Saturday, July 15, 2006

An Interview with Actors Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson

This interview took place on or around July 15th, 2006 at a hotel in Seattle, to promote Kevin Smith's return to the View Askewniverse with Clerks II. It was posted on both the ComingSoon.net and View Askew message boards, but I'm reposting it here for the sake of preservation.

Tyler Foster: What, in the past, would you have said, not when Kevin brought you the script, but before, when fans would ask about a Clerks II?
Jeff Anderson: I wasn't a big fan of doing a sequel to Clerks, when Kevin came to me with it, we had lunch, I didn't want to do it. You know, Clerks is a weird movie, it's had a lot of odd things going for it, and somehow caught on, and it's not a movie that screams for a sequel, you know, and Kevin coming off Jersey Girl, I was curious what his intentions were, it didn't seem like a good move on his part. It was...the whole thing was kind of odd, I didn't immediately warm up to it.
Tyler Foster: Do you think maybe the existence of the cartoon maybe helped the fans feel that you could go back to this universe without doing injustice to the original film?
Jeff Anderson: I don't know, 'cause the cartoon is so different...
Brian O’Halloran: Separate worlds...
Jeff Anderson: ...it's like it's completely different, you're doing stuff in the cartoons that you could never do, you know, shoot live-action, so, it was, I think it was kind of a different animal.
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, it was something that had no effect time or storyline to the originals, and the other parts of that world, it was just something that reminded people of these characters, is pretty much about all. I mean, when he approached me to do it, you know, I was, being a working actor, wanted more work, I was like, "Yeah, sure," you know, just having faith in Kevin and his writing, that he'd be able to tackle it. When we were doing the cartoon, I remember he was telling me about some of the ideas, that some of the future episodes, if it had gone on, where he was drawing some of the ideas for the sequel from, which I thought was pretty funny.
Tyler Foster: Just as a curiosity, what exactly was it like audition for the infamous, apparently horrible live-action "Clerks" TV pilot?
Jeff Anderson: You know, that was really weird...that came about...I don't think any of us even knew about it.
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, I found out, I was actually meeting with different agents at the time, out in L.A., and I remember this one agent I was having a meeting with, I was interviewing with, said, "So you're going in for the "Clerks", you know, the Clerks TV sitcom, right?" And I thought she was kidding, like, "Ha ha, yeah, wouldn't that be appropriate," And this agent is, "No, there is," and she brought out the treatment, she's like, "Look." I'm like, "No, this is the first time I'm hearing about this." "Well, would you like me to send you in on this?" You know, trying to gain my business, so to speak, so I was like, "Yeah, sure, set it up." And I had called Kevin and Kevin didn't even hear about it at the time, either. And I had called Kevin, going, "Kevin, what's going on," he wasn't involved with it at all, because Disney owned Miramax, they had the rights to it, and Warner Brothers came and wanted to get the license to do it, and they were given the permission to do it, and that word got around this circle of us, and we were like, "Did you hear about this?" "No, I didn't hear about it," and they started sending us in, and we were like, late into the audition process.
Jeff Anderson: Yeah, when I went in there, it was again, it was already...my part was cast already, and it was a TV show, and I don't know what we were doing, some sort of publicity thing I was doing with a film crew, and they thought it would be funny to film me going in and auditioning for this, and I was like, "But my part's already taken." So I actually went in and auditioned for Dante, and I read the script and thought it was horrible, and I'm like, A, I'm not going to go here because it's horrible, but B, I'm going to audition as Dante? That's a little bizarre. And they were like, "It's going to be fun for TV." So, I went in and did the audition, but really had no interest in being part of it, and actually when I saw it afterward, it was a couple years later, I think Kevin got a copy of it, and it was like "Saved by the Bell: Clerks", it was just horrible.
Brian O’Halloran: It was the production value like that. That's just the thing, it's a television thing, if you're going to make a sitcom for Clerks, it's gotta be something like, on HBO...
Jeff Anderson: The Randal character, he worked in an ice cream parlor, it was an ice cream parlor attached to a convenience store.
Brian O’Halloran: And I remember Kevin just flipping out, going to the production company, going, "You can do anything you want, but you can't have Jay and Bob, the Jay and Bob characters," and he arranged it somehow so they couldn't do...they had no intention to, apparently, but yeah.
Jeff Anderson: Well, it was kind of funny when it came about, because Kevin didn't know about it, right, and then all of a sudden, he became the executive producer on it, and then when I was going to audition, I was literally walking onto the lot as Kevin and Scott were walking out, and I was like "So, you're both producing it?" and they went "No. We're out of here." And I was like, "Well, I'm going to go in and read for Dante for these TV guys and then I'm out of here too."
