Dean Fleischer Camp is the award-winning filmmaker and New York Times-bestselling author who created viral sensation MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON. Since appearing on Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2011, Camp’s work has been profiled in virtually every major American media outlet. In 2018, his first feature FRAUD was released to widespread controversy and acclaim, described as a “brilliantly provocative”(Filmmaker) and “exhilarating”(Sight+Sound) “masterwork”(Documentary Magazine) that “pushes the boundaries of documentary”(Variety).
His first scripted feature, an adaptation of MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON starring Jenny Slate, Isabella Rossellini and Rosa Salazar, is slated for a 2022 theatrical release via A24. He has directed for Comedy Central, HBO, TBS, Adult Swim and Disney Interactive. Commercial clients include Atlassian, Pop-Tarts, Clearasil, Maltesers, and many others.
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Dean Fleischer-Camp 0:00
Every time someone asked me how like I made it or how I got that movie that first thing made, I tell them, here's how I made it. But don't copy my playbook because Hollywood's like a bank. And every time someone exploits an insecurity, they're going to close it up immediately. You can never do it the same way twice.
Alex Ferrari 0:18
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Dean Fleischer-Camp 1:12
Hi, good. How you doing?
Alex Ferrari 1:14
Good man, I was so excited to have you on the show, man because I just had the pleasure of watching your new film Marcel, the show with the shoes on last week. And I told I told your PR people like I just I need to have them on I need to know how this happened. And go what in what universe do I live in that this movie gets made and put out on the theatrical release and it gets made in general but be put out by through put be put up on A24 like I need to know the story behind this this film because and I was lucky because I didn't know anything about myself prior to watching the movie. So I was I was a virgin and Marcel virgin. But as I did research for this conversation cell has been around for over a decade.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 1:56
So we're going on Yeah, yeah, yes. And he's he's an old soul. You're not wrong. That is pretty unusual for a movie like this to not just get made but get distributed. You know, it took a ton of real like blood sweat and indie film hustle. And it Yeah, I mean, it would not have gotten made it would have, we had sort of the Studio offers when those original shorts are made. And they certainly were not. You know, there had had wasn't really or the hardware wasn't really in the right place. And, and I knew that this was going to be you know, kind of a longer road of finding financing independently and then finding this family of incredible, brilliant collaborators that made the film possible.
Alex Ferrari 2:44
So before we get into the the the archaeology of how Marcel got brought into this world, first and foremost, man how and why in God's green earth did you want to get into this business?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 2:58
You know, I have always been I've always been drawn to movies. I was always a big movie buff and fan. I went to film school. i It's funny that the first thing that sort of took off for me was this internet short, because I think now people are saying like, Well, why did you decide to turn it into a movie? It's like, movies were always the point. The YouTube fame was sort of a weird, you know, happenstance. But I'm glad to happen. And I don't think that this type of film is my favorite reactions are the people that kind of are coming to it fresh because it's been so long since we've done something with the character and it's changed a lot it's grown a lot. The whole backstory is sort of different and new and and but but but I do think that it it would not have gotten made and certainly not in in the way it got made with all the creative freedom that I was given that our team was afforded. If it had not had a previously successful run as you know, YouTube shorts and children's books, I think that they're sort of you know, it's weird that we are we are sort of an adaptation of a pre existing IP because that's like everything that's in movies right now Top Gun lightyear everything is pre existing IP. And it's funny that we're technically part of that, but you know, our process and what this movie is is so completely different from
Alex Ferrari 4:19
A little different than Marvel a little different. Yeah, though. I would I would like to see Marcel in a Marvel movie. I think that was
Dean Fleischer-Camp 4:28
Alex Ferrari 4:32
Exactly! So how you know so for everybody who doesn't know how did this character come to life? It just seems so it just like a shell with shoes on and googly eye like it's insane. And this was came, this was like 2000 10,009. Somewhere around there is when you first came up with so how did the character just come to life?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 4:53
It originally came about because the voice came first. Jenny had been doing this well tiny voice because We were sharing a hotel room for a friend's wedding with like a ton of other people to save money. And she started doing his tiny voice to joke about how sort of crushed and smashed she felt. And, and then when we got back to New York, where we're living at the time, I had completely forgotten that I agreed to make a video for my friends stand up show, like local Stand Up Show. And so, you know, my head popped off the pillow that morning, I was like, Oh my God, that's due tomorrow. And, and so I just very quickly, you know, like, asked Jenny like, hey, let's write a couple jokes for that character. You like really funny voice even doing and then I, we, we recorded it. Jenny did some improv around it kind of together ran out, like a madman collecting, you know, supplies from craft stores, basically, not knowing really what it'd be, I was just like, let's just get a bunch of supplies, and I'll figure something out. And, and I made a couple of little terrible looking like goblins that that did not pass muster, and then landed finally landed on Marcel, who I think is so like, you know, he's handsome. And he's, he's cute. And yeah, it was sort of serendipity. And then I screened it. I think I made it and screened it within 48 hours. And then obviously took off on the internet.
