IFH 241: An Evening with the Duplass Brothers | From a $3 Short Film to Netflix & HBO



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I had the pleasure the other night to see two of my inspirations speak on stage. Mark and Jay Duplass or as they are known The Duplass Brothers, were at a book signing for their new book, Like Brothers, and gave an awesome talk about how they got started, playing the Hollywood game and making up your own rules.

Many of you know that the Duplass Brothers are the reason why I got off my ass and made my first feature film This is Meg. Their “just go out and do it” attitude inspired me to go and do it. This further inspired me to make my latest film On the Corner of Ego and Desire. If you haven’t seen their $3 short film, This is John, that got into Sundance and launched their careers take a look:

Here’s a bit on their new book Like Brothers:

How do you work with someone you love without killing each other? Whether producing, writing, directing, or acting, the Duplass Brothers have made their mark in the world of independent film and television on the strength of their quirky and empathetic approach to storytelling. Now, for the first time, Mark and Jay take readers on a tour of their lifelong personal and professional partnership in [easyazon_link identifier=”1101967714″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]LIKE BROTHERS[/easyazon_link], a unique memoir told in essays that share the secrets of their success, the joys and frustrations of intimate collaboration, and the lessons they’ve learned the hard way.

Part coming-of-age memoir, part underdog story, and part insider account of succeeding in Hollywood on their own terms, LIKE BROTHERS, is also a surprisingly practical roadmap to a rewarding creative partnership. From a childhood spent wielding an oversized home video camera in the suburbs of New Orleans to their shared years at the University of Texas in early ‘90s Austin, and from the breakthrough short they made on a $3 budget to the night their feature film Baghead became the center of a Sundance bidding war, Mark and Jay tell the story of a bond that’s resilient, affectionate, mutually empowering, and only mildly dysfunctional. They are brutally honest about how their closeness sabotaged their youthful romantic relationships, about the jealousy each felt when the other stole the spotlight as an actor (Mark in The League, Jay in Transparent), and about the challenges they faced on the set of their beloved HBO series, Togetherness—namely, too much togetherness.

From their obsession with people-watching at airports to their always-evolving “top 10 films of all-time” list to their personal email conversations to their defense of Air Supply, LIKE BROTHERS is as openhearted and lovably offbeat as Mark and Jay themselves.

I highly recommend any and all filmmakers and screenwriters read this book. [easyazon_link identifier=”1101967714″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Click here to take a read[/easyazon_link].

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Mark Duplass give this game-changing keynote at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival you are in for a treat. Sit back and take a listen.

Enjoy an evening with the Duplass Brothers.

Alex Ferrari 0:35
Today's episode is extremely special guys, because I was privileged to sit and listen to two of honestly my idols people that filmmakers that really got me off my ass to go make my first film this is Meg, and continue to inspire me on my second feature on the corner of ego and desire. And those guys are the duplass brothers. They were the first time that I heard what they did with puffy chair, their first feature film, where they just went out and did it and didn't really wait around for permission and just kind of went and did it and didn't really care about how it looked or whatever. They cared more about story and performance. And and it really just inspired me. So I had an opportunity to see them. Give us a lecture at one of their book signings for their new amazing book, like brothers, I've read the book, and it tells the entire story of how they made it into Hollywood, how they change the rules of how they are making films. And it's really inspirational. And also a whole other sections of the book are all about working with brothers, working with siblings and how to get along and how to collaborate, and and that whole world as well. So it's a wonderful read. And I wanted to hear what these guys had to say. And I was able to record most of their Talk, I'm going to I'm going to give you a little lead into where the recording is going to pick up. They're talking about their very first short film, which is called This is john and he did it back in 2003. And basically, the way it was is they were both sitting in their little apartment in Austin, Texas. And Mark turned to Jay and said, Today we're making a movie and Jay was like, What are you talking about? We don't have a 16 millimeter camera. We don't have crew, we don't have lights, we don't have actors. He goes, I don't care. We're gonna go make a movie. Let's grab mom and dad's video camera home video camera, I'm gonna go to the store and get a tape for $3. And you've got 15 minutes to come up with a story. And he bolted. So since he didn't have a lot of time to figure out a story, he came up with the idea of basically what happened to him earlier in the week where he was trying to set his outgoing message on his answering machine, and literally having a nervous breakdown about it. And that is where we pick up the story where the boys are talking. So really enjoy the rest of this episode, guys. These guys are super inspirational. And I'm gonna have a bunch of cool stuff. At the end of the episode, you can see the $3 short film, and a ton of more resources and more talks that mark and Jay do in the show notes and all that kind of stuff. And I'll talk a little bit more about that later. But until then, enjoy Mark and Jay Duplass

Jay Duplass 4:47
And I was trying over and over again. I couldn't get it right. And I pretty much had a nervous breakdown. And when Mars another miles a mile away. You might want to cue Get up now because this is what we're going to show. So I told mark the idea, and he said, cool. And he got dressed in my Kelly. I was doing like temp work and it was called the Kelly people and you in, you know, I had one button of shirt and some slacks, that's all I owned, other than like, you know, just sweat pants at that point. And he put the shirt on and he looked at the tag and we saw that on the tag and said john Ashford and we were like, okay, that's your name. And he and he walked outside and he said, Roll camera. I'm coming in. This is the movie