Tyler Foster: Do you think a new live-action show could be done following the events of Clerks II if Kevin was involved?
Brian O’Halloran: I don't know, I don't think so.
Jeff Anderson: I think pretty much the live-action Clerks stuff is over.
Brian O’Halloran: I mean, if there was any interest, I mean, if they threw boatloads of money, and even then it would be hard...it would have to be on a cable format, it just could never work on mainstream TV.
Tyler Foster: Will you return to the cartoon show?
Brian O’Halloran: Well, that's actually in the works. Not so much as a series, but as a direct-to-video unrated movie. I think Kevin has talked in other interviews about how he's working on that in, I think, 2008.
Jeff Anderson: That animated stuff was hard to believe we were paid to be there. We would be in there crackin' jokes, some of the stuff that was going on in some of those recordings...
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, it was just so much fun. Exactly, it was great just to meet some of these great guest stars that we had, they were just so hysterical. Michael McKean, he was a pisser to work with, Dana Gould, he's executive producer of "The Simpsons" now, he was funny as hell, you know, all those guys...it was just like, God, so much fun, I think he had a suggestion where we should do an episode where we're all just in our underwear, and record it that way, and that was like, "Well...okay...", but to think that we could do that...no one would ever know, just so funny.
Tyler Foster: Well, there's always the example of "Family Guy", and do you think if the cartoon movie was a big success and another channel offered, you'd be willing to do a new incarnation of the cartoon show?
Brian O’Halloran: I'm already reserving my seat at that microphone already, I've been crying about that cancellation ever since 2000. I mean, I was thinking, I'm set, this is the job where I can do other projects, and then just come down and lay down tracks, not even be in the city and lay down dialogue tracks. As a kid, I've always had a fantasy and a dream of working on cartoons, I've always been into voices, and stuff like that, that was my dream job...you'd just have to tell me when and where, and I'd do it.
Jeff Anderson: Yep. Animated, I'm there.
Tyler Foster: Do you think if the animated series had continued you still would have done Clerks II?
Brian O’Halloran: Hmm, that's a good question. I don't know if we'd have needed to do a Clerks II at that point.
Jeff Anderson: I think the animated series, the way it was, helped put it back in Kevin's mind, to do the movie was sort of back there, but, that's a good question, if it had kept going, maybe we wouldn't have come back to this. I think maybe he would have exercised some of the stuff that he wanted to tell in an animated fashion.
Tyler Foster: How much, if any, of the version of this film that turned into Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back made it into the finished film? Did you ever see a script for that version?
Jeff Anderson: I don't know, that wasn't...I very rarely keep up on any of this...
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, I don't think any of this came out of Jay and Bob at all, I mean, he had ideas, what if, he were ever to do a sequel, he had, I think just three elements, that eventually made it into the film, that he was like, I definitely want to do it, you know, I want this in it, I definitely want to have something like this in it, and I kinda want it to wind up where they're like this, and the rest was all done... 'Cause the idea came to actually do it after, when we were working on the ten year anniversary DVD, we went into the studio to put down the vocal tracks for the missing scene, which was the funeral scene, in which we animated similar to the style of the cartoon, and I guess after coming off an underperforming Jersey Girl, and hearing these characters, and reminding himself of a time when we just had a fun, fun time shooting a very funny script, he just wanted to do it again, and he came to us, "what do you think, do you want to a Clerks II," and then after we said yes, and Jeff saying, "Well, you know what, let me see a script first, and we'll see what happens," when he pounded that out, I think it was only within 30 days or 40 days that he pounded out Clerks II, and then us reading it, but I was like, "Wow, this is great," and so the elements from the other world and the other films, there wasn't much in it.
Tyler Foster: What, if any, was the one element you felt you had to preserve from the original Clerks?
Jeff Anderson: I don't know if there was a specific element...I mean, even when Kevin came to me, like, trying to sell me on the idea of doing it, even in my own mind, I didn't really know what it had to be, the sequel. That's why I couldn't figure out why he was so set, like "I know what it has to be." It didn't seem that obvious to me, and I wasn't quite sure what needed to happen in II, but I was sure it was something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it, so I was just curious to read it like that. And I think some of the stuff that helps it, the new one, is the emotional stuff that's in it, and I wouldn't have thought that that's what it needed. Like, if you had asked me, I would have said, "I don't know what it needs, but it can't be just us sitting behind the counter making fun of people again." I wouldn't know what it is that it needed, but I think the surprise thing, the thing that's going to catch people off guard is the emotional levels this time around as opposed to the first time, where it's similar that it's a day in the life, but there's stuff going on with these guys this time, so I think that's what was needed.