Alex Ferrari 6:14
It was it was stop motion animation at first, right?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 6:19
So yeah, it still is all the all the characters in the film or stop motion other than the the rare exception of the insects or CG, but everything else is stop motion.
Alex Ferrari 6:28
So yeah, I was gonna get into the album again to the technical because I was also Yeah, I'm a post guy. So I've been in post forever. And I was just like, looking at it. And I'm like, Man, is it? Man? Did they? Did they emulate it? Did they emulate stop motion to head? Did they competent? They do the stop motion? And like so we'll get into all that in a minute. Yeah, sorry. So you put up this little you made this little throwaway short? Yeah. Oh, this is cute. Let's throw it up on this new thing called YouTube.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 6:53
Yeah, it was I know, it's hard to even imagine a time when you make a short film, it doesn't immediately get posted on YouTube or Vimeo or whatever. But 2010 was like, yeah, the only reason I put it on YouTube at all, because I was in the habit, I'd made lots of videos for, you know, friends shows or whatever. And this was one of the few that I put on the internet because a sort of friend at that first screening, like, tapping on the shoulder when I was leaving is like, can you put that on line, I really want to share it with my grandmother who was at the time she had like a broken hip or wrist or something. And she was kind of laid up in bed and home down. And she thought it might cheer up. And that was the only reason I put it on YouTube. So it was designed for this audience of one but found a much larger one.
Alex Ferrari 7:36
Yeah, that's the thing that like that is that was literally the definition of viral viral film viral. Yeah, it was completely valid. It made what 32 million views on the first one, the first one you did.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 7:46
It's like more than that, because I took it down and I put it back up and you know, whatever. It's like I think it was probably it probably would be like 50 or something, which is actually Yeah, totally. Oh, yeah. Totally back down. i Yeah, I'm not even sure. I don't know what viral videos were before that, like Nyan Cat or something.
Alex Ferrari 8:03
Right, exactly. So that was like an actual viral video wasn't like something that the algorithm picked up. Like, there's no algorithm for Marcel No. It was just sharing, and sharing and sharing. And people were like, I gotta share this, oh my god, I gotta share this. So it was truly a viral situation. So when you the first reactions that you got from the you know, from that, which is still again, 2010 is still fairly, I mean, the internet's been around for a bit. YouTube's been around for about five years. I remember 2010 Very well. And what happened to you and Jenny, when that when you start seeing these numbers, you're like, What the hell's going on?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 8:41
Oh, it felt pretty crazy. I weirdly was like, I don't know, I guess I was pretty enmeshed in internet culture around 2010. But because I'd had that experience of like screening it at this, like, you know, kind of like art art hipster Brooklyn crowd and 2010. It seemed like the most like judgmental art parts, which I consider myself one. I'm not saying that. But seeing people who would normally be very judgmental about anything that you screen at, like a live comedy show, sort of just like completely melt and be like, what was that? And to see how quickly they connected with this character. I was kind of like, I think that's my go viral.
Alex Ferrari 9:18
Really, so you weren't you had an idea that it might go in, but the definition of viral is not 50 million views. I don't think you said oh, this is gonna go 40 50 million easy.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 9:29
No, no, I thought it would get passed around like, you know, like a small, you know, slightly popular Vimeo video and then we'd maybe we could, like leverage that to make a bigger project with it.
Alex Ferrari 9:41
That was the mindset already. I mean, you were the you were the hustle and filmmaker, like okay, this thing goes, we're gonna go out and get some financing. We're gonna make a feature of this damn thing.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 9:51
Oh, yeah, totally. At the time. I was editing like the I was taking the worst jobs like I wasn't aware. And so I was just like, yeah, how do I segue into director And
Alex Ferrari 10:00
Oh dude, don't you streak into the crier, bro. That was in 25 years color editing. Dude, I used to edit promos for Matlock for a television station back in West Palm Beach. All right, so I was like,
Dean Fleischer-Camp 10:17
I might have you be I one of my first jobs editing was editing a tutorial for how to do like a like, I think I think they advertised on like late night television. It was a tutorial for how to do home water births.
Alex Ferrari 10:32
Okay, so it was like in my I'm going back into my archives and see if I could one up that but man, I don't. I don't really think
Dean Fleischer-Camp 10:38
Matlog is pretty great.
Alex Ferrari 10:41
I mean, I mean it Matlog's is pretty good. Yeah, but I mean, but but, uh, waterbirth tutorial for late, man. That's a I'm gonna give it to you on that one. I think he won. I think you won.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 10:50
And it was like it was like footage from like, amateur, like people who are not, you know, professional filmmakers like filming their own home waterbirds as part of
Alex Ferrari 10:59
The home water birth wasn't lit properly. So it wasn't composite. There wasn't composition, there wasn't a techno crane rolling out.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 11:07
Not a lot of muse on scene, frankly, for my taste.
