How to make a $1,000 Feature Film with Jay and Mark Duplass
Make a feature film for $1000? Sounds crazy right? Well if you don’t know Mark Duplass you should get to know him. Mark and his brother Jay Duplass are most widely know for making the indie film hits “The Puffy Chair” and “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Mark Duplass has gone on to be a very successful writer, producer, and director.
Mark Duplass is an extremely talented film director, producer, musician, actor, and screenwriter. He along with his brother, Lawrence Jay Duplass, have created film industry waves in a very short time period. Be it filmmaking or successful TV series, everyone loves the work of Duplass Brothers.
Being Filmtrepreneurs they have initiated their own production company Duplass Brothers Productions and have been into the directing business since then. Widely known for their films The Puffy Chair (2005), Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011) and also The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012).
Jay and Mark Duplass have also co-created the renowned HBO TV series Togetherness.
Both of these talented brothers grew up in a suburb of New Orleans. They from fell in love with film at a young age and they started making videos on their father’s Panasonic when the brothers were 6 and 9 respectively.
They would shoot versions of The Lone Ranger as well as The Sermon on the Mount. According to the Duplass brothers, when they look back over this period and the activities which extended to their teenage, they seem to recall an inner self of experimentation.
Things got focused and serious once Jay made this self-realization that he did not want to go on with his filed after spending four years as psychology majors which he was studying at the University of Texas, Austin. Mark Duplass was a singer-songwriter which he had to eventually give up because of increased condition of tendinitis.
Jay remained an extra year in the school so that he could study film and also got his brother Mark Duplass enrolled there so that he could act in his projects. Which was usually extremely cute bits of valuable silliness pretty much inspired by their obsession with the Coen Brothers. Mark has himself admitted that we were trying to be them but it was not going well.
After some time, Jay got his hands on a profitable and worthwhile commission to film a documentary about gardening which was some sponsored material on the behalf of an Austin startup, gardening.com.
The company crumpled before the film was finished even but luckily for the Duplass brothers, not before paying for their efforts. With that money they bought a Canon GL1, got themselves a camera operator and a photography editor so that they could begin on their second scripted feature film which was a rip-off of Rocky but in running shoes called Vince Del Rio.
And before they had even finished its edited, the duo decided that I was simply unreleasable which Mark Duplass has often referred to a steaming pile of dog diarrhea.
The Duplasses had no money, no ideas and a terrible period of lack of faith in their filmmaking skills. So in desperation, Mark thought of making a movie which was part of their childhood. Fast and affordable and off-the-cuff. Mark Duplass went out to buy a $3 MiniDV tape which is the entire production cost of the movie and also improvised the total of what was to become the This is John of 2003.
It was a seven minute short that started as an exercise, which results in triggering a psychological collapse because John rejects his numerous attempts as being too conscious or too formal. This was the course that so well summarized the creative journey of Duplasses’.
Though This is John might have sounded and looked like a home movie, it had a hint of life to it and that is why it was accepted into the shorts program when the Duplasses’ submitted to the Sundance and guess what? It was addressed as one of the five short films to see.
Right after two years, these brothers returned to the Sundance with The Puffy Chair which was an endeavor which they drew from their own lives. Starring Mark Duplass and his girlfriend (now wife) Katie Aselton this film concerns the relationships between men, women, fathers, mothers and friends. Mark finds a replica of a lounge chair on eBay which his father used ages ago. The road trip that was taken to deliver that chair to him in Atlanta took very interesting twists and turns.
To some of the viewers, the movie touched something deep and affected them with its spooky familiarity. Making something so amazing with so little money sent a huge shockwave through the film industry which made it possible to think that anyone could step up to make a movie.
Although the traditional distributors kept their distance from the not-too-fine cheating but after the film had spent a year’s time on the festival circuit, Netflix’s budding film distribution arm, Red Envelope Entertainment made its first acquisition. It is said by Sarandos of Netflix who was running Red Envelope, that he was drawn to the film for the wonderful home-viewing potential it possessed.
The follow-up feature of Duplass brothers in 2008 Baghead, was a mellow horror whose story revolved around a quartet of struggling filmmakers who head back to the woods for the weekend as a last try to pen down a feature film which would give them a head start to their careers. And they found the plot of pretty clichéd stories which gave the actors a set of guidelines to explore human interaction.
A new movement called Mumblecore had the Duplass brothers working with directors like Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujaski. But still, the boys had potential and momentum which soon gave them the chance to take up the traditional first step thing that all directors do to boost up their career i.e. making their first ever studio film.
Willing to work for less, they cast all of the Puffy Chair fans in the production of Fox Searchlight Cyrus. With a $7 million budget and storyline of a creepy mother-son relationship, it was certainly an out of the box thing. The Duplass spent three years working on Cyrus. The movie revolved around a depressed man in his 40s, which was problme for Fox Searchlight who were suspicious of estranging the viewership. They wanted to portray him as down but not too much of it.
The film grossed $7.4 million which happens to be the most successful Duplass venture to date.
It soon became quite apparent that the movies these brothers were interested in making were aimed at a smaller audience with limited box-office appeal. But yet, if they underperformed in theaters a large audience was enjoying the work of Duplass brothers on the small screen and their movies surely were having a profitable afterlife.
Since The Puffy Chair came out, the Duplass brothers had been toying with the idea of HBO and now seemed the perfect time to actually take the chance. Jay came up with the idea of series which would star Steve Zissis who has Mark’s senior in high school and had had a stall in his acting career after Baghead and Do-Deca-Pentathlon.
So that is how the idea of Alexander the Great took birth which happened to be a pilot about an actor who was struggling with his career with mental health issues. HBO loved it and asked to add more characters making it a relationship show and that is what they did.
Before the premiere of A Teacher at Sundance, Fidell had sent the Duplass brothers her feature making them her fan. That is why she was their first choice when Mark Duplass got an idea for a movie of a young reboot of Days of Wine and Roses which has physical abuse instead of alcohol. Graciously accepted by Fidell, by the end of the day, she was officially signed up both for the writing and direction of what was to formulate into Six Years. And in March at SXSW it was bought by Netflix.
The most astonishing development in an already amazing career apart from the movies and TV shows that this dynamic duo made, the Duplasses have grown into a royalty which helps like-minded filmmakers gain benefit from the business model which they seem to have created.
The Duplass brothers helped a friend in giving life to his film and this revelation that they could actually save the struggling career of a filmmaker with some time and money blew their minds away and always grateful for the emotional as well as financial support by their parents they saw this way to put it back in the world.
Producing multiple films per year, which
- Strictly follow the line of low costs.
- Protecting the vision of the filmmaker.
- Eventually giving the final product to the audiences as fast as possible.
The Duplass Brothers have signed a four-picture deal w ith Netflix. And they are taking a similar approach to TV. The first film from that deal is Blue Jay starring Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson and directed by Alexandre Lehmann (check out his interview here). Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past. Check out the trailer below:
They helped few filmmakers in making 10 episodes of the show of an animated series Animals and much to their surprise, not only HBO bought them but signed them for the second season right away. And four months later, the Duplass brothers got a two-year deal.
These brothers have the magic beans to turn any idea, no matter how trivial it may be, into a profitable TV show or movie.
Can you really make a feature film for $1000 bucks?
Mark Duplass had a packed house for his amazing SXSW Keynote Speech. He was spitting out Indie Film GOLD though out his talk.
If you didn’t get a chance to hear his talk, here are some topics he covered:
- Learn your craft by making short films every weekend for $3
- Write a Feature Film for less than $1,000
- Have a strong day job (whatever you can get) while working towards your goal
- Put money away to travel to Film Festivals and future films
Coming from the “Mumblecore” indie film movement, a style of low-budget film typically characterized by the use of nonprofessional actors and naturalistic or improvised performances, he had some great advice for independent filmmakers:
“You should design the aesthetic of the movie so that it doesn’t feel like less than a $200,000 movie but it feels squarely like a $1,000 movie.”
I’ve seen so many filmmakers attempt to make “The Avengers” on the budget for craft services for one day on a Marvel set. You are setting yourself up to fail. When starting out work within your limitations. It worked for Robert Rodriguez on his indie film classic “El Mariachi.”
Mark Duplass stated that $1000 is in NO WAY a budget a feature film should be made for. Here is what Duplass says:
“It’s not an empirical number, it depends of the city you live in and the scope of your story. But when I think about that movie, it’s doing a couple of things.
Borrowing recycled hard drive from people. Getting the Ultrakam uncompressed app on your iPhone. Most of it is food and you really want someone who can cook.
I recommend having your editor be the ‘DIT’ person who takes the Media in – and they have a lot of downtime, so you have them help you light, and you have them cook.
And you should be having a crew that’s really, really small. So that money should be mostly spent on food and then you are going to spend that on festival applications.”
(If you need help with those film festival submission fees, discover the “Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE” here)
Mark Duplass dishes out some amazing advice to independent filmmakers in this keynote speech and awesome Q&A. To see the entire SXSW Keynote check out the video below, DO IT!
“Instinct is very, very important, and we believe in it through every part of the process… When it’s time to create and get that stuff down, we believe in the gut.” – Mark Duplass
A Conversation with the Duplass Brothers | SXSW Film 2016
Quadruple-threat brothers Mark and Jay Duplass – who write, direct, produce, and act – recently premiered season 2 of their HBO television series, “Togetherness”. Their first feature THE PUFFY CHAIR won the Emerging Vision Award at the 2005 SXSW Film Festival. In 2010, the brothers’ dramedy CYRUS was released to rave reviews, followed by their 2012 film JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME. Mark has acted in projects including Charlie McDowell’s THE ONE I LOVE and a series regular role on the FXX show “The League” and Jay is a series regular in the acclaimed Amazon series “Transparent”.
The Duplasses have produced some of the most acclaimed independent films of the decade including Sean Baker’s TANGERINE and the upcoming SXSW 2016 world premieres of Linas Phillips’ RAINBOW TIME and Alex Lehmann’s ASPERGER’S ARE US.
DP/30: Creep, Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
One of the most established names on the indie scene (Mark Duplass) meets one of the hottest new names (Patrick Brice) to talk about their new film, Creep, in the office of the hottest commercial name in low budget (Jason Blum). The duo discusses with David Poland how the film came together, the process of years that it took to make the film, the Duplass relationship with Netflix, and the state of the indie in 2015.
DP/30: Cyrus, writer/directors Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass
Jay and Mark Duplass Follow Their ‘Stupid Dream’ – Speakeasy
Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass (Jeff, Who Lives at Home & Togetherness) sit down with Paul F. Tompkins to talk about growing up in New Orleans, the arrival of cable TV, getting into movie making, creating HBO’s Togetherness, and the creative process.
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- Film Festival Hacks: Submit Like a Pro
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If you liked How Mumblecore Films Changed Hollywood for the Better take a listen to:
How Mumblecore Films Are Changing the Hollywood Landscape
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Starting my stopwatch now.
Welcome everybody, thank you for coming out this morning.
I would like to start, if everyone would just go around the room, if you could stand up and introduce yourselves I think it would be great. And I’m serious guys, I’m really serious.
So we’re going talk a lot about movie say I hope that’s what you’re here to talk about. We’re going to talk about the bad news and the good news of independent film and you know if you’re at all like me and you read the trades and you’re involved in film conversations, it’s mostly bad news. I think that what we hear about is the death of the middle class of independent films you know where are those cool five million dollar movies that used to break out of Sundance in 1998 and why are they not buying those or making those or even when they do why are they not promoting them and and why is nobody going to see them?
People talking about what V.O.D. means for the death of the theatrical experience, is it hurting? is it this glut of material in the marketplace keeping people from going to see things in the theaters?. We’re going to talk about the migration to T.V. and are all the great indie filmmakers going to T.V. not that I did it, maybe a little bit and what that means. And these are all issues that we’re definitely going to talk about.
But for me there’s one thing that keeps coming up over and over in my career I want to put this up so I don’t have to have hunch shoulders and that one thing that keeps coming to me is this very simple phrase and I’m going to take a note from Tony Robbins motivational speaker here for a second, and we’re going to have something that we’re going to really focusing on, and that is these simple words ‘the cavalry isn’t coming ‘and I’m looking around like Tony and I let it sit, and then Tony repeats it ‘The cavalry is not coming’ and I say this because we’ve all heard these amazing tales of how that 21 year old kid had a script and his cousin worked in the mailroom at Warner Brothers and he gave it to him and his script got up to the head of Warner Brothers and they loved it and they bought it for a million dollars and got it made. That’s an exciting story but a super dangerous one because, I don’t know anyone that’s happened to, maybe that’s happened once, but I had a very different career trajectory. I was here in Austin in college living in shitty apartments all around town, the brownstone on 51st on Lamar where they don’t allow you to work on your car and cinder blocks in the apartment complex, in a rat infested duplex on haw turf and I was sitting there thinking I’m inspired, I’m excited, I want to be a filmmaker, I have no connections. If I keep saying just pick up a camera and do it like even if I do, how am I going to get there? and I think that’s where most people are and I feel like I have a place to be useful and that’s what I want to speak to is, what can you do when you are absolutely nowhere and feeling you are full of magic and ideas?.
So we’re going to go through some step by step Tony Robbins processes here guys and see if we can get practical and I can leave you with something useful.
