Your new movie Gutboy:
A Badtime Story - in a few words, what is it about?
is about a guy who’s tricked out of his skin and the fun he
has enacting revenge. It’s also about ANOTHER guy who amasses power
through acts of Unspeakable Evil, and the comeuppance he receives. And
finally it’s about two women whose lives are abominably joined by the
evil or weak or oblivious men who surround them.
question of course, why marionettes?
Marionettes are a
fantastic vehicle for the surreal and the uncanny. Sometimes they
foreground the limitations of their bodies, but other times they move in a
disturbingly lifelike and spontaneous way. They’re like the watercolor
of puppetry. And preparing a field for weird moments of unexpected beauty
is most of what we were trying to do. I think a few key moments that
worked out this way were Besto’s shudder after the birthing sequence and
Sophieguts’ grumpy movements during her hangover.
Do talk about the
marionettes in your movie for a bit, and did you have any influence on
The puppets were designed mostly by Daniel
Fay (the marionettes) and Heather Piper (the “supporting cast” of rod
puppets). With both of those folks we had meetings and traded sketches
beforehand, then they would work, and occasionally I would want a little
change. We went back and forth on how fat Gutboy would be, the presence of
eyes, and how skingirl would end up looking. I think the places we
initially disagreed and ended up compromising on came out among the
strongest visual features of the puppets.
What were your sources of inspiration when
writing Gutboy: A
There are a ton - it’s definitely
a script in a tradition. The key sources were Hans Christian Andersen (for
the harsh moralizing structure & island setting) and The Brothers
Grimm (for the grotesqeuries and black comedy). Fairy tales generally
liberated the script from the strictures of plot that McKee insists on.
There’s more in there too though - burlesque, vaudeville, Punch &
Judy, certain Tarot cards & ancient Mexican gods, alchemical
manuscripts, Broadway musicals, Wondershowzen, Tim & Eric,
personal experiences at fairs, circuses, and bonfires…
A Badtime Story is pretty much an "anything goes" story
- was there ever a point when you thought you might be going to far?
from the Golden Giant wrestling sequence, whose efficacy is a matter of
debate amongst pretty much everyone who sees the movie (I, for the record,
continue to love it - and I know I’m not alone!), the part that still
gives me the agita every screening is Beautiful Sophia’s Pretty Little
Song. The images, the singing, and the writing are all pretty
extreme, in their own ways. I do think they come together into a vision of
the sort of sheltered young woman that Goot would idolize, but it’s one
of those moments of embarrassing honesty that makes me anxious every time.
talk about the your overall directorial approach to your story at hand -
and how does directing a marionation movie compare to directing a live
action movie, how closely do you work with your puppeteers?
My general directing philosophy for Gutboy
try and lay the groundwork for my collaborators to make decisions that
they thought were funny, or strange, or beautiful. I think as a result of
this the movie bubbles and froths with life. It’s like - when I was a
kid I heard that some folks thought that in the afterlife you were
literally conjoined to everyone you’d ever had sex with, and I spent a
while trying to imagine the geometry of that for these networks of
individuals collapsing and reemerging around some central, shared
identity. I think we kind of get that with Gutboy, because it was
As far as working with the puppeteers went - they
were very much a unit. We would talk on the level of like - what the
puppet appeared to be doing. But I would never (maybe very rarely) try to
get into the nuts and bolts of the puppeteering with them. Puppeteering of
this kind is very specialized and our puppeteers were very skilled, so I
was happy to let them own that.
of course also have to talk about the music in your movie, and why
Our composer Cormac Bluestone is really fantastic.
He was able to nail the traditional Broadway stuff and the weirdo stuff
equally well. And the montage song - we were trying to buy the rights to
Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True”, but couldn’t
afford it. And then Cormac just says “Hold on, I’ve got an idea”
and comes back a few days later with this fantastic original song of his
own concoction. He’s great.
Why the song and dance scenes is a complicated
is less like a journey and more like a garden with many
strange perfumes: song and dance are one performance style among many
arranged into the narrative of Gutboy.
Do talk about your voice cast for
a bit, and why exactly these people?
