.


Describe a typical work day.

There are two kinds of work days for me. One is the writing work day, in which I procrastinate and drink coffee and dance around an idea until I know a way in. I take my dog on a hike. I write notes on pads. I write. I run away. I write some more.

The other kind of work day for me is when I’m in production on a film. Totally different. I get up early. I try to stay very organized. In pre-production I build up visual references and shooting ideas brick by brick. I collect everything. I sort them into notebooks and binders. I become very anal retentive. When I’m shooting, I arrive on set earlier then most directors. I go over the scenes of the day in my head, trying to think of anything I missed. And then it all goes up in smoke when you start shooting because the scene has will of its own. The preparation.



Is there a time you wish you’d lied?

Writing and telling stories is a great and sanctified act of constant prevarication. Great storytellers are, de facto, great liars. So, I wish I lied more and better every day.


What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

I’d say, “Dummy! Read more!! And go talk to that girl right now!”


If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?

Easy. Led Zeppelin I.



What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?

Wikipedia (I’m a sucker for any reference site)


From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

I’m most inspired, most awed, by nature.


Name three books that have impacted your life.

Tao Te Ching — Laozi.

Collected Poems — Dylan Thomas.

Sculpting in Time — Andrey Tarkovsky.


If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?

I can think of one brilliant kiss …. I shouldn’t say who.



How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

Not six … I think I got one. I had a meeting with his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, in the early part of this year about a role in my next film. She’s so cool and down to earth, not to mention incredibly talented.


What makes you feel most guilty?

Thinking about the years I lost when I was not in my daughter’s life.


How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?

They’re always there in everything I do. From Ted Hughes to Vermeer to Henri Cartier Bresson to Terrence Malick … to name just the smallest number. They all add to the fabric of influence. I’m sure I steal from all the artists I adore in ways small, large and most not known to me.


Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind Janie Jones.

Twelve years ago I met my daughter for the very first time. She was eleven. She is now the closest person in my life. She inspired me to make this movie.



What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

Gas X.


List your favorite in the following categories:  Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor


Comedian: Richard Prior.

Musician: Bob Dylan.

Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Actor: Daniel Day Lewis.


If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?

I very much want to do a period bio-pic of an important historical boxer 
(won’t say who), but it’s a project that requires a massive budget.


What do you want to know?

Everything about the history of cinema. But I’m only scratching the surface …



What would you like your last words to be?

Something whispery, mysterious and profound. A poetic homily on the meaning of things … then my very last word could be something utterly prosaic, leaving a Wellsian cloud over the whole proceedings. Though, I’ll probably just drool.


Please explain what will happen.

The sun will run up into the sky and stop, breathless and tired. Men and women will spin wildly until they turn into reeds. Every word spoken will rise up and shatter into many billion beads of rain. And again, the earth will turn serene and without charge of our futile strain and obligation …

But for now, I’m gonna go get a coffee and watch a Harold Lloyd movie.


*Photos of the Tribeca Films screening of Janie Jones by Dave Alloca/Startraks.

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DAVID M. ROSENTHAL is the writer and director of the new film Janie Jones, about rocker Ethan Brand (played by Alessandro Nivola) playing with his band on the comeback trail when a former flame (Academy Award® nominee Elisabeth Shue) drops a bomb in his lap: their 13-year-old daughter, Janie Jones (Academy Award® nominee Abigail Breslin). The inspiration for Janie Jones came from a source very close to Rosenthal—his own life. At the age of 18, Rosenthal fathered a child but didn’t meet her until 11 years later.  
“Her mother was 26,” he says. “Our families were friends and we ended up having a fling. Then I got a call from her during my freshman year in college telling me that she was pregnant and that she intended to have the baby, but she wanted to keep what had happened a secret. She was telling everyone in her family that she had been artificially inseminated and it was really important to her that I keep up that story. I was stunned and unprepared and immature. I said fine because I didn’t know what else to do.”  
Rosenthal used his experience as a jumping-off point for a different story as the film is not entirely autobiographical. “Janie’s mother is not anything like my daughter’s mother,” he says. “And I had years to come to terms with the fact I had a daughter. When her mother sent me a package with pictures of the first 10 years of her life, I felt such profound sadness at having missed all of that and some shame for being so reticent to be part of her life. Those feelings of regret and self-loathing worked their way into the character of Ethan.”  
Rosenthal’s previous feature films include the independent romantic comedy Falling Up, starring Rachael Leigh Cook and Joseph Cross, and See This Movie.

One response to “21 Questions with David M. Rosenthal”

  1. R.Parlette says:

    I would like to know if your daughter is still performing and also if the two of you still perform together.THANK YOU!!! I LOVED YOUR MOVIE !!!

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