Mark Duplass 5:53
So what ended up happening is that we shot 120 minute take. Our friend David Zellner who's running another brother filmmaking team helped us edit that down to about seven minutes. And we didn't feel like, you know, it was gonna be the greatest show in the world. But we definitely felt like we had broken through and told something that was very specifically, let's watch it again, very specific to us very unique to our sensibility. You know, we weren't trying to be the Coen Brothers, we were just making fun of ourselves and the way we do things. And so we're like, what, what are we doing this, we don't know. And then we submitted it to like a couple of film festivals on a large one of which was Sundance, and we got into Sundance that year. And it was the worst looking movie that had ever played the Sundance Film Festival. And it was a dead pixel right in the center of the frame. But it was also the worst sounding movie, which we had that going for us. But it really connected with people, there was something in it and, and I think we have tried to stay as close to this process as we can, which is basically, you know, artists are young filmmakers always asking us, like, you know, how do I get started, and besides failing for 12 years, which we try to tell them to avoid is kind of that thing where like, there's little conversations you're having with your loved one or your best friend or someone that's going to in the morning, and you're like, giggling uncontrollably about something you're confessing to them, when you get like, you know, you get shivers in the shower, remembering something horrible and embarrassing that you did. Like, if you can identify that and share it and communicate it like that tends to be like kind of what were the stuff and so we've basically been trying to do that since.

Interviewer 7:47
And, Jay, do you think you recognize that at the moment, then that you had maybe finally sort of broken through and like, discovered what your guys's voice could be?

Jay Duplass 7:58
No, I was, I was just depressed and obliterated, no, but you have we did have a moment where like something interesting? Yes, I would I did know at the time. I mean, I was just blanketed by decades of failure, you know, I mean, what I did know is that we had captured something that we had never captured before, like something happened in front of me. And it was very private and personal to me and Mark, this is nothing that I would have told anybody else in the world. It's so fucking embarrassing, you know. So I knew that that had happened. I knew that it was real because Mark was with only a few years younger than me, he was hot on my tails of having that nervous breakdown, it was easy for him to tap into it is the first time we'd ever captured a performance like that. And we just knew also that we after one take we we walked away from it, we were like, Okay, we got that, whatever that was, we got that. But it was so different for anything that we had ever conceived or thought we would do. You know, and then when it played at Sundance, and you guys, the crowd had this reaction. And also another reaction, which you didn't have because we're alive right now. But half the Sundance crowd was also like, scared, he was gonna kill himself. Like that was seriously like, the questions we were getting is like, that was the most hilarious film we've seen at Sundance, but also we were afraid he's going to shoot himself in the head. So it's like this weird thing. And it was really not anything smart about us. It was just we saw people laugh at us hard. And we were like, I guess that's what they want from us. Just keep doing that.

Interviewer 9:46
But then how did you sort of push that forward and sort of, in some ways, recapture and expand that?

Jay Duplass 9:53
Very carefully. Yeah, we really try to stay close to it. Our next film was another short This time it had two actors in it. Really branching out is still happening, a kitchen is still shot. And then we went to Sundance with that. And then we thought, okay, it might be time for us to consider making a feature film. But like last feature film we made was terrible. And we were so scared, we had that sort of like PTSD. So we were like, We know how to make a seven minute scene work. Let's make a movie that's like, let's do the math. 12, seven minutes scenes, that would be an 84 minute movie, we feel like we can pull that off. And then we again went right into Jays, available materials School of thinking where I was like, I was a musician, and I had a van. My wife, Katie lived in this very small town in Maine where we could shoot a lot of stuff, and people would be friendly to us. And we, you know, we're like, oh, this is furniture store going out of business, we can get two matching recliners for $500. However, we have like one of them on fire, that'd be fucking awesome. That'll be like the big effect of the movie. And so we cobbled together the puffy chair out of out of that, and, and what was funny about that is we really thought, like most people did like that would be a stepping stone to getting us into Hollywood or into traditional filmmaking where we could make money. And so when we had the puffy chair at Sundance, and we sold that we got agents, and we, and we moved to LA. And it was this whole rigmarole of like, well, now you're like, now you've done your Sundance movies, and you could be a feature filmmaker at the studio system. And that was wildly different than we expected to me.

Interviewer 11:40
And I mean, one of the things in the book that I appreciated so much, it's just the practicality of a lot of what you guys are talking about. I mean, we went through lines in the book is just how to pay your rent. And was it important for you guys to sort of keep that sort of like nuts and bolts practical stuff in the book? And do you think being for finger aware of that stuff? is one of the foundational ways that you've had the success that you've had is maybe didn't overextend you, you know, you you kept it to like, Oh, I have a van. So let's use of him.

