SETH LANDAU & DAN NEWMAN
"Hmmm...JimmyO better give us a good write up..."
Tell us about the history [of BRYAN LOVES YOU] - where it came about, how you got the idea, all that.
Seth Landau: Any movie that I make is going to be really personal so thatís one reason why they will all be different. So BRYAN LOVES YOU is really personal for me because itís basically about a period in my life when I was in junior high, high school-ish type ages growing up in Arizona. And I always felt like kind of an outsider and outcast and really looked down upon because I was physically different. I was short from New York. I talked funny. I had an accent. I did not look or sound or really fit into the mold of suburban Arizona.
The impetus was feeling like a complete outsider. And being Jewish as well was a kind of factor. People looked at you very weird and you were almost like suspect because you were of a different religion. So it was kind of scary for me because I was a kid who didnít fit in and very much like the black sheep or an outsider in a lot of different ways. And I also had a lot fears as a kid. So I think anyone with a lot of fears can make a pretty decent horror movie because essentially you are trying to scare people. I can think of a lot of things that I found very scary.
With a movie you get to exaggerate things a million times over. So with BRYAN LOVES YOU, I took my feelings of being an outsider and people trying to get you, I made it into reality. Whereas this is a nebulous town somewhere in Arizona where itís under control and you have a central character that hopefully the audience identifies with, just being a kind of average everyday guy who just does not fit in with the masses. Anyone whoís ever felt like they donít fit in, like theyíre an outsider, maybe they just donít get what surroundings are about, I would think would relate to this. And even on the other side of that, and youíre in the majority, you probably know someone who would relate to this, just feeling very uneasy, very outsider-ish. That was the genesis of the story, just me having those feelings and just creating a narrative about it.
How long did it take you to write the script?
SL: I write scripts really quick. I cranked it out in about 5-6 weeks. Typical for me it takes 1 to 2 months to write a feature script. Just because my process is Iíll outline for weeks before I even write. So Iíll take extensive notes then Iíll just go over the story and look at the first, second, and third act. And once I have my notes, which is generally a legal pad full of stuff. You go over your main characters your side characters, what are the action points, and what has to happen to move the story along. After I have my notes ready then I open Final Draft and write the script and then it takes me 4 to 6 weeks basically. And Bryan was like 5 or 6 weeks, or something like that.
Were you a fan of horror movies before?
SL: YeahÖ well, no. They always scared the shit out of me. Not only like EXORCIST and POLTERGEIST type movies, when I was a kid growing up. But I also found fantasy movies scary, like, which is the ALICE IN WONDERLAND TV movie with the Jabberwocky? You remember that?
I do, yeah, vaguely.
SL: Look it up on IMDB, that is one of the scariest movies Iíve ever scene in my life. That was a huge influence on Bryan because in this particular installment - it actually had a lot of guest stars from the comedy world which you would think would lighten it up. Like, Sammy Davis Jr. is in it, a lot of the old vaudeville actors as well. So movies like that scared the shit out of me because Alice is in this weird world where everybody wants to hurt her and that was a very big influence on Bryan. Because I related to being in that environment where it seemed like a lot of people werenít really supporting you so I tried to create a world similar to Wonderland where the central character is lost and in imminent danger and you never know whoís friend or foe. Very much the same thing in BRYAN LOVES YOU, people who appear friendly, maybe arenít. Itís more like in real life because a lot of times people will act nice when they really have an ulterior motive. So even movies like that I found scary, I found ET scary. I was scared as hell; I mean ET scared the shit out of me. Because, even though it was a benevolent alien, it was an alien who had that really eerie voice andÖ
Dan Newman: Of course, how old were you when you first saw ET?
SL: Twenty-six. Iím kidding. I donít know, I was born in 76Ö when did ET come out? Like 82?
SL: So I was six, seven, eight, nine, I mean I was afraid of a lot of fantasy movies as well, not just straight horror. But I remember POLTERGEIST; I couldnít stay in my own room for months, especially the clown under the bed and the furniture moving. And then as an adult, to this day horror movies have that affect on me. Like if I see a good horror movie I wonít be able to sleep with the lights off for weeks; it happened when I saw THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, when I lived in Houston, which is another influence on this. It was one of the first movies where I thought it was okay to make a movie where people thought it was real. And people will think Ė some people will watch this and think its real; which is the idea. You know, thatís how were selling it and a lot of it is real but then the line gets blurred, it should be a little bit confusing. So after I saw that [BLAIR WITCH], in particular like the last image of the kid standing against the wall, one of the last shots of the movie; that image alone was burned in my memory and I couldnít sleep with the lights off for like eight weeks or so.