The first step is the $3 dollar short film. I can definitely speak to this we’re in a place now obviously where technology is so cheap. There’s no excuse for you not to be making short films on the weekends with your friends, shot on your iPhone. We had a feature film at Sundance last year called tangerine that was a hot shot entirely in an iPhone and did really well sold to Magnolia and so no excuses not to be doing that. I bring this up because a lot of people think ‘even if I make like a decent movie on this phone like who’s going to watch it what is this all about’ and I’ll just share one personal story with you which is that my brother and I lived in Austin for a long time we were just editors trying to get our day jobs and our money go. And we saved up enough money by doing this corporate documentary to make our first feature film. Film was called Vince De Rio; it starred me as a runner from the South Texas border trying to get a spot at the Olympic trials. You can see why this didn’t work out so well already (crowd laughs). We spent 65,000 dollars on this movie and it was a steaming pile of dog diarrhea (crowd laughs) and we almost gave up making movies and we were sitting on Jay’s couch in south Austin and I remember looking at him and he was depressed and I was just slightly less depressed enough to say ‘we should get up, we should make a movie like we did when we were kid’ ‘but all we had was our parents video camera which we knew had a dead pixel in the middle of it. And I said I’m going to get a tape, you come up with a movie idea and like we’re shooting as soon as I come back. So I was back in twenty minutes and Jay said ‘something weird happened to me yesterday I was trying to like get the outgoing greeting of my answer machine going and I like couldn’t get it right and I kind of had a nervous breakdown, I recorded it about 157 times’ and I was like ‘that’s great! This feels like us, this is like funny but kind of tragic, just like us’. And so I said ‘OK put the Camera on, I’m going out the door and just filming and he’s like we don’t have lighting kit, the microphone is the one on the camera, you can’t hear anything. I was like ‘I don’t care we’re doing this’. So we shot 122 minutes improvised take we edited it down to about 7 minutes and we watched it with our friends and they were like there’s something interesting here. It’s a shame there’s a dead pixel in it and it looks and sounds like shit. But our friend David Zellner was like ‘I think you should just submit this around to some festivals just to see’.
And that $3 movie was our first movie that got into Sundance and it played at South by Southwest here at 12 years ago and it changed really everything for us because we realized that it really doesn’t matter what your movie looks like if you have a voice, if you have something interesting to say they will like you and they will program you. So step one, if you are nowhere like I was is the $3 short film. I recommend making one of these every weekend with your smartest group of friends who want to be filmmakers, they don’t have to be film savvy, you want to group of like four or five people, someone who’s ideally charismatic to be your lead actor and then just smart kind of interesting people to help you curate this thing. It should be a one scene, five minutes ideally it’s comedic because those program while at film festivals. And short films also program well like short shorts that’s really key. And your first ones are going to suck. Mine did, I mean I don’t know maybe I’ll make a great one for some people to do that, I hate those people. And they’ll be like a little nugget when you show your friends and they’ll be like ‘this is four minutes and fifty eight seconds of garbage but that little giggle you guys had right there was interesting’. So then you expand on that you cut everything else out, you start honing in on it and somewhere you’re going to discover that you have something unique to offer and it usually lies in those weird conversations you’re having with your friends, your loved ones, your siblings between like midnight and 3 in the morning when everybody’s loopy and or drunk or stoned and you are laughing uncontrollably because you share this unique sense of humor about something that one of your friends did or you did. And at the risk of saying you should make a self-indulgent film for your first movie, you should absolutely make a self-indulgent film for your first movie because that’s your special stuff that’s like you’re a judge. And when you tap into that, you show it to your friends, they’ll be honest with you and it might be two weeks later, it might be two months later, it might be two years of doing this that you have something unique to offer and this is going to be the start of your career. So this whole time you should be having a really strong day job to take care of yourself and you should be saving a little bit of money, this is a hard career so don’t eat out don’t buy clothes like save up your money because now you going to travel to film festivals. You’re going to submit this to every film festivals you can and you’re going to go and you’re going to start meeting other filmmakers that you like and other actors that you like and you going to start building your community and the programmers there are going to like you and they’re going to wonder ‘oh, I want to program a feature from this kid, that would be great’. And the whole time you’re going around this festival, there is a small chance that an agent is going to sign you and say ‘I love your movie, I want to pitch you to direct a movie the cavalry’s coming it’s coming’. Cavalry is probably not coming; I’m just going to be honest with you. What’s probably going to happen is you’re going to be writing a script this whole time, a feature script that’s based upon the look and the feel of your $5 movie. OK. That can be made for less than a thousand dollars. And this is going to be the next step in your career. OK the way you’re going to do this is you know go into temp work, this is brutal; these next two years are going to suck. OK ideally if you are in college and hearing this, don’t major in film, minor in film study, Spanish or Mandarin because then you can get jobs translating for $25 an hour wherever you want to go, that’s the best thing any film student can do. Or if you don’t do that, just wait tables, that’s a reason why artists wait tables, its flexible, you can get your shifts covered. You can spend a year making this movie; you’re going to write this script based upon what I call the available material school of filmmaking which is not. It takes place in a space ship because you can’t do that on a thousand dollars but what you can do is take a meeting with everyone who loves you and who want to support you and say What do you have that you can lend to me at my disposal to make a film?. When Jay and I made ‘The Puffy Chair’ it was very clear, we had my apartment in Brooklyn, my wife Kate’s apartment in Brooklyn, my street was really quiet, I knew we could shoot on that, I had a van because I was playing in bands. So I was like road movie that’s good for a van. There was a furniture store and main that was going out of business and we had two identical chairs we could get for like $300 sounds like great, I’ll burn one of them that will be our big stunt in the movie it will be awesome. And we reverse engineer the movie that fit inside of these things so that we knew we wouldn’t have to wait to make it, we knew we could make this movie at a cheap price and you gather up that group of friends you made your shots with and you guys going to go out with a crew of 5 to 8 people and the way you’re going to do this (please don’t print this this is just for the room).
You’re going to go to some box stores that might rhyme with like clone repo and you’re going to buy lights and extension cords and all these things and they have a thirty day return policy where they give all your money back. You’re going to shoot your movie within thirty days and everything’s going to be free. You’re going to go to another store that rhymes with rest sly and they have cameras that you can buy with only like a ten percent restocking fee. So you’re going to buy those cameras and you’re going to return them or if you want you can just shoot them still on compressed on your iPhone if you like that look might make you more unique, either way. These are the things you’re going to do to keep it cheap OK. And if you have an agent at this point they might be saying ‘don’t go do this, I can get you some money to make this’. If you allow them to do that you will end up in development for five years and you will not get your movie made because you’re just a short film maker with nothing behind you. Go make this movie on your own ‘the cavalry is not coming’
So with this movie you make there is a chance of them movies going to Sundance and get a million dollars. It might happen, probably not. Probably what’s going to happen is you made something really interesting that’s a little bit flawed because you’re a new filmmaker and it’s your first feature and that’s OK but it’s unique and it has a voice and you’re still doing temp work and you’re running around to every single festival that you develop relationships with through your short film. OK. They want you back, they’re excited to program you and this is where the capital of Film Festival starts to come in. You’re definitely going to get an agent at this point because you made a feature that works. That’s good. We’ll talk about that in a second.
But there are movie stars at these film festivals, every film festival has like three to five movie stars out of that come and get the sponsors and to do it. OK And what you want to do is get your movie in front of these people. And when you have this agent, they’re going to say ‘Should I bring you scripts to direct’? ‘Should I bring you this’?. No no no, I want you to do one thing for me; I want you to send my thousand dollar movie that’s inspired but kind of flawed to every single actor in this agency that means something and I want to set screenings every other week so I can get actors to fall in love with my work and then build another movie with them. And this is going to be where you start to climb a lot of these movie stars are going to be like fuck that I want to make a movie on an iPhone with this dude he does not know what he’s doing. But one of them within two weeks, two months is going to respond and he was let’s call him Randy Hercules. OK. Randy Hercules was on like a C.B.S. show that ran for like six years, he’s super rich and he’s super depressed because he hates his show and he is dying to do something creative. And you’re going to meet with Randy Hercules and you’re going to say Randy, I saw your show you’re really good in it but I know you’re better than this and you have done your research and you have watched Randy in interviews and you said ‘I might be able to use this darkness of Randy to do something interesting’. And you say I’m going to build you a role Randy, what is the role you absolutely want to play in that no one has offered you and Randy is going to fall in love with you and follow you to the ends of the earth. So as much as your agent is going to tell ‘you you’ve already made your thousand dollar movie, it’s time to go pitch you for big directing jobs’ which you’ll never get by the way and even if you get them you won’t want them because all the directing jobs out there that are open are terrible. You are going to do the unthinkable, you’re going to make another thousand dollar movie but this one has Randy Hercules in it and this one is going to be the one that’s starts to monetize your career because even if you make a stinker with Randy Hercules and it is no way you’re selling this movie for less than fifty thousand dollars and all your friends who worked on your cheap movie with you you’re going to give them big points in the movie because you are a communist. You’re developing a group of friends and you’re all in this shit together and you’re going to say ‘all right, because I’ve been a temp in my Mandarin or I’ve been serving serviche, I’ve saved up some money here. We’re going to spend another thousand dollars on this movie but this time when it sells you my beloved sound person/lighting person/assistant editor are going to get ten percent of the movie because you’ve been working so hard. And Randy Hercules you’re going to get twenty percent of the movie’. And then you go to Randy and say ‘You’re so rich would you just give me those points back and give it some of the crew?’ and he’ll do it because he’s in love with you and he’s rich and sad. And you get to share all of this, and you make this movie and it’s going to be a little better than your last movie because you learn something from your mistakes and you dug in on Randy Hercules and you found something great and this time rather than be at those B tier festivals, you’re probably going to land at a high B or a low A tier festival. You might go to Sundance and sell it for a million dollars, it might happen; probably not going to happen, it’s just the way it. But that’s OK, because now you have a movie that has extreme value on V O D. because of Randy Hercules is six years on his C.B.S. show. And this is where I say God bless V.O.D. this is a great thing for an event film, please do not reject V.O.D. please do not be afraid of it; please do not be attached to your early movies playing in movie theaters. It’s very important that you don’t blow all your money promoting in a theater that’s going to lose that money and you will have no more money to make movies, it’s important that you own this ready Hercules movie someone’s going to buy it from you, let them put it out on V.O.D. and a place like Netflix or H.B.O. and you will probably make anywhere from fifty to five hundred thousand dollars on this movie by the very presence of Randy Hercules and that the movie doesn’t suck. That’s just an empirical value for that movie. OK And this is great, you got some money, your friends have some money, you’re sharing things and more importantly the industry is starting to take notice of you, you’ve definitely got your agent beaten down your door now saying ‘OK. Remember last time when I said the cavalry was coming, I was wrong that time, but this time the cavalry is really fucking coming. I can take you out and get you directing jobs, I can get you rewrite jobs. You’ve got to go take a bunch of general meetings’ and if you do that you will take meetings for a year and nothing will happen and I’m telling you this from experience. It is very hard to turn this down because it’s so tempting, but this is where you want to make your move into T.V. because as the death of the middle class a film has happened, it has been in rebirth in television. The way you used to make really awesome five million dollars movies that didn’t have movie stars in them and had great cool original content, that’s happening in cable T.V. right now and that’s where you want to go. And if you have made a good thousand dollar movie with Randy Hercules, you’re going to sell a pitch hands down and you make some money off of that which is really good. So you’re going to be thinking ‘oh my God this is incredible, I’m going to become the next big show-runner, I sold this pitch they’re excited about it’. You might get to make that show, probably not because that’s just the way it is, it’s probably going to put in a turnaround. But you made some money which is good and you learn something and you said ‘uhmm they don’t want to make this because it cost two million dollars an episode for them to make and they don’t want to risk that much. But using my principles of indie filmmaking, I could probably take Randy Hercules or one of Randy Hercules’s friends who now likes me because they’ve seen the movie and they want to be like Randy Hercules and a little project. And I could probably make some episodes of a T.V. show independently and license them back to these companies at like a quarter or a fifth of the price and I would own everything and I would almost be like a T.V. studio’.
So you’re going to take out Randy Hercules and his friend Dingleberry Jones. And Randy and Dingleberry are going to play in a small two hander that’s shot mostly in apartments just like you did your first micro budget movie, and you to make two episodes and outline the rest. And I guarantee you; you will sell that show to a young and hungry place that wants T.V. content from a vetted cool independent filmmaker like yourself. And now you’re going to start to make some actual money and all your friends around you have been working for years are going to be like ‘you’re the first one of us to make some money, this is exciting! I have an idea. I want to make my first thousand dollars movie with Randy Hercules’ And you’re going to be like, ‘this is great’ I have some money now and you’re going to have the opportunity to do what you didn’t get for yourself is to raise some people up and throw a thousand dollars at them and say go for it if, you shit the bed I don’t care it’s a write off. If you win I want like fifteen percent of your profits but take eighty five percent of it and share it with your crew because you guys are doing all the work because you’re a communist and this is good, Communism is good here guys.
