A sit down at the Parkway with director Gabe Klinger

By Maggie Donahue | February 15, 2018

Like the good millennial I am, I prioritize experiences over commodities, and as a cinephile I deeply value the experience of filmgoing. One of my favorite theaters is the Parkway in Station North. 

Last weekend I spent my Friday night at a screening of Porto, a film by visiting award-winning director Gabe Klinger. 

Set in Portugal, the film follows Jake, played to perfectly creepy effect by the late Anton Yelchin, who is obsessive, cringy and just a bit off. Mati (Lucie Lucas) is a beautiful woman several years his senior who sees a brief escape from her life in Jake. We don’t want to see them end up together, and yet, somehow, we still care about this narrative. 

After the screening, I had the opportunity to speak with Klinger, the film’s director, who shared his own thoughts on producing and viewing the film. 

The News-Letter: What’s it like to be in the room when your film is being shown? 

Gabe Klinger: I would definitely never fetishize the experience of watching my own film or fetishize that experience for anybody else, because I know at any given time there’s hundred of options. People can go watch Lady Bird down the street, or they could stay home and watch stuff on Amazon or Netflix or on VHS or project their own movies on 16 mm. 

All of that is valid, and I don’t think you can take anything personally when somebody just decides not to watch your movie. Burrowing in a little hole and not having anyone care about your work has its advantages. 

But like Jean-Luc Godard said, ‘Cinema is the goodwill for a meeting.’ You want to connect with people; it’s a human instinct. So you get out of your little hole and you show up, talk about your thing and it’s a huge privilege to do that. Not everybody gets to. So I feel really happy and fortunate. 

N-L: [Jake] is a difficult character to relate to. 

GK: There was a gentleman in the screening yesterday who came up to me afterwards and said he was very sympathetic toward Jake by the end of the movie, and then other people watching were like, “Get this guy away from me!” 

And I think both responses are valid. But aren’t things truer to life when they’re kinda unresolved? The problem is that we’re so trained nowadays to find sympathy or not, and there’s so much media out there. 

So are you gonna choose to spend your time with Jake, who’s this ugly character, or are you gonna go and try to find somebody who you might like to have dinner with, like Ethan Hawke in the Before movies? Somebody you wouldn’t fear is going to come knocking on your door at night? 

N-L: You’ve been on tour for some time now. What has that been like?

GK: With Anton passing away I really wanted to promote his performance. I really feel like I owe him that. Not just because he passed away. I would’ve been doing it anyway, because he trusted me from the very beginning of the project. 

He was the first person to put his name on this. So I would be returning the favor to him in a way. Not that he needs his name to get out there — people already knew he was a great actor. 

But contributing that in my own small way, showing up at 50 different cities all over the world and saying what a great actor he is... I’m in awe of what he was able to do for us in movies so... yeah. I just loved him so much. 

N-L: Speaking of Anton, you built strong friendship with both him and Lucie.... What role has their friendship played in the making of the film. 

GK: You can’t approach independent filmmaking in a kind of transitory or transactional way. You have to find people who are going to be loyal, not to you necessarily but loyal to the idea that you sell them on. And once you find that, down from the cameraman to the grip to the sound man... that’s really powerful. 

And you wake up in the morning and suddenly there are 30 people waiting for you on set, and they’re not getting paid that much, and they didn’t sleep very well, they didn’t eat very well, they miss their girlfriends or boyfriends, and they’re making this big sacrifice so that you can make your movie... that’s very, very humbling. 

And you can’t ever take that for granted. You have to reciprocate that kind of respect and that loyalty. What a wonderful lesson in friendship, making independent movies. In a more industrial way, movies can be profoundly alienating to make, you know. But I’ve been lucky that I’ve only worked in independent movies. 

Spending my Friday talking with Mr. Klinger was a wonderful reminder of the kinds of people that Baltimore attracts — the filmmaker went all over the world and made sure to stop by Charm City. 

So take a moment this weekend to get out of Charles Village. You never know who you’re sharing your city with.

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