Jay Duplass 12:13
Yeah, I mean, I think that that process is endemic to our success, that minimalist, sort of, I mean, it really boiled everything down to what we think is important in storytelling, which is, you know, story and acting. in filmmaking, it's, you know, it's great if you have a gorgeous film, but like, you can have a gorgeous film of the story and acting sucks. No one cares. But if you have a film that has good story, and acting and looks like absolute shit, people will still love the movie, maybe like some, you know, nerve beings are not gonna like it, but like, you know, if they feel it, and we felt that and we, honestly, that process of, I mean, when we made these movies, $3 The second one was, like 50 bucks, you know, the puffy chair was $10,000, to produce, and it was truly, what is the cheapest amount of money that we can make this movie for, you know, like, don't use movie magic budgeting software, start with a piece of loose leaf and write the 14 things down that you have to buy, so that the movie can happen. And then people who don't want to be part of a rinky dink movie like that, you want to eliminate them from your set, it like weirdly boiled everything down to like, you know, Mark was talking about the puffy chair and he's available materials. And Katie was with Mark and she had to do it. And like I had this friend read who played the brother, and it was the criteria was like reds really interesting. And he'll do anything. That was like a criteria for him make the movie he'll do anything we say because he's got nothing going on. You know, like, at the time, he was like, Hey, man, you want to come to my apartment. It's here in orange, we have this beautiful morning. I was like, how busy he was. And we have continued that. Now. I mean, like when we make a movie, even if we made a movie in the studio system, Mark and I we will pull the budget back. I mean, when we made Cyrus for searchlight. No one had ever made a movie in the studio system for $7 million. I mean, they were like, yeah, we've never gotten it under 10. And we're like the we can get it under 10 we can make that movie now for $300,000. But, you know, we were trying to be mentored as studio people at that time, but that today that is our philosophy is to make the movie as cheaply as humanly possible. So that, you know, for instance, if you make a movie and you go to Sundance, if you make a movie for $200,000, and it has a couple of famous people in it, it's going to make its money back And if you get really lucky, maybe you sell it for a million dollars, and then makes a ton of a ton of money.

Mark Duplass 15:05
And that was kind of a journey. It's like, we realize when we made like our little movie bag ad and subsequent smaller movies like the one I love, and the overnight and others Creek movies that we're making everything we make them so cheaply, we actually have people calling us like, that's so great, you have this artistic integrity and you don't care about money we're like we gotta do care about money is kind of important, because it helps us continue to make more movies, we fund our own movies. And we make more making those movies by owning them and making them ourselves that if we did getting a paycheck from a studio, and it guarantees is that creative control. So it's become kind of seminal for our model, I think we thought, I mean, Cyrus and Jeff who lives at home, it's hard to make a studio, we, you got to fight a lot to get what you want done. We thought if we keep doing this, we're going to be burned out by the time we're 50. So we kind of took a step back down into the Sundance world, in the independent world. And that's pretty much what we do now is try and make these movies on our own time and, and make them very cheaply. Because you get to kind of stay around, you know, like, if your movie doesn't blow up. It's not a big deal, because it didn't cost that much money. And that's really important to staying vital. And we felt like, the message we're hearing and the independent film world right now is like, nobody will give me any money to make my movie, I've got this $12 million movie I want to make with no stars, it's about incest and rape. I think you should make that movie for $1,000 and then sell it for $10,000. And you'll be a wild success. Nobody should give you $12 million to make that movie, it's not the right time. So we kind of felt like being pragmatic and fiscally responsible, something that we want to put out in the book, because it's a big part of serving our creative.

Interviewer 16:53
Well, it's things that I've always found so interesting about the two of you. And the way they work is that I, I feel like in your trajectory user like just snuck in the door, while the sort of the the idea was you'd make a short film or play a festival, you'd make a feed out of a festival, you would sell it then so you know, someone would get in and work with a distributor or a studio and you guys were following the path that you were supposed to. And you can tell me if you feel like that was working or not. But it seems like you made a decision to like go down this sort of other path and to work in a different way. And like once you kind of got in, and you started working in the conventional way. What changed? Like, why didn't you just like continue down that path?

Jay Duplass 17:39
I mean, we were incredibly steadfast in curating the way that we made things together. I mean, we make things unusually, we work in a sort of like, weird communism. I mean, we are anti on tour. We are we have visions about things. But like, because there's two of us, it's not about the dictated dictatorial vision. It's more like, Hey, we're here, we're trying to capture this feeling. Let's try and get some lightning on a set. Like that thing happened. It doesn't work in the studio world doesn't work like that. But we did a lot of things like for instance, when we work the studio world, we were like, oh, would you say cut 50 people rush on set, we can't have that. And also, we can't have 50 people staring at our actors, because we make these intimate movies and what we feel like we have to offer like genuine performances. So we cleared everybody off the set, and we put them in a garage that had monitors and they didn't like it very much. But when they saw the footage, they were like, okay, we get it, we get what you're doing. So everything sort of worked. Moving into the studio system where the buck stopped, was with the studio heads. And we're talking I mean, like, we're talking about super smart people who had been a part of making very good movies, who were giving us a $7 million movie based on a $10,000 feature. So we were making a huge leap, which we also recommend people don't do. But the main difference is that we we had to have a million conversations about what we were making in our process is a process of discovery. And so they were making us nail down all these things. And when we couldn't nail them down, they assumed that we were weak, and that we didn't have vision