And so now you’re kind of at this like weird crossroads in your life where you’re thinking ‘OK made these short films, made these two micro budget features one with Randy, got my T.V. show going, I’m making money, I’m not rich, I’m sustainable, I’m helping my friends and your agents going to call you and say ‘I know the first time I called you said the Calvary was coming I was wrong on the second time I said the Calvary was coming and when I was wrong but this time the cavalry is fucking beating down your door. And she’s kind of right because you are of value now and you do have a chance to let the cavalry in. Good chance you’ll open it up and they aren’t there any way, another chance you open it up they come in and you don’t want to make a movie with the cavalry because they’ll make the kind of movies you like and they’re going to try and tell you exactly how to make the movie and you’re going to be at this crossroads this is like you know the places you go when you get to the waiting place like people what am I going to do and you’re going to look at your career and you’re going to feel like ‘I’m a little tired because every single project I have made, I’ve had to self generate and it’s getting fucking exhausting and I kind of want the cavalry to come in just offer me some jobs and it would be really amazing not to work that hard’. And this is the really hard truth and the truth is still when you’re at this place when I am at this place I am at, the cavalry is not coming, it sucks! But this is where the good news starts to come in. OK. Because you’re going to look back at your career and say OK I made a critically acclaimed short films, I ran around and made some friends at a festival, I made two micro budget features one with Randy Hercules, I got a T.V. show license with Randy and Dingleberry, I’m making some money, I’m producing films from my friends. How is it possible that the cavalry is not coming anymore? I’ve done so much. And the good news of this is, who gives a fuck about the cavalry?. Because now you are the cavalry. I’m at Tony Robbins you for a second, you are the cavalry and you do not need them. You have a group of friends who you support and has your support and in the peaks and valleys of our career as they get more successful and you start to burn out and make a shitty movie, they will lift you up because you lifted them up and when you’re up and they’re down you will lift them up and this will equalize you and not only sustain you through your career but sustain you with people you like being around. You have a bevy of work behind you and not one of those pieces of art are you embarrassed to show your children later on because you made them exactly the way you wanted to make them. And while they didn’t make a ton of money for you, you can look your kids in the eye and say ‘I’m proud of this, I made this’. And most importantly, you’re now in a corner of the sandbox that is completely your own, you have all the skills to make exactly the kind of things you want to make, you have enough money to put them in production in a micro budget way. Admittedly it’s a bit of a limit and no one can stop you from doing exactly what you want to do.
So this to me is only my experience but I wanted to share this with you because I feel that if you can accept that the cavalry won’t come and just make yourself into the cavalry, it has your best chance of maintaining success but more importantly which we don’t talk a lot about in this industry, it gives you a chance to be happy!
That’s all I have to say. (Crowd Cheers and claps)
So, that being said, I know I made a lot of grandiose statements and other some specifics left out. I would also love to be challenged on any of these ideas if some of you were like ‘oh that’s bullshit, doesn’t play that way for me because I’m still trying to dial this model in myself’ So I would like to open this up to questions or if you’re interested just like really awesome complements those are cool too.
And I’ll open the floor to you guys.
I can’t see very well back there. So if someone has when you just like shout it.
There you are OK good. There’s a mike and you just walk up to the mike. That’s what happens.
Melanie: I’m Melody broke and I’m a filmmaker. And our first feature film is in post-production right now. We have a couple of minor stars in it and of course now we’re looking to try to figure out how to do the distribution side. So any advice or direction that you can get around that would be great.
Mark: Yeah I mean you want to head for the LS festivals first and you want to really like signed at South by Southwest tribe back L.A, F.F, A.F.I, Toronto, Venice. These places that you might be able to sell your movies and I know I’m talking a lot about business here but it’s very important you understand business to serve your creative it’s just a part of the game, so go for those. If you get in there fucking good and you’re good to go, if not start looking at more of those second tier festivals that aren’t necessarily sales markets but are going to be building tools a lot and sometimes you can win awards at those festivals which will bring more attention to it. Most importantly go to the festivals and meet the other actors, and the other filmmakers that you want to work with and start thinking towards your next movie, always start thinking towards that.
Melanie: already straight writing it
Mark: Great! Good for you. Have that at the festival so that when people see your movie and say ‘I don’t want to buy this one, what’s next? That’s great. And then I would say most importantly, try to get yourself to a V.O.D. service, even some places like Vimeo that are like trying to brand themselves and might push you a little bit. Film buff, even iTunes themselves are great friendly platform that supports young movies and it’ll help place you on the front page a little bit and don’t be afraid to self-distribute that movie and there’s just a small a just cool detail. If you have a company that’s offering you no money and you don’t like the guy and who’s running it, I actually would recommend self-distributing instead of selling it to them because this movie which is not valuable now and nine years when you are really successful if you own that whole thing you haven’t sold it, that’s going to be your Blood Simple of Coen Brothers and you’re going to have to sell that for a lot of money and maintain that value of like ‘oh look what Melanie made back here’ and you know Sundance Channel will want to buy it or somebody, so hang onto it unless you find a good one.
Ross: Hey I’m Ross, I have a question for you on the dynamic of you know we’re in this age of we all do it all kind of thing. So you’re an actor you’re director and I think that dynamic, I just want to know how you deal with the dynamic of when you say I’m an actor or you’re in your own films. How do you deal with kind of the egoty signature of saying like ‘oh I direct it but I also acted in it, but the reality is that I wrote it because I’m perfect for this.
Mark: Yeah with the gross nature of creating roles for yourself and how to not be ashamed of yourself as you maneuver through the world. No easy answer for that therapy really goes for that, but I would say you know to my earlier point, there’s a way to address that in my mind that is like ‘look, as a lot of great literature that says no one under the age of thirty makes a good piece of art that is not autobiographical, I have zero access to all other actors, what I do have is access to myself who understands the material. So while I might not be the greatest actor in the world, it’s nice having a filmmaker inside of the scene as if I feel if it’s not working, I can improvise around it and maneuver it so until I find a better actor who’s willing to work with me I will do’. And I think that that will hopefully make them respect you twenty percent more.
Hi Mark, after talking a little bit about indie filmmakers going into T.V. I was wondering how your feeling about the web series world.
Mark: I have a little experience in the web series world, I made a series called wedlock independently and we took that out and sold it and between you and me it was definitely like we made our money back and like a little bit more but it wasn’t like a windfall financially, but it was good because I think this is a really good place to get that stuff out there, their revenue shares are ninety percent to the artists and ten percent of him and they don’t promote a lot but it’s worth what you get out of them, so I really recommend making them independently and taking them out. You can make a web series if you design it cheaply. Again according to the models I’ve talked about, that sort of available material school. So my advice would be like try to make it for ten grand or less, you can probably feel comfortable to credit card that because any decent web series that’s like funny if you drive your ass off with all your social media and stuff will’ll make that back and you’ll be OK to make another one.
I’m a really big fan. Sometimes I feel like Alex from your togetherness and just the way that like ‘I’m an actor in L.A. and what if one day I’m going to end up like him’ and the other part of me is like shows like yours give me hope as an actor because I want to be part of projects like that and in terms of what is your advice for the struggling actors in L.A. And yes I know I make my material know that you know really getting in like my first T.V. credit seems like this inbred game that I just can’t get into
Mark: Yeah. There’s no short answer for that you know everything. I talked about in the last half hour applies to you as well as an actor because I think that the actor producer and the actor writer role are the best ways to get yourself moving forward. There’s a little bit of a thing (and I’m just speaking super candidly) a lot of filmmakers when an actor approaches them they feel like they take a step back because they’re worried they want something from them and they’re worried that that friendship is tainted with this desire to just be in their movies. But if you have acted in a movie that you wrote and produced a five minute short and you’re at the film festival circuit, then you are one with the filmmakers and you’re not coming to them for a job and you guys will be buddies together and you go to that free party with a beer and you’ll stay up late and you’ll tell this really funny story about the time you got. In the car accident and accidentally ran off and got arrested for a hit and run and that film maker will hear it and he’ll be like ‘she’s so dynamic and so interesting, I want to work with her’. (Audience laughs). And that’s how this shit happens, I mean you need to make yourself a member of this community as opposed to trying to burrow your way into the community because that’s really in my experience. I cast and call from my group of friends and the way into that and the way that community is created is mostly through traveling to film festivals with a decent piece of art. So think about what you’re really good at doing you know what you kill that right. OK we’ve got to figure out how to figure out you’re probably being falsely modest but like you gotta figure out like I’m so good at doing this kind of thing. And write a five minute piece for that and produce it which is really only means just like finding a friend with a camera who kind of knows how to shoot and start making shorts like that and get that into a festival and then it will start to grow from there.
Elisa: Hi Mike my name’s Elise. I’m a fellow UTRT, I really enjoyed togetherness and the party episode, my friend and I watched that and also enjoyed some similar tea and it was a wonderful episode.
Mark: Are you drinking that right now?.
Elisa: No I’m not, I’m just really nervous and excited to talk to you. So I was wondering if there was a specific personal experience that inspired that episode and also is Linda going to be coming back for season two?.
Mark: Good question. I can’t talk about the Season Two stuff here; we’re in the middle of writing it. But as to the personal experiences for one of our protagonists drinking hallucinogenic beverages, I haven’t had an experience like that necessarily before, but you know Jay and I are really close and I remember when and I think… we grew up in New Orleans so take this with a grain of salt we grew up pretty fast. I got a hold of some mushrooms in high school and Jay came back from college and I was like ‘we’re going to do these together and because we spend so much time apart I want to like want us to expand together and like get you know like be like we were as brothers and so we took mushrooms and walked around the streets of New Orleans together for maybe like five or six hours, and I do remember something in that and we didn’t have any great crazy experiences or hyperbolic ones like happened in the episode but I do remember feeling like. We were pretty like wound up kids who are nervous about like are we going to be able to have careers like we were thinking about this stuff in high school already. And I remember it kind of like opening us a little bit and I was like oh that would be really great for tightwad Bret to let the T. let him loose.
Hey Mark my name’s Calvin I’m seventeen I’m filmmaker from Dallas Texas.
(Mark cuts in): Right away, I know you’re going to be successful. The whole professional delivery that you’re seventeen and you call yourself a filmmaker, you are good you don’t need me. Sit around it, I’m serious give somebody else a fuckin chance (laughs).
(Calvin continues): so definitely in that same boat of not having a lot of budget like good number like a thousand dollars and I’m blessed to come from a school where I have cameras and like lights that I can check out. So what do you spend that money on because I like that’s like my worst budget in like I go out my budget for a movie and I spend all my money on water by going out shit with the money. (Audience laughs)
What are some good investments that you actually took that money out and you spent it on?
Mark: Yeah I mean when I when I quote The thousand dollar movie it’s certainly not an empirical number, it changes on the City Year and it changes you know depending on the scope of your movie you know but when I think about that movie it’s doing a couple of things. It’s borrowing recycled hard drives from people so you’re not buying those things, it’s getting the uncompressed app on your iPhone which you have your equipment already most of it is food and you really want someone who can cook. I recommend having your editor be the deep person who takes the media and they have a lot of down time, so you have them help you light and you have them cook and if they cook and you know you should be having a crew that’s really really small and you should have designed in a static of the movie that can be rough film so it doesn’t feel less than a two hundred thousand dollars movie, it feels squarely a one thousand dollars movie whether what that is I.E. handheld I.E. you know. Rough lighting for a reason you know. So yeah that money should be mostly spent on food and then you’re going to spend a little bit of that on film festival applications.
Calvin: Hey Mark, My name is Calvin too. I’m an editor and I cook but not on set (Crowd laughs). I’m an editor and I’m a film editor by day filmmaker any time in between.
(Mark cuts in): Yeah I did that for a long time. I know that’s also a great way to make money just to be clear if you are a filmmaker who knows how to edit getting in editing like infomercials and things like that. I edited out a church in Austin, a church television show for twenty dollars an hour at night. That was great for me, so it’s a nice source.
(Calvin continues) I totally agree. And the episode togetherness when you really find the coyote noise and put the coyote noise I’ve had that experience plenty of times. I’m a big fan of The Puffy Chair kind of going through right now and I have noticed that Red Envelope Productions was one of the production companies that helped start the brand and I want to congratulate you on your deal with Netflix,that’s really cool. And I was just wondering if there’s any correlation between that.
Mark: Yeah we developed a relation with Netflix in 2005 when we sold them The Puffy Chair; their originals department was called Red Envelope at the time, that’s just been folded into the Netflix brand since. And Ted Serranos who runs that company and is now like a multi-gazillionaire massive media mogul is one of us. He’s a guy who came from independent film and he feels like us and he still takes my phone calls and we text each other and talk about movies and that brings to a good point of like we’re now in this fortunate position where we’re seeing the advent of venture capitalists conglomerations showing up in to independent film. Amazon, Netflix to a certain degree H.B.O. and that’s why I brought up that idea in my tirade earlier about sort of making independent television and licensing it to T.V. because there is… Netflix, Amazon there minting money right now and there’s you know all of us who are kind of like not making a lot of money and so there’s this wonderful marriage to be had where you make the movie for this or they buy the movie for half of what they normally buy it for you’ve made it for a tenth of what they normally write for and then everybody is winning you’re profiting, they’re profiting you know I mean to be perfectly honest with you, the budgets that I am making my Netflix movies for all four of those movies equal to basically one fart bubble for Netflix and their grand scheme of money so but for me it’s a time. So that’s a good thing.
A quick question. OK So a big fan of the show by the way.
From a filmmaker standpoint, how do you feel about location and the need to be in L.A.?
Mark: Really strong opinions about that. There is a moment when it is helpful to be in L.A, it is so much better for you to keep making your stuff and a small town while you’re finding out who you are because your rent is going to be $265 a month you’re going to get support from the pharmacist when you want to shoot the pharmacy because your dad knows him. When we shot The Puffy Chair We shot it mostly in my wife’s home town she grew up in where her dad was a doctor and so we could shoot in the motel for free, we could shoot in the doctor’s office for free. I really think it’s very tough to make independent films in L.A. unless you kind of have a name or something to offer them. They will just be like ‘get out of my face basically’. So to use my speech, up until the point in which you have made your thousand dollar movie with Randy Hercules, that is the moment when you can consider moving to L.A. to get jobs. But Ceon brothers still live in Austin, making their movies, doing their thing; it’s a great way to do it.