Alex Ferrari 11:13
Okay, so So the so the first video goes, and it, you know, goes viral enough. Um, of course, even then, people were especially I remember especially because I had I had a video or I had a short film that was making the rounds through Hollywood at that time. And it was doing the water bottle tour and all that stuff. So I imagined that you got calls from Hollywood and you're like, Oh, we got to make this into a movie. I want you to tell everybody because I know what happened even without even knowing what knows what happened. I know they were probably saying you know insane stuff like oh, we should take Marcel up with the rock.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 11:49
Oh, yeah, no, you're dead so well.
Alex Ferrari 11:50
So what were the pitches that you got for your character from Hollywood?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 11:54
The one that that has stuck in my mind was that someone a studio had recommended that we partner him with I forget it I'm pretty sure it was Ryan Reynolds that we partner him with Ryan prime together and as like
Alex Ferrari 12:15
I mean it's not a it's not the worst it's been a hard no it's a soft no one that but I watch it. Like there's some things you just like you should team up with the rock. I'm like, I don't know if Marcel and the rock are really right. Yeah, Matthew, Bruce Willis and him.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 12:34
Chemistry. I was like that one Detective Pikachu came out. I was like, Oh, we got pitched Detective Pikachu was
Alex Ferrari 12:44
What your IP was not nearly as big as Pikachu.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 12:47
So that's right. No, they were to go Pikachu. But yes, so we did that water bottle tour and it was just very clear like, Oh, this is they were trying to draft him on to tentpole franchise. And we were, I was always looking to make you know, more of a portrait piece about Marcel and like, really? Because I felt like there's no reason to blow up. Like blow it out. Marcel is already tiny in a blown out world. Taking him on, you know, fighting terrorists in Paris or whatever is like why, why?
Alex Ferrari 13:17
I'd watch that again. ourselves fighting terrorists.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 13:22
You're gonna see it, you're gonna be on an airplane looking through the new releases, and you're gonna see that soon.
Alex Ferrari 13:27
Is that is that Marcel with Chris Tucker? Is that was that what's going on right now?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 13:32
That would be incredible.
Alex Ferrari 13:33
Everyone, everyone listen, listen, a lot of studio execs listen to the show. So hey, we're just throwing this in. We're spinning out gold. Me and Dean are spitting out gold right now. Alright, so you had to say at least at that point, because a lot of filmmakers when they go on these waterbottle tours, if they're lucky enough to get this kind of attention. They fold. They'll go okay. Yeah, I just want to get in the game. I just want to go. But you and Jenny both said no. Where we're gonna, we're gonna make we're gonna protect myself from the savages of all.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 14:05
Yeah, it did feel like something that was like, Oh, got it. Like, because he's cute. It's sort of like, they're picturing this could be the next minions or something. And, you know, that was like, so out of my just like taste. And I think it was it also, you know, like, indie film might have been a little more the world might have been a little more robust when 12 years ago and so I think, you know, nowadays Yeah, you see a ton of directors making that jump and I don't blame them because they want to make a living and they don't want to spend another seven years you know, financing and doing it independently. So So I totally get it at the time. Yeah, I was just like, No, this character has become very dear to us. We know him incredibly well. And we know that that those little shorts have revealed like 2% of what this movie could be and and yeah, throwing them into the mix with with Chris Tucker.
Alex Ferrari 14:58
But But now Now that you've told his story, he's back on the table. I'm just throwing that out. Yeah, that's right. You've made your art piece. Now let's sell out. Let's sell out.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 15:10
Come at me Disney.
Alex Ferrari 15:12
Exactly exactly where we're willing to sell the IP to Disney anything, let us know.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 15:17
And the other difficult thing is we have held on to the IP.
Alex Ferrari 15:21
Yeah, well, we get you made. So you've made a multiple shorts of Marcel over the years, as I saw, it was like, every few years, you would make a new short, you had a children's book, children's books written about them. So this was an IP, you've you literally did kind of create an IP, which is really an indie IP, which is really
Dean Fleischer-Camp 15:40
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, totally. I think it's a really unusual opportunity that that has, that we've found ourselves situation we found ourselves in the, the the books we did ourselves, we wrote and I photographed them. And then we've worked with an illustrator like to turn them into paintings. And so it has never been the kind of thing like I get a little miffed when I see people say, you know, oh, Mercer, of course, he's a movie now. They like sold the rights to someone. It's like, No, man, it's me. It's me and Jenny. And it has been the entire time and we have met, we've held on to the rights of this character, we've never merchandised him. And we're, you know, we're beginning to try to figure out how to do that in a way that is holistic to the character and involves, you know, me overseeing all those things, but we've never really done the smart thing. So that we don't buy houses in Malibu or whatever.