SL: And 28 DAYS LATER, after I saw that I couldnít fall asleep for a couple months; I mean I slept, but it was hard to fall asleep without the lights on. And then when I saw the original GRUDGE [JU-ON], forget it; I havenít slept in my room since seeing that. And that was eight months ago. Iíve been sleeping on the couch ever since then.
Little kid is gonna come out and get you there?
SL: That is by far, the scariest movie Iíve ever seen in my life. And thereís like almost no gore in it. But it is so scary.
What about you Dan? Are you a fan of horror?
DN: Iím a fan of any good movie. It doesnít matter if itís a horror, drama or comedy. If itís well done, if itís a good story, if itís well directed and good performances and a good script, then I enjoy it. I donít go out of my way to watch horror movies. I donít like being scared, so if itís particularly scary it will impact me for a period of time. Not a couple of months, [Laughing] maybe a week. And I remember actually I saw POLTERGEIST in the theatre when it first came out and the clown thing totally freaked me out, the tree eating the kid totally freaked me out. I still have trouble to this day having a TV on with just static on. [We all agree] It still freaks me out a little bit. But, you know, if itís good then I like it and if itís just gratuitous and it doesnít have any substance to it thenÖ if you can laugh at it and enjoy it because itís self aware that itís that absurd, then itís great.
Like SNAKES ON A PLANE, you know, this is a great movie, itís so much fun. It doesnít take itself seriously. It knows that itís an over-the-top, balls to the wall campy, action thriller horror movie. And itís great. And I enjoy a movie like that, if it cognizant of what it actually is. The thing that Iíve been finding most interesting about working on this movie with Seth, and knowing that itís largely based on his own experiences; every time I watch a scene, I find myself wondering, Ďwhat of this actually happened to himí and I have to stop and ask, you know, on a regular basis. And I think that as a viewer, just if I were watching it as a stranger, Iíd probably come out of it, and Iíd just be sort of thinking of the whole thing. Iíd think to myself, ĎI wonder what of this actually happened.í Because I know that a lot of it is based on reality. So thatís sort of the fascinating thing working on this is that sort of curiosity. But I have the advantage of going right to the source and finding out the answers.
SL: And Dan is responsible for almost everything you hear in the movie, which is about fifty percent of the movie. Danís a huge influence.
DN: Well one of the things about the sound is were trying
to maintain the realism of it so since all of this was shot with video cameras
and a lot of camera mikeís and it just picked up the room the way that a video
camera would because most of what you see is supposed to be is a surveillance
camera or a handheld camera; we wanted it to sound that way. So itís not
supposed to be clean and pure like a feature film normally would be. And the
subtlety that weíre trying to deal with is; you donít want to score this like a
traditional horror movie because there really isnít a motivation to have music.
This is recovered footage, it was put together so what were trying to do is make
the sound sort of become part of the world as opposed to being a score. And so
what you feel is supposed to be sort of motivated by the sur-reality, I donít
know if thatís a word, of whatís actually happening in the environment. And
none of it is supposed to be composed.
SL: Yeah, everything in this movie is supposed to be real. Like everything is very much like keeping it real, every shot, every sound you hear. Obviously we cheated sometimes because there is a score. But the score is supposed to be so natural that when your watching it, itís kind of like propelling you to feel a certain way that you are not necessarily thinking like, Ďoh, I can pick out like strings there or like a drumí youíre not really supposed to be able to think that way.
DN: Hopefully people wonít be that aware about the fact that theyíre hearing sound, theyíll just sort of feel it as part of what theyíre experiencing.
SL: And thatís a big challenge, not only in the sound editing but shooting it was in the same way. And recording it, the production sound was really good and itís hard to keep this recovered, government assembled footage, yet do it professionally so a big distributor will pick it up and release it to a mass audience. Like the people involved like Dan, and our DP Jayson [Crothers] and our recordist Rick [MacDonald], like everybodyÖ you have to be really good to make something this real. Itís supposed to appear amateurish but it actually takes real professionals to create it and also have it be professional at the same time. Kind of hard to explain but from what you saw, you get the sense. I mean all those cameras are hidden, even though they are strategically placed. So itís always like towing that line, like every single day that we work there is always making sure what were doing is within the tone of the movie and not going outside the boundaries.
