Friday, August 22, 2008

For the
Price of

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

Kathy: I want to go backwards a little bit. Steve kind of touch-
ed on this, but you were talking about how you have to think on
your feet when you’re filming, and that’s part of the story. You
see them writing the script; they’re thinking on their feet, so
you’ve got your process built into the film, but I’m also won-
dering with your cast—and I’m guessing that maybe Greta
doesn’t fit this description—but to what extent do they feel
like under-employed actors? To what extent do the other
three feel like, ‘We should be getting more work, darn it.’

Mark: I think all of them feel that way to a certain extent.

Kathy: It does seem very sincere.

Mark: Greta exudes confidence, and she is good, and
I exude confidence and we’re all okay, but we’re vain,
and we would love to be getting hired all the time.

Kathy: The fact that they weren’t more famil-
iar to me made it seem more real. I looked up
Ross’s credits, and he’s done a lot of stuff—
more than I realized—but because I didn't
recognize him, it seemed more realistic.

Mark: That’s the key. That was the reason we couldn’t
do this as a studio movie about under-employed actors.

Kathy: It wouldn't work with Julia Roberts. And the
fact that Ross, to me—and I can’t be the first one to say
this—looks like Dermot Mulroney just makes it better.

Mark: He does! [laughs]

Kathy: That reminds me
a little bit of Michael Shan-
, because if you look at
Michael’s credits, he did
Bug, he did Before the
Devil Knows You’re
, and now people
know who he is, but he’s
been in all these movies I’ve seen, and I never…

Above right: Shannon in Shotgun Stories

Mark: That’s true. You never knew the name.

Kathy: Exactly. Why would it take me so
long to—it’s the same thing with Ross.

Steve: Did there come a point when you had to tell the
actors, ‘Don’t act too well, because if you act too prof-
essionally, you’ll start to look like professional actors.'

Jay: We never went along that line. We just worked
with their motivations in the moment. As long as they’re
not at the comedy; as long as they’re just playing it straight,
playing it serious, then they’re always on the right note.

Kathy: I think that’s also how Judd Apatow's sets work, which is interesting because they’re on a bigger-budget level than yours.

Mark: But there’s a similarity there. A lot of those guys are
big fans of our movies—of actors and stuff like that—and they've
said similar things, so I think it is. I think you’re right.

Jay: It’s pretty similar. They just have 400
times as much money. Maybe more than that…

Mark: Or 4,000. We met
Jonah Hill at SXSW one year,
and he was like, ‘Every day
on our lunch break, while we
were shooting Knocked Up, we
watched The Puffy Chair.’

Left: Katherine Heigl and
Seth Rogen in Knocked Up

Jay: We were like cool…
but that movie sounds
stupid, and then it be-
came this gigantic hit.

Kathy: I’m sure you’ve gotten this question before,
and unfortunately I didn’t write down the name of
the company, but I’ve seen your short This Is
John, and there’s a commercial on TV that is
your short. How do you feel about that?

Mark: We knew it would happen at some point, and I don’t nec-
essarily believe they ripped it off. I believe the idea was in the zeit-
geist, it was in the atmosphere, and could actually have been in-
spired. It’s so there. We actually—when we made the short, we did
talk about how it would make a great commercial at some point.

Kathy to Steve: I don’t know if you watch much TV, but there’s
a commercial… They have a short, and it’s just Mark, and he’s
trying to leave an answering message, and it just gets…crazy.

Mark: He’s trying to perfect his personal greeting.

Steve: What product are they selling?

Kathy: A phone, if I’m not mistaken—
some kind of cell phone service.

Jay: Yeah, at some point, we were like,
you know, we should try to sell this as a
commercial idea, because it’s going to hap-
pen soon…but somebody already did.

Steve: You’ve already talked in this interview
about the Seattle audience. There’s a huge at-
tempt by the authorities to tempt people to
make films here. Have you ever consider-
ed Seattle as a venue for making a film?

Mark: Absolutely. I was here last year shooting this movie
called True Adolescents that, I mean, literally I was here for
five weeks and not only do you get all the distinct, different
neighborhood looks and feels, but we went out to Forks and
shot at the beaches out there. It was incredible. I’ve never
seen Northwest weather to be like that, and it's amazing.
I would just say we would probably do it during the
summer, so we don’t get rained on.

Steve: You get money.

Right: Maggie Brown and Am-
ber Hubert in We Go Way Back

Mark: Yeah, they have
breaks and stuff like that.

Kathy: Have you seen [Lynn Shelton’s] We Go Way Back?

Mark: Lynn’s film? Yeah.

Kathy: Because she does a great job—and the same with Old Joy, although that’s Oregon. Both of those films get all that nature in there, and it becomes part of the story. It’s not just scenery.

Steve: What’s Lynn like to work with as a director?

Mark: I’ll know in about two weeks. [laughs] But so far, and I’m not just saying this, she’s unbelievably respectful, and there are ‘dude’ characters in this movie, as well [My Effortless Brilliance was a dude movie], and she’s looking to the dudes to tell her what dudes are like, so she's very—she just listens, and takes our ideas, and that’s how the storyline comes about. She’s very similar to how Jay and I work; a little more loose in structure, but a little less plot and genre-oriented, because Jay and I like to pound, pound towards the audience. Hers is gonna be a little more ‘floaty’ in that Old Joy way, but the same ethic, in terms of letting the actors lead.

Kathy: Did you do scenes with Melissa Leo in True Adolescents?

Mark: I did. Our agent just ended up signing her.
We’ve been big fans of hers for a long time.

Kathy: Did you see Frozen River when
you were at Sundance? She’s very good.

Mark: Still haven’t seen it. We didn’t get to see
any movies at Sundance, because we were so
busy. It was a totally different experience.

Jay: We’ve actually enjoyed the festival here. Sundance,
for better and worse, it’s a market, and we had no idea the
amount of press and not only that, but what is involved
when your film starts to sell and you start meeting people…

Mark: It was our second feat-
ure there, and that was the dif-
ference. When we showed The
Puffy Chair, we had only
shown shorts and done
a couple of interviews.

Above: Mark in This Is John

Jay: We premiered late, and no one even knew what it was.

Mark: We got there [this time], and everyone knew who we
were, and everyone had expectations, and it was intimidating.

Steve: I have the most unprofessional question anyone has ev-
er asked, but I’ve wanted to know this since I was six, but in your
film, there’s a part in it, in which a girl gets her 'baps' out. At what
point in the screening process does the actress find this out?

Mark: Luckily, Greta was not really worried about
that too much. She has a history in cinema…

Steve: I always wanted to know this, and you’re the first guys I’ve
asked. I didn’t think Sergei Bodrov [Mongol] would answer.

Mark: We were talking to her, and we were like, ‘You
know, you don’t really have to do this,’ and she was
like, ‘I don’t care. I’ll do it. I can get fully naked.’

And with that we wrapped up our interview, and Mark and Jay
Duplass went off into the damp Seattle afternoon. I'm happy to
say the weather had cleared up by the time Mark returned
later that summer to appear in Lynn Shelton's Humpday.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Endnote: Baghead continues to expand across the US.
Please click here for a list of release dates. Image from
The Austin Chronicle, CSPV, and The Duplass Brothers.

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