Brian O’Halloran: Exactly, I couldn't have...I wouldn't have been able to pin it. I mean, yeah, you're going to want to have one or two customers being shouted at, or whatever, because people love that, that type of shit, but yeah...he tackled it, I think, brilliantly.
Tyler Foster: Kevin has always said that if Clerks is his life at 20, then Clerks II is his life at 30...
Brian O’Halloran: Absolutely, I mean, all his films are that way. I mean, it's definitely...every one of his films is pretty much where he stands on life and what he's questioning about life at that moment, you know, religion in one sense, relationships with best friends and a lesbian thrown in, and Jersey Girl and Mallrats, I mean it's pretty much you can see it going on, so now he's in his 30s, and he felt like he could see where these guys would be, where their fears of where they're lacking are to be, I think it was something that he could totally pull from his heart, and get the best of each film and plop it into there.
Tyler Foster: Well, do you think you also needed to be where you are now to make this movie?
Brian O’Halloran: I think so, I mean, you know, if he wrote these characters as they were in their 50's, I think it would be hard for us to relate in a sense...it's helpful to be playing characters that you are age appropriate for, so you can play it identifying with their problems and their fears.
Tyler Foster: Was anything major cut out of the film?
Brian O’Halloran: Well, actually, there was this really funny one scene, which is a second half of the driving scene, coming back from the go-karts, which was Randal's, which was hysterical, which I'm kind of upset to see go, because it was just so hysterically funny.
Jeff Anderson: You're upset to see go?
Brian O’Halloran: Well, yeah, you had to memorize seven pages of dialogue.
Jeff Anderson: Seven pages, and he cut the scene out. You'll definitely see that as a deleted scene, and it's gonna be a deleted scene, and I hate to start hawking the DVD already, but that scene alone is worth the price of a DVD, it's a scene coming back from the go-kart track, whereby, I in a quite convincing fashion, I try and convince Dante how he could in fact impregnate his own mother through masturbation. It's a seven page scene in which I lay out every possible argument.
Brian O’Halloran: It's funny as hell, all during this drive. And then there's another scene with Wanda Sykes and this other stand-up comic by the name of Earthquake, who are two customers waiting for food, and there's a scene going on between me and Rosario while making the food, and then there's their little side conversation, where Kevin just said, you know, talk amongst yourselves, just make it look on camera like they're talking, and it was so funny that he immediately flipped the camera around and said, "Just go," for a full eleven-minute mag of film, and we just let them riff, and that was just so, so splitting, so I'm sure you'll have that customer rant on the DVD as well.
Tyler Foster: Did the Miramax/Weinstein split interrupt the film?
Brian O’Halloran: It delayed it, it delayed it by about a year and a half, I know that much, between that happening, and Kevin getting involved with and being cast in a film called Catch and Release, which comes in out in January, with Jennifer Garner, between that, the pushback that Miramax, with the Weinsteins leaving Miramax, and then also him being cast...year and a half. I remember I was putting things on hold for quite awhile, thinking, "oh yeah, we're going to do it this month," or "Oh, we're gonna do it in two months."
Jeff Anderson: That actually almost caused more trouble than anybody knew, because in that push time: my feet were cold. And Kevin got a few phone calls during all the time pushing it and pushing it, where I was just like, "You know...still not convinced. This isn't a good idea." We went to dinner a few times, he had to talk me off the ledge a few times.
Tyler Foster: And Jeff, your film is still scheduled to come out on DVD from them this year?
Jeff Anderson: Scheduled to come out on DVD by the Weinstein Company, should be out alongside Clerks II.
Tyler Foster: Well, the sequel is great, and it's pretty amazing how close you guys have stayed to the characters even after 10 years, watching Clerks and Clerks II, it's almost identical...
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, that carbonite really helps us out. We're well preserved that way, Kevin's like "Okay! Here you go, Bri!" "Ohh, what year is it?" "Ten years later. Boy, carbonite really fattened you up." "Well, what do you want me to do, it's edible."
Tyler Foster: And lastly, just another curiosity...how many members of the Hicks family do you think there are?
Brian O’Halloran: I don't know...they're very well inbred, that's for sure...the name alone, "a bunch of hicks..." I dunno, there's probably like 20 or 30 of them, take over a town...I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Mayor Hicks out there somewhere as well, the mayor of Leonardo.
Jeff Anderson: There's only one Graves.
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, he killed everyone else.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

An Interview with Director Michel Gondry


This interview was conducted on June 18th, 2006 at the W Hotel in Seattle, WA prior to the release of Gondry's film The Science of Sleep. It was previously posted on the forums at ComingSoon.net, but for the sake of preservation, I'm posting it here as well.

I would really love to see the White Stripes project he mentioned happen. It sounds amazing.

Michel Gondry: Hold on, you need to push the microphone, it pops up, somehow...there.

Tyler Foster: Have you been to Seattle before?

MG: Yeah, I been a bunch of times. Let's see, once was for wedding, and I was here for, it was Charlie Kaufman, to promote Eternal Sunshine.

TF: I notice your movies and your music videos all have a circular, mathematical logic to them. Is this something you shoot for?

MG: Yeah, very much so, I like mathematics. Not that I was really good at it, I was good at geometry, I liked the thinking of mathematics, and I like to try to find patterns in nature, and in life and in storytelling as well. I like to find shapes in the storytelling, try to represent the flow, the continuity of the story as a graphic, and actually I always did sort of a map of the movie before I started to shoot.

TF: Was the movie written in all the many languages it's performed in or did that happen when you were shooting?

MG: Ah, initially, I wrote it in French, and then in American, in English, and then I did a version with the two languages together.

TF: I mean, say, you cast Gael Garcia Bernal, did his character speaking Spanish come from casting him, or...

MG: Well, yeah, it came from casting him, but I cast him like one year before we started to shoot, so I had time, all this year. I worked on the last draft, having him in mind, and we knew, Miou-Miou, that, we knew she played his mother, we knew she didn't want to speak English, and we said, "Okay, with her, he's going to have to speak French." Sometimes obstacle like that, like, you get an actress you really want to work with but she refuse to speak English, so we have to make it work, but sometimes it's for the best of the project, because it made it good that he has to speak with her in French, it makes it really makes sense for the story. And so, I had to resolve these issues, but I tried to make it believable as possible.

TF: Is this related to why you decided to shoot it in France, because your other two films have been essentially American productions.

MG: Yeah, it's a French production, it's because it's really personal, and I wanted to have the background I knew. Like, for Eternal Sunshine, I did three months of research around New York to find how people live, and to make it real. And this one, I didn't want to spend this time, and I really want to make it from what I had in mind originally. So we actually end up to shoot in the building where I used to live ten years ago, two floors above, and all the streets of the location, I know them, so it saved a lot of time, and as well, I wanted to have this emotional thrill, when you come back to a place you've not been for awhile, and you come back there, and you feel something, and I wanted to take advantage of that.

TF: Again, leading in, is this why you decided to use more of your "homemade", physical effects and prop gags and stop motion instead of CGI, because you used a lot of CGI on Eternal Sunshine.

MG: Well, I suppose...I'm doing a video for Beck now, it's going to be a lot of computer effects, but we have done some effects as well in the camera, and for this, The Science of Sleep, especially since everything like, Stéphane's creation or Stéphanie's creation, I think it makes sense it's all handmade, because I don't want to feel when you watch the film, you think you are going into the world of a crazy art director or director, you're just going into Stéphane's world. If you assume Stéphane is me, then you're going into my world, but before all you're going into Stéphane's world, and the different landscape of the dream could be all different, or contradictory, [but] they all match, because you feel he made them himself, it was important for me. Even though I was not really aware of this element, it was important that it was his production.

TF: Had you written Charlotte Gainsbourg's part for her?

MG: Ah...the part was written for someone I knew, and I knew by hiring Charlotte, it would bring some humanity, because it could have been a harsh...with some other actress, could have been much harsher, and I didn't want this character to come off as being unfriendly, and I think Charlotte brings so much humanity, and it's interesting, I didn't give her direction in the sense of...I didn't know if Stéphanie is in love or not with Stéphane, and I told her, "I'm not going to tell you, because I don't know it, so I give you the dialogue, and you make the intention you want." Obviously, I gave her some direction, but overall I would not say what was in her mind, and I asked her many times, "Well, do you think she likes him?" Obvious, I was taking it for me, but at the end she says, "Of course she loves him," so I was happy, but I think she was talking more about Stéphane Gael than Stéphane Michel.

TF: Do you know when we'll be seeing an American trailer for the film?

MG: Oh, the first one, it's going to be in the coming weeks. It's coming out very soon. And there's going to be a website, called www.howdoyoudream.com, and we're going to ask people to share their dream, and I'm going to do a journal of my dream, with my videotape, and I'm going to explain them in my own way. And I did interviews with people, I did interview with Beck, and he told me his dream, so it's going to be fun. It's going to be related to the film, but not completely directly, we're trying to create a community website.

TF: Moving onto some of your other projects, how did Dave Chappelle's Block Party get made? Did Dave talk to you, or...

MG: Well, lately we're joking around, we are doing some festival together, and he said, he tried to call Spike Jonze, so then, because he wasn't available, he asked me, so I was not serious and I joke I want to do a documentary with Chris Rock but he wasn't available so I asked him. But we had the same agent, and when he saw my DVD he was a fan, and when I saw his TV show I was a fan, and as much as we are different, we have a lot in common in the creative process, and as well, he, suppose, at an adequate place, he wanted to give back to the people who helped him with the show, because all the musicians came to play on his show when he was nobody. Now he was becoming a big star, he wanted to give something back to them, and I liked his suggestion so I wanted to be part of it.

TF: Speaking of that, what do you think is the most rewarding thing you've gotten out of your relationships with your constant collaborations with Björk and The White Stripes, and would you ever do a film with them, whether that's a fictional film or a concert film like Block Party?

MG: Yeah, I think so, I have a project I wrote for The White Stripes, and then it was put on the side, and it was a biographic project, and basically, I was really happy with the project, and I hope it's going to happen someday. I wanted to interview them, with a stage, with some people re-enacting what they're saying, and we would bring more and more props, and I would have two actors to play Jack and Meg, and Meg and Jack would be there to play their music to illustrate what...I think the idea was that, I would play them their music, and they would tell me, listening to their music, what they had in mind when they wrote the song. Then, we would illustrate these moments with two actors, one for Jack and one for Meg, while they are doing the same music. So it would build up like that. Each time we would have some interview or voice over, and we see people re-enacting as they were playing the next song, and it would build up like that. And Björk, at some point, maybe it was Björk, it would be a different medium, maybe we would do a big exhibition together, maybe we would do it next year. I don't think she wants to be an actress, ah...

TF: Yeah, that's what she said after Dancer in the Dark.

MG: Well, yeah. She did with her boyfriend, but that is different, she was just being herself. Working from A to B, and she was not having to pour emotionally. I'll do anything they want me to do, basically. And it's great to have met those people, I mean it's, it's like you wish for any director, with my background, coming from being a video director, doing music directing, that you get on board on a project that's taking off. You never know, you get on board many projects, whether it's a band or artist, and a lot of them are going down, and you don't know it, and you jump on one that's going *boom*, to the sky, and it happened to me with Björk and the White Stripes, it's your best luck, because you travel with them and they help you...you help them and they help you at the same time. Like The White Stripes at some point, they consider me a third member of the band. It's very flattering, and they have never been disappointed by anything I did for them. And when you work again, again with the same artist, you have an enormous pressure, which is to make it better than before, not disappoint them, and it's really a pressure you put to yourself, but it's a good one; when some other artists are...give you...make your life difficult, then you have a pressure that makes it not as good.

TF: Do you think you'd ever collaborate on a single project, like a movie where you co-directed, with Spike Jonze?

MG: We did some stuff together, we did like a Kadavasky's little film. We are like, hanging out with one of those fast cameras with a little screen, so it was starting a story, and we would carry on after another, and we didn't know what was going on, because we just see the last frame. I don't know, maybe, but I don't know, maybe we are too close, and I think he's more willing than me to collaborate and stuff, I'm more individualist, I fear too much to lose my individuality, I feel my personality is maybe not so strong, so I really want to establish myself. And maybe selfish.

TF: Well, then, do you know when, if ever, you'll be doing another installment of the Director's Works Series you did with him?

MG: Yeah, I want to do another, but Palm Pictures, they didn't pay me yet, so I'm a little...[laughs] I mean it, this thing was the best thing that happened to me, to put out this DVD, because after that people started to think of me as a creator, as before they said, "Oh yeah, he's a video director, so he's just like the visuals, doesn't care for the story," but once they look at that, they, people from the movie business, who are a little bit close-minded, started to open to me. And they say, "Oh, you can do good videos, actually, he did some good ones, so, maybe these are not so bad," And that helped with a large amount of Eternal Sunshine, so I'm really pleased on the way it turned out, with the book, and all the menus, everything was exactly the way I wanted, and it was very nice, and I wish it was always the case. The only thing is, we sold like two or three hundred thousand copies, but it's okay, I'm [trying with] the next one to have more right on it, and get some...I have already, like, 15 to 20 videos lined up to do it, and I'm doing a subject on my auntie this summer, who has been a schoolteacher all her life in countryside, little town, and my son, the documentary will be called Paul Gondry, he's my son, and it's going to be about his painting, and he's grown up a lot since the DVD. (The planned third wave of Director's Works DVD were never released, but Gondry released a second volume of his work on his own, through his official website.)

TF: The DVDs showcase a lot of your animations. Have you ever considered doing an animated film?

MG: I'm not sure I would want to do all animated...I was thinking, like today, I would like to do an animation, that I would do every day, would do five seconds, for one year, then see where it goes, but completely improvised. I just did a video for this guy where I just did like, an animated doodle. It's very satisfactory, it's like, just very relaxing, doing your little drawing and then it comes to life. So maybe I will do something, like, the other day I was interviewed for TV, and I took a notebook, and as I was doing the interview, I did the figure, and then the one, and then the one, and I said, "Okay, you have to take all the shots, and cut one frame on each, or two frames and it's going to be animated, and I did this guy with a small foot and a big foot, and he's trying to walk, boom, boom, boom, boom." (mimics the character walking in a circle) And I said, "ah, I should do something like that in a bigger size."

TF: Just as a curiosity, did you get offered Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

MG: I don't know, I think Spike had it, I didn't remember, I think I was probably working.

Tyler Foster: Do you have plans to do a science fiction film?

MG: I don't know, I mean, I'm trying to do science fiction, I'm working on Rudy Rucker's book [Master of Space and Time], with Dan Clowes, but it's complicated, because we like all the quirkiness of the book, and the producers, they like, they try to make it more mainstream, to be able to raise the money, so it's complicated, science fiction, and I think it's why, except maybe for, Philip K. Dick, it has been very hard to adapt, because he's had history about being paranoid, maniac, and messy, disorganized, and this is not a quality that allows you to make money for a movie, and you need a lot of money for a science fiction movie, because you have to reconstitute the whole world, but...so, I don't know how to make a science fiction movie that excites me, it certainly would not be like Matrix or Ridley Scott, but I think...Blade Runner is a masterpiece, but I...it's been in France, shown for too many years now, and I don't know where movies can go. I mean, I think, Verhoeven has done new stuff of science fiction with RoboCop or Starship Troopers, really great movies, but you need a lot of money to do a science fiction movie, and sometime, like Starship Troopers or Mars Attacks!, truly great science fiction movies, they are not so accepted by the audience because they are too, too edgy.

TF: Well, in here [Gondry's Director's Works DVD booklet], you mention Back to the Future.

MG: Yeah, it's quirky, and it is some darkness in it, but it's not slick.

TG: Well, it's just not a space movie, I think too many people think space when they think science fiction.

MG: Ah, yeah. But I think in a space movie you could do something quirky. I mean I guess, Galaxy...Guide, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was like that, but there was something, I don't know what it is, too...mainstream and clique. I don't know, it's hard, I don't want to judge other person's film.

TF: Finally, on your highly publicized next project, do you think Be Kind Rewind will be stylistically more like Science of Sleep or Eternal Sunshine?

MG: I don't know, I'm going to try to shoot a wider format, anamorphic, the letterbox, and it would be a contrast with the way we shoot the movies, which is video, and completely crappy, and the way the film is going to look, which is going to be a little more slick, so we'll see. I put myself in a different situation, like, the last film I did, the two last films I did, it was all handheld camera, and this one I think I will put my camera on a tripod, or crane.

Monday, March 13, 2006

An Interview with Writer/Director Rian Johnson

This interview was conducted via email around March 13th, 2006 with writer/director Rian Johnson about his stylized film noir/high school debut feature Brick. The interview was originally posted on the ComingSoon.net message boards, but I am reposting it here for the sake of preservation.