I would only add it’s important if you’re an actor. If you’re like if you want to get that portion of your career going. That’s important for you.
I’m Jeremy Burgess, writer producer out of Birmingham Alabama. I’ve been doing shots for a few years and been going OK I’ve also been working on my first and only feature length script, it’s brilliant but it’s going to be expensive and that’s always been in the back of my mind anytime I’m underwriting it. Should I throw that in a closet and let the brilliance burn into my soul or should I keep working at that instead of shorts?
Mark: How do you do with multitasking?
Jeremy: Fairly OK, like four jobs.
Mark: Yeah I mean and have your short films been going around to festivals?
Jeremy: I’m writing one up in about a week and I’ll tell you next year.
Mark: OK Got it. Yeah. So I would I would stay on the shorts train, making shorts until you get those shorts into the festivals and really where you’re at. I would finish that super passion project of yours that’s brilliant and expensive and have that ready to go because again there is that chance that if you make this short and Janet falls in love with it and she premieres at a South by Southwest and it’s also in the same shorts program as Randy Hercules, his friend who made it. Randy might see your movie your short and say I want to make it and then you can get your big movie made. But don’t wait on that do not count on that the chances are very slim. So I would highly recommend whatever that first short is that you make that lands at a festival and you really see people connecting to it, try to make that micro budget feature that mimics that and that will be a great gateway to get your more expensive movie made.
Hey Mark, my name is Marshall, I’m finishing UTRTS studies and every contact I’ve made in the industry is try to find a writing partner, try to find a producing partner. How has Jay helped your process out emotionally and like in the business?
Mark: It’s huge. I mean it is really huge and I do agree with that advice and I would take it further that not just a partner but a true community. I showed up at Southpaw, Southwest in 2003 for the first time and started meeting guys like Joe Swanberg, Andrew Brijeski, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden and we are all friends to this day and we call each other through the years and say ‘can I borrow a camera’? And we mail each other cameras and we mail each other cards and ‘look can I use your old drives from this movie’? I mean that community element is almost as important as that direct partner, very hard to find that direct partner; you know I mean it’s like being in a band where you have to suck up all the conflict that happens whether for the greater good of the music that you’re making together, it doesn’t work for everybody. Just talking to you right now like seem like a pretty gentle sweet person the fact that you’re aware that it could be helpful means you’re probably going to be emotionally evolved enough to handle that kind of situation. So yeah really hard to find but certainly scope it out I will say that I mean I’m in two positions. I have my main partner with Jay, but Jay and I also have affairs on each other where he goes off and makes like transparent and he went and acted in this movie the Manson family vacation that’s premiering here tomorrow and I kind of shepherd a little bit and guide but like I stay away because he needs to have those other partners and I do that with like Lynn Shelton and these other people and so you can also have one off creative relationships that work really well too. Just good sex basically, that is what I supposed.
Hey Mark, I’m a producer, writer actually. And I just wanted to thank you personally, because I honestly didn’t know who you were before I walked in here but I did out here on my list of things to watch and been there for a while so I would have known in the future, so that’s exciting.
MARK DUPLASS: It’s an incredible statement (crowd laughs) ‘I would have known in the future’. You make that the title of your first movie; somebody is going to watch it actually (all laughs).
(Eric continues): I just wanted to thank you personally because you have just confirmed everything that I personally have kind of said as far as my career and what I’m going to be doing in the next few years and I wanted to kind of on this level say thank you and say remember me. I’m Eric with an A and one day we’ll be on that level together and I’ll talk with you shake your hand and say ‘I appreciate everything and I’m here because of you, so thanks a lot’.
MARK DUPLASS: You’re going to raise me up? You’re going to hook me up?
Eric: Yeah! One day we’ll hold each other up.
Mark: I’m keen on that, I like the confidence.
Let me be clear. I will be totally burned out and worthless in ten years so I’m going to need that.
Eric: Well I’m here in Austin at some point. Have a great day.
MARK DUPLASS: Thank you.
Hey Mark, I’m also a film maker in high school. Next year I’m going to be a senior and I’m kind of moving forward into this level in education of choosing what to do, college way and I also don’t want to dig my mom into a hole and get her somewhere super expensive. So I was wondering if you have any suggestions as to how I should move forward into going to college basically.
MARK DUPLASS: I don’t want to be irresponsible here because this is like a four hour conversation but I will throw out a couple of questions for you to think about. Do you believe that you thrive better in a structured educational environment? Or do you function better as a renegade in your basement with your three buddies?. What makes you more excited and inspired?.
(Man continues) Both; On the inside I have this nagging suspicion that I’m irresponsible and I can’t handle responsibility (crowd laughs) but at the same time I feel like having that lack of responsibility and allows me to be…
(Mark cuts in) so there’s a combination here. There are these trade schools like New York Film Academy. They’re not the greatest things in the world to be honest with you, but they’re like nine months and what they do is they teach you that the empirical tools of filmmaking. OK So you and your mom won’t go broke, you won’t waste four years and you’ll be like nineteen when you get out and you’ll know everything you need to know about making movies. So even if you run for two years trying to make movies and you decide ‘you know what this isn’t for me I’m not sure I’m this as you mentioned’ you’re still only going to be twenty one and you’ve got plenty of time to get all that up. So for college, I generally recommend you go in and get just the necessary things that you absolutely need to make the movie. Granted! If you came to me and said ‘dude I’ve already read all the textbooks, I know what the one hundred eighty degree axis is of shooting, I know how to shoot underbrush on an iPhone’, I would be like one hundred percent do not go to film school, you are ready for this, go out and do it.
(Man continues) So you’re saying if I already have that experience which I think I kind of do, just do something else?
MARK DUPLASS: I would save the money and skip it and think about the money that would have been that and say ‘mum, give me a tenth of that so I can go make my movie one movie’. Yeah.
(Man) All right thanks Mark.
Hi Mark, I’m Sisi. I took a Buzz Feed quiz on which league character of you. And I did not get your character but I got Kevin so I think that we’re inherently linked.
MARK DUPLASS: Absolutely!
(Sisi continues) I’m not a filmmaker but I’m like a curious individual. Yesterday I saw David James speak on food co and what’s going on in the future of food and something he said that was interesting was about how today’s chefs anyone can kind of have all these access, have all these tools from the Internet and it’s sort of hard for a young chef because they’re expected to be good right away. In your perspective for the future of film and future filmmakers, do these tools would you say they seem to have a lot of benefits to a filmmaker early and starting your career much earlier than you ought to do. What do you think about the downside of that?
MARK DUPLASS: I’m a big fan of the cheap technology and the tools and I would never wish that they were not here. I do agree there are some downsides, one is that we’re creating a lot of material in the marketplace so it’s much harder to sift through things. And also that in 1995, if you put out an independent film that was decent you were only one of seven independent films so everybody would come see it. Now there are thousands. So it makes you less quote unquote special in that way but the major upside of it which I will trump to the dead eye is that because this stuff is so cheap now. In 1995, a kid from Ohio in the suburbs who was fourteen years old couldn’t turn a camera on himself and make one of the most explosive movies that we’ve seen come out of Sundance and that could happen now with the technology and so I want to take all the bad stuff for that sort of like juggernaut potential.
Sisi: Awesome, thank you.
Hi Mark, F.A Greenheart, I’m a freelance TP and I’ve been on transition into moving more in the direction of taking filmmaking seriously, doing writing and directing, and I feel like I can learn a lot from you know on set with an established director and approach and process. What’s the best way to approach somebody you really respect, you love their style and you want to learn something from them by working behind the scenes on that minute break and sort of like insulated bubble?
Mark: I’m going to give you a pretty specific piece of advice; you don’t necessarily have to follow it. I would erase that from your memory because you will maybe learn some things but it will probably be really hard to get to that point if you don’t have connections and you spend a lot of time and energy trying to find a connection to a filmmaker that is good enough that you want to emulate and it might not even be healthy for you to learn and emulate from them. And I would take all those cumulative hours and I would gather up three or four of your friends and start making movies and then what’s going to happen is you’re going to start making movies that are like you and that are totally unique and honestly if you start emulating things that might beat something original out of you that you never could have known. For instance, if you don’t know what the 1800 axis is right now and how to shoot films, you might shoot it in this ignorant way that’s totally original and interesting and that’s kind of cool too, that happened to me a little bit earlier. So at the risk of sounding a little cavalier about it, I would really spend more of your time finding out who you are as opposed to shadowing someone else.
Hi my name’s Stephanie. I love all your stuff and just wanted to tell you that first of all. I’m not a filmmaker, just kind of a creative person, I read a food blog and I do know today there’s so many people out there that want to do something creative and so many different markets and I was just kind of wondering like is there enough room like how do you make yourself stand out?
Mike: I mean it’s a really tough question, there’s a glut. You know, like these tons and tons of stuff to look at and it’s much harder to make room and I can be certainly a bummer sometimes, you just feel like I’m just putting stuff out there and nobody cares. I truly believe at the end of the day like everybody’s unique and if you dig it hard enough about that special stuff about you again. Those conversations you’re having with your friends, there’s very specific things that make you, that’s going to be inherently fascinating at least to me, you know if I got a chance to like see and feel what it’s like in your life at those moments and if you can find a way to put that in your stuff, I believe it can break through you know. But it’s definitely harder now with the glut. Easier to make, harder to get people to watch it.
Hi Mark, I’m Gelbin; I am an actress, writer and producer. I was just in Chris Warner’s unexpected. I have a good question How is it because you do multiple things, when you coming off unexpected, people automatically see actress and I don’t really know how about how saying I’m an actress, writer and producer like toning down the sound of that, what is your advice?.
Mark: I mean you just have to actively combat that and just say like ‘yeah I mean I was in the movie because I’m a friend of Chris but really I’m a filmmaker first’. And that’s that standard response you keep doing that over six months that’s what’s going to happen and that being said, it’s not bad that people are looking at you to be an actress and if they like you, that’s good. You know and you should say great interesting. I’m not just an actress, I am an actress and a writer producer and I have this script that I have written for myself and it can be made cheaply and we’re going to get involved. You know I mean you just got to take control that conversation.
Geblin: OK, and then my second question would be. So coming off of that when you are approached about other projects like you said the coverage not coming, when it does come it could be like a bunch of crap that you don’t want to do
Mark: Yes. Most of the time it is.
(Geblin continues): How do you say NO?
Mark: Well a lot of times it’s easy because it’s not an offer to you, it’s an offer to fight for it. That’s the key. It sounds like you’re taking from me and say ‘we want you to direct this movie’, but what they don’t tell you is that they’re talking to twenty five other people and you’re going to go pitch to them and spend a month getting your boards ready and getting your story pitched together and you’re not going to get it and you will do that over and over again and I can’t tell you how many friends I have who have done that for three years straight because the temptation of getting that million dollar gig is there and they end up doing absolutely nothing. And that’s really the balmer of The Cavalry is Coming as it sounds like it is but it really isn’t.
Hey, I’m an actor, writer and I work for the start up too and I guess the question is how do you or can you ever get rid of like this is no good voice that is in your head? Because I have a million ideas.
Mark: Yeah. The this is no good voice is great and it’s one of your great assets because it will help you from making something bad. You know if you have the bliss gene and you’re like ‘this is awesome’, and you’re never going to know that it sucks. So that’s a good thing, accept it, and go to some therapy you work through that I’m still doing that. A couple of tricks when you’re writing, I find it’s very bad to write in final draft or on a document because you can see what you’re writing and you’re thinking to yourself ‘oh God it’s garbage it’s garbage’ and you lose all your confidence. So try this trick where you take a little dictaphone or a handheld recorder and you speak out your scripts into it. You can’t see the words. Also you can’t turn back it’s linear, and so what you actually have to do is it forces you to just get a vomit draft out. And you accept because this is a vomit draft it’s going to be stinky that’s fine, no big deal. So your dialogue will all sound the same because you’re talking that way. And your scene descriptions will not be eloquent because you talk them out but you’re going to get impeccable pacing because your body knows how to pace a movie because you sat in front of so many movies and so then you can click into that other side of your brain. This is no good brain and start empirically editing that thing. And that’s a nice little trick for me also involving your friends and your peers in every way shape and form in the process to take the voice off of you for this is no good and put it on to them and let them help you, you’ll stop beating yourself up as much as everyone else is voicing and helping you guide this thing people don’t do that enough. I find a lot of people they get caught up in this auto or bullshit of like this is my vision I’m making my way it’s just like you know making a movie is impossible, you need help, you need people you know and love and trust to help you guide this stuff. So a community would really help you with that. Thank you guys so much. I’ll stop talking now. Thank you.
INTERVIEW WITH THE DUPLASS BROTHERS
CONVERSATION WITH THE DUPLASS BROTHERS
AARON: By the way I don’t appreciate the snickering over the owning of video store. Hi Boys.
BROTHERS: Hi Aaron
AARON: Thanks so much for coming out here we are going to be able to give you guys a chance to ask the brothers questions, I believe we have a microphone right there in the isle so when we get to that we will let you know.
As far as South by South West is concerned you know a lot of people associate you know your early days with the puppy charity 2005, but really Austin and film comes earlier than that I was wondering if you could talk about those early funny years.
MARK DUPLASS: We moved here in a wagon in 1917 actually.
JAY DUPLASS: It was a gravy train with biscuit wheels.
MARK DUPLASS: And you know all those pictures of the capital where there was a dirt road JAY DUPLASS and I actually paved that road ourselves.