Alex Ferrari 16:32
I mean, I mean, 100 man, if someone shows up with 100 million tomorrow, I mean, it's a conversation. It's a conversation. It's not a hard No, it's not a hard No. I hope that this I hope that this interview helps you along this these routes that someone that I looked, I saw I saw the indie film hustle interview, man. I'll give you 75 mil cash for the IP. I think we can make this work.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 16:54
What's your commission, man?
Alex Ferrari 16:56
That's the love brother. Just the love for Marcel. That's all I want. So okay, so the next question is Alright, so now Hollywood has is pitched you Pikachu. Yeah, and gone down that road. So you guys said, Okay, we got to get to kind of make this ourselves. So now starts the journey of finding people who are insane enough to give you money to make a movie about a talking shell? Yeah, in a house. I mean, yeah, I'm still gonna have to stop you for a second. I was literally sitting watching the movie. And I'm going, how did this get? Like? How, who? And this is before I knew about the IP and knew about the shore? Yeah, so that makes it a little bit more sense. But not much more? Not much. Yeah. So
Dean Fleischer-Camp 17:45
So there's a period after those that the water bottle tour where, you know, we're making a kid's book, maybe and, and we kind of just said no to that we walked away from those and we didn't do anything, we were just like, let's just keep our character and, you know, not get into something that we can't, we can't handle and that we're going to be not proud of. And so for, I think like three or four years, we didn't, we just didn't try to pitch it as anything bigger, but the character never went away. And Jamie and I were kind of always sort of riffing about what his world would be in jokes. And, and I started sort of taking, you know, lazy notes about whenever we'd have a really good idea that we loved about that. And then, you know, after like, four years, I felt like, oh, this actually could work is like a future film. We've sort of built out the world and done all of this. I don't know, like, imagine imagination, building. And, and maybe this actually could deserve a 90 minute like a full feature. And the first thing we did was we got in touch with lysholm who had produced Obvious Child Jenny's first kind of starring role. And also, you know, small indie and and then after, like, how do we Yeah, let's like do this together, where you've come on to produce it and to start from really from the ground up and help us find finances and find money for it. And so, you know, we put together a kind of prospectus a brief and had I had done a lot of like drawing and sort of building up the world. And, you know, we did like another one of our bottle tour where, you know, we're a little older, a little wiser, I understood, I as a filmmaker understood who I was, and, and it was even more impossible than just let us make an animated movie about talking shell. It was also I want Final Cut. And we want a lot of like a final cut. We want a lot of creative control, and we're also not going to sell you a screenplay. You are buying a really like detailed outline and a vision and a group of filmmakers that will deliver but I knew that the screenplay had to be done in tandem with recording audio. Jenny is such an incredible improviser or she's not a like, sit down and write kind of person. And we had, I forget when but we brought on Nick Paley, who's our CO writer on it. And so we were like, we're not, we don't have a finished screenplay to sell to you, you're buying this idea, this abstract, loose, imaginative story. And a process that I, to my knowledge is a is not a way that any other movie has been made before with this sort of, like, full a full stop motion character integrated into a live action world for a feature length. And, and a lot of places there, you know, one or the other of those ideas was a deal breaker. And finally, we found who turned out to just be like our champions, and I'm so grateful that we have them this, this company called Centereach, who financed the film almost entirely, they're a nonprofit out of New York or a not for profit out of New York, they had finance before you've you've heard of a lot of there, they've been a presence in anywhere for a while they finance piece of the Southern Wild, was there was like, I think their first really big one. And, and they usually they usually do small grants and finishing funds and things. But, but they also have this incredible team of in house producers, who were amazing and came on board. And so they were the place that we found a home for it and a home for, you know ourselves where we were supported creatively and financially. And they they were, you know, crucial to get to a movie like this getting made.
Alex Ferrari 22:00
Not only did you have the balls. But this whole package together, I need Final Cut, you got no script. You were you're just basically it's a wing and a prayer here, guys. And it's not like you've done 45 other feature films based on that kind of scenario.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 22:18
Alex Ferrari 22:21
It is really unheard of. It's really, it's, you're an anomaly that this, how would this got made? But I think it's the power of the character that pushed it through?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 22:31
Absolutely. I don't think that we you'd be able to do that if it was just, you know, from scratch. And of course not, you have to have for someone to believe and have that much faith in something that abstract and that unique, it really requires it having had some record of success. And we were lucky that that was you know, early Internet where it was pretty democratic and pretty word of mouth. Successful. So because it had a little bit of a built in audience, I think that that allowed us to do that. By the way. I don't think I had balls. I think I think competence, sort of ignorance dressed up as ignorance is bliss.
