Interview: Filmmaker Michelle Walshe

Michelle Walshe’s documentary film Chasing Great is already the highest grossing documentary film in New Zealand history. It tells the story of rugby great Richie McCaw as he enters his final season of his professional career. I spoke to Michelle about the film and what it was like to document and follow a sports icon and the challenges and triumphs she faced along the way.


Michelle did a heck of a job with this documentary. She really does a great job depicting the essence of what it’s like to be a top level athlete staring right at the end of their professional life. As I stated, I wasn’t very familiar with the sport of rugby, but this film really gave me a good perspective on it. Richie McCaw is very comparable to a Tom Brady or Michael Jordan of rugby. He’s the best. What Michelle accomplishes with this film is give people a unique inside look into Richie’s final season as a pro and a behind-the-scenes look into his life outside the sport.

Some interesting takeaways from the conversation with her. I was really intrigued with the mental aspect that was depicted that Richie had to deal with. The ups and downs and pressures of the final season as an athlete chasing a championship. Michelle found that aspect compelling also and made sure to shine light on it in the film.

My favorite question to ask during interviews is when I can find out about interests outside of the industry. Interestingly Michelle likes to clear her mind by getting involved with finances. It’s the complete opposite of the entertainment industry. I’d imagine others like to relax and do something to ease their mind, but Michelle seems to like using it in another way. Very interesting how creative people think and the things they do for fun.

The film is definitely a worthwhile watch. Even if you know nothing about rugby, it’s a compelling look into the sport, but mainly into the life of one of its greatest stars. It’s well shot shot, well documented and it even has the drama to back up all the stakes it’s presented with.

CHASING GREAT is out now in select theaters in NYC


Video Interview: Filmmaker Laura Checkoway

Chicago based Kartemquin Films is represented well at the 80th Oscars. Steve James’ feature documentary Abacus: Small Enough to Jail and Laura Checkoway’s documentary short Edith+Eddie. I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Laura about her film and what she took away from it.



Laura was so sweet and nice. She was shy and endearing. I really enjoyed talking to her. Such an accomplished person, yet so humble. She really seemed invested in the film and I could tell the passion she had for it as she spoke about it.

The film Edith+Eddie is an incredible story of an elderly couple who marry in their 90’s and sadly things don’t go well from there. It’s a sweet story of love, but it’s also heartbreaking. It’s really a must-see documentary. Such a powerful story told so well in just 30 minutes. Fingers crossed Laura comes away with a deserving Oscar.

Video Interview: Filmmaker Steve James

Steve James is one of the best documentary filmmakers around. He directed acclaimed docs such as Hoop Dreams and the Roger Ebert movie Life Itself among many other. His latest movie Abacus: Small Enough to Jail just was nominated for an Oscar. Recently I had a chance to sit down with Steve to talk about Abacus, his Oscar nomination and a lot more.




I’m grateful for a fantastic opportunity to talk to a filmmaking legend. Steve had a lot of interesting points that he made. It was great to pick his mind on what he looks for in a project and how it affects him. As you can tell Steve seems to be a humble guy who really has deep passion for his projects. He has affected many lives. I sure hope he ends up with the Oscar, but either way he’s a winner already.

Steve, hope you enjoyed that sandwich I was keeping you from eating.

Congrats to Chicago based Kartemquin Films for representing Abacus: Small Enough to Jail and the documentary short Edith + Eddie

Interview: Sklar Brothers

Randy and Jason Sklar might be the funniest pair of brothers you’ll witness. The talented comedic duo joined together with writer/director Aaron N. Feldman to produce the fascinating comedic documentary Poop Talk. Yup, it’s what you’re thinking. The guys and I talk a lot about various shitty (pun intended) situations. Listen to the entire audio below.

What made you guys decide to go ahead with this film:

RS: This idea came to us from the director Aaron Feldman who is a friend of ours, we’ve known him for years. Great filmmaker. Really smart guy. We were talking and he asked us what we had coming up, then he said he has something that he would love you guys to help with. He said, I want to remain friends before I present this, we were like what is it? It’s the documentary about poop. Ok, we stayed.

JK: At first we were like no thanks.


This was one of my most fun interviews in a while. The subject matter lends to itself. The Sklar’s were awesome. Loved the back and forth we had talking shit. It was easy to open up and share stories of toilet adventures. The guys are really onto something here with this film. It’s one of the most engaging films that is a guaranteed conversation starter. It makes you think about how we view poop as this taboo subject matter and how much shame is associated to it.

Everyone has a poo story, but we never want to talk about it or listen about it. The array of comedians and professionals in the film adds multiple perspectives to this subject matter. You can hear Dr. Drew say one thing, then have a Rob Corddry follow up with with humor and you learn about his bidet obsession.

The Sklar’s were a blast to talk to and very engaging guys. The movie is fascinating and a must see.