JAY DUPLASS: We paved it with TV tape.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes we did, we did, JAY DUPLASS moved herein ninety one to go to college and I came soon after in 95 and I mean for those of you who have been here for that long even not that long, it was a very different town but the spirit as always been the same just like, oh there is Rodriquez and there is Richard Linklater (1:24) and like these guys are just like wearing T Shirts and jeans and sneakers and they are normal guys making art and that was so inspiring to us because we grow up in New Orleans.
The artists there were all 50 year old black men and older jazz musicians and we were like we are probably not going to beat that.
JAY DUPLASS: But we tried super hard
MARK DUPLASS: We tried really hard.
JAY DUPLASS: To be 55 year old black musician.
MARK DUPLASS: But the Duplass brothers are just not the Neville brothers it just that not going to happen.
JAY DUPLASS: We will forever live under that cloud.
MARK DUPLASS: Exactly, I don’t look good in a tight fish net shirt it just doesn’t work.
JAY DUPLASS: And a thick gold chain.
MARK DUPLASS: But yea it really was so exciting to us that just like normal people who are making art about normal stuff and so that’s really like I think we kind of figure out who we were by watching guys like Rick and Rodriquez and then we lived here for a long time just making a shit ton of bad short films really, that’s what we did for the next 10 years.
AARON: So what, now a days you guys are doing so much it’s just incredible, JAY DUPLASS with transparent, you guy with togetherness, you have 2 films here that you produced the documentary Asperger’s Are Us as well as Phillips Rainbow Times, go see those guys.
You produce you write you direct you act, where did all of it come from like and originally as far as what was actually inspiring you. I mean you wanted to make things but did you have lofty goals upfront of what you wanted to do or did all this or did you stumble into all of this.
MARK DUPLASS: It’s just money you know really is what it comes down to, we want to be.
JAY DUPLASS: Just getting paid, just getting paid you know because those 12 years in Austin just making art and distributing on our front lawn we got so rich, so frigging rich.
MARK DUPLASS: These haircuts don’t come cheap, you all.
JAY DUPLASS: I don’t know if you all notice but, I am wearing a blazer.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s right.
JAY DUPLASS: So it’s like just deal with it, we honestly we grew up in New Orleans like MARK DUPLASS said the only model you know of being an artist was like to be a musician so that’s what we were doing for a long time we did that here as well, but we were probably, we definitely were more obsess with movies that were coming across our front lawn and cable came to our neighbourhood in 1983, and you know we never had. We never like thought we would actually be able to make movies and make movies and make money.
Like MARK DUPLASS was saying like when we first saw Rick on the street we were like that’s a person who made a movie, oh, right, people made movies it not just pumped over a pipe line, you know.
MARK DUPLASS: And more importantly he is not wearing like a beret he is like a normal guy, like could we possible do this.
JAY DUPLASS: And his last name is not Cobla basically (4:16), so you know honestly it was we graduated from UT and we were kind of in bands together and we were making movies with our friends in town which at the time we were like you know the Zona brothers and like Brian Poiser and John Bryant and all these great film makers now.
We are just having fun and I think in the back of our minds we were like it would be so great if something happens one day but we just didn’t really expect it and it really does come from what you were saying, you just making stuff which is what we have always done together as brothers, just always just wanting to make something creative and see if we can do something that’s good and it took us a long time before we could do anything good, and then I would say probably the biggest moment.
I mean we had big moments along the way we got our first shot in the Sundance all that stuff happens but we were still making stuff but, I think when we were making our first studio feature Cyrus we were on our way to a ward robe fitting with Marisa Tome and we were sitting in the parking lot and we were like oh my God we are going to tell Marisa Tome what to wear, this is weird.
MARK DUPLASS: I have dreamed about, this I have dreamed about this and it went really well too, it was so exciting.
JAY DUPLASS: And we got a call on our cell phone from Brian Poiser who was about to make LOVERS OF HATE and I think this where we were at, the economics where he had twenty thousand dollars and he need twenty five and that five had dropped out and he basically was like going to shoot like the next day and he was like I need five thousand dollars to make this movie and it was the first time MARK DUPLASS and I were in a position where we had five thousand dollars and it was so easy for us to be like, of course and we gave him five thousand dollars his movie happened.
It got into competition at Sundance, but also we did what we always did with our friends we watch cuts with them we gave them advice on what we thought, I mean that’s just what we were doing in the film making community but we became executive producers on that movie and we thought nothing of it at all.
MARK DUPLASS: It really just being a friend more than a produce is what it felt like in the moment.
JAY DUPLASS: And now we produce a lot of stuff.
MARK DUPLASS: That process really continued we really like to tribe up as we call it we find this industry very difficult and JAY DUPLASS and I are fairly vulnerable anxious and depressive at times and so we like to band up with all of our friends and kind of lean on each other and so a lot of the producing we do is really like you know Lynnis Phillips is a friend of ours and he says I got this movie idea.
So we said okay we got some money lets help you out and we go do it and Asperger’s Are Us a dot is playing here is directed by the camera man that I worked with on the LEAF for like 5 years and I was friends with him and I you know he showed us this movie and we were like yes, we will watch the movie and we like oh fuck, we are going to have to watch Alex’s shitty movie and tell him how bad it is and it was good and we were like great.
So let’s go help him make this movie so that has been like an organic process to becoming quote and quote producers which is something that we are really liking more and more of lately.
AARON: But beyond working with friends and you know colleagues you guys have been so prolific producing, I mean I feel like every year here you had like at least 2 or 3 films. Is there something that you can see like a common through line of something about these projects that really like excites you, or if there is any guiding philosophies whether it may be you know conscious or you thinking about it for the first time right now?
MARK DUPLASS: Yes it is weird it is always hard for us to see that it is almost always easier for audience to see that kind of stuff and then they point it out to us and then we are kind of like yeah, that’s what we are doing that’s our theme, but something came up lately that keep hitting us over and over again that when people talk about our show togetherness.
They talk about how unique relationship is between my character and Steve’s character, between Alex’s and Bret and they say they are just so loving and sweet and supportive of each other I never seen guys interact that way.
How do you even conceive to make a relationship that is so unique, and we are like oh that’s different, we like because that’s just how JAY DUPLASS and I are like with each other.
JAY DUPLASS: What other guys do, they just like punch each other in the nuts?
MARK DUPLASS: Yeah, like not stop. like JAY DUPLASS fucking love you! Punching bag, punching bag in the balls and so I think if there is anything that we have seen that as tied us to what we are looking for and you will see it in the RAINBOW TIME, you will see it in ASPERGER’S ARE US is like that ability to be very, very honest with your comedy and with your story telling but, that honest normally comes with a certain kind of acerbic pin pointing darkness and often kind of trashing the characters and if there is anything that we make it an honest approach but also an inheritance sweetness to it that we tend to be attracted to over and over again, so I think that might be one I don’t know that might be a common theme that might be something.
JAY DUPLASS: Another thing I think is just personal connections which we just tend to let things like ooze in sideways a little, I mean like when it was Lyniss Phillips’s movie we are really good friends with him, just he had this idea it was really special and he also was kind of in a place in his life where he was like I am going to die if I don’t make this movie.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s how you get people to finance your movie, you just go it is not a big deal no pressure, I am going to die if I don’t get a chance to make this, no biggie.
JAY DUPLASS: Yeah, feeling that personal connection I don’t know it’s more of an organic, I mean people are always like oh dude are you developing are you reading scripts and stuff, and it’s like we don’t have a ton of time to read scripts it is something that has to happen through osmoses.
MARK DUPLASS: I think that’s a good point, we don’t waste time on traditional development, people ask us how you so prolific, how you make so much stuff and the thing is everything that we attempt to make we make so it is not like oh, it is 19 movies we talking we only going to make one of them and the way we do that is people come to us with either a solid project that are at various phase.
They got a script and they are ready to go and it is cheap to make and we always tell people like look we aren’t going to give you a lot of money, we will give you enough to make it if it hits you will share a ton of the profits but you going to live and die by your work.
Or it is something that JAY DUPLASS and I have an idea about for instance like movies about THE ONE I LOVE or YOUR SISTER’S SISTER were movies that we kind of started off as a company and they were ideas that we had and we went and pitched them to a film maker and we said would you like to run with this idea you know we will produce it, one of us will be in it.
That’s another form that we work with but, to the point of that I think it is important that you try not to spend a lot of time taking meeting bull shiting about movies that you may eventually make one day, we try to spend a lot of time saying like do you have a dream movie that you can make for under a hundred thousand dollars that we can help you with that’s practical, like those are the kind of things we really respond to.
JAY DUPLASS: I think that answers the question because everyone is constantly asked us how do we do all the stuff that we do, part of it is that we just don’t socialize ever, that’s something we just have young kid we given that up for the time being.
MARK DUPLASS: Part of it is we are handsome too, you know we are pretty fucking cool, we are incredible, you that move the Incredible that was written about us, have you seen that?
AARON: I have always admired your humility.
JAY DUPLASS: But the idea that if you know anything about Hollywood you know at most like one and twenty that are being considered get maid and for us it is like 19 of the 20 movies get made so we really don’t take anything on unless it is like very obvious to us and personal and it is just like, I don’t know we need it to really matter and mean something on so many levels for us to take it on.
We also have like develop models like even from the very beginning after we did our first movie the PUPPY CHAIR we are going to make BAG HEAD and we were talking about it in the studios about making BAG HEAD big but, we kind of figure this thing out that maid it okay for us to be pitching the movie and to not like die if like people wouldn’t green light it or whatever.
We realize we can make the movie for fifty thousand dollars in Austin if people didn’t want to do it our way and being too difficult and reject it and so or whatever it would be and so we kind of went into these pitch meetings with this idea that like, we are making this movie in August in Austin.
It’s happening if you would like to be a part of it and give us a lot of money that would be great but if not we are still making the movie and that’s what ended up happening, you know we made it for little more than fifty thousand dollars, we have been making some money writing movies and we sold it for a hell of a lot more at Sundance and so we constantly employed that tactic that this movie is going to get made and we often think of lots of levels that it could exist at but it almost always happens at that bottom level and that has turned out to be a great thing actually.
AARON: One more follow up and then I want to turn it over to you guys for questions, you know you mentioned Hollywood and then you guys live in Los Angeles and like what you doing is so antithetical to how Hollywood works I mean even as all these models have just kind of busted in the post internet whatever age, do you guys feel like I mean even you have done studio work before do you feel like outsiders in Los Angles, do you feel you are bucking the system from within.
MARK DUPLASS: We don’t feel necessarily that we are you know diametrically opposed to Hollywood as a whole, we definitely sort of have one foot in the system and one foot out the system and I think that you know there is a healthy way to sort of approach making stuff when you are at like our level which I would describe as like, nobody is going to give us a hundred million dollars to make a movie and just let us do whatever we want to do.
We are not that they might give us a smaller amount of money and give us some creative autonomy that’s cool but our whole approach is always been we will never make a movie for more money than we think that we can make it back even if the movie ends up being not great, that’s like the key for us it’s like mitigate your risk.
So it is like even if we totally fuck this movie up and it sucks just because this person is in it and the script is about this and this genre at least we will make that money back and there is an immense creative freedom when you walk into a project thinking like even if we shift the bed w are going to be okay and it frees you up to just go nuts a little bit and that has been a real key to our process and it is the way that we started because we had not connections and nobody was going to give us any money.
And then we got to the phase where everybody wants to give us money and we have this crazy realization we are like we have achieved the goal of like Hollywood would give us money to make our stuff and we look at each other and we are like it is kind of better if we do it on our own and that’s really what we continued to do.
AARON: Hey gang you want to ask the Duplass some questions? If you want to line up over the microphone there, I can see you with your white shirt there sir.
Q: I am one of the lightning bolts so you know deal with that anyway.
MARK DUPLASS: We can’t deal with it, next question.
Q: I live in Wellington New Zealand now and we are working on building a screen co opt and what you guys were talking about is like when you say you keep your budgets down low under a hundred grand, how you guys deal with keeping the crew and everybody certain level do you give the crew a back end as well to work at a lower level.
MARK DUPLASS: We have a lot of different models and not to bore the shit out of everybody with the semantics but the ethos is the lower you make, the lower budget you make the movie for the more equity you can afford to hand out to your cast and crew, so when we are making an independently funded movie everyone who shows up on our set whether it is the fourth PA has at least some equity stake in the movie and we like that family environment of doing things.
One model in particular that I can advice on a little bit which I think is good is any movie that you make under two hundred thousand dollars there is a necessary sag agreement that is you have to pay those actors at least a $100 a day there is a minimum there, so a lot of time when we are making movies at that budget level.
What we will do is we will pay everybody on set whether you are an actor a director a PA a caterer whatever, everybody makes a $100 a day so it is creative communism thing and then depending on what you bring to the movie and how much time you spend on the movie you get much bigger waited backend so for instance if you happen to have a movie star that comes into the movie you really have to have like give them some backend because they are doing that and your editor is going to spend 3 months versus your PA who is only there for three weeks should get more vice versa.
Q: And now would you guys would want to come to New Zealand and do some projects because that is kind of why we are here to bring.
JAY DUPLASS: Absolutely not.
MARK DUPLASS: I mean the way that JAY DUPLASS is joking but he is not joking, the way that we make stuff is so different from the way everybody makes stuff, like there are big movies that go to New Zealand and they save so much money by doing that.
For us as soon as we fly down our crew members we have already blown our budget so for us we kind of have to say around here.
Q: You guys stick with the same crew project after project or you willing to work with other crew over there.
MARK DUPLASS: How hard are you going to pitch us?
