Your movie Drinking
Games - in a few words, what is it about?
games is about what happens when you hesitate in the face of evil. When
you plan to be saved by someone else instead of taking action yourself.
It's also about the concept of evil, we ask the question "what is
is part of the narration, but so many people think evil is a mythology or
a creature or something larger-than-life, but the cruelest evil I've ever
seen has come from humans in some cases in day to day interactions. So we
have a main character who is truly banal and boring and common, but also
evil. I think that's scarier than many movie monsters (I hope).
all the characters represented in Drinking
Games - whom could you relate to the most, and is there anything
in the movie that reminds you of your own college years?
college years were pretty tame, but I played football in college and I can
relate to the masculinity or aggression of the evil main character,
Noopie. But I didn't do many drugs and I certainly didn't push them on
other people, and I never tormented a dorm full of people. I was probably
closer to a combination of Richard and Shawn, the two main guys who are
tormented by Noopie. They are just average dudes who think things always
work out okay, and they're wrong about that.
did the project come into being in the first place?
Merriman wrote a really good play and was able to put together some money
and instead of making the project as a play we rewrote it as a screenplay.
It was intended to be a play, but we wanted to create something that'll
live forever as opposed to a play which is here and then gone.
have collaborated with Drinking
Games's writer Blake Merriman quite a bit over the last few years.
So how did you first meet, what's your collaboration usually like, and
since you've been directing him in a film he has written - what was that
originally cast Blake in my first feature film called The Graduates, and I
hit it off with Blake and several members of the cast and crew – we were
all pretty young, it was our first big production and we've remained
friends over the last five years. By now directing him and the rest of the
cast is easier because we have a shorthand – we know each other very
well and can communicate pretty fluidly.
it came to rewriting the script I would take the script and write for a
couple days and then give it back to Blake and take notes from him, and
then rewrite some more and then he would rewrite and eventually we had a
finished piece and Blake's role became the protector of the original
intent, and I became the director who interpreted what I saw and tried to
get it on screen.
What can you tell us about the rest of your cast,
and why exactly these people?
of the parts were written specifically for certain people that Blake knew
and wanted to work with, and we cast a few others. Riccarda Albrecht
(Melanie) was the only person we cast from scratch, and she was a
truthful, understated actress, and I loved the German accent, because it
made her feel like she belonged in a different world than the rest of the
characters, which was important to the role of Melanie in my mind. She and
Richard needed to feel like outsiders in this vacuous little world.
Do talk about your
directorial approach to your subject at hand for a bit!
approach is pretty common, I think… I like to let the actors do their
thing and just try to nudge them a little bit to the left or a little bit
to the right. And having rehearsed this for a few weeks, everyone knew
their roles really well. My job was pretty easy.
rehearsal process really saved us, because we only had 13 days in which to
make the film on location in Connecticut. If there were miscommunications
and we got something wrong, there was no time to go back and fix it.
Games was filmed in no more than a handful of sets - so what can
you tell us about your location(s), and refining yourself to just a few
rooms ... what are the advantages as well as challenges?
challenges of filming in an actual dorm are exactly what you might imagine
– small rooms, small hallway, small bathrooms, small stairwells, small
advantage, however is that it forced me and my cinematographer Andrew
Rivara to be extremely thoughtful with how we approached shooting each
scene. We were terrified of presenting scenes in a boring way, or in a
redundant way. So we played with the camera quite a bit. There are only
six or seven different locations in the film, and they are all within one
dorm. Yet I don't think we shot a single scene the same way as the scene
before it or after it.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
on-set atmosphere was amazing. We were basically 20 young people coming
together making a funny, dark new type of film and we pushed each other
every day and had a great time every night. It was basically summer camp
for grown kids. We got in some trouble, had a great time and went to work
again in the morning.
The food however was terrible. I take full responsibility. We had so
little money that we had to figure out how to feed 20 people three times a
day for no more than three dollars per person per meal. That means a lot
of Costco meals and maybe one night of Chinese take out. Everyone was
thrilled to get home and start eating normally again.
you talk about critical and audience reception of your movie so
critical and audience reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Most
people come to the film having very little idea what to expect because
it's not a traditional thriller or horror film. Because it's based on a
play and there are limited locations, We have rich characterizations and
complex scenes. We also don't follow a traditional narrative structure, so
the reaction I get the most is "holy shit I had NO IDEA where this
was going" and that makes me incredibly happy. What's the point of
making an indie film with no oversight and no restrictions if you're just
gonna make a cookie-cutter horror or thriller? We wanted to do something
completely different that represented us as true indie actors, writers,
producers, directors… And this film based on an off-Broadway play was
the perfect way to do that. I love that people are completely surprised by
how the film plays out and especially how it ends.
Any future projects beyond
Games you'd like to talk about?
have a couple projects in the works, one about a military experiment that
goes horribly wrong and turns an entire platoon gay, called Love Bomb and
the Pink Platoon, based on a novel. Writing a couple other things and
reading scripts that I might direct, but really my focus is on spreading
the word about Drinking
What got you
into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
always had a camera in my hand growing up and started taking it seriously
in college. Growing up in Columbia, Maryland, in the suburbs, I didn't
know any filmmakers or creative professionals so it never occurred to me
that I could do this for a living. It wasn't until college when I interned
at MTV and then was a production assistant on a few films that I realized
people from all over the country can be filmmakers not just people born in
New York and Los Angeles. It may sound crazy but it just never occurred to
me that I could take this thing that I loved and actually get paid to do
it. I've never seen any training, I just started making films and they've
gotten bigger and bigger, and I hope that continues.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
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What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Drinking
first film where I met a lot of people that I worked with on Drinking
Games, was a comedy called The Graduates. For several years it was in the
top five comedies all time on Hulu. I'm incredibly proud of what we
accomplished on a small budget with that film. My second film, Turtle
Hill, Brooklyn just came out and received some great reviews and is now
available on most digital outlets. All three films were financed, produced
and released completely independently. We have had distributors come on
board for all three films, but only after production and editing. I
mentioned that only because I'm sure some independent filmmakers will read
this and ask or wonder how to get feature films off the ground, and
usually the best way is to just start making features. If they are good
and you hustle you will find an outlet for them.
How would you describe yourself as a
have no idea! I think and hope I bring out the best in those I work with.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
who inspire me are anyone who takes risks, says challenging maybe
offensive but more importantly challenging things with their work, and who
don't wait for permission. I'll drop everything to go opening weekend to
films by Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen brothers, Inarritu, Cuaron, Judd
Apatow, Chris Nolan, or to see anything based on a play.
many to name but I will say in one week in college I saw Apocalypse Now,
Dr. Strangelove and Il Confirmista. That was a major turning
point for me.
... and of course, films you really
lazy or created to cynically to sell stereotypes back to people. Too many
to name :)
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
... when directing people to buy/rent the film, please use:
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Thanks for the interview!