Friday, August 15, 2008

For the Price of One: Part Four

A Chat with Mark and Jay Duplass (click here for part three)

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The only reason to go to a studio is if you need the studio to make the
movie. And we discovered we didn't need anyone else to make this movie.

-- Mark Duplass to The Austin Chronicle


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Steve: I'm not gonna phrase this question very well, but perhaps you'll under-
stand what I'm asking. It's about this division between indie and professional or indie and Hollywood-I don't want to use pejorative terms-but your film seems to me very much indie in spirit, but using a kind of professional attitude; you were trying to make something that looked pretty good. Have you noticed an increas-
ing tendency to do that, a halfway house: indie budget, professional attitude?

Mark: I know what you're saying. In the past, it's mostly been like one raw indie movie, and then, boom, they're on to the studio system, and we've made three so far. It is a little strange that we've stayed a long ways down here, but the technology is really good now. You can make stuff that looks good, and gets out into the world.

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The look of fear

Jay: Plus the documentary ethic fits with the stories we're trying to tell, and shooting a perfectly polished film about non-actors with some stars is not gonna cut it. Also, within the ethic of our filmmaking, we definitely like to employ solid storytelling techniques, but we like to execute them loosely and to try to incorporate as much...

Mark: It's basically like dressing in thrift store clothes. It takes a lot of time and energy and effort to make that outfit look like you just woke up and threw it on.

Jay: We're trying to retain that ethic in the studio system, actually; to try and convince them to allow us to continue to shoot stuff that we want to shoot.

Mark: And they'll listen to us, but basically, if Baghead makes a lot of money, we
get to do whatever we want, and if it doesn't, then we're gonna continue to make these movies until they do make money, and then hopefully, we'll be able to do what we can do, because that's what, at the end of the day, talks to them.

Kathy: You mention that in the Austin Chronicle piece, and you aren't the
only filmmakers to cite John Sayles [as a model]. I hope people continue
to look to him. As the years go on, some people might stop looking in
his direction, and yet he's managed to do what you're talking about.
[Sayles divides his time between studio work and personal projects.]

Mark: He has.

Kathy: And I know he's working on another Jurassic Park,
and that allows him to keep doing things his own way.

Mark: He's awesome.

Kathy: I hope he can continue, because it's getting a little harder for people
at his level-I mean, not getting the studio work, but doing his own thing.

Mark: Do you think it's because he's getting older and he needs more comfort,
like maybe he's not so willing to make a movie as cheaply as Jay and I would?

Kathy: Yeah, I do, actually, because Honeydripper [his latest film]
was really ambitious, and maybe he does need to scale down a bit.

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Sayles on the set of Lone Star

Mark: We've been very conscious about creating movies that work on our budget scale. We would never shoot them for the studio system at this level. And even our last movie, which we shot in April, could've used a bigger budget. We jammed it a
bit into the low-budget box, and the movie won't suffer, but we suffered. [laughs]

Jay: We've already experienced a bit of like-we've padded each successive
film. We've definitely had some moments where we're looking at each other like, 'We need some help.' It's outrageous what a pinch we've put ourselves into.

Kathy: It keeps you on your toes.

Mark: It keeps the vitality.

Jay: The line you're riding is the vitality and energy of-everybody
has so much to do, and they're thriving and being creative. The other
side of it is: are you limiting the quality of this movie by just...

Mark: And are you also headed towards burn-out? Are you wasting certain
kinds of energy you could be saving so you can have a nice, long filmmak-
ing career as opposed to, 'These guys put out five amazing movies in
five years and then they moved to an uninhabited island in Hawaii.'

Steve: Speaking of burn-out, you're mixing and matching your career
with acting parts and directing, but how are you going to keep that fresh-
ness and vitality? This is obviously a very fresh movie, partly because of
the fact that you didn't have much money, so everyone's a little on edge.
Do you have any techniques, i.e. gimmicks, or ways of avoiding this?

Jay: Honestly, Mark and I, our philosophy has always been to keep it really
simple, and the question we continually ask ourselves, not only within an entire
film, but from scene to scene, moment to moment is, 'What do you want to see next?' And to not get caught up in grandiose ideas or anything like that. We just
try and keep it fresh as we go. If we're in a scene and it's not working, we bail, and we say, 'That didn't work. We're not doing it, and we're not moving on until we fig-
ure out what's gonna be great and what's gonna be new and special, and what's gonna excite us.' And we've just got to go through it on a microscopic level every day, and just try to keep it fresh and just try to stay in the moment as we work.

Mark: The key word is 'try.'

Steve: Would you ever retreat to a cabin in the woods?

Jay: Probably not [laughs]

Steve: What's the worst that could happen?

Kathy: A baghead!

Jay: Maybe a hotel room at the airport where no one can get to us.
Mark: As long as they have pay-per-view and hamburgers, we're good.

Click here for part five

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The look of love

Baghead is currently playing in New York and LA. There are no more Seat-
tle screenings (and a DVD release date hasn't been announced yet). For
more information, please see the official website. Images from OutNow!

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