You do frame a lot of these shots really wellÖ
SL: That would be Jayson Crothers.
SL: Thatís our DP.
He did a phenomenal job.
SL: Heís quite good.
You do get the sense that these are hidden cameras but he frames these shots in such a way that really bring you in.
SL: Yeah, thatís what I was sayingÖ I was lucky enough to have, to me, some of the best people in town. Dan doing sound, Jason doing camera and meÖ
JimmyO and Seth Landau!
How did you two end up working together on this?
SL: We met through a really good friend of mine, whoís also a friend of Danís and Dan did the sound editing on TAKE OUT, the first movie I made that weíre now selling. So we worked together before and we metÖ
DN: We met through a short film that actually one of the actors in this starred in and did he co-produced it?
SL: Yeah, our mutual friend Daniel Schweiger made a short movie, he was like a producer.
DN: And I did the ADR, the dialogue work. And I went from doing dialogue work on that, and actually Seth and I didnít even meet during the making of it. We were in the same place at the same time and didnít realize it until TAKE OUT was done and I think it was actually Greg who called me and said, ĎHey listen Danny, could you do the sound for this movie that Iím cuttingí and I didnít even know at the time that it had come through.
SL: I remember when I called you, Iím like, Ďheís never gonna do ití cuz Danís like a really good sound guy and I didnít have any real budgets, I mean one day soon I will but these days I donít. I was thinking, I remember I got like your voicemail the first time I called you, Iím like, Ďthereís no wayí cuz you were like, Ď this is the mobile office ofí, I was like, ĎOh God, heís got a mobile officeí [Laughing] Like everybody on the show are all like way better than I deserve. They all make good money but for some reason for me they slum it.
DN: For now. Seth is an extremely persuasive filmmaker, very aggressive. I donít think Iíve ever worked with anyone who is as certain of his projects and of his work and of his ability to bring all the pieces together and getting the best talent together and making it all work. Heís justÖ heís like a bulldog. Iíd put him up against any producer that Iíve ever worked with and he would just take Ďem out.
SL: Seth refuses to lose.
SL: Like, this is the only thing I wanna do. Thereís no back-up plan.
DN: So itís sort of hard toÖ itís very difficult to say Ďnoí to him. [Laughing] So I started TAKE OUT because it came at a time when I sort of had the time and he was so convincing in his pitch to me that I just believed that he had the next FLETCH or OFFICE SPACE or whatever it was that was on his hands so I said okay fine, Iíll do it. And then we became good friends and you know, once someone is my friend I canít say no to them either.
SL: Yeah. Iím the same way, I mean; I would totally do the same thing for my friends.
DN: Yeah, so with half the projects I work on are with
directors who are good friends of mine and therefore I cannot say no to them.
And the other half, are people that come to me with nice, healthy budgets so I
sort of get the balance of both.
Well, thereís something satisfying, Iím sure when you do a film like this and youíre working with all these people. Youíve got some huge names here, at least in the genre, youíve got Tony Todd, youíve got George Wendt who was in KING OF THE ANTS, and heís kind of getting out there in this genre.
SL: And he did the [John] Landis directed MASTERS OF HORROR, was it Landis?
Yeah, I think it was. How did you get this cast? Did you know them? Like he said, did you just hound them orÖ?
SL: Well blackmail is a really powerful tool.
SL: No, Iím kidding. [Laughing] Well everybody was a different story. When your doing like an Indie film you basically have to have a really good script, thatís the first thing because they are not going to be making what they normally are. So the script has to be really good. And my background, I was a newspaper reporter for years before I even moved here so I had experience writing. And that was essentially my screenwriting school. So I was kind of an experienced writer and I knew how to get rid of shit that shouldnít be in the story because when youíre writing for paper your editors will do it for you. So I had a pretty decent background in screenwriting so my scripts tend to be pretty tight. And people when they tend to read them they go through them in one sitting.
And that helps, when people are drawn into the story and the like the script, thatís a start. And then you have to have good word of mouth, you have to be a respectable person who makes shows that are safe that people enjoy being on. And like thatís my thing, every show that I do, like I would be disappointed if people went away from it saying they didnít like it or it wasnít fun, or like ĎItís fine.í Even that would be disappointing. Like every single movie that I make I want people to come away from it saying it was the most fun they ever had on a movie. And often times they do.