Alex Ferrari 23:08
Doesn't everyone get final cut? I'm just gonna ask for Final Cut. Everyone doesn't have to put in a script. Right? You don't have to buy that. Right. You just just kind of roll with it. So I was I was watching the CBS Sunday Morning. That piece data? Yeah. Which was fantastic. Is it true that there was four versions of this movie made?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 23:26
Yeah, I mean, so we made the movie started four times we did the first round was the first couple years was writing the screenplay. And over the course of that we were we would record audio for a couple days to integrate the like Jenny's great improv and like fold in Isabella and some of the other characters. So we would record a couple days and then write and then recording, right. So that first two and a half, three years was just writing a screenplay. And towards the end of that we were, we were folding in storyboards. So by the very end of that process, we had made the movie in the sense that all the audio was locked, the script was locked, the story was locked, and it was fully storyboarded, Kyrsten laporan, I storyboard the entire movie. So that sort of animatic we could watch and it and it was, you know, we can show to friends and get feedback. And so that was the first time then you go into live action, and you shoot all the plates, those sort of all the live action elements, and then the and then that third step is the is the animation. I guess we made it at least three times, if not more, I'm not sure we made it four times, but something like that.
Alex Ferrari 24:31
A lot of that. And then you were also You were also in it, as well.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 24:35
Yes, yeah. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 24:37
You're playing an older version of yourself.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 24:41
That's so funny. Yeah. I think I'm playing a I think I'm playing a maybe a young I think I'm playing who I was like maybe in college or like shortly after, like, pretty, pretty down in the dumps and depressed, kind of a depressive. I don't, I'm glad I'm not that person anymore. But I want to sort of
Alex Ferrari 24:59
I'm also glad I'm not the guy.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 25:02
Oh my god. Could you imagine?
Alex Ferrari 25:04
Could you could you imagine? Because because it's always fun to see the the the 40 year old in the in the club. It's always Yeah, right in the corner the guy with the gray, the gray in the goatee in the corner. That's exactly what I need
Dean Fleischer-Camp 25:20
Does he own this place?
Alex Ferrari 25:21
Does he own this place? Is he? Like, what is what is he doing over there? Yeah. Oh, he's dancing. Oh, is that what these calls dancing? Oh, God. Now another thing as I'm watching the movie, I'm hearing this voice and I'm going status a Bella Rossellini. No, no way. They got Isabella Rossellini in this. And as she just the character just kept talking. I'm like, That's Isabella Rosaleen. So that the intrigue my my personal intrigue on how this movie was made, how in God's green earth that you pitched this to Isabella Rossellini, and she said, Sure, I'm gonna play a grandma shell.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 26:05
I think we got super lucky we, I mean, we went through, you know, a cast. We worked with a casting director. But we really wanted Isabella and we sent her the offer, and we sent her, you know, a brief thing about Marcel and his history on the internet. And I think that she probably by herself would have been like, No, I'm Isabella Rossellini. Luckily, her I think daughter or her kids were or maybe grandkids were. Or no, I think her dad was like, no, no, we like Marcel, like Marcel is cool. You should totally do this. And so she, she agreed to do it. And I think like, obviously, I felt like she would be incredible at it, but I didn't know kind of how perfect she would be for it. Because she is, like a lot of the things that that character change once we asked her because we were able to write it around Isabella and around what you know, Nick, and I found really charming and great about her personality. And she has so much in common with the character even before we met Isabel like she literally lives on a farm and knows a ton about about farming and gardening. She has a master's in animal behavior. And, and she also is like, she's, she doesn't kind of suffer fools she doesn't. She's She's just like a very charmingly blunt and not mean but charmingly blunt person who cuts right to the quick of things. And that became obviously like a central thing about Nana County, but some some of that. Some of the B roll you can kind of hear just like the texture of her, like for example, when she's showing me her strawberry in the movie. That's literally her just showing me around her farm and me like interviewing her asking her questions about her farm.
