RSM: Rebekah Sherman-Myntti.
KJ: KJ Rothweiler.
CEP: Curtis Everett Pawley.
What’s your job?
RSM: Filmmaker, Producer, co-founder of Simone Films.
KJ: Filmmaker, Producer, Podcaster, co-founder of Simone Films.
Where do you live?
RSM: New York, NY.
CEP: New York, NY.
Can you tell us the story of the Simone films? What is your goal with it?
RSM: KJ and I met as teenagers and made a pact to make movies together. Simone Films is a home base for us to be able to make the movies we want to make and also support the artists whose work we want to see in the world. We’re incredibly fortunate to collaborate with some of the most interesting and unique new voices in cinema — this next wave of talent coming out of New York City right now is very exciting.
KJ: Rebekah and I met signing up for film classes together in college and made a promise back then to make movies together. I hope we always do.
Can you tell us the story of The Life? What is your goal for it?
CEP: Me and KJ would always talk about how we loved band names that start with “The.” We talked about The Cure, The Fall, The Church, The Clash, etc. One day legendary UK producer Zomby said “What about The Life? No one’s used that.” So I started using it. To me, a band called The Life could sound like anything, and that’s exactly where I wanted to be. When Covid hit, I started writing a lot. I didn’t know what to do with what I was writing, and didn’t have a band to play live, so I just focused on The Ion Pack. In 2022, I finally snapped out of it, got a band together, and decided to try playing some songs live. One show lead to another and I started meeting a lot of other NYC musicians. New York is a great place for music at the moment, so it’s been a great year. In terms of goals, I don’t quite know. I think that things work out when you don’t have a plan. My only goal is to write more raconteur anthems and teenage symphonies to God.
Can you tell us about Salamander Days?
RSM: Salamander Days is a movie KJ and I have been working on for a very long time. It’s about the drifting-cloud-like memories and associations inside a teenager’s mind… and the haze of time. Loss, grief, grappling with unknowable occurrences, absorbing information — trying to make sense of things that will never make sense.
KJ: I’ve always loved coming of age movies but have only seen a few that remind me of what it really felt like.
CEP: Imagine you’re young and on your way to school early in the morning. You’re tired and looking out the window listening to a song. Then you get to school and you’re not quite awake yet. Maybe you’re thinking about a crush you have, or something that’s coming up that weekend, or maybe you’re thinking about something heavier, something going on at home. The feeling of whatever song you were listening to is lingering as you have these thoughts. You don’t even necessarily have the song stuck in your head in the traditional sense, it’s more the impressionistic aura of that song lingering over you, heightening your emotions and your thoughts as you dream through your day at school. This score was me trying to capture that exact feeling.
What do you like about scoring a film? How does it differ from your usual process of making music?
CEP:When you’re writing music on its own, you have to channel a larger feeling and figure out how to bring it into the world in a way that translates to the listener. With scoring, the film already has channelled that feeling. It’s my job to bring out the nuance of the scene, and make that feeling more palpable. So having the filmmaker do that ‘translation’ process already is like having a bandmate. I always think collaboration in that way is way more ripe for something beautiful.
In the case of Salamander Days, I went up to Rochester NY with everyone and was there for the entire filming. So I saw KJ and Rebekah’s entire process and saw this thing truly come to life before any editing. So it felt like I was as close to it as I possibly could be as the composer. I’d love to always be on set if I’m gonna write the score.
Tell us about the screening of Salamander Days in Paris. What is next for the film?
KJ: It was like seeing the baby in Eraserhead – a perfect birth. We’re bringing the baby back home to the US in October, my birth month.
RSM: Watching Salamander Days in David Lynch’s theater was surreal. I was studying in Paris when Silencio opened so it was very full circle to be back in a place that KJ and I used to frequent as students. It was special to show the movie to members of the cast who hadn’t seen it before and also share it with dear friends and some of my longtime mentors who live in Paris. Our amazing editor Brian Kinnes was also there so the screening was a true family affair. It’s a fascinating experience to watch something we all made together so long ago and see many different eras of our lives represented in the footage and also in the edit.
CEP: Sitting in a theater where something you worked on is playing is more nerve-racking than performing music live. When you’re performing live you’re challenging yourself throughout to win the crowd. With a movie you have to just let it rock and hope for the best. But it’s a great payoff. I can’t wait to do it again.
How did you three meet?
KJ: I met Curtis at a concert in high school – he joined my band because we didn’t sing. I saw Rebekah in the registration line on the first day of college.
RSM: I met Curtis and KJ on the first day of college when we were all 18.
CEP: Midland Avenue, Yonkers NY.
Can you tell us an adjective for each of them?
CEP: Rebekah – generous / KJ – stalwart.
KJ: Rebekah – magic / Curtis – charmed.
RSM: KJ – impassioned / Curtis – present.
What are you working on now?
KJ: A movie about Philadelphia
RSM: My next movie, TOMORROW!, and lots of projects through Simone.
CEP: Staying alive.
Can you define yourself with an adjective?
Your favorite style icon?
KJ: David Blaine.
RSM: Mick Jagger.
CEP: Philip Marlowe.
Best thing about New York City?
RSM: Life is in your face.
KJ: Forces me to see the beauty in other people.
What you cannot stand in people?
KJ: No sense of humor.
RSM: Pretentiousness and unkindness.
CEP: I basically love everyone.
Have you ever been in love?
Cinema or theatre?
If you were a character of a movie which one would you be?
RSM: Vito Corleone.
KJ: Rick in Knight of Cups.
CEP: Billy Brown.
If you could have a super power what would you choose?
KJ: to heal.
RSM: the power to cure illness or to be able to time travel to deliver messages.
Do you think man’s life has meaning?
KJ: Depends on how you live it.
What would you have done (or wanted to do) if you had not done your job?
CEP: Professional Poker Player.
Can you give an advice to your younger self?
CEP: Think less, do more.
RSM: Remember that it’s an endurance test.
KJ: Keep going.
If you could choose a person you know to read this interview, who would it be?
Curtis: The girl reading this.
Rebekah & KJ: Derek Cianfrance because we briefly met him at a screening when we were 22 and, after we told him we wanted to work for him, he said “You don’t want to work for me. Go make a movie. It will teach you more than I ever could.”