Cuz I really wantÖ itís the only thing I wanna do in my life. Iím sacrificing everything so, to me it better be fun. And if somebodyís not having fun then Iím doing something wrong. You kind of have to have that attitude where people want to work with you because in lieu of money, there better be something, you know, facets of the production that are attractive. So itís a combination of like a good script and good word of mouth and just being reputable and just like making quality stuff. So George for instance I met through Stuart Gordon who I met through my friend Dan Schweiger who is the same person who introduced Dan Newman and I. So that is how George came about, George was actually considering TAKE OUT but he couldnít do it because he was too busy doing a theatre show run.
And when BRYAN came around I re-approached him and this time he had time and he said yeah. Tony ToddÖ a friend of mine had a connection through Tony and I got Tony the script and then as far as how do you get people to work for well below what they normally make you just have to offer them a good project. You know theyíre taking X amount of pay cut so the project better go somewhere and it better be worth their time because they could be making a lot more money with almost anybody else. Tiffany Shepis was a weird story; I had worked with her on TED BUNDY. She was in TED BUNDY, I was in TED BUNDY. I never met her on set but I saw her on set so I knew of her. After all these years from like 01 to like 06 or 05, when we were in pre-production on BRYAN, you know, I knew of her. And then she happened to be in a movie my DP had done like a year earlier and so she was kind of on my mind because I happened to see her on my DPís MySpace page.
Then I ran into her at a coffee shop in the valley and I went up to her and I said, Ďhey, are you like Tiffanyí and she said, Ďyeahí and I said that we were in TED BUNDY together you know, and we just started talking and she said what are you doing here and I said Iím meeting my DP for this movie Iím shooting and then she knew the DP and then she made a joke, Ďoh, do you have a part for Tiffany Shepis?í and I said Ďwould Tiffany Shepis work for scale?í and she said maybe, let me see the script and that is how it came about. So everybody was a story like that, it was some degree of connection and they of course said Iím receptive but let me see your script and whoís on it, whoís the DP, whoís editing it, are they people who have done stuff, and everybody is. Dan to our editor Greg [Robbins] to our DP Jayson, theyíre all good and theyíre all respected so that helps. Having a good teamÖ
Having good materials and then they give you a shot and
itís like, well f*ck it, Iíll take a few days off of my life and give you a shot
and if youíre good then Iíll probably be back again and if your bad, theyíll
probably never work with you again. And so I built on TAKE OUT, I had like, Dan
Roebuck was in TAKE OUT and now heís in BRYAN again. So I hope to keep using
the same actors again over and over and keep building my repertory essentially.
And Dan was in THE DEVILíS REJECTS in like a small part.
Whoíd he play?
SL: He was Morris Green, the guy on the TV show.
SL: If you saw the DVD extras you saw moreÖ
Yeah, I own that movie and Iíve seen it many times, I think its f*cking brilliant.
SL: Yeah. Heís been in a lot of stuff and heís a big, big
horror fan. And he does a lot of like horror documentaries and conventions.
DN: I mostly enjoyed seeing him show up on LOST.
DN: Heís really funny. He was really good in that.
SL: Heís an awesome actor. Thatís the thing across the board, like everybody is better than I deserve basically. So itís pretty lucky that everybody comes together like they do.
So what happens after this? Youíve made your film, your working on post?
How are you trying to sell this thing?
SL: We already have quite a few people that have already approached us whether it be sales agents or distributors themselves and Iíve been in town for several years and people that Iíve met through TAKE OUT and before, like the relationships that Iíve cultivated I go to, you know, people I trust the most first and I say, hereís the final productÖ GO.
You know, what do they think about it, where could they sell it and basically whoever has the most zeal for the project will get it. Whoever has the best name and is most enthusiastic about it, because like a couple dozen have already said Iím interested in it, let me see it when itís done, which is fine. But there are a lot of people in this town who canít get stuff done so the people, the most reputable company, the most reputable sales agent and or distributor, you know, whoeverís the best fit. I have a very calculated plan as far as what happens as soon as we have our master, which will be fairly soon and the intent is to get it out there by this upcoming Halloween
JimmyO kicking it with Dan Newman!
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