Alex Ferrari 27:39
Really, that's how I'm gonna incorporate that in a movie. I'm gonna put that in. Yeah, it's such a fascinating process, dude. Like this is yeah. I mean, like I said, when I want to walk out of the theater, I'm like, I have to have deep I have to find out how this was made. Because it look I mean, I've been I've been hustling in the film game for Yeah, you know, close to 30 years now, with my own projects, and then with the show now that I've heard 1000s of stories, just and I've studied every anomaly known to man, from mariachi to paranormal, I mean, I've studied all of them had a chance to talk to some of these filmmakers. And I saw this, I'm like, I can't wrap my head about how this was made. And that doesn't happen often. Normally. I'm like, Oh, this is what happened, this was happened. And even with the knowledge of the shorts and the IP, it's still such an uphill battle, to try to get something like this and maintain this soul that you guys were able to maintain with the movie you didn't SKU off. You knew exactly who Marcel was. And it you know, I mean, by the way, every time he threw up, I just couldn't stop laughing. It's just gonna stop laughing. Sorry. I just I just, I just it just came into my head. I'm like, oh, yeah, car and the Carter. Yeah.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 28:51
One of my favorite parts as well. I think that it's like, you know, people have been asking me, obviously, well, what's the what was the genesis? You know, you made the character 12 years ago, it took seven years to make the movie? And the answer to the question, like, how does this movie get made in that exact, very unique way is time you you in walking away from those studio deals, you also walk away from a quick turnaround, because the the end road is going to be hard and you're you know, one of your only things that's in your corner is that you have more time than like a studio would require to spit out something or put it on their slate it's a huge advantage. But you are taking a risk that you know it just never sees the light of day or the if specially if it's an internet thing like that you miss your your moment of popularity or something. But it just felt so it just felt like the right thing to do. And I knew that I would feel like a real show that making a terrible Marcel movie with a character whose potential I knew.
Alex Ferrari 29:52
Yeah, it's remarkable. I have to ask you the question though, man. This is something that a lot of filmmakers don't don't understand. it and are dealing with as they as they're listening to this right now. How did you get through this those years? How did you get through those years of not getting the success that you want it not getting the opportunities you want it having to knock on doors and doors being closed on your face the nose and the nose and the nose? Or the yeses? But yes is with with oil to get this Yes, units, you get the strings and string. How did you get through all of those those years? Because this was over a decade of your life with this character and getting getting this thing made? How do you keep going all those years?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 30:36
I think that's something that is important. At some point, I realized you have to like I wasn't a super, I don't know, some of my like homeschool friends like graduated from film school and they were so you know, willing to just kick open the door and like give someone the elevator pitch for their screenplay and, and that works out sometimes. And as someone whose that just doesn't come naturally to I, I realized that I was at some point I made sort of a promise, I think with Nick Paley who co wrote the film that we're always going to hold each other accountable to at least get to know that actual firm No, before we give up on a project. And that is incredibly important. Because I'm, at least before this, I was super willing to you know, if someone just gave me the runaround, or they said we don't know, I don't know, let's let's come back to me in March or whatever, you know, like, I would just I would let those failures or quasi failures really get to me and I interpreted it as a message that just project you know that that was a no, but the truth is, you don't know unless you get to affirm. No. So now I think and I tell this to like anyone who wants to be an indie filmmaker, get to know, at least get to know, because probably they'll say yes, before they say no. If you you know
Alex Ferrari 31:55
So no one asked you the technical stuff. Alright, so you guys shot this?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 32:02
Wait, can I say one of the things actually real quick, going back to what you said about like, studying El Mariachi and? And those other sorts of movies that? I? Yeah. I don't remember who told me this. But I read or someone said to me, every time someone asked me how like I made it or how I got that movie, that first thing that I tell them. Here's how I made it. But don't copy my playbook because Hollywood's like a bank. And every time someone exploits an insecurity, they're going to close it up immediately. You can never do it the same way twice.
Alex Ferrari 32:37
And that's the thing I've learned over the years is that when you because I was always trying to hack my way in, I was trying to like, well, if I go down this road, right, I'll do what Kevin Smith did, or I'll do what Yeah, Joe Carnahan did or I'll do you know, and I'll just kind of go all these ways. And I realized years later after going back and looking like, oh, there was never another El Mariachi. Or that style. There was never another clerks. There was never another Brothers McMullen. There was never another paranormal activity or Blair Witch. Yeah, like, they're like, they snuck into the party. And then the bouncer came in, and shut the door and make sure nobody. Exactly. So the exact same thing with Marcel no one's ever going to walk this path. This is your path and your path alone. People can get inspiration from it. And you know, but they're like, Okay, I'm gonna go make a show. I promise you right now someone's listening, and is going, I'm gonna go make an animated short, with stop motion. And I'm gonna create a character and I'm going to and they're going to try to do this rote. And they're gonna go, Oh, it didn't work. Why did it work for them? Because it was your it was yours. This was this was gifted to you from the gods. And you're like, This is yours. Take care of it. And guided, guided through.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 33:52
I don't want to discourage anyone from going in May. Thanks.
Alex Ferrari 33:55
Absolutely. But not the exact same thing. But
Dean Fleischer-Camp 33:58
Yeah, yes, exactly. Yeah, yeah, it's true. And, you know, to some extent, I think to continue a healthy artistic practice, you can't get caught up in Why didn't this work? Or how do I, you know, how do I get to that person's level, like, you got to just the lighting and control is, is your work.
