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An Interview with Mark Colegrove, Director of Driven to Succeed

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2016

Films directed by Mark Colegrove on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Driven to Succeed - in a few words, what is it about?


Without trying to sound like too much of a sales pitch - Driven to Succeed is a raunchy comedy about a run-down driving school, and the ego-centric slackers that run it. It was fun to break from the traditional horror driven content that we're known for at Dire Wit Films and try something different!


Basic question of course, why a driving school? And is any of what happens in the film based on your personal experiences with driving schools?


We definitely drew on personal experiences when writing the script. I vividely remember helping my long-haired hippie driving instructor run errands like returning video rentals, so this is a more exaggeratted version of that. Prior to writing the script, I had just started a new job that makes everyone who drives a company vehicle sit through 2 DAYS of drivers "re-education", which is where I had the epifany that some of this material would be ripe fruit for satire. Overall - I knew it was something everybody could relate to somewhat.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Driven to Succeed?


It's rooted in a lot of 80's comedy tropes, but influenced by a lot of modern TV comedy like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We wanted it to be less focuesed on the driving though and more about the wacky scenarios that ensue, sort of like a Simpsons episode... you hardly ever see Homer in the Nuclear plant anymore.


What can you tell us about your co-writers Dave Spencer and Bryan Preston, and what was your collaboration like?


Both have been longtime friends and are awesome to work with. Dave is a published novelist and has a literary background, while Bryan is a stand up comic that is great with jokes and dialogue.

Bryan and I actually first teamed up to write a 30 minute pilot version... we essentially envisioned this as a TV show initially. We shot it, but had little luck pitching it, at which point we decided to turn it into a feature. At that time, Dave had already written a second episode, parts of which actually became the middle portion of the final film, but we first regrouped to figure out a new structure and an over-arching plot that would carry through the whole thing. The film itself is ultimately 3 episodes of a TV show, and we broke up the writing duties accordingly.


Of your film's three leads, Rod, Liz and Jeremy, who can you identify with most, actually?


Hopefully none, haha, but maybe Liz, since she's the most level-headed of the bunch. The overall goal though was to make these seemingly despicable characters likeable enough so that the audience ultimately does care about what happens to them.


Do talk about Driven to Succeed's brand of humour for a bit!


The humor is really based in the fact that there's really no repercussions whatsoever for the immorality of these people, and in fact it's the GOOD people around them that end up suffering as a result... sort of like real life. But, we do throw in a lot of goofy, seemingly random scenarios (the trip scene, the demolition derby) that we just felt would be some funny sequences to shoot, so that sort of balances out the mean-spirited nature of the rest of the movie.

Additionally, the political campaign that provides the overarching thread is obviously inspired by American politics. At the time we wrote it, it was based on New York Congressmen, Anthony Wiener, who was sending dick-pics around to unwilling recipients. Who knew that a few years later, we'd still be talking about him, and his penis helped cost Hillary Clinton the presidential election. There's also MANY strong similarities to Trump that are purely coincidental - they're both egotistical businessman with no political experience running for office. Hell even the "Trump University" scam is eerily similar to Russell's college loan program. I think what we got wrong was that in the film nobody votes for Russell - the reality probably would have been that EVERYBODY votes for him. We may have underestimated the stupidity of the American public when we wrote it.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


We didn't focus too much on storyboards or shotlists, but rather the performances. We typically shot 4-5 takes of each scene and ran two cameras at once. The first couple takes would be off script, while the last few would be improvisation, and we'd blend the two during editing. Generally I probably favored the improv takes in the edit, but would resort back to the scripted takes when there was a key plot point or joke we needed to hit.


Do talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?


Our cast was amazing - we had a bunch of funny people in this, and I wanted to be relatively "hands off" to let them do their thing. Chris Kamsch, Kathy Carson, Jamaal Jordan & Urssula Waters were all good friends of mine that I had worked with before. They're all just naturally funny people that I knew would really make this shine. Rick Miller, Signe Renn, Michael Everett Johnson, David Gamble & Prince Tawro all came in through auditions and blew everyone away. Initially when we shot the pilot, Prince only had one scene, but we laughed so hard at that one scene we knew we had to make his role much bigger in the feature.

Additionally, having the luxury of shooting the pilot prior to the feature gave everyone a chance to really figure out who their characters were. There's so much more chemistry in the feature that isn't as prevalent in the pilot.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was pretty much all location shooting, and we wrote it deliberately trying to avoid any major expenses... so lots of parking lots, the classroom, etc. We laughed A LOT, and I think that comes across pretty clearly on the bloopers and outtakes on the DVD. I already miss working with these folks, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. That isn't to say there weren't some really stressful times as well. We got pretty much every location for free, but often that meant we only had a limited amount of time for each shoot. We'd have to pack a lot in quickly.


The $64-question of course, when and where will Driven to Succeed be released onto the general public?


It comes out December 13th, and will be available on DVD and streaming - most notably on Amazon Prime. You can also order a limited Blu-ray from the Dire Wit Films storenvy site. Both the DVD & Blu Ray have the 30 minute pilot episode I mentioned on there as an extra feature.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Dire Wit Films is currently getting back in the horror arena, and helping to produce Zombinatrix from Michael Kyne and Bianca Allaine. It's about a zombie dominatrix, and features a lot of the same cast as Driven to Succeed.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I just want to thank all the amazing folks that worked on this project - it was over 130 in all, on a volunteer basis. It takes a village to make these no-budget pictures come together. Also, thank YOU once again Mike for giving us some coverage. You're commitment to indie cinema is amazing, and we appreciate it!!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD