The Piersons' Road to Fiji

By Jonathan Marlow

The Piersons' Road to Fiji
By Jonathan Marlow
September 2, 2005 - 5:25 AM PDT
"We were going to go there no matter what."

John Pierson has been a major mover and shaker in the American independent film movement, particularly in the mid-80s to mid-90s, when he provided crucial support in the early phases of the careers of filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Michael Moore, Errol Morris and Kevin Smith. His book about that era, Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes, (briefly reviewed here) has since been updated and re-released as Spike, Mike Reloaded. For four years, he hosted the IFC series, Split Screen, and eventually relocated from the Hudson Valley to Austin. But around that time, too, he got it in his head to take his family to Fiji, run a theater there and show movies for free. Jonathan Marlow talks to John, Janet, Georgia and Wyatt Pierson about their adventure and the film that captures their story, Reel Paradise.

Wyatt, Janet, John and Georgia Pierson

You made them all go to Fiji. Is that basically how it works out? "Let's go to Fiji, let's be there for a year, let's run a theater, let's make a documentary about it." How much of the plan was theirs and how much yours?

John: We were going to go there no matter what.

Janet: The idea was already in the air. There wasn't "making." There was conversation and debate...

Georgia: I don't know why you're the one trying to answer it like you were wanting to go...

Janet: I wasn't forced to go...

Georgia: When you watch the movie, you know that initial scene was filmed before we went and you were obviously being forced to go. Just the way you're talking...

Janet: I don't really remember it very well. It's just one of those things where you believe you're going or you don't believe you're going. You're like, "Oh yeah, apparently we're going to Fiji. I don't know. I don't know if I'm going," or it's like, "Oh great, let's go!"

When you did Split Screen, you were only in Fiji for how long - a week?

John: Yeah, it was a week or eight days. That international dateline thing really confuses you because you arrive two days after you left and you come back and re-live the same day again. It's hard to keep count. I have no idea how many days we were there; it might have been twelve!

Janet: Somewhere between a week and ten days.

John: The premise of the trip, initially, was that we were going to try to go around New Year's Eve for the millennium. For two reasons. First, we wanted to not only go to the world's most remote movie theater but also to show the first movie of the new millennium. We also wanted to fly cheap and we knew everybody was scared to fly on New Year's Eve because all the planes were supposed to come crashing down when the computer systems failed. I figured we could get some dirt cheap tickets anywhere we wanted to go. The problem is that if you leave on New Years Eve to fly to Fiji, you don't arrive until January 2nd! By the way, George Clinton of P-Funk fame was in Fiji for the millennium. They had some big concert up in the field where the international dateline goes through...

Wyatt: Are you serious?

John: George Clinton slept in Wyatt's room in the house! You never knew this? The concert was kind of ill-fated because apparently they borrowed the PA system from the church but it wasn't up to the funk requirements.

Not enough bass in the church speakers?

John: It was a little tinny, from what we heard.

Janet: We all went originally [for Split Screen] and then John went back in August 2001 and he was just going to go back and write a book. When he got there, he found out that the owner was going to shut down the theater and emigrate to New Zealand.

John: Dhansukh Lal, the son of the original owner, who'd been operating it pretty much for the vast majority of those last thirty years.

The 180 Meridian

Janet: "I can't let this happen, this place is too amazing, it's too great. I have to take it over." Okay, so how do you make it work? Then there became this series of discussions between all of us. "How long," you know. There was a dialogue about it.

John: The son wasn't exactly a film booker for his theater. He was kind of a merchant, buying by the pound. "What can I get for thirty dollars? Send it on up in the ferry." You never knew what was going to wash up on the shores of Fiji, what print might show up. I remember he was showing Memento. He's a smart guy but it was utterly, totally confusing even to him. I immediately suggested that he might want to show the reels in reverse order and it might be better for the audience that way. The first trip we took, which was not spelled out in the film, we took Donnie Ward's movie, The Suburbans (starring Will Ferrell and Jennifer Love Hewitt), and Chris Smith's documentary, American Movie which...

Wyatt: Which failed.

People hated it?

Wyatt: They hated it.

Too much talking, eh?

Wyatt: We took out the middle reels. We showed the first and last reels because they hated it so much and then we showed The Stooges and everyone left happy.

John: So it all worked out.

The Stooges are timeless. People all over the world love the Three Stooges.