Mark Duplass 19:20
They needed they want to answer that you know, the answer to everything is going to make your movie good before you go in. And here's the deal. There are a lot of people that can go in those rooms with baseball, baseball caps, chewing gum, were very eloquent and can answer those questions very well and confidently, and they're not always the best filmmakers, which is crazy. And we thought like, Well, you know, what's worked for our collaboration through the years validation, listening, admitting that we maybe not know best and when we did that with the studio heads. That was the exact impression we got. It's like, they don't really know what they're doing. And then and it wasn't until something crazy happened. I mean, look, we're we're I'm still friends with all these people and we love them. And we've transcended this. But on like day four or five, we're filming Cyrus. We're coming from the independent world, we're directing Academy Award winning restaurants, oh man Academy Award nominee, john C. Reilly, and like Jonah Hill right up super bad in the middle of movie started up. And so we're trying to earn their trust, we're doing great. And, and Fox Searchlight tells us that they want us to reshoot the first scene we shot, because it's too brown and too down. And we want to add some throw pillows to the apartment. And we were like, this is gonna be tough for us to tell our actors that they need to reshoot the scene, it could blow our trust. And, and it really came to a head. And I kind of lost my temper, I started screaming. And I was just like, doing the thing. He spoke sternly I spoke, I was doing the thing on accident that the baseball had gone to a director's do. And in that moment, they were like, Oh, they have fishing. Oh, look at this, they know their thing. And that killed us. We're just like, is this is what is required to do this. And hindsight, we were being naive. When you have someone else's money and a lot of money, you need to secure it for them and make them feel good. Like it's gonna make their money back. That's why when people hear that, like, you know, there was this whole article going around a couple of weeks ago about how we had like, once turned down a Marvel movie. And they were like, what, that's crazy. But we were like, if we were to do, we had trouble directing a $7 million movie, if we would have to deal with like a $200 billion product, you have to be responsible to them. It's almost not about a piece of art. At that point. It's about servicing a product, you know, so we were a little naive thinking like, hey, they gave us a million dollars, I love our movie, let us go discover it on set, I understand why they needed to know that. So now we'll just tuck ourselves away. And we just say, Hey, I totally get it. Let us just do our thing. We'll make it cheaply. And we'll kind of gouge you where we sell it back to you.

Interviewer 22:02
I've always liked the idea of you guys making a Marvel movie because I always thought it would be like everybody's waiting in the van or something like that wouldn't.

Jay Duplass 22:12
We're pretty sure if we made a Marvel movie, it'd be like, that'd be a really long like eight minute scene before he leaves his house. And he's really confiding in his wife about how fat he looks in his space. He can't possibly go out there

Mark Duplass 22:29
And he's dealing, he's got low testosterone, and he has to take a low t medication. And also one of you motherfuckers is not cleaning the blender in this house. This is gonna come to a head right now. I just think we all really like real estate, you have to spend three years of your life and doing only that. And we'd like to make like 15 things a year and spread ourselves around. And so we also we feel like we wouldn't be happy doing that they wouldn't be happy with us for sure. Because we'd be fussy and talking about discovery. And they'd be like, this $200 million is no discovery, which I would totally understand. They'd also be like, read the fucking comic book, bro. It's already written. So yeah, and then to the larger point of that, and this is part back to where Jnr are right now that's like, our collaboration for so many years, because we had failed. And we found this as john right. And so we were like, what's gonna stay in the two of us, because we gotta protect it, make sure it doesn't get diluted or get bad. But then as we got a little better at our craft, and started to realize, like, we don't want to just tell only the stories that we could tell. We realized we wanted to collaborate with a lot more people. And that's how we started producing people's things, which is like, I mean, honestly, I really started was our friends needed money. And we were the only people who have money, so we would give it to them. But but it led to like, Oh, this is really great. Like, we can produce a movie like tangerine in which we are not authorities to tell that kind of story well, but Shaun Baker kills it, you just needed our guidance and our money in some protection. And so that has allowed us to, you know, make a show like well, well country, which we like, can't make that but we can foster that govern that. But you can't do that when you're directing Marvel, PVC, just you can't spread yourself around like that, that spreading around and collaborating with lots of people has allowed us some of that space we're looking for where we can like, develop relationships with other people and have those kinds of intimacy. So it's been very good for us. Now.

Interviewer 24:32
Cyrus and Jeff live at home. I'm very intrigued to know how the what the two of you just think of those movies and how you feel about them? Well, no, it just in the sense that they see now I pass that you sort of didn't take I don't know for you, they felt like that was some sort of creative cul de sac Do you feel you're going to get stuck making movies like that or like in some ways goes through these should have been your sort of Pinnacle and the springboard to like even bigger movies. And you guys didn't treat them like that. And so how do you how do you feel about whatever that sort of like phantom limb is now?