Tyler Foster:
First, the basics. How long ago did you write this film, and how did the project and cast finally all come together?
Rian Johnson: I wrote Brick just out of film school, back in '97. We shot it in December of '03, so it was a six year process from script to screen. Part of that had to do with my lack of both industry contacts and social skills, part of it was due to the sheer weirdness of the script. But most of it is just that it's really hard to get the money together for any indie movie. It came together and fell apart multiple times, and all we could do was keep chugging along and hope that all the pieces would line up eventually.
Finally, bit by bit, they did. I found a great casting director who helped us pull the cast together, and an amazing producer who knew how to get movies made for very little money. Then with those pieces in place, I had the confidence to pass the hat to friends and family and scrape together our tiny budget.
Tyler Foster: How's it been taking the film around?
Rian Johnson: It's been totally energizing. After finishing the editing process it's easy to get burned out on your own movie, but now that I'm getting to show it to audiences and see how it bounces off of people, I feel like I'm seeing it through fresh eyes.
Tyler Foster: I could ask you what your influences were in making Brick, but that might be too easy. Has anyone seen an influence in your film that wasn't there?
Rian Johnson: Yes, and those are always much more interesting than the ones I know about! My favorite is the Dark Shadows connection - a sharp eyed viewer pointed out that the Pin bears a striking costume resemblance to Barnabas Collins from the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows. Coincidentally, Joseph played a part in the 1991 remake of the show. Weirdness abounds.
Tyler Foster: Looking at IMDb, I see you not only edited Lucky McKee's debut feature May but he also starred in a short film you directed called Evil Demon Golfball from Hell!!! How did you two meet?
Rian Johnson: Lucky and I met in the dorms at USC. You can track down the Golfball short pretty easily online, and see a quick shot of Lucky in his glory days. There's also a pretty big visual May reference hidden in Brick, which at all our screenings I've only had one person catch.
Tyler Foster: You think he'd work on a project of yours in the future?
Rian Johnson: I hope so - he's actually a pretty fantastic actor. He just finished a movie called Roman which is sort of a companion piece to May. He made it with Angela Bettis, but they flipped roles - Angie directed it, and Lucky starred in it. I did a bit of editing on it too, it's a very cool little movie.
Tyler Foster: Any chance that Evil Demon Golfball From Hell!!! will end up on the Brick DVD? Do you know what other supplements there might be?
Rian Johnson: I thought about it, but because it's a USC student short they technically own the rights, so it would be a headache. But I am going to put a short that my friends and I made in high school called Origami Master which is fun. I've also put together a bunch of deleted and extended scenes, and some commentary and behind the scenes pictures that will hopefully give a good feel for what the shoot was like. We're working on the commentary track too -- I'm not a huge fan of commentary tracks where the director just babbles for two hours, so we're trying to figure out how to do it so it's a little more structured and interesting.
Tyler Foster: Speaking of DVDs, I think pretty much every Focus DVD I've popped in over the past three months has had the trailer for Brick on it. How has Focus been going about marketing this film and how much were you involved?
Rian Johnson: I've had very little involvement, just because I haven't felt the need to get involved. Focus has done a great job so far, they really believe in the movie and are doing a great job of spreading the word about it.
Tyler Foster: Lots of directors these days post blogs. Is the message board (http://www.rcjohnso.com/forum) your version of the blog?
Rian Johnson: Absolutely. I'm a big internet geek, I'm constantly trolling the web, and it would always frustrate me to see people asking questions on various random sites around the web, and getting either no info or misinformation about the movie. So I'm trying the message board out as an experiment really, a place on my own personal site where people can talk about Brick and I can give answers when I have them.
Tyler Foster: What was it like, getting the Originality of Vision prize at Sundance?
Rian Johnson: It was quite a thrill. Going into Sundance, I had spent seven years of my life working on this movie and nobody had seen the finished product, so I was very very nervous. Getting that kind of creative validation was an amazing feeling, for me and for the whole crew (and my family, the investors!)
Tyler Foster: Did you see anything cool at Sundance that hasn't hit theaters yet?
Rian Johnson: The bad thing about having a film at a festival is that you don't have any time to see movies. I only got to see Mysterious Skin, Me and You and Everyone We Know, and The Squid and the Whale. Although after Sundance I saw a great movie called The Puffy Chair, which I think just got distribution a few weeks ago. So that's my hot tip.
Tyler Foster: Clear up the release dates for me, plus throw in your two cents on when maybe the film will open wide?
Rian Johnson: We open in LA and NY on 3/31, then will spread out very quickly in the weeks following. If you live in a major market in the US, chances are Brick will be coming to a theater near you. I'm going to be posting the exact cities and release schedule on the main site and on my message board, that's the best place to get the most current info.
Tyler Foster: Anything you're working on for the future?
Rian Johnson: Absolutely - a con man movie called The Brothers Bloom. It's a globe trotting con man adventure romance fairy tale. I cheated a bit, and wrote every location I've ever wanted to visit into the script, so we end up hitting most of Europe in 120 pages. Grab for the brass ring, right?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

An Interview with Director Jason Reitman

This interview was conducted around March 12th, 2006 at a hotel in Seattle, to promote writer/director Jason Reitman's adaptation of Chris Buckley's book, Thank You For Smoking. It was originally written for a college newspaper, and because it is a roundtable interview, the majority of the questions are not by Tyler Foster.