Alex Ferrari 34:15
But the thing is this, and this is something that I found so true, after years of talking to all of these great filmmakers, is every great filmmaker, every great artist, every great writer, every single one of them is true to themselves. It is their essence, coming through their work. They're not copying anybody else. They're not. They're not doing they're not you know, I'm not trying to be David Fincher, I'm not trying to be Christian. They are who they are. And that is the that is the key to success as an artist, and but that's the scariest thing to come out with a shell with a googly eye and some shoes on and say this is me and put it out on the do I mean serious? That's you guys. That was something that was so purely you. It's not like you said, You know what there was this other shell with two googly eyes. I'm gonna do one. It was something that was so personal to you. And that's what made the success of that at that character.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 35:14
Yeah, it's also a numbers game like luck. I mean, yeah, I mean, you would use the amount of luck required to by making many more things. So I mean, sure, Marcel was the first thing that really took off. But before that I was hassling it as an editor of the waterbirth videos and creating and creating shorts with my friends that, you know, they never went anywhere, though. No one's ever seen those. But it wasn't. Yeah, you got to not it's not a No, I don't wanna say it's a numbers game. But I think you just have to remain in practice. Just kind of,
Alex Ferrari 35:49
You just grind. It's the grind and the persistence of showing up. And I know, yeah, this. Look, there's so many people that make it in this business, who really aren't the most talented, but the most persistent sir.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 35:59
Yes, totally. That's those people that are kicking down doors and given executives elevator pitches when they're like 19.
Alex Ferrari 36:06
Right, exactly. But you also know people who are extremely talented, but haven't gotten the shot. So yeah, you know, it's, you wonder like, why haven't they gotten the shot, but this other guy, or this other girl got the shot and it just not as down? Like nothing against them. It's just, they just don't have the goods the same? Yeah, it's really fascinating. It's a fascinating thing. But if you can be true to yourself and be an expression of who you really are something personal to you. That's the key that you need your secret sauce, that secret sauce is what sets you apart from the crap.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 36:37
And you also won't if you're making something that's personal and true and true to your heart. Yeah, the money is if you are happy to be successful, you know, it doesn't matter so much. of your being standing true to your heart, you're expressing yourself. That's a that's a and and that's the value is sustaining. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 36:53
Absolutely. So alright, so you guys shot it, dude, you guys shot the the shells in? You actually shot it stop motion? Yeah, yeah. And they kind of comped it, or was it all on camera?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 37:07
No. So we, I felt from the beginning, like, well, I want this to feel like a real documentary I honestly had never seen and maybe still haven't like a quote unquote, documentary that doesn't just use it as kind of a joke and make fun of its characters. And so I was like, I want to do a mockumentary about this character. And it'll be funny, but I want to treat him with dignity and tell his story with the same kind of respect that you would tell any documentary subjects story. So part of the difficulty is that it's like, okay, well, you know, it's gonna be a Veritate documentary and have that kind of intimacy. How are you going to do handheld motion with a stop motion character, and it's very, very hard, it turns out, but what we did was that we shot everything, live action without characters in it. And then Marcel, and all the animated characters are shot on the animation stage and composited into live action footage. But because like I've been describing it, like everyone knows how a Marvel movie gets made. It's like the shoot the live action. And then step two is that the the VFX artists model and composite things in the computer into the footage, instead of a VFX. Team? Not I mean, we also have to be flexible, but instead of a computer, we have a our step two as a second shoot an animated animation shoot. And because of that, the lighting on Marcel and all the movement and all and all the shadows has to match perfectly with the live action shoot, or he's not going to comp properly. Because it's a real piece of footage. Marcel is a real stop motion piece of footage. You can't alter the lighting later when you're compositing. And so that required our stop motion DP Eric Atkins being on set every day and taking the most meticulous notes on on the lighting setup so that he can recreate it on the stages down to like, okay, Marcel's standing four inches from a Coca Cola cannon that might bounce light. So like things like that, every scenario every time I looked down at his iPad on set, it just looked like scratching from like A Beautiful Mind. It's just like equations and math and like measurements and but but he did it and he has a real engineering brain for that sort of thing. And it's incredible. And when Marcel's interacting with things, shadows, like for example, when he's in the car, there's you know, are passing by trees and the shadows flickering across. And so for each one of those shadows, Eric had to take a look at the time code, we're passing a tree at this time code, and then and then automate a flag to pass by the light to sync up perfectly with when we pass by the tree. So all of that is super meticulous, incredible work by our cinematographers on the animation team. I mean, I'm sorry and the VFX team also crucial
Alex Ferrari 39:47
No, no I just in our that because I know what everything you're saying. I understand exactly what you have went through and it's insane. It's beautiful. It's a beautifully shot film. It the animation was so good that I was like Is this a CG character that they made look like stop motion because that would make the most sense. Easiest play to do something like that. But then I would see like that like man, the cut that stop motion like the tear, and they got that stuff going they're really doing a good job with that. Like, if that if that is CG like man, so I was like it was so this movie fascinates me is so multiple levels, my friend multiple, double the levels. So then I have to ask you, Why is everyone so touched by a shell with a googly eye and a small pair of shoes that what is it about this character? That everyone? I mean, I teared up in the damn movie, man. I'm like, why am I tearing up over a damn shout?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 40:40
Some funny people keep coming up to me being like, I saw your movie. I'm bald and I can be like, great. That's awesome. Yeah. But I think that what is true about why he resonates with so many people is that we all know what it's like to sort of live in a world that wasn't made for us, you know, either from childhood where you're, you know, literally you are. And then I think a lot of us, most of us grow up and we realize like, Oh, dang it. I'm still living in a world that wasn't made for me, but just for different reasons in my eyes, and, and you know, Marcel, Marcel, obviously, that's his reality. But he doesn't. He doesn't get hung up. I find him very actually, like, inspirational to me. And when you're talking about like, how do you sustain yourself over seven years, it's like, I feel sustained and inspired by that character. He doesn't he get, you know, he has these huge outsize obstacles thrown at him. He doesn't see the impossibility of that. He just sees it as like, another thing to overcome. He will overcome it. It's not personal, just like yesterday, and just like tomorrow, and he's he actually enjoys the challenge.