Jay Duplass 25:07
Well, I mean, I think, you know, when we were coming up with one of the the komen brothers, but we'd let go of that. But we're still holding on to being writer directors holding on to each other, and moving into what we wanted to do. And back then, this was the dream for independent filmmakers is to move through Sundance and comment to Fox Searchlight, and make sideways. You know, that's what everybody was trying to do is make 10 to $20 million great artistic movies with big movie stars. And when we arrived, that model died. I mean, basically, you know, to, to do the math of it. You know, Cyrus was a $7 million movie, they only made $10 million dollars. And a lot of people are very surprised by it because people lose critically acclaimed, it was very funny. It was very moving emotionally. It was everything that a movie like that is supposed to be. And we were like, why didn't we make $10 million. And then when we made Jeff who lives at home, I think Jeff, who lives at home only made $4 million. And that same right after Jeff was at home, we produce safety net guarantee, which was a $750,000 movie that also made $4 million. And it didn't have wildly famous people in it like Jason Segel. Me. And so we, honestly, we were coming into that time. I mean, we're just very adaptable. Yeah, we were just, we just are aware. I mean, I think maybe the one thing that has kept us alive all this time is like, We Are you able to look outside of ourselves. When we made shooting movies in our 20s. We were like, Oh, another shitty movie. And we weren't like, Hey, you have to see my movie. It's so good. Because I made it and you must see it. And we have to get it out in the world. We were like, no, it's a shitty movie, we need to move on. And similarly, when we arrived, in Hollywood, we're like, Man, these movies aren't working anymore. And we were meeting those people. And they were like, yeah, these movies aren't really working anymore.

Mark Duplass 27:13
And we kind of knew that, like, if we were to try to stay there, the budgets would get tighter, the studios would come down a little harder to make sure they can make the money back. It was happened to be the rising of Netflix and the streaming model and realizing we could sell a lot of these movies that we made independently at Sundance. And it was a life flow thing where we're just like, the energy feels so good to be over here. And I think Jane are essentially a little bit more comfortable, but more comfortable kind of under forecasting, and over performing in that way. You know, like, we really like showing up to Sundance and no other like this, when we made this cheap movie, there's no way it's not going to make its money back and do well and like maybe it will blow up. But like, it's certainly not going to be a disappointment in that regard. You know, and I think we felt that if we tried to stay in the Sarris, Jeff realism home realm or bore, it was going to really burn us out because it because we love those movies and, and we got to make the movies, we wanted to make a way to fight so hard to do it. And now we don't have to fight and it's just this is gonna last longer, I think.

Interviewer 28:16
And then, and maybe it seems that with the model you guys are where you are. Just for you as people, and this is something you'd love to book, but you're able to have this really fantastic work life balance, you seem like you're able to be sort of humans in a way that if you were on that grind of making the movies, or even when you were making it together as it was maybe harder for you. And is that something that also been important for you Just the two of you to discover is like the way for the people as well as both?

Mark Duplass 28:50
Yeah, I mean, we've been talking a lot about it lately, like, I'm in this weird phase where like, I'm not really acting and a lot of things, and I'm not actively directing anything, because that requires 12 to 14 hours a day on set, and my kids are 10 and six, and it's fucking board game, homemade pizzas, Austin Powers time in our house, and like, I don't want to miss that shit. And so as a writer, and a producer, I can be kind of more nine to five. And, you know, Jay is really had discovered his love of acting recently. And he's able to go explore that and do that. And, and I think our feeling now is like, well, we have this wonderful company of people who can do a lot for us. We've learned how to delegate authority and how to make things work. And the answer for for me is always like, if there is a 20% chance that I should say this more clearly, like, if I'm thinking about doing something, you know, I look at it and I say, Okay, what happens if I want this if I can pump this to someone and there's a 20% chance that they'll do it better or worse than me, it's going to be a wash. So I'm going to punt it and let them do it. And then I look at the things I'm like uniquely qualified to do. Like the things that we really feel like I'm special at, which for me is like I'm great at the vomit draft, that first draft, that's like a b minus really fast. I'm good at it. And then I give it to my friends and they tell them what to do with it. And I'm really good at like building the architecture of little projects, like each movie or TV show. It's like a little startup. And I can see it and I'm like, Oh, it's Elizabeth moss, it'll be me. There'll be some sci fi elements was shooting 10 dances house, this is nice. And when we get this, I can see the whole thing you know, so I stay in that zone and everything else I pumped.

Alex Ferrari 30:36
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jay Duplass 30:47
I've had like a reverse midlife crisis, realizing that I'm an I'm like acting, and I'm coming out and guys, I'm coming out of that acting closet.