John: To go back to the start of this, I guess I would say that I certainly couldn't have spent a year away from my family. I'm not sure I could even spend a month away from my family.

Wyatt: But you did! You were in Fiji without us for almost two months.

John: Yeah, but I knew I was getting ready for you to come.

Janet: When he went over to write the book, he went over for six weeks and it was like... "We've been married twenty-two years and, with six weeks apart, what am I going to think about without John?" I guess we're really together all the time. "Six weeks, this is really going to be fun." Then he came back after two because everything had changed...

John: I had to come back and get the money to buy the theater. I would say that "force" is too strong a word but I certainly wanted to convince them. Once I had decided, "This is a really good idea, I really want to do this." Yes, I wanted to convince the three of them.

So you used all of your producer's rep experience to sell the idea.

John: I did... I tried to persuade. For Janet, it's all in the details for her. It's like...

Janet: I see John as a visionary. He makes these really creative leaps. At first, I'm like, "No, how's it going to work?" I go totally to details. My instinct is always say, "No." But every leap we've made together has been great, so I say "No" less often or for a shorter duration. I knew the first time we went to Fiji that it was so powerful for him and, even though it wasn't my environment and I didn't really like it, I just knew that it was so important to him. I just thought, "I have to be open to this. How bad could it be?"

John: Let me wrap this up and be very, very, very direct about who agreed fastest. Janet's under the impression that the film uses her initial resistance as a funny line for audiences, but it's a little unfair for her to be portrayed as the "resister," because she turned around immediately thereafter. Georgia was instant, and all power and credit to her for that.

Georgia: I had to hammer through it...

John: You have a process...

Georgia: Everything I was worried about came true, but that's the way it goes.

John: Wyatt was a hold out, pretty much until the eleventh hour. "Oh, we're renting the house while we're gone? You're not renting my room 'cause I'll be in it. Just make sure the tenants understand and everything'll be fine." Do you remember a day where you were suddenly willing?

Wyatt: I really kind of wanted to a little bit the whole time. I don't know. It's really good that I did go because I would have hated where I lived for another year. You have the same teachers for three years, but I got to miss the second year...

John: All part of my calculation. I was just trying to get you away from those people...

You had already relocated to Austin before you went? Or this is still in New York?

John: No. We went back to New York for one year and then moved to Austin. We're just a year into our stay in Austin, which is another favorite spot of Wyatt's.

Wyatt: I hate Austin.

Really? Austin is an island. An island in a sea of Texas.

Wyatt: It's a bunch of bros and hippies.

What's not to like about Austin?

Wyatt: What's to like about Austin?

Okay, that's a better question...

John: Just don't say "brisket" because then he'll...

Mmmm, brisket...

Janet: He was just really happy with his friends. He had friends from when he was four years old that he just really loved. He was really comfortable in a small town and really knew it.

Georgia: We moved to Austin his first year of high school. We moved there and he went through his freshman year.

John: I teach some courses in the film program.

At UT [University of Texas]. Right.

John: It's a growing program. You know, in the end, a film school is always sort of judged by its successful graduate filmmakers. That's where we're still working through it but I think that'll start happening soon.

Quite a few productions are coming through Austin as well. There's work for people in the school or opportunities for the recent graduates to get involved in the industry. That doesn't happen very many places.

John: Everybody has really worked hard to come together to make that part of the general program in the area and it's a really cool thing. The school has an option called Burnt Orange [Productions] which is a first combination of the academic world with the private, professional world. It makes movies but puts a lot of the students to work as well. It's two films in already. The first one's going to Toronto and it's called The Quiet by Jamie Babbit. The next one is a film by guys who got nominated for an Independent Spirit Award but their film didn't really get out there theatrically outside of Austin. Bryan Poyser and Jacob Vaughan made a first feature called Dear Pillow and they have a new one for Burnt Orange called The Cassidy Kids. It's got thirty UT students working on it, it's going to get shot in the summer, it's a great thing. Rick [Linklater] made Bad News Bears in LA, though, which he's still trying to live down a little bit, but the Fast Food Nation film will be shot in Austin. Robert [Rodriguez] never seems to leave his studio.

I accused [Reel Paradise director] Steve [James], earlier, of actually perpetrating the robbery to create a hook for the film.

John: Did he tell you who brought the crew [to the house after the robbery]? Of course we called them before we called the police, but did he tell you who brought them over to the house? The missing projectionist in the green truck.

Does that guy ever stop driving?