Question: So, do you consider this film to be the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Jason Reitman: Oh, yeah, I mean, I wrote this thing over five years ago, so, I had opportunities to make other films in the interim because of my short films, because I was directing commercials, but this is what I wanted to say as a filmmaker, as my first step into a professional career. This is the kind of filmmaker I wanted to establish myself as, so I could kind of continue down a career line of making smart comedies. It was a big challenge, it took five years, it was a challenge just to get the job originally, it was a challenge to find someone to actually put up the money and make it. What was amazing was once we finally had the rights and the money, how quickly the cast came together and how quickly we got it to its premiere in Toronto.
Question: Is that like your anti-pigeonholing exercise, to get your first film out there and have it be what you want to do, so if people try to lump you into certain categories, then --
Jason Reitman: Yeah! Certainly! Well, you're gonna be lumped into a category no matter what, and I think that's important to understand if you want to be a filmmaker, and I just didn't want to be lumped into the category of high-school teen romantic-comedy director, which was basically what was available to me before I wrote my own script.
Question: How much of a part did the writer of the book play in the production?
Jason Reitman: A lot! You know, it's funny, there were previous writers to me who took stabs at writing this screenplay, and they never spoke to him, so the day I called him, he was really surprised. I left a message on his machine, and I said 'Hi Chris, this is Jason Reitman, the guy they hired to f--- up your book.' He called me back, and we started this fantastic relationship, and we're now good friends, and I would send him drafts of the screenplay, and he would send me notes, and he actually came to set, and he's in the film. It's a small part, I'm not sure if you remember it, but at the point when Heather Holloway releases her article, we go across the city and we see people reading it, and there's one guy in a subway station, an older guy -- well, I shouldn't say older guy, cause now Chris will be pissed -- there's a guy in the subway station, and he's reading the newspaper, and he just frowns and shakes his head, and that's Chris Buckley. He showed up at Toronto and he showed up at Sundance, and I think he's very proud of the film, and proud to have ownership over it, and he and I are constantly talking about what we could do together next.
Question: You mentioned your short films...I noticed they're all sort of hot-button topics, so are you interested in controversy, is that something you sort of look for in making a film?
Jason Reitman: You know, I think if you look at my short films, you look at my feature, what it really says about me is I don't like authority, I don't like being told what to do, so a lot of my films deal with that subject. As far as controversy...[laughs]...my feature has certainly found its own controversies, but my short films have generally been accessible and always been more entertaining actually than normal short films, which usually are the thought-provoking rantins of a college student. And that's not bad, but when I went to film festivals, I noticed that, and it was my desire to come back and make...bring entertaining comedies that could really break from the norm in the film festival world.
Question: You think those short films will be on the DVD or anything?
Jason Reitman: Uh, they probably won't be on the DVD, they are available online at www.atomfilms.com, and I probably...you know, we're entering into a really interesting time as far as short films go, in that...there's all these available ways to watch short films now, on, if you have a Video iPod, if you have Video On-Demand through a cell phone, the short film is actually going to become a necessary part of the marketplace, and you can tell by the amount of email clips we all send our friends. And right now, it's goofier stuff, it's like a bear falling out of a tree, but that will develop, and the bite-size entertainment will be a meaningful thing, and at that point I hope to finally make a fortune off my short films. [laughs] No, I just they become a part of the marketplace.
Question: When did you actually finish writing it, you were saying five years ago?
Jason Reitman: Yeah, the actual writing process was only three or four months, it happened end of 2000, beginning of 2001, we didn't shoot this film until the beginning of 2005.
Question: It's uniquely appropo, especially in Washington with our anti-smoking laws that just went through, that this is what you were thinking of five years ago.
Jason Reitman: Right. Well, it's funny, throughout the process of this, even when I just found the book in the late '90's and the book was seven years old, the question I would always be asked was, 'well, is this still relevant, is this still relevant?' There was a big tobacco settlement in '98, and does the film still mean anything after that, and it does, because people continue to want to tell other people what to do. And I know I'm sitting at a table of Seattleites or Washingtonians, where you have passed this kind of ban on public smoking, so I hope I don't offend any of you, but I think that's ridiculous! I'm not a smoker, I don't like smoking as much as the next guy, but I don't think as long as it's a legal product, I think there's something very wrong about telling people they can't smoke outside, and it's just as ridiculous as telling people they can't drink Coca-Cola outside.
Question: That's next.
Jason Reitman: That'll be next, and then next will be the Whopper.
Question: Burger King's almost gone anyway. Going along this line, what's the message of the film you want people to get, because you're not really promoting or being negative about cigarettes. You're kind of saying people should choose for themselves, that's the message I got.
Jason Reitman: Yeah, I think the message of the film is about personal responsibility, you have the freedom to do very dangerous things in life, and if you're going to do them, that's fine, but you have to take responsibility for those actions. Look, if you want to kill yourself, that's okay, you have the choice to shoot yourself, that'd be faster, you smoke cigarettes, it will take 20-30 years, but don't go blaming the tobacco industry at this point. Or at least don't talk to me about that, because I just don't buy it. I have a hard time believing that you went into this habit unknowing, unless you're 80 years old, and you have to take responsibility for that. And it's a message to parents, you know, there's a big father-son relationship in this film, and there's a parenting message in this film, which says we have to prepare our children so that they can make these types of decisions when they get older, and that's not the responsibility of corporations and not the responsibility of the government.
Question: So you're not worried that Katie Holmes is going to overwhelm your movie?
Jason Reitman: [laughs] No! You know, it's funny, because I made a political comedy, so there's a very specific audience for that, and I presume up until Katie Holmes, we were gonna find people who normally like indie films, political comedies, smart comedies, and she has opened us up to the 14-year-old boy demographic, so I'm thrilled.