Mark Duplass 30:58
No one knows how to deal with so weird. Like you're an actor. Now. Everyone's like, all actors are trying to get where you are. So they can have creative control, like, what are you doing? I don't want to hold the whole universe in my arms. I want to I want to just want to be one guy. And like, jump off a cliff. I don't know. It's, it's definitely an unusual path. And I don't know, I feel like I'm clearly very comfortable with a supervisor. I'm kind of the guy in my family. I've always been the guy where words have been used such as histrionic the person with a lot of feelings. And people were like, Can you not have all those feelings are making us uncomfortable? And now I get paid for that. So you could have just do it in your room? Yeah. Yeah, so I've just been enjoying, I don't know, it's weird that I discovered it so late. And I'm kind of excited about, you know, exploring that and trying to do it as much as possible.

Interviewer 32:05
And so we've got some questions from the audience we that we got before the program. So I'm going to read, we're going to go through a few of the audience questions. So the first one, how do you see your roles individually and together in shaping the future of the industry? What sort of impact would you like to leave?

Mark Duplass 32:26
Where we feel the future industry rests squarely on our shoulders as white men from Los Angeles? The world is, it's really up to us guys. I second books gonna be a rule book. Don't follow it. We give you a fucking ticket. That's right. I mean, I think that like Jay and I have a little bit of survivor's guilt of like, we suck, we struggled for a long time, when we see a lot of developing artists and people who really have great ideas and passion, we want to help them and I think so there's a lot of mentoring going on with us right now, whether that's producing younger people's works, or, you know, just kind of in a more traditional sense, and this book is even a part of that. It's just like trying to offer what we have to people and our platform to let them tell their stories and, and lift them up. And and I think that like, you know, if, if we have something unique to offer at this point, and it really is similar to what we saw Richard Linklater, when we were 18, and 14 years old, which is like he was in his late 20s. And he was wearing jeans, and a pocket t shirt that was ripped, he had bad self cut hair, and he wasn't that well spoken. And we looked at him and we're like, with this fucking guy can do it, we could do it. And I think that there's something about our story. And which is true. It's just like, we just waited at the bus stop for forever, we never left the bus stop. We always stayed and you will catch the bus if you wait at the bus stop.

Jay Duplass 33:58
And the concept of keeping things simple and cheap. Because we do we are passionate about the democratization of the filmmaking process. Like right now, if you have an iPhone and a laptop, you can make a gorgeous movie that can change the world that is fully possible. And anyone in this world can do that. And I still I mean, I just had a phone call with a guy who's making his first feature for $700,000. I was like, Don't make 10 features for $70,000. You moron. I hope he's not here. But I mean, we are very passionate about helping people avoid the stumbling blocks that we've had. And helping people really realize that a budget really can start with a piece of loose leaf paper.

Interviewer 34:48
And also, there's a couple questions here having to do with short films in park. Do you think there's an ideal link? Do you like the shortest shortcut possible or is it a little longer and Then also, do you think they should be a sort of self contained artistic expression? Like its own thing? Or do you see them as like? Well, this is the short that I plan to make.

Mark Duplass 35:11
The first part of that question, so when gave us great advice A long time ago, they said, Make shorts, not Long's. And I thought that was really smart. Don't make a schlong. Yeah. So basically, if you're talking about like reverse engineering, your creativity into a model that's going to be sustainable, make comedic shorts under five minutes, because that's the most highly programmable thing from the film festival standpoint. And then in terms of whether it should be a standalone piece of art, or whether like, a microcosm of your feature, my very strong response to that is like, get out of your head immediately on that think about what is a possible string of two to three minutes of footage that might represent your special sauce, and might be entertaining, and just go from there.

Jay Duplass 35:55
But we think shorts are great. I mean, it's like, the one. My first question that I asked people, when they asked me like, Hey, I made some stuff. I'm trying to make a feature, which should I do? My first question is, have you made anything that you can hold in your hand? Or it's not DVD anymore? It's a link or whatever? But do you have a link that you can send to people and say, This is who I am? I'm proud of this. I feel this is an example of my potential. And most people will will not say yes to that question. And I think that is everyone's job is to make something great that you esteem as great and that you are proud of and that you say I'd like to build my filming career on on this.

Mark Duplass 36:42
And to clarify that we do feel like most of the things we receive from people when they try to give us stuff, it is people who have made something that is not great yet, and they're mystified why it's not getting programmed or working. And they're spending all their time trying to market their b minus movie instead of spending all their time on weekends making $3 Films until you make the a movie. And I guarantee you when you make that a movie, you will not be stopped when you make the great movie, you can't be stopped. We've seen that with our own stuff. We've had movies that we have, like really liked. And we've like going out and marketed them and push them about everything. And then not a lot of people see them. And then there are other things that were like, just will drop on Netflix, and they're not promoting it, and then people catch it, then it just blows up because they wanted it. So less time marketing, more time making good stuff.

Interviewer 37:28
And then just as producers, what are you guys looking for, like when people are coming to you with you know, projects? What are the things that you feel you respond with?