Wyatt: Usually, you couldn't tell which were the taxis and which weren't. We'd just get rides in the back of trucks and people would just ask us for money. We didn't even know, but then we saw his green truck and his green truck was always packed... he made a lot of money with that green truck.

John: In Los Angeles he'd make a lot of money. Compared to his high salary in the projection booth, I guess. None of the mishaps from the week after Steve and his crew arrived were staged or invented by us. They might have made the movie more dramatic but they certainly made my life more miserable. You win one, you lose one...

It created a great fissure for your final month.

Janet: People often ask us if there was anything that we would do differently in the whole year and frankly the only thing that I would say is, "I meant to have an in-person security when the film crew came, because I just knew it would change things." I meant to have somebody just sitting around because that's what people did for security that mattered. We couldn't lock the house. We tried but it was impossible. I meant to do that and I got distracted. I feel like it actually would have been so much nicer not to have the robbery the last month because it would have been a much more emotional, happy culmination of a great year. Instead it was like, "Oh, this is a drag."

John: Yeah, we could have just been hanging out drinking with Andrew [the ex-pat Australian landlord] instead of fighting with him about...

Janet: Yeah, well, we had been fighting with him anyway.

He seemed to be a real character. He owned the house? It wasn't clear in the film, but he must've lived just a few feet away...

John: Take that up with our director! Yeah, he lived... you see the grass tennis court outside and he was just at the side of the tennis courts. When he cranked his radio, when he was getting all drunk at night playing the power ballads, it was like he was right in your living room.

Janet: He used to live in the house and then, when John went before us, they would stay in it together. When we were coming for a year, the idea was that we would take the whole house. That was a really great gig for him, but his solar batteries were totally dead and all year he'd tell me, "You're drawing too much power," but actually, no, they were completely dead. Stuff didn't work...

John: I don't know what will ever kill him. He will probably live forever. Somebody said last night that he's already pickled.

Janet: He was the blot in Paradise for us.

Yeah, I bet.

Wyatt: I thought he was funny. He was afraid to talk to anyone else. He'd come up to me and say, "Uh, could you tell your dad that there's no hot water?" I didn't want to tell you and I'd just let you figure it out. "Tell him that there's no water, so that when there's, at least, cold water you'll be happy and won't remember that he needs hot water."

John: Tell him he doesn't need water whenever the toilets didn't work. As he would explain it, "Just go outside."

Had you traveled a lot as a family before this year-long Fijian trip?

Wyatt: I had never really left the country.

John: Not outside the Americas, no. We went to Canada.

That counts.

Janet: We spent a couple of summers in Maine when they were really small. We drove around Colorado. We're not really "vacation" people...

John: You're forgetting, we've traveled plenty in the United States for one reason or another, but no exotic, foreign climes.

"We knew what they liked."

How were you able to put the whole plan together to do the movies at the 180 Meridian? Did you figure in advance about how much it was going to cost?

John: No, not really, but I had a sense that the amount I was able to raise from friendly filmmakers that I had helped in the past seemed like a really good starting point. The first guy we asked was Michael Moore. We got turned down from Mike, but everybody else said, "Yes." We got up to like sixty or seventy thousand dollars from Kevin [Smith] and the Blair Witch guys [Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez] and Matt Stone and that seemed like that should do it. Steve [James] didn't come through, either.

He came through later on. He made the movie!

John: I think Michael was probably more well off, though not at that time. It was a low point because it was before Stupid White Men's official publication date hadn't even arrived and he was still working on Bowling for Columbine.

It's relatively inexpensive to live there.

Janet: Yeah...

Georgia: The way that we were living?

John: We spent $100,000 dollars, basically. I think all in, that's what the budget was. The theater and everything.

That's not bad at all.

John: It wasn't, but that's an astronomical figure in Fijian terms.

Wyatt: Especially when the average working wage is twenty-five dollars...

John: Again, if somebody wants to... for example, our friends in Portland. Georgia, if they wanted to actually think through all those other great things that one could do with that amount of money in an impoverished country, that would go a long way.

Yes, the screening in Portland. Folks were aghast that you would take this money and show movies in that part of the world rather than feed the homeless?

Georgia: I don't think they were coming from an economic point of view. I think they were coming from a moral point of view. Go ahead and tell the story...

Georgia Pierson and Miriama Bibi

John: We got peppered there unexpectedly. The first was about our lack of cultural sensitivity training, which apparently would've made everything okay. The second one was like, "Why would you waste showing free movies when you could have done something really useful like build a health clinic?" Which they already had...