Alex Ferrari 41:50
Well, I mean, my my daughters haven't seen it yet. Because it hasn't come out yet. As of today. They're 10. So Oh, great. So we did get Yes. I'm like, I'm actually 25 years old with it done to me. But I actually did at the screening, get the stick on a 20. Oh, yeah. The little peel offs and stick on like, so they're in Marcel's in my, in my my girls bathroom right now, as we speak, it was like first time I hear girls, I got something for you. And they put them up into like, I don't know who this is. But they're drawn instantly. They haven't even I think I showed him the addition to the trailer. They're like, oh, I want to watch that. And I'm like, oh, yeah, and my girls are gonna ball. It's gonna be fantastic. Now, last question,
Dean Fleischer-Camp 42:37
I's so glad to hear that because Oh, sorry. Yeah, no, that.
Alex Ferrari 42:40
No, no, no, you're saying,
Dean Fleischer-Camp 42:42
I was just gonna say, I'm so glad to hear that. Because I think, you know, like, we made this movie to appeal to our own sensibilities. And it was always sort of a question. Like, we want kids it to be family friendly. And we want kids to enjoy it. But we weren't sure if it was gonna play young because it's, you know, it's not like the spectacle that, like the minions is or whatever. And so, so, but I've been really, like, really pleased to see that kids as young as like, five or six, like, really loved the movie and, and are laughing at all the same places that we are mostly,
Alex Ferrari 43:14
I mean, I mean, you just have to throw your throw up. So when you got a couple, you got a shell throwing up, sir. I mean, you've you've got them. Sorry, you've, you've hit that demographic fairly well. Last question, man. And how did A24 hated this?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 43:28
Or A24. Got involved? I'm so like, they've done such a great job of helping to, you know, bring it to audiences and hopefully get you know, make sure it's seen by the people that would want to see a movie like this. They got involved because we screened it. The Telluride, we premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last August or September. And they, they bought it after shortly after that. And it was such a beautiful coincidence that they were I think that they're trying to I don't know if they don't I think they're trying to you know, branch out and do movies that aren't just like, the typical A24 movie, whatever that is.
Alex Ferrari 44:11
Right! There is no wait.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 44:14
It's really weird. It's like people are like, Oh, it's like folk horror or dark shit. And it's unlike. I mean, Moonlight. ladybird. menari. Like, none of those are
Alex Ferrari 44:23
Everything, everything everywhere all at once. I mean, totally. Hot Dog fingers, sir. There's hot dogs. So, last question. What's next for Marcel? When's the when's the sequel?
Dean Fleischer-Camp 44:37
I don't know whenever Ryan Reynolds freeze up. I don't know. I mean, you know, hopefully the movie comes out finds an audience and there's a there's a market for a sequel, but I know for sure that like, I got so excited when we started developing his community, which was one of the last things that we sort of did because we're not in the movie for very long and now like I love those characters, but they're all Yeah, exactly. And some of them have really great, you know, voice talent attached to them. So I'd love to do something that you know features a few more of those characters. Let's see,
Alex Ferrari 45:11
Dean man, I thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm so happy that this movie exists in the world and in this universe. I appreciate it. We needed more than ever. I think now we need we need a film like this. We need to we need Marcel. We need Marcel we need some happiness. We need to connect to those kinds of characters against a brother man. I appreciate you making the movie and nothing but continued success, man. I can't wait to see if you come up with next brother.
Dean Fleischer-Camp 45:37
Thank you. This has been so fun talking to you. Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's been great. Also where can I get a hustle hat?
Alex Ferrari 45:43
At my store at I appreciate you brother. Thanks, man!
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- Dean Fleischer-Camp – IMDb
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