Mark Duplass 37:39
It's tough because we everybody always asked us how do you do so many things like Do you guys ever sleep. And the thing is, we run our company in an odd way where we don't accept submissions, we don't read things from people, we don't read scripts that our agents have sent us to produce, the things that we make, almost. I mean, there's a few exceptions. But I think that we made are birthed by us at our company with people that we have either worked with before that we trust. And so we almost make 100% of what we develop. But that's where the efficiency comes from. That was a hard lesson like we moved to Hollywood. And after we had the puffy chair and our agents were like, we're gonna send you all the scripts that you can get to via direct, and we like spending time reading 100 scripts, and then we read them. And then when we're done, we're like, none of these are right for us. And all the time reading the scripts, we could have just gone and made a movie. So we really try to just generate things and it's hard. But when people come to us and say, will you look at my movie, will you help me? Our hearts are like breaking for them. But we're like, basically saying, like, Look, you kind of need to like, get that first thing on your own and get your own, you know, short film down and get that thing programmed and like finding yourself

Interviewer 38:57
Because that's another question we have here. Someone asked, what do you what do you say to a filmmaker who doesn't believe that he or she sort of has it inside of themselves to make the movie that they're trying to get me? We say maybe you're not a filmmaker.

Jay Duplass 39:14
Yeah. I mean, that's not our experience. Usually, it's probably because people are very people who are coming up to us are probably more confident. But most people we find are probably overconfident. I mean, maybe just for our taste, because we think we suck all the time, or I mean, it's like, every time we make a movie, we're just like, Oh, God, please don't let it suck. Please, please. I mean, it's not like we've arrived anywhere. We're terrified. It's very, very, very hard to make a really great movie. And so that's why we beat the shit out of ourselves. And, you know, have everyone consult with us and when we go nuts before we like put a movie into the world. I mean, if you don't have confidence, I would just say reduce everything. Make a tiny movie, with your friend and make them do what you want to see them do.

Mark Duplass 40:03
And, you know, to clarify that point. It's like Jay and I often get on like a soapbox and preach, like, go out there and make your move in power. But like, we want to be clear sometimes that a lot of people like, they kind of feel like they want to do it and they feel like it might be easy and they're not sure. So we do try to be clear, just be like, Look, this may not be the thing for you. It may not be your form, it may not be that and that is okay. You know, we Yeah,writing and directing. Is it fun?

Jay Duplass 40:31
Writing if you think writing and directing is fun. You're probably making some shitty movies. I'm not kidding. I mean, that's why I'm doing a lot of acting right now is it is hard. A Martin has the best metaphor I've heard for it. I feel like if writing and directing is like being the mother of a difficult child and raising it to fruition. Being an actor as the drunk uncle who shows up at Christmas Oreos and wins the day. I mean, if not, and then goes home and doesn't have to take care of anybody that's on there watches Netflix. Yeah, it's a really, really, I mean, directing in particular, is is the hardest thing I can imagine. I mean, it's really, really hard thing to do. And I'm always like, skeptical when I'm on a set. And as a director was having a great time. I was like, you're not paying attention. Things happen right now. And you're not watching. I mean, Mark and I, I mean, marks is a little better than me. But like we're pretty antisocial onset. People like hey, can we come to set and we're like, Fuck, no. I mean, like, seriously, when we made Cyrus Ridley Scott produce it. He wanted to come to set and we told him no. He couldn't handle it. We were just like, we have our hands full. Last thing we need is like Ridley Scott watching us direct. JOHN C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, where is it to me and Katherine. And then another person here honestly, is it ever too late?

Mark Duplass 42:03
I don't think so at all. I mean, you know, I think for us, and Jay hit this a little bit, but like, the most exciting thing about the filmmaking world right now is like, someone who is 13 years old or 85 years old, can literally just pick up their iPad and make a movie. And I truly believe that that movie can win the Oscar because the technology is there. And people are ready to accept anything, the star system is broken down. It's like, just because Matthew McConaughey is in a movie, people don't come see it anymore. So they're looking for great, unique, original stories. And I really think it can break through, you know, I think it's a little bit of a tough time, because because there are so many movies out there. Now because of that it's a little harder to cut through like, Jay and I honestly, we're in a really good place in 2005 to have the puffy chair because it was a little less competitive than I think, I think if we submit the puffy chair to Sundance in 2019, that doesn't get it. You know, it sounds a little tougher, but it is exciting that I think honestly, anybody can come through.

Jay Duplass 43:09
Yeah, I don't think people I mean, I feel like I don't hear this being talked about enough that like Barry Jenkins was a quote unquote mobile core filmmaker alongside me mark were on festival tours with him. His previous movie to moonlight was medicine for me like it's a it's a really good movie. It's it's a nice, solid mumblecore movie. For an African American who has not made a crusher great movie, to make basically $1,000,001.2 million movie about gay black men in America, and to win the Oscar is insane. It's unheard of. It's like, considering where he came from in the context of all that, and that a $1.2 million movie can look that good. All of that, to me is, is super exciting. I mean, I know, there's a lot of things to be scared about in terms of like, what's happening to film. But the process has been democratized in a great way. We have a long way to go, for sure. But it's happening.