Georgia: It was new and they had just built it. It was this beautiful, huge hospital.

Wyatt: You should have said that you funded it!

Georgia: I popped boils for them in there. They didn't really have any doctors.

John: What did you do with those boils?

Georgia: The little ones you just pop and the big ones you just razor them.

John: How come people couldn't do that for themselves?

Georgia: No razors?

John: That's what we should have done with the money. Razors for everyone!

Georgia: Do you remember when I brought over Miriama, Kaway and Rosa to the house one day when we were skipping school and we had a can of shaving cream and a razor? Apparently they had seen it on TV or something - they all put shaving cream on their faces and they were just literally shaving their faces. I'm like, "What are you doing? You're going to grow beards because you're shaving!" It was really funny.

So when you went back and saw Miriama [Georgia and Wyatt returned to Fiji since the trip documented in the film], she was fully bearded now?

Georgia: She's got bigger hair and a full beard...

If you had done the same thing in Olympia or Seattle or anywhere in the Northwest, you would have had the same reaction. People there are self-righteous about the way other people spend their money. They're not going to do anything themselves, of course...

Georgia: They all have a religious mentality about it. One lady, her story was completely a gimmick. "I was on a fishing trip. No, well, actually it was a mission trip." She was talking about how, instead of corrupting them with our movies, we should have been teaching them more about the church...

They had seen the film, right? They should've already been aware of the hypocrisy of the church in Fiji.

Georgia: It was right after they saw the film so I figured they would have somehow got it out of their system. That was one of the huge things in the documentary but now they had to make it sound like it was their own idea. They're harassing us for it but it made no sense at all.

Janet: There are people who have these naēve assumptions about how cut-off people are anyway. They don't realize how much culture's already there, even on the one TV station. The crappy videos that were pirated or the rare tapes that people got to see. The culture is already there and the movies had been shown in the theater we were running over fifty years before we arrived. In earlier, better economic times, more people used to be able to go. We happened to be there at a time when people couldn't afford it anymore so we made it free. People forget to consider that nobody forced them to go. It was voluntary. If they wanted to go, we weren't making money off of them, we were giving them this experience, but we also made ourselves accessible in a way that most... We weren't the fucked-up ex-pats who would ignore them or the tourists who would take a picture and maybe drink some grog and were out of there. We were real people that had real relationships all year long and I know there was an exchange that we both benefited from.

Georgia: I have something to say about bringing our culture over there but first I should tell you the backstory. You've seen the movie right?

Yes.

Georgia: Miss Jackie, the one in the movie who has a line like, "They have people who dress like Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez." She dressed like the biggest ho of the island. She has all these fancy little clothes, and she'd steal everyone's jewelry, because you weren't allowed to wear jewelry with your uniforms, so she'd jab you in the stomach and take all your shit. It's funny that she's the one who's saying it. Obviously, we didn't influence her to wear her baby skirts and blousy tops. It was already there.

It always seems that the folks who react most negatively to our cultural influence are people who haven't traveled very much. It's too late. We've already poisoned everything. America is everywhere. By not running this theater, you're not going to save people from these images.

John: The other thing that's really important is that there's still a sense, and this is something that independent film people certainly have, that Hollywood is cramming these movies down the throats of the rest of the world. It's not really what people want to see that's getting forced fed. If you actually go to any of the places where the Hollywood film industry is succeeding on a global level you quickly learn that there's no force feeding at all. That's really what people want to see, would like to see, are happy to see. Can you make them better? Can you raise them up? That's an endless argument. It's not getting shoved down their throats.

You seem to be largely right in your film choices. Everyone reacted very well to Jackass, for instance, and less so for Apocalypse Now Redux.

Wyatt: There's no actual footage of what happened at Apocalypse because the people filming, the cameraman and everything, had to go to dinner. That's why it's not included. They hated Apocalypse. Everyone was sleeping. Every kind of movie like that, like American Movie from when you brought it originally. That was a failure. We [Georgia and Wyatt] knew what they liked.

John: By and large, I think I did, too.

Wyatt: I don't think you would have ever chosen Scorpion King by yourself.

John: But I did. Are you trying to say I didn't pick Scorpion King? Wyatt's claws are fairly... he's batting a thousand, for the most part. Wyatt has predicted from Day One to today, that Reel Paradise is doomed to failure.