I think everyone was great. Will Cooper (Gutboy)
especially sounded just so precisely like Gutboy in real life, I couldn’t
believe it when I heard him. Nick Reed (Besto) is an old friend who has
been in pretty much every project I’ve made, and Anthony Herrera (Kug)
was someone I met in college and worked on a lot of sketch comedy with.
One funny thing that happened - so we had cast
Kubble when she was a much smaller role, then we recorded the vocal track
before shooting. But after the recording we decided to add the
“Kubble’s Night Out” segment - full of uncast roles and a lot more
lines for Kubble. So our producer, DP, gaffer and I went and recorded a
temp version of that vocal track so that the puppeteers would have
something to play off of. Well it turns out that in the meantime the
actress who played Kubble had moved to Atlanta and couldn’t come in to
record the rest of the lines. Everyone loved our DP (Sean Hardaway)’s
Kubble so much that we decided to have him take a pass at the whole
character. He’s not a singer - and Pearl is exceptional - so we left her
song in, but all the other voice work on that character was done by Sean.
What can you tell
us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
on-set atmosphere was really fantastic. The key creative team was all
really insistent that the set be fun. I think it comes across in the
movie, too. There’s a theory that we talked about - that basically…
say there’s $100,000 of unavoidable costs in your movie. Well if you
plan to spend $110,000 - the extra bit on unnecessary amenities - everyone
feels taken care of and does better work and feels better. Why not spend
the extra money?
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
working on that! Hopefully it’ll be out there in the world for private
home viewing soon, but in the meantime if you “like” us on Facebook
then we’ll update you on where it’s screening and how you can get your
hands on it.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Gutboy:
A Badtime Story yet?
is very divisive -
either you love it or you hate it. Regardless, people usually have
something to say! It seems to do well with young people, drugs people,
weirdos, and do poorly with the uh… classically-minded.
Any future projects you'd
like to share?
Somehow, no! I’ve got a bunch of projects
in very early stages of development, and we’re trying to see if any of
them can take off… but there’s nothing ready to talk about yet.
What got you into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
dad is an actor, and he got me started in theater & performing at a
pretty young age. We had a narrative radio show - The Night Bright Kids
Club - on a few radio stations in Texas when I was a kid. As soon as
it was offered I jumped into the theater program at my school. Then in
high school I shifted focus to filmmaking because I wasn’t gelling as
well with the theater program there… then I majored in
Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas and moved to New York to
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Gutboy:
A Badtime Story?
Prior to Gutboy
- in high school I
made a number of shorts, and in college I made some class projects and
sketch comedy. When I moved to New York I started working in infomercials,
and eventually became a production manager with an infomercial company,
which is what I was doing when I took off for Gutboy.
How would you describe yourself
as a director?
I try to get people pumped, and help them to
a place where they’re willing to be themselves and make bold choices. I
think generally directors have a small sphere where they have direct
creative involvement, and the much larger sphere where they just have to
try to hire good people and get those people the support they need. My
skills generally run: Writing > Performance > Art Direction >
Camera Movement/Placement > Editing > Sound Mix > Music. I’m
trying to learn more about audio, but luckily our very talented cinematographer /
editor Sean Hardaway is great at that, and Cormac is a
Filmmakers who inspire you?
think the best filmmaker of all time is Andrzej Zulawski. His achievements
in terms of vigor are herculean. Whenever I watch a movie of his I come
away buzzing. I also get a big charge out of Werner Herzog, David Lynch,
Derek Jarman, Aki Kaurismaki, Jan Svankmajer, the Marx
Stillman… I could go on all day! I love movies.
Ah, I have a list for this ready!
is a great website. My four favorite movies are: Devil (Andrzej
Zulawski’s, not Shyamalan’s!), Daisies, Duck
Soup, and Gremlins 2. The
attitudes of Daisies and Gremlins 2 had a lot to do with Gutboy.
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I like to imagine a rather elaborate infernal
punishment for Signs. And outright racist movies like Birth of a
Nation or Triumph of the Will deserve contempt without caveat.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Thanks to everyone who worked on Gutboy, & thanks to you for having me here!
Thanks for the interview!