Q: Just a question anyway thank you guys for your time.
Q: Hi I was curious when you guys started realizing that it was like a partnership that you guys had rather than you both pursuing like your own tracks with film making.
JAY DUPLASS: I was about 7 MARK DUPLASS was about 4, I mean we genuinely have always been two brothers just trying to make something good and it took us a long time to make something good both movies and music and honestly I still feel like we are two brothers trying to make something good.
It is very, very hard to make a great movie or a great TV show, it takes every ounce of our being and that’s just how we kind of still see it we have to have titles now for studious and for union purposes but that’s just really how we see it.
MARK DUPLASS: Yea and I would say to that end I mean it is a very complex process needless to say working so closely with someone, you know and JAY DUPLASS and I have our own marriage with each other and our marriages with our wives and we are literally writing a book about the complexity of what it is like with us for the last 30 years but at the end of the day for us it is just feels very hard.
We know guys who put on their baseball hats and chew gum and just blaze through their directing movies with ultimate confidence and sometimes they make incredible movies doing that, we just don’t know how to do that we need people to lean on so it’s really not a question of whether we like it or not, we need it.
AARON: Before you go sir I just want to ask you know.
MARK DUPLASS: What you doing you hogging the whole thing.
AARON: Dude! You know you guys are like the only ones I have heard of like siblings who just I always hear you talk about you don’t really fight but I don’t think I ever heard you guys talk about how you guys work as far as, do you know of any like strengths or weakness that you have that automatically it just make sense while you guys are a team.
MARK DUPLASS: Yeah and these are variable things too they are not empirical you know we talk about this a lot of like for instance all togetherness where we write all the episodes we direct all the episodes I am in the show where JAY DUPLASS is prepping like crazy while I am acting like we are just exhausted and overwhelmed.
So we show up on set like an 8 a.m. call and we look at each other and within a few seconds we immediately know who has it today and who kind of doesn’t and that person tends to step forward a little bit and take the lead so they may be like doing more the marching orders and organizing with the cast and the other person kind of laying back and watching and something great happens.
Which is that leadership person is using his positive energy and you know and good sleep to make the thing move forward but the person laying back will catch all these things that the one with the marching orders won’t catch because he is just too busy and there is too much energy taking care of people.
So that little yeng and yang happens quite a bit and really over the years we have kind of developed the skills to be in either position depending on how fussy we are that day.
JAY DUPLASS: But in general I would say that MARK DUPLASS is better at getting stuff up and going like getting things moving and I am probably a little better at closing.
MARK DUPLASS: Yea like the runner who goes to the Olympics and runs the first lap really fast to pace everybody and then he starts sweating and crying and trails off that’s me around noon on set.
AARON: We now return to our regular schedule programming.
Q: Thanks guys, my question is on behalf of my wife who only has an interactive pass and can’t get into the film panel.
MARK DUPLASS: It is terrible, where is she?
A: She is sitting watching it simulcast down the lobby.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s awful, hi what’s her name?
A: It’s Dianna Dickenson from Demoing Iowa.
MARK DUPLASS: Dianna Dickenson from Demoing Iowa come on down.
Bring her in let’s see what she has won, so in 1998 she was a write for a start up called garden.com Doc Jemison Lisa Cliftsharples (22:49) she claims you made a documentary.
MARK DUPLASS: She is full of shit.
JAY DUPLASS: Lies.
MARK DUPLASS: Dianna do not come on down stay right where you are.
Q: So there is no documentary?
MARK DUPLASS: There is.
JAY DUPLASS: We make a documentary about gardening in 1998.
MARK DUPLASS: We were editors in Austin in the mid nineties this is how we kind of made our living we edit like all the cheap Indie movies we wouldn’t make money doing that then we would edit like corporate kids like we would edit at a church television show for a while and JAY DUPLASS secured us this amazing job for doing this documentary for gardening.com where they, I mean no offence Dianna grossly overpaid us.
JAY DUPLASS: In retrospect very under paid at the time.
MARK DUPLASS: At the time we were like this is more money than we have ever seen.
JAY DUPLASS: We are going to take all this money and make a terrible movie with it.
MARK DUPLASS: And that’s what we did we paid all our friends really well and then JAY DUPLASS and I walked away with sixty grand of profit or something and we said lets go make our dream feature film and we shot a movie called VINCE DELRIO about a runner from South Texas that was kind of model after Rocky and we edit it together and it was a steaming pile of shit.
JAY DUPLASS: I just want to reference though that like after a year of nonstop work on a featured documentary you and I both cleared sixty thousand dollars and thought we were like, we killed it.
MARK DUPLASS: And then we blew all that money and then we went back and made a $3 short film and that was the movie that got into Sundance and this is life so.
Q: So how does one get to view the documentary?
JAY DUPLASS: I have no idea.
MARK DUPLASS: You know what I think it exist on a beta tape at my parents house basement right now.
Q: I will give you my card.
MARK DUPLASS: Good fair enough.
Q: Hi there I was just wondering, how did you guys decided to originally cast yourselves in your movies and then you decided to keep casting yourselves as you create more movies.
MARK DUPLASS: Why do you ask?
A: Well I am just wondering, I just made a movie with my brother and so he acted and we are both kind of interest acting and directing at the same time so.
MARK DUPLASS: Do you think we maybe should have made a different choice or something I just want to know if there is something beneath the question that you want to talk to about.
A: Just like more involved in the creative process.
MARK DUPLASS: I understand it was functional at first.
JAY DUPLASS: I mean it started when our dad bought a Panasonic VHS camera with the separate VTR in 1981, I was older and I could work it and MARK DUPLASS would do whatever I say.
MARK DUPLASS: I was young dumb and full of com I was a hot leading man JAY DUPLASS put me in front of that camera and we never looked back bro.
JAY DUPLASS: I said show me the magic baby and he put on that karate gee inspired by that karate Kid one, kicked the cigarette out of the neighbours hand protected his house and finished off by lifting weights.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s a real movie by the way.
JAY DUPLASS: That’s a real movie.
MARK DUPLASS: I wish he was kidding.
JAY DUPLASS: Honestly is that simple that I started shooting MARK DUPLASS and that’s the first movie we got into Sundance a $3 short film on 311 West Mary in South Austin.
MARK DUPLASS: 311A it was a duplex.
JAY DUPLASS: 311A it was the bottom floor duplex and we got into Sundance and you know we just didn’t have the resources to hire the people and by the time we really started making featured films MARK DUPLASS was a dam good actor and I became a pretty good camera operator and that’s really where it was.
MARK DUPLASS: We were a fan of that approach just functionally as you getting started out because you know while you might have access to a great actor and can hire them great, but if you have access to someone who might that be that much of a better actor than you are as a film maker the added value of you being in it is that if the scene itself is not working you have the ability to improvise, shuck and drive move things around because you are probably the film maker screen writer director editor everything.
So having that autonomy under your control inside of the scene can be very helpful particularly like we didn’t know what we were doing enough in the early stage so JAY DUPLASS would like talk to me in the middle of the scene and like that’s not working that feels really spot on and expositional shake that around and try it a different way and it’s nice to just be your own tool on the side of it.
JAY DUPLASS: I mean we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, so a lot of people think you don’t know what you doing, well just hire like the best DP I can get and the best actors I can get and we actually, that did not work for us and we have seen a lot of people go down that road and you just everyone had that experience where the DP is way above your pedigree and the guy is just like thinks that you are a doofus the whole time, you know and so we knew.
I guess subconsciously that we were going to have to figure this out along the way and having MARK DUPLASS be there and having MARK DUPLASS’s girlfriend Katie at the time be there and puffy chair who is like patient with us and could help allow us to find our way was a huge part of the process.
MARK DUPLASS: You don’t want to do that in front of Marisa Tome that won’t go well.
Q: What’s up MARK DUPLASS? My name is Calvin I am a film maker from Dallas.
JAY DUPLASS: What about me?
MARK DUPLASS: My brother is sitting right here dude.
A: Oh hey man, MARK DUPLASS JAY DUPLASS both of you guys.
MARK DUPLASS: Dude Aaron is sitting right here.
A: You just cut me off you didn’t give me time.
AARON: No offence.
MARK DUPLASS: There is a whole belly of people back here working their ass off for your.
A: Hello MARK DUPLASS JAY DUPLASS Aaron you didn’t let me finish, I am a film maker from Dallas and you talked earlier about you guys were at that point where you making a bunch of really shitty short films and then you eventually got to the point where people wanted to pay you for your ideas and then you expanded pass that, but I am at that point where I am making a bunch of shitty short films and I am trying to figure out.
JAY DUPLASS: God bless you for writing it.
Q: Like what’s the process to get to that next level because I mean.
JAY DUPLASS: Keep making shitty short films until one of them doesn’t suck one day that is it and don’t decide yourself whether you think they suck or not, let other people who are not your mom decide that for you because even when MARK DUPLASS and I made the first film look TINY HINT, it is the first film that we made that was really good.
Happen to be something that happened to me the day before we made it and we as brothers giggle about it, we were like cringed about it and then giggled about it privately, special things that we share our sense of humour, what is unique about us that was what made the breakthrough possible I think so just mining what is special about you and your friends and your love ones is certainly is going to be quicker leading you there.
I think it is hard for people to decide what they are going to be as an artist, I think when people have really strong ideas like we want to be the Coen brothers in the nineties and it didn’t work out. You know to decide that is it doesn’t really happen that’s when you side track yourself constantly, so just try tons of stuff make it really, really cheap and hopefully one day it won’t suck.
I was 29 years old when I made that first movie and I was about to lose my mind the reason why we made it I was like I got to move on and MARK DUPLASS was like no, we are going to make something today, come up with something.
I was like we don’t have a 16 millimetre film camera we don’t have a crew I was stuck in that mind set and MARK DUPLASS was like we have mom and dad’s video camera let us just shoot it so we just came up with the idea right then and there what we could create with the materials we had available.
MARK DUPLASS: I was very inspiring to JAY DUPLASS at the time and I had zero idea too which is the best part about that, I was like we are making a movie today, I was like you got to figure out what that is about because you are the older one you are smart.
JAY DUPLASS: See he is good at starting shit up.
MARK DUPLASS: You know in fairness I was here last year at South West South West and I gave this key note speech that was like an hour long very specifically walking through the minutia of the steps to go from nowhere making shitty short films and how to build like a little empire.
It ends up turning way more Tony Robins than I wanted it to be but it is very preachy and deductive if you want to see the process it is all in there it is all on you tube you can look it up.
Q: Sort of building on that last question I am film festival programmer and my question for you guys is, how do you tell somebody they made a shitty short film but not tell them that to quit, you know what I mean? like what is the best way to give really honest feed back to film maker about what you see in the work that is genuine and interesting and fresh and what isn’t working,
JAY DUPLASS: I mean I think you got to get personal you can’t do it in a one liner and an email or anything like that, I mean I just literally yesterday some kid that worked with us made a short film and it’s not good because it is real hard to make a good short film but it had the nugget of greatness in there.
So I just spent an hour with him and I watched the film with him and I basically just talked him through what I thought could make things better you know and shared as much of my cognition of like, you know because you have this very specific example now about how this could moved towards something else and he is going to reshoot it and he probably would have to reshoot that too as well.
And people are resistant to doing that because I think we all have this like myth that we are going to wake up and take a shit and a great movie is going to come out, there is like a weird myth about it.
MARK DUPLASS: It happened to me once actually.
JAY DUPLASS: It did, what movie is that?
MARK DUPLASS: It is on Netflix.
JAY DUPLASS: But yes I think it has to.
MARK DUPLASS: You are in a tough spot because you can’t respond to 3000 submissions obviously so.
JAY DUPLASS: You could just say keep going.
A: Thank you, keep going everybody.
Q: Hey JAY DUPLASS hey MARK DUPLASS, my name is Phard I hope you are, I wonder if you are talking about CREEP because that was one of my favourites that you have done.
MARK DUPLASS: The take a shit movie?
A: No, no that was my favourite my first movie I have watched of yours.
MARK DUPLASS: Glad you liked it thank you.
JAY DUPLASS: Just for your information you can’t take a shit and it turns into a movie it’s not possible.
MARK DUPLASS: I have only done it once so it is not. Yeah.
A: So I was going to ask, how much have you, I know you guys improvised a lot, how much of your comedy is actually written on a script and how much of it is improvised you know completely on the set.
MARK DUPLASS: Every movie we make is wildly different so CREEP was a 5 page outline that we started shooting with we shot for 6 days, the movie was terrible we then went back and we reshot like 70% of it that movie was terrible. So we reshot that movie over and over again and just a raw outline.
JAY DUPLASS: It is so easy you guys.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes so easy you know on a different kind of movie like CYRUS and JEFFALUS at home its 100% airtight full lock down script that is gone through the studio system and the development process, when we get on set we encourage our actors to loosen up the lines that they are saying but still stay within the narrative structure.
Here is where we are starting A, we are going to B to C to D so that improvisation is not going on rant is it actually staying well within the narrative confines of the scene, just trying to find ways for them to re say the lines so it can feel more natural and organic so that’s the kind of a swing of how things go, but every movie is different.
The movie we made The One I Love which has a lot of scenes and a lot of technical details was actually shuffleman (35:17) out line but it was a detailed 40 page outline, every script point was nailed down except for the dialogue so it varies.
A: Thank you guys so much.
Q: Hey there, you guys are amazing, I watched.
MARK DUPLASS: Great question please, thank you I just want to stop.
I watched the PUPPY CHAIR 3 times before I embarked upon a 7 days film making experience making a film from New York to Iowa for $3,000 and I just have to say that that film gave me the confidence to feel like that could actually happen making a film with my friends on that scale.
My question is getting to the point you have I mean you know you having a show like Togetherness on HBO have you found a away to harness and keep that kind of independent film making mentality that you are able to have making a film $3,000 with your friends at that level and what is it then like working with actors on the scale that you are now.
JAY DUPLASS: It’s definitely different when you making you know when you have $20m on your shoulders and you are making a movie, it is hard to have that unbridled freeness about it but you know we still hire a lot of our friends and MARK DUPLASS and I still two dudes making stuff, and we I think the short answer to that question is, the question that we always ask ourselves and have since the very beginning is what do you want to see next.
And that comes in the receiving phase writing shooting editing everything, even on big studio stuff if something doesn’t feel right we question it and that’s something that most people don’t do, it’s not comfortable to tell 75 people on your crew sorry guys we got to go for a walk because something is not right and we don’t know what it is.
This whole industry is built around this absoluteness of vision which is bull shit for us and for a lot of people and I think the Coen Brothers have absoluteness of vision they are unique in that way.
MARK DUPLASS: There are a lot of people that have absoluteness of vision it’s just that you really don’t want to see that vision.
JAY DUPLASS: So we have a very fluid way of creating things and that for us keeps it very fresh and real because we know we are not just going on set to execute what was written, we are trying to capture the most exciting version of that spirit and we encourage out actors to find that as well and if we are not capturing something special we will question it and we will re rig it and we will rewrite it.
We will throw wrench into the scene and that kind of keeps us fresh all the time and it is scary as shit to work that way too, but I think you know I don’t know that’s what we are obsessed with is realness and feeling like anything could happen you know that’s probably maybe what we were doing that’s somewhat unique is people feel that anything could happen in this moment and the truth is because that’s how our sets are anything really can happen and that’s the only way we know how to create that feeling. So when you living in that chaos it’s uncomfortable but it is definitely is new all the time.
MARK DUPLASS: And the only thing logistically I would add to that is there is some little tricks you can do on big budget sets to kind of make it flow more smoothly make it feel smaller like when you yell “cut” on a big set every department head rushes in to make sure that there particular interest in that scene is taken care of so that they don’t lose their job when the studio sees the dailies.
So you going to have people coming in to fix the flowers and fix the carpet and fix the actors hair even though she might be crying in the middle of a huge moment they are going to come in and do that unless you say nobody comes into this room unless we say it is okay and when the time is okay so we have a no running in the room policy.
We don’t yell “cut” between tapes a lot of times we just say hault and then it keeps everybody out of the room and everybody is quite respectful and then we reset everybody to make sure that the mood is right move things around so a lot of times we will run 5.6.7 takes in a row without cutting and that helps keep that flow together.
We try to use that big support team a lot in pre production to get thing rolling a head of time pre light as many rooms as possible so when we walk in it is ready to go but there are not there lightning in between takes and things like that, so there is a lot of little tricks you learn throughout the way to make it feel kind of intimate.
Q:I do have one quick follow up if I am allowed, with that freedom that you found how you work within your actors does that ever cause a problem in the editing room and do you guys work with two cameras a lot when it comes to shooting.
JAY DUPLASS: We almost always have two cameras sometimes we have 3 cameras and it would be a problem in the editing room if MARK DUPLASS and I were not totally obsessive about continuity and story, I mean we are building, if we are redoing a scene in the moment we are building it in our own heads and making sure that we have anything, in general.
MARK DUPLASS: We work as editors for a long time so our brains kind of work that way and we usually track it.
A: Thank you guys.
Q: Hi I am huge, huge fans of your work on both TOGETHERNESS and on your PERFORMANCE and Transparent and that’s amazing.
MARK DUPLASS: Thank you very much, next question.
Q: I mean I am also part of a sibling director team my sister and I work together and my question is how much of your own life and personal experiences do you bring into your work I guess particularly in TOGETHERNESS and also how do you kind of do that in a way where you are able to bring your own personal experience whether it is super specific but then also expanding it to just create this obviously fictional character.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes I mean obviously the two most deeply personal pieces of film making or TV that we made would be the PUPPY CHAIR and TOGETHERNESS I think. PUPPY CHAIR was very reflective of what we were going through in our twenties and being in the dating game and figuring out are we getting married or are we breaking up, what is this and the whole epidemic that seems to be happening to people in our age group and then TOGETHERNESS is very reflective of the soup of our lives and that sort of approaching forty phase of you are either parents and not married and you are locked into your life and you miss your freedom or you haven’t locked into your and you are like Jesus Christ how is this going to happen for me.
I am half way done and that being said a lot of the plot in TOGETHERNESS thank God we never had to deal with, so a lot of that stuff is sort of like made up on the plotting front but the ideas and the core of what that show is, which is we want to be so close to people and we want to be as close as we can and then as soon as we start to get too close we are like get me the fuck out of here I need my freedom and that is very much how we feel and how we live and that kind of colours the whole thing.
Q: Hey JAY DUPLASS and MARK DUPLASS, you guys have made a lot of stuff I don’t know if you realize that or not but you made a lot and lot of cool stuff.
MARK DUPLASS: I am going to check my MDB.
JAY DUPLASS: Again after you checked it 15 minutes ago.
Q: I am sure a lot of film makers here are juggling multiple project as well doing projects on their own with their friends and all that stuff, so I guess do you have any advice on how to prioritize those projects because I know you guys juggle a lot.
JAY DUPLASS: I think the biggest thing that we realize by running multiple projects is that it stopped us from getting too precious a big journey in like us becoming artist that you could just move through, a piece of art is like not being too brainy and precious about it we would over analyze things and get conceptive about things and the more than we can just force ourselves to just make stuff and go with our instincts has been better I think.
I always encourage people when they are writing play to please have another screen play so that you can cheat on the screen play with and it is always the case when you are working on your master piece and you doing this little side project it just seems really easy that’s the one.
The other one would be just this idea that would be annoying to all of your friends, so yea I mean I think having a lot of projects is great as long as you not like overwhelmed and you know that way you can also do what I was talking about before which is you can allow them to breath and have their own life and listen to your friends and listen to their notes when they give them to you like go let the ones lead that get the most traction not the one that you are necessarily most fixated on.
MARK DUPLASS: I would also say know yourself a little bit too not everybody is a multitasker you know and that doesn’t mean that you are not good at making stuff if you can’t do 4 things at a time. A lot of the film makers we work with are just very singular you know they have to have their thing.
If you find yourself being singular I would say try to give yourself a limit of making that singular thing something practical that can be made from a budgetary standpoint, something people miss a lot you know I am passionate about this, it is a period piece zombies on mars it is a $150 million movie and I just have to have write, I am like God bless you.
Write that movie that’s fine but find that beating heart of that story and what it is about and go write another one that cost twenty grand to make with that core theme because you will have a little easier time getting that made.
AARON: Can you think of any specific examples of an idea that was in one project of yours that ended up in another one.
MARK DUPLASS: I don’t know if it works so much that way, one thing is that it’s like this is embarrassing to admit but, like when we were setting about making the ONE I LOVE I was like I love Star Man so much, I love like how Jeff Bridges is like one person and then another person and there you are dealing with person who is the shadow that you love and maybe they are all that and maybe they are not that.
That movie is so expensive I am not going to be able to make anything like that, is there a smaller version I started thinking oh, what if it just a house movie where you got multiple versions and because that’s cheep to make and then we brought that to a film maker.
That was literally my pitch to Charlie McDowell I was like I love what Star Man was there are multiples in a house it’s got to be cheap it’s got to be romantic and kind of weird. Want to write it and he did.
Awesome thanks guys.
Q: Hey, I feel like I should have met anonymous inspiring film maker but.
MARK DUPLASS: You get out of here right now you.
I am interested in the way you engage with projects and you said you did 19 out of 20 maybe to ford with in some capacity and you guys obviously studied in relationships and personal relationship, my questions is more about dating and relationships. Is that how you approach relationship you know when you were dating I think the culture now is you go on a million shitty dates and don’t give anybody a chance.
I am curious the ratio of 95% moving forward should I be giving everybody more of a chance.
MARK DUPLASS: Just to be clear you would like to have sex on 95% of your dates.
A: I think sex is easy relationships aren’t.
MARK DUPLASS: I am kidding, we unfortunately don’t know anything about dating because we have been married for like 13/14 years.
JAY DUPLASS: I have had like 5 girlfriends and one of them is my wife.
MARK DUPLASS: I mean I love your question I love the thoughtfulness and the heart behind it, I have zero idea how to answer it for you unfortunately I wish I could be more helpful because you got a great spirit.
Q: Hi, so you guys talked about your background in music what are three songs that would be on your dream sound track money and right are no object.
MARK DUPLASS: The interesting thing is when you are doing a show for HBO rights to songs are a little bit cheaper because they don’t have to go into theatres so we actually realize that like we can kind of get big songs now and like one of the first ones we went to was Fleetwood Mack, that’s like a big band for us not only just because we just love the music and like grew up listening to it.
Like the weirdly polish vinyl back seats of our parents car growing up but the spirit of that band and how they needed each other so badly, despite the conflicts fight any of those 5 members could have led their own band and be good at it but they were like made the ultimate 5 person transformer and made the great band you know.
It always appeals to us and we always think about that when we are thinking about going off and making our solo projects, we are like people want what Fleetwood Mack dude do they don’t want weird Lindsay Buckingham solo record nobody gives a shit about that so that’s one for me.
JAY DUPLASS: Steven Nix did pretty good.
MARK DUPLASS: Steven Nix did alright, that’s a good point.
A: Holiday Road is a great song track song.
MARK DUPLASS: There you go.
JAY DUPLASS: Dam deep cut, I don’t know I am listening to Fleet Fox right now, but it is weird because a lot of time what you, similar to questions I have answered are that you get really obsessed with songs and you try and force a song into a movie and everyone watching and everyone is like what the fuck you doing man, this makes no sense whatsoever. We are not very bullish about jamming our stuff, and every once in a while it works out great but.
MARK DUPLASS: For instance while we were writing our script the (49:26) the doe dock of thealon, we listened to John Parr’s men in motion the theme song from St Elmo’s Fire over and over to inspire us on the sporting Montague/montage the song didn’t fit so well in the movie.
AARON: You guys don’t make music anymore.
MARK DUPLASS: Just around the house with our kids that’s what we do.
JAY DUPLASS: I thought I should say something about the relationship thing and I think you would probably get this from our stuff, but I think relationships are really hard and that’s the point that’s what I would like to say about that, okay.
Q: Would you both please share your most memorable moments from the last I guess the last 15 years or wherever your career as span.
MARK DUPLASS: Our most memorable moment from however long our career as spand, there is definitely some stuff. I remember specifically being in the Elmo draft house in 2005 with PUPPY CHAIR here and you know we grew up in Austin trying to get our short films in South West South West, we have so many rejection letters and we would go see some of our old favourite Indi films over and over again all around town at the Dobie and at the Alamo and that’s where we got our film education.
It was here and then we were sitting in that theatre we were just busy and stressed out because it was our first feature and we weren’t really thinking about the monumental nature of what was happening and the lights went down and then like our move came up on the screen.
It’s like I am sitting in the seat in which we watched Buffalo 66 in which we watched all of our favourite movies and our movie is playing on the screen, and it was very.
JAY DUPLASS: And a quarter of it was being projected on the ceiling.
MARK DUPLASS: That all part of it, that’s Indi cinema bro.
JAY DUPLASS: That was pretty good, mine was probably when we sat down at the library theatre at Sundance to watch PUPPY CHAIR screened the first time at Sundance, because that was truly, we never dreamed we would get a short film into Sundance much less a feature but we had exceeded all of our wildest dreams in that moment and the screening was like incredible well $15,000 move and there were four five twelve million dollar movies screening at that festival and it was a movie made you know with just family and friends.
And MARK DUPLASS said it’s probably never going to get better than this and he was right, it has gotten as good in different ways but it has never been better than that moment.
MARK DUPLASS: We have blazers but we don’t have our youth, its hard guys.
AARON: Unfortunately these two are going to be our last questions, don’t worry you are already standing there you good.
Q: Hi, my question is pretty much for every movie pitch you guys were saying we keep it cheap we make it quick that kind of thing and back to your Star Man point where you were like it’s going to be like Star Man but it’s this, has there ever been an idea that you guys have had kicked around for a long time and you never really had to sparse down but you still keep I guess seeking it out like you know your version of doomed kind of thing.
MARK DUPLASS: We do have ideas and they are not, we can’t get them because they are too expensive, we can’t get them because we are creatively not capable of cracking them so they. We have the document for over one hundred different movie ideas, so like this would be so great why can’t we figure out how to make this work.
We have so many of those little things and sometimes they come around and we mature as artist and figure them out, sometimes they come as sub plots in another movie, but yes we have so many ideas of things that we feel like God this would be so great if we just figure out how to crack it and we just not there yet.
JAY DUPLASS: We did have the script for Jeff Lewis at home for about 6 years before we made it and we knew that we could not afford it because of the bridge scene with children in the water and the car going down off the bridge and all that stuff and but instead of like pursuing it relentlessly and becoming fund raisers for 6 years.
We just let it sit on the shelf which turned out to be the best thing possible because 7 years later we had I guess whatever the approval to make the $10m movie and I would recommend that as well, don’t try to make a movie that is almost impossible for you to make where you are at because then you would become a fund raiser and not a film maker.