Interviewer 44:26
And then I'm gonna save the last question for for myself, and it kinda has to do with the book. And just how you guys think of it. Do you see this as some kind of farewell? Like it's in some ways is the book a way for you guys to kind of say goodbye to the duplass brothers and to let everybody kind of meet mark and Joe,

Mark Duplass 44:44
I think there's a little bit of like, Come meet the individuation of Mark and Jay, but it's definitely not a goodbye to the two of us. I think that like the if I had to kind of be reductive about it, I would just say We're in an open marriage right now really, still love each other. We're gonna sleep with some other people. We can discuss real world good. And then but we will, the sex is always best with the two of us really will always come running back back home to that. And I think that, you know, the reason we wanted to share it in this book is that we felt like for a long time, everybody's asking us, how do you work with your sibling without killing each other. And we've been trying to do that, in our long interviews like this for years. And we felt like, we had to write a 20 page book to even scratch the surface of it. But I think that a lot of people think that it's a lot easier than it is for us. And we wanted to kind of open that up to people and let them know that like, it's really hard, but it's so worth.

Jay Duplass 45:52
Yeah, I mean, it's it's definitely I wouldn't say it's like partially goodbye to that lockstep, we're going to do everything together, we're going to write the wreck everything together. I mean, that that is changing. But you know, as a company is supporting each other in terms of doing the things that we want to do and helping each other do it. That's great. But I mean, to be honest, for me, it feels like I get my brother back and more of a hello to Jay and mark. You guys just don't get to be there. We're going on hikes. And we're hanging out now like we haven't before,

Mark Duplass 46:31
See Jay is hiking, you guys. Dude, it's so much it's a whole nother panel, we'll get into where our best will go.

Interviewer 46:42
Thank you so much for being here. And everybody it's Jay and Mark.

Alex Ferrari 46:52
I tell you, we all need inspiration. And the duplass brothers are that, especially for me about just guys who are just persistent. And just, you know, they had 10 years 12 years of failure before they finally got something to get off the ground. And that persistence, of going after it and making it and figuring things out for themselves and not falling into what everybody else wanted them to do. But for them to find their own voice their own way of doing things. And I respect that tremendously. And and they are under still an oddity in the Hollywood world. And then the Hollywood system, they still walk to the beat of their own drum and, and are successful doing it and working with Netflix and working with HBO, and working with you know, huge companies and doing what they want to do. So again, and I've preached this so so so many times on this show, don't go and make a seventh out, don't don't make a $700,000 first feature, go make 10 $70,000 features. And I would even go farther than that. And you can actually go and make 20 features with that kind of money, or 10 or 15 features with that kind of money, and learn along the way where you can actually set yourself up for success, especially in today's world and what you're trying what the business is looking like today and what the marketplace is looking for today. So again, and if you and I want to really stress if you have not read their book like brothers, it is a wonderful read. I put it up there with Rebel Without a crew director Robert Rodriguez is mythical book en el mariachi in the making of El Mariachi, it is definitely up there. And in many ways I feel that is a little bit more realistic of what these guys did. They took everyday gear and made their movie and made to short film, then made a feature and then went to the Hollywood system figured it out after two movies at the way Hollywood wanted them to be. They did just weren't comfortable with so they pulled back, went back into the indie world and then started doing things the way they wanted to do it and, and told Hollywood Hey, if you're going to work with us, this is how we work and have complete creative control along the way and make money and help their friends. It is honestly the it's a win win. It's a dream style way of making films and definitely check out their book I'm gonna put links to the book in the in the show notes at indie film hustle.com for slash two for one. And also on the show notes. I'm gonna put a link to Mark duplessis legendary now keynote at the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival, where he basically says the Calvary is not coming and it is a must see for every filmmaker out there has to watch this amazing hour long keynote that Mark duplass put On at the festival, it is mind blowing. It really, really is. So a lot of filmmakers asked me, What should I do first go make a $3 short film. Go do it right now, while you're listening to this, start figuring out what you're going to go shoot this weekend and go shoot a $3 feature a $3 feature no $3 short film. And after you can you feel that you've got something, you got that special sauce, that thing that makes you you and you've got that voice that's on that film, don't care how it looks. Just put it on, put it on there. And like Jay duplass said, people will forgive a bad looking movie and a bad sounding movie, if the story is there. And when you're starting out, that's what you got to do. Get the story done, because we can always add the technical stuff. Look how many beautifully technical movies there are in Hollywood that are garbage. Because the story's not there, but it looks beautiful. We're looking for stories. That's what Hollywood is looking for. So master that first then worry about all the other aspects of filmmaking which you will learn along the way, as well. And in the show notes, I'll throw a couple extra bonus videos in there of the boys as well. And again, definitely check out their book like brothers is definitely an amazing read. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



  • Duplass Brothers – Official Site
  • LIKE BROTHERS – Buy the Book
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B00FVYZA00″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Puffy Chair[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B004B2XAVE” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Cyrus[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B009M8TVRO” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Safety Not Guaranteed[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B00MB6GP7I” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The One I Love[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LXESKMK” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Blue Jay[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B008234K3U” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Jeff, Who Lives at Home[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B001OJKX0S” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Baghead[/easyazon_link]


  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
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