Wyatt: I completely thought that people would really love seeing themselves in a movie. Seeing themselves would make it enjoyable, but other than that, it's not something they would ever want to see.

John: I was actually referring to the fact that that's your prediction for here.

Wyatt: Oh, here. I was talking about bringing it back to Fiji. Here, yeah, it's totally going to fail...

It's already in a better position than most of the films that screened at Sundance. It already has distribution...

Georgia: People would come to our house and watch it on our couch. That's my prediction. That's what's been going on so that's what would make sense.

John: We remain hopeful, but honestly, we didn't do gangbuster business during our opening weekend in New York. We love Wellspring. Let me be totally, officially clear - they're a great company. Each and every person who works there is really a pleasure to deal with.

Wyatt Pierson

Wyatt: The reason I think that no one will see it is because there really is no audience for it to attract people to it. I guess it's been related to reality TV a lot which, from an advertising standpoint, was a terrible idea. The people who watch reality TV are kids of our age. We're the kind of people who have no idea who he [John Pierson, who nods in agreement] is, no interest in independent films, so combining the two is a terrible idea.

Despite the projected box office, it'll play on IFC, it will be released on DVD...

Wyatt: You've been trying for the last five years to make a Split Screen DVD.

It's got to be done right...

Wyatt: No, it's just got to be done.

John: You said we weren't going to Fiji.

Wyatt: Alright, so maybe Split Screen will be on DVD.

Georgia: Didn't we...

John: We've already been paid for the DVD.

Then the important part is out of the way! In the movie marathon that is featured in the film, the almost ten movies in a row... All of the American films appear at one point or another, but I noticed that there was a Bollywood film on the list, Kaante...

John: Do you know that one?

Was the audience familiar with Reservoir Dogs? Did they know that it was a riff on that?

John: No. It's also a riff on Usual Suspects.

Georgia: I saw it before I saw Usual Suspects and Reservoir Dogs and, for both movies, I was like, "Man, I've seen this before."

John: You're the first person we've encountered who's seen the movie.

Because of the large Hindi community in the area, there's a theater nearby [Naz8] that played it. Despite Amitabh Bachchan, it's not a very good movie, let's just put it that way. It's interesting.

John: I enjoyed it, but it wasn't our best Hindi showing of the year.

It's Reservoir Dogs and Usual Suspects, but three hours. It doesn't need to be three hours, even with the musical numbers.

Georgia: Bollywood really makes a lot of their movies that long...

Janet: John actually really loves a lot of the Bollywood movies...

I do, too. I noticed there were six or seven of them that you played over the course of the year.

John: We sprinkled them in, we tried to pick the cream of the crop.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. That's a big one. What I really liked was the fact that the poster for Reel Paradise fakes the Steamboat Bill, Jr. image on the outside of the theatre...

[Laughter ensues]

John: Ah, that's no fake.

It's the Kino Video box art! I'm glad that you, or the marketing team, picked that image because obviously the Fijian audience's reaction to Buster Keaton is very sincere... And with Steve-O, that's sincere too.

John: Kaante was in Reel Paradise for a long time in earlier cuts. Steve [James] could never get it cleared. One of the producers was okay with the visuals but they could never figure out what they had to do to clear the music from whatever clips he had chosen. Then that got replaced by something else that's no longer in the movie, namely 8 Mile, which also turned into a music problem. Steve knows Curtis Hanson and Curtis apparently loves Hoop Dreams and had actually shown Hoop Dreams to the cast and crew before they had started shooting 8 Mile. So Steve was able to arrange the clips, but the music - Eminem controls the music, so that was a problem. It's interesting that the missing slot in the film was more about those Western values, but Jackass pretty much covers the same ground.

Janet: I'm sure some of the self-righteous Americans don't have a clue about the Bollywood stuff. It's being shown all around the world and they're overwhelmed with Western influences.

John: On a certain level, those Bollywood films are more formulaic than anything Hollywood...

Wyatt: And they're much longer, too. Much less happens in a much longer amount of time. That's why I don't watch them.

They're only slightly longer than Apocalypse Now Redux. Only slightly. Were there more people at the end of the Hindi films than there were for Apocalypse Now?

Wyatt: I had to leave before the end because I had school the next day and starting late, they obviously ended very late. They were really long.

John: It tested the staying power of the theater's generator. That was the big joke. "Oh, this is three-and-a-half hours, I don't know if the generator's going to make it."