MARK DUPLASS: It’s a good point to bring up there is a misconception about it which JAY DUPLASS and I do, so many people they hear we make movies cheaply and they are like great, so here is my script and it’s like a $50m movie and I would love to make this for $15 million grand and like you guys do it you want to do it.
We are like you can’t take like that big movie and make it small you have to engineer a movie correctly to be made cheaply and on a small level and what we think is a terrible idea is taking that 30 day movie and try to jam it in 18 days that’s awful.
What we actually recommend is taking an 8 day movie and making it over the course of 11 so that you can should 8 to 10 hour days, have to breath to mess up let your crew get some sleep and you can drive them hard core and so we tried to have actually short but gently shoots that are 20% longer than you would normally do but it has been designed so small that you have that luxury.
AARON: Can I give you guys a pre be so you are self proclaimed shitty rocky ass movie.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes.
AARON: How about a create style reboot, that’s a baby.
MARK DUPLASS: No.
AARON: Last question that would be a good one.
Q: Lots of pressure, I don’t know if it is but MARK DUPLASS I first saw you on the league and I know you don’t really talked about it much so I was wondering if you could speak to how you got involved in that because it is so separate from the rest of your work which is more scribal but it actually took me awhile to connect you were the same.
MARK DUPLASS: It is kind of separate from what we do and it is kind of like a thing that I did that liked help me quite honestly like buy my house and take care of my family and I am really, really appreciative of it. let’s have another question that is about us, let’s do something different that includes all of us.
You don’t have to do that because you came up with the league but let’s do one more.
AARON: I want to make it one of you guys I have been enjoying enough up here.
MARK DUPLASS: And you done even have to get up to the mike you can throw your hand up.
AARON: What’s next for you two?
MARK DUPLASS: We are making a bunch of original movies for Netflix right now and we really like that company they are good to us they did PUPPY CHAIR with us a long time ago and then we are making a bunch of TV shows for HBO we have TOGETHERNESS there we have a show called AnimalWe just started airing that it is really fun it is a show that is made independently and something that we really interested in JAY DUPLASS has got in the middle of shooting Transparent right now and we mentioned that earlier we writing a book for the first time about kind of who we are what we have gone through which is great because we kind of don’t know what we are doing and kind of feel like a 13 year old kid picking up a guitar for the first time and just messing up all over the place and the learning curve is huge and that’s really I mean we are getting our asses handed to us but it’s really fun and inspiring.
JAY DUPLASS: In the immediate future we are trying not to puke from too much queso consumption.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes.
AARON: I know it’s like some of you are torn in some many directions but if you get a chance make sure you MARK DUPLASS down on your schedule Asperger’s Are Us and Rainbow Time, thanks so much for coming out.
MARK DUPLASS: Thank you guys thank you Aaron Ellis.
A look inside the creative process from today’s leading writers and directors. This week’s on story, a conversation with Jay Duplass Duplass, talent by the Quirky films, The Puffy Chair and the HBO series togetherness.
Jay Duplass: We all watch movies and I watch so many movies that I think it’s very easy to think that we can all make movies you know but the truth is like it’s an incredibly complex form and craft and art where you’re synthesizing a good story that is well told. And is told in a visual way and where it’s the people that you’re telling the story to are like two years away. That’s a weird thing.
In this episode. Jay Duplass Duplass discusses the challenges of bringing DIY Indie filmmaking to Hollywood.
Jay Duplass: The name New Orleans it was culturally bereft. You know just living in a little suburb, hanging out, making weird little art in our own way we had a kind of a hippie godmother who came and helped us like cook in the oven and makes weird stained glass and then in 1982 it was announced that cable was coming to our neighborhood. What is cable? Is the giant cable laid out on the front lawn or something. We didn’t know what it was so when all of our friends were into Empire Strikes Back. We were watching Hard hitting relationship dramas. With nudity and divorce like Kramer vs Kramer I’ve seen like seventeen times between 1982 and 1984. We didn’t really like the Star Wars movies that much. I mean they were kind of cool but that’s not what Mark Duplass and I were talking about. You know we were talking about the heavy hitting stuff. I mean we were watching and watching a lot of Woody Allen. Well you know I came here in 1991 and it was a magical time in film and Austin Slacker and everyone was talking about film and I was like you mean cable. You mean that thing on the front lawn. And I started to wake up a little bit to the fact that film is an art. Movies didn’t just get pumped in over a cable like human beings made movies very specifically Rick Linklater, I just probably my sophomore year I started taking a class and I started taking more classes and then I ended up. Almost getting another major in RTF and just I started writing and making films and you know we were cutting out. We’re making movies on sixteen millimeter and cutting them with razor blades super old school and you know in true form they were terrible. Early in film school I was trying to emulate the Coen brothers as was half of our film class. Honestly Mark Duplass would like come visit me from high school and I was in UT and I would make a movie and I put a minute and we just kept doing it and they were bad and every once in a while one of them would be so bad and we’d be like what was it so bad about that movie. And you know it really was more of just like feeling around in the dark process but I think all those influences are there always in you, in your try and you know we were always trying to make something that was like deep and funny.
You know if you’re a painter. No one really expects to like sell a painting for a decent amount of money until they’ve made like hundreds of paintings but everyone has this weird subconscious thing in their mind that they’re going to wake up one morning and just write something and then make it and it’s going to be the best thing ever. And I really feel like that just doesn’t happen. So, all this is just to say that I think it’s incredibly difficult thing to make something that doesn’t suck and it took me ten years of making things. I hadn’t made any thing great and I look back on my editing stuff too. And I was like I don’t really edited. I edited like two things that I was proud of. And I was just pushing thirty and getting that point where it’s like how much longer can I do this to myself and to my family and you know my brother said OK we’re going to make a movie today. And I said well how are we going to do that and he said I don’t care. We have mom and dad’s video camera. Low one chip mini DV and he said come up with something. And so my idea was OK this thing happen to me yesterday where I tried to like record the greeting of my answering machine. Yes it was an answering machine at the time. Press the button B. And I kept repeating it. I couldn’t get it right. I kept it up and I had a nervous breakdown. The whole areas right. And you know his eyes just wide and so big when I told him that story which is now the basis of how we create stories, we tell each other stories and when you don’t have to ask if he likes it or not, you see it. And he was just like that’s everything. I had a one button down shirt and some pants with pleats that I had used when I worked for the Kelly people and he went and got it and he looked at the back of the shirt and it was called the John Ashford shirt and that became his character name and he walked in the door and I filmed a twenty minute one take of him doing this and he was in a similar place to me and he tried to get it right and got it wrong.
This is four one six nine seven five four. I am sorry I missed your call But if you could
Jay Duplass: We submitted it to Sundance and the head of the festival called me a month later and said this is my favorite short that I’ve seen in a very very very long time. You know the next movie we made was Tiny bit bigger. It cost fifty bucks and it was involved Marc and his girlfriend in a kitchen that moved to a living room. We had one room and they were playing Scrabble and they ended up having a huge fight and that was the second short film that we got in Sundance.
Well we had made two short films that went to Sundance and we were terrified of making a feature because we had made a couple of really cheap features here in Austin in our mid twenty’s that didn’t work out and we were just terrified to get up again. But we knew that we were really good short filmmakers not because we thought it but because the whole world was telling us. So, we were like OK terrified of feature filmmaking but we were good at shorts. Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we make a feature film that’s basically like thirteen five minute shorts in a row and so that’s what we did and we used all the materials that we had available to us at the time. We had just moved to Brooklyn for dumb reasons basically because all the filmmakers in Sundance were in Brooklyn like we have to move to Brooklyn. I don’t know. So we just moved to Brooklyn apartment. Mark Duplass’s girlfriend Katie had was from a small town in Maine that was not only going to allow us to shoot there but would like beg us to shoot there and like can we come out and be extras in your movie for free and we’re like yeah that’s great. And Mark Duplass had a van for touring with his band at the time and those were the materials that we needed to make that movie that and a DVX100.
Like shoot Mark Duplass for like a few takes and feel like I got it and then I would turn around and maybe shoot Katie on The Puffy Chair for instance but the whole thing is we’re doing the scene from the very beginning to the very end. So if I need a bathroom portion that move in a thicket into the bedroom. I’ll wait in the bathroom for the beginning and once she leaves I’ll ride out into the bedroom and see what I can catch of that and it just kind of puts them in the mindset of like this is something that is happening. And their job is not to give it to the camera, their job is to like do something real and the camera and I think that there’s some special about that in retrospect. I mean the time it was just like this is the fastest way we can shoot this you know or this is the only way we can shoot this because we don’t have crew. But now I realize that it’s a revolutionary to the studio system of filmmaking because essentially in a studio system the actors are brought to the apparatus of the filmmaking apparatus which in a studio system is a massive massive apparatus with like tons of trucks and a percentage of like fifty to sixty to one hundred people and when you change that and you say OK the actors are first now and the filmmaking apparatus which in the case of Puffy Chairs like me and a boom operator is brought to the actors. There’s a feeling that is completely different and I think audiences feel that. I think I know now there’s not a lot of people who do smart comedy well, I mean there’s like crazy balls out comedy like Dumb and Dumber 2 and then there’s drama. But there is a pocket of really smart comedies that I don’t know there’s not a lot of them out there you know and I think people want that and studio heads really want that. So, that they were very interested and in their mind they were irrationally thinking if these guys look what they can do with fifteen thousand dollars. What if we gave him fifteen million dollars the movie would literally be like a thousand times better.
We started you know writing scripts for different people and we have been surprisingly successful in getting famous people to come into a room and bare everything in an audition realm which is rare and then we don’t really rehearse on set because I would say thirty percent of what is in our movies is a first take that is such a big surprise that no one could have predicted it and everyone in the room is like it’s alive.
Jay Duplass: Mark Duplass and I were just you know caveman, we would come out of the cave and grunt and move lights and people around and just like OK go you press the button. You know and then required we had a minimum, we got the crew down as small as we could to like sixty people but it was unionized and you know we had to explain to everyone over and over and over again what we were doing and it was very painful to us because our process is, you know we use a lot of improvisation and it’s all about discovery and trying to create an environment where like lightning can strike and then doesn’t really matter what that lightning looks like we will shape it up later and that is hard to do in the studio environment.
Togetherness came about in a really stupid way my brother’s on the state T.V. show called The League and he goes away for three or four months every fall and I was like I want to do something in the fall. So, like wrote this like pilot that I was going to shoot with my friend Steve this is who’s in Baghead. He’s my best friend that I was just going to have fun. Maybe acting or maybe just makes a web series or something and once it was written all of our friends were like No this is not a web series. Do yourself a favor pitch this to HBO and we pitched it and they loved it and it was the type of story that just could go on forever and ever. It’s about being forty and having kids and trying to make your dreams come true and how both of those things is almost impossible and how it’s like you’re this close to drowning in every second and I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I would say the main thing that’s different about this kind of T.V. in particular which is serial long form storytelling is that you are living in an open universe. You know and I’ve had, HBO has been amazing. It kind of helping me get go through that. It’s weird because when I pitched it to HBO they said yes but I know they didn’t want it to be about one character and three peripheral characters. They wanted to be about four characters that were equal and it. I couldn’t get my head around it because I’m a feature filmmaker and there’s so many things about feature filmmaking that it is Nate natural to the form so this is not a negative comment but there’s a lot of artifice that goes into feature film writing in particular like when you’re writing your first twenty pages everything that all the little nuggets you’re setting up, you’re literally already thinking about how you’re going to pay those off in like one hundred minutes which usually causes weird humane and emotional compromises. Hence,
I’m not speaking. I am gibberish but you know when you’re in a movie and you’re like yeah I can see where this is going. They’ve got to get together and you know the things have to happens, all the things have to go. TV doesn’t have that and that is incredibly powerful and I don’t think it’s just TV’s in everybody’s houses and home theaters that is making this kind of HBO storytelling so powerful. It has something to do with the fact it is an open universe. And I think what I’ve been learning is that you have to do your plotty payoffs in every episode but the big big emotional that’s going on with your characters just keeps expanding and growing and there’s something incredibly natural about it. That is so freeing that I was so excited about it. I can’t even deal with it right now because that’s one of the biggest things that Mark Duplass and I have had trouble with in our features is like finding that perfect sweet spot of how to give people the closure that they need but to keep it real. You know I mean like with Puffy Chair we didn’t really give people. Everyone wanted that couple to get together even though they were fighting their off the whole movie and when we showed it at Sundance. The premiere we didn’t think it was that big a deal because you know we were going through that at the time being in your mid twenty’s and trying to figure out if you’re going to get married or break up and either option seems totally viable. You’re out of your mind you know and the movie ended and they broke up and the movie went to Black. And a dude in the back of the audience went ‘NO’ in an angry way. As a person who makes a full blown living making movies and has been offered fifty million plus dollar movies. All it really is about is expressing the things that are inside of you and sharing them with other people. That’s really all that matters.
[You’ve been watching the conversation with Jay Duplass Duplass on On Story.]
[Next up filmmaker Ramin Serry and a short film Future Hero.]
Ramin: Future Hero is a tongue in cheek sci-fi comedy spoof of a few films. I got the idea from having a newborn baby and the new born baby is actually in the film, my son Henry and wanting to see what my baby would look like when he’s grown up because we’re stuck. You know with in the diapers stage and it felt like I was taking forever and I thought gosh I wish I could just fast forward in time and see what my baby’s going to be like as it grown up and then I thought well what if I see him as a grown up and he meets me and he doesn’t like me so much. It was important for me to tell the story because it was even though it’s a silly comedy it’s about fatherhood and family and it’s about a father and son working out their issues as they battle time traveling killer Android.