Check out more on the Sklar’s tour dates and info 

POOP TALK releases on Friday, February 16 in select theaters and VOD

Interview: ‘Big Sonia’ Directors Leah Warshawski & Todd Soliday

Big Sonia (in select theaters now) is a fantastic documentary about a woman that has overcome tremendous obstacles in her life, surviving the Holocaust being one of them. Sonia’s life is one-of-a-kinda and it’s chronicled by her granddaughter Leah Warshawski and Todd Soliday, who direct this film. Check out my fun and insightful conversation with them below

What prompted you to have this be the point now to make this film:

LW: We began filming when Sonia was eighty-five and at that time we realized that in our lifetime all of the survivors (Holocaust) would be gone.

TS: The clock was ticking. 

LW: The clock was ticking. Also, when we set out to make the film we started out making a short film, it obviously morphed into something bigger and multi-themed. Our intention was to make a short film when she was eighty-five about the shop while she was still healthy. 

How did you plot and plan the movie: 

LW: As you probably know as I’m sure you talk to many filmmakers, everything in the process is dictated by budget and funding and how much you have or don’t have. For us it’s been a six-and-a-half year fundraising process. I’d say we are still raising money, we are always raising money to keep going. Funding is essentially who it took us as long as it did. 

TS: We knew it was a fair bet that Sonia would land in a way that only Sonia can land as she’s done over and over throughout her life. So many times she shouldn’t have survived, but she did.


I really enjoyed speaking to Leah and Todd. They were very forthcoming and personable. There are so many notable little tidbits that they shared about Sonia and the filmmaking process. It was interesting to hear Leah talk about the movie bringing her closer to Sonia than she ever was. Todd’s takeaway was also notable how making this film and witnessing Sonia made him reflect on his own family dynamic and appreciate it that much more. This is what this movie accomplishes. Sonia is an inspirational person. To survive the Holocaust and share her life experiences with people seeking guidance and a perspective is very powerful.

I can relate to having a Sonia-like family member. Coming from a Eastern European family background, I’ve had family members that had a little Sonia in them. In a sense I think of my mom. There is a lot all of us can take away from Sonia. Her spirit is infectious. I know seeing her go about her life motivated me in many ways. First of all I wanna be in damn good shape like she is, so I need to up my activity level! The fish topic was my favorite. I had no idea anyone liked fish in jelly?

Do you have someone in your family similar to Sonia? What did you take away from what Leah and Todd had to say? Please let me know if you’re a jelly fish aficionado hiding out there. Leave your comments and share below or let me know on Twitter @TheJimAlexander or @TheReelTalker

Big Sonia is out now in select theaters, check your local theater listings

Interview: ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ Directors Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen

Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth has a sequel. Unfortunately for us the weather is getting worse, but the movie sequel is just as educational and important, if not more, than the first. An Inconvenient Sequel’s filmmakers Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen stopped in Chicago on their press tour and I had a chance to speak to them. Joining me in the interview are Chicago film critics Jon Espino of The Young Folks and Pat McDonald of Hollywood Chicago. Two very good journalists that I enjoy interacting with. We were all part of the roundtable with Jon and Bonni and the following is what was discussed about the film, global warming and Al Gore. Check it out below:

“I question this all the time, having spent two years with Al Gore, is the work potentially more vital that he’s doing now than he could have done as president? It’s a better question to ask if he hadn’t done it, would anyone else have and where would we be?” — Bonni Cohen


I never know what the folks I interview will be like when I meet them, but I always tend to have an idea or image that sort of comes about before I meet them, even for a fleeting moment. In Jon and Bonni’s case, they were fairly similar what I imagined them to be. They were intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful and conversational. These are the sort of people you are drawn to listen to and hear talk about their experience and expertise. I found them to be that way.

I felt we all had solid questions for them. I liked how Jon snuck in a Star Wars mention, Jon directed Star Wars: Episodes 1 & 2, although there wasn’t much of an acknowledgement to Jon’s statement, oops. Someone was gonna bring it up and Jon was the one. I think the answer that might have surprised us most was that Jon and Bonni were married. None of us had any idea! They were so professional that you couldn’t tell. The content in movie wasn’t as surprising given the reality of the climate change, but them being a real life couple might have been the biggest reveal of the day. I wanted to follow-up and ask them how they manage to be on the road for two years with Gore and bring this film together, all while having two teenage kids to tend to. Can’t be easy.

As far as the movie itself, it’s great. One of those must-see documentaries that impacts EVERYONE on this planet. Global warming is a real problem, just look out the window and step outside and you’ll notice. The film clocks in at 98 minutes, but you’d never know due to the engaging effect it has. It draws you in and doesn’t let go.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power is out now in theaters in Chicago and nationwide. Check your local listings.

You can follow me on Twitter @JimRko and @TheReelTalker