Was it difficult getting used to a twelve month equal-day-and-night thing?

John: I totally loved it. For me, not her. She's a night owl... I like getting up at five.

Janet: I'm a true night owl. I'm up 'til midnight, two o'clock in the morning...

John: Reading by flashlight...

Janet: I had to use my iPod! I kept it under my pillow. It didn't get stolen.

Wyatt: Really?

Janet: I had it under the mosquito net...

John: I like getting up at five in the morning. I can't believe that they could actually sleep through this bird cacophony.

Wyatt: Oh, those birds were so loud.

John: Sadly, again, perhaps if Wyatt's right about the commercial prospects for the movie, we could have put in parrots - no penguins - but we had so many choices of birds that could have gone into the movie. Birds are obviously the best way to sell a documentary.

Wyatt: This just kind of made me think of moths. One night I left the bathroom light on before I went to sleep. I woke up at four in the morning and I had to go to the bathroom, I walk in and moths everywhere. You couldn't even see the wall. I was freaking out so I turned the light off. I figured that I would come back in twenty minutes and they'd all be gone. I come back and they were all still there.

Obviously, where you grew up, you didn't have the same insect problem as when your living on the island.

John: Well, the funny part is that there are a lot of moths in the Hudson Valley...

Wyatt: One of my cousins is afraid of moths and she stayed at my house one time. She actually had to leave because she had moths and she freaked out and they had to drive back to Connecticut. The bugs weren't really a problem for me at first, but then at the time we were leaving... I have a problem with spiders and there were these spider nests being built around the house. You saw those, right? They looked like bees nests but when you knocked them down they were dead baby spiders. That's scary. I was terrified of those and mosquito nests. I had to search my net every night.

Janet: My sweetest image of Wyatt all year was that we had these mosquito nets and we'd put them down and Wyatt would carefully search every single night to see if there was a bug in there or not...

Wyatt: Because I tucked it under my mattress and if there's a mosquito in there it would bite you a hundred times till morning, which happened to me...

Janet: He was covered with bites.

Wyatt: My biggest problem also is like... I don't mind bugs at night because there are mosquitoes at night in a lot of places, but having mosquitoes biting you as you're eating breakfast... I'd wake up, put bug spray on, eat breakfast, put some more on...

So there's a book, a follow-up to Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes, or there is no book?

Janet: It had been the plan.

John: Well, there was going to be my book and everybody seemed kind of happy with the prospect of switching that over into a four-person Pierson book...

Wyatt: They never paid me, so I stopped writing.

John: I guess it's still a possibility, but...

Janet: I'm the one who's most interested in it.

John: Janet got a real head of steam going. Wyatt wrote, as requested, when promised payment in return.

Wyatt: I got stuck, though, and no one would help me write because everyone had their own drama. She [Janet] was like, "I need to edit it down from 20,000 pages to, like, 50 or something." And he [John] was like, "I don't know what to do with the movie." And you [Georgia] were just... I don't even know what you were doing, but you wouldn't help anyone. He [John] just lost interest in the book when I was trying to write.

Janet: I still think that four of us together would be a lot more interesting.

John: It would just sort of cover the full year, though. We're cool with the film.

Wyatt: I also wish, if we had written a book, then every question we were asked in every Q&A we've done so far would've already been answered. So we wouldn't have had to answer them.

John: You know what's weird, when people ask me questions and I go, "That's in Spike, Mike," and they say, "Yeah, but you have to tell it." I wrote it ten years ago! It's like a police report after a crime, I will never be able to tell it as well as I wrote it. Not that I'm making any great claims for the writing, but...

Janet: The film is Steve's version of our lives. I like the idea of maybe seeing us tell our own version...

So Steve's version is that George is a tyrant and Janet never wanted to be there at all? I don't think that really comes through in the film. People are more complex than that and Reel Paradise definitely captures these complexities...

John: I got completely engrossed in the film. I feel really engaged by it and I think he did a masterful job, but it's still, you know...

Janet: We're in this room right now and all of this stuff is going on. I know that Georgia's eating behind me. If a camera crew were here, you'd be here by yourself. You know what I mean? It doesn't mean that he's [Chris Wiggum, of Larsen Associates, who was organizing the Piersons' less-than-twenty-four-hours in San Francisco] not standing right here. I'm right outside the frame a lot of the time in the film, you know, so it's just one version of reality...

Photos: Amy C. Elliott More Press...