Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Interview with the Filmmakers of Skiptracers

As an indie movie lover, I am grateful to get a chance to ask filmmakers of indie movie Skiptracers my questions about the movie and its process before its showing here in Memphis.


“I found it very satisfying to have other members of the crew, not involved in the writing, put their own stamp on how things ended up. That’s the beauty of collaborative filmmaking.”
~Harris Mendheim {Director/ Cast – Chunt in above photo}


“A personal highlight for me was having a mullet for 6 weeks. I must say I was twice as aggressive as usual and felt like no one could take anything I said serious. It was an awesome way to live but rather hard to get my wife to show me any affection.”
~Andy Stuckey {Producer / Writer / Cast- Rusty McAndrews in above photo}
***

I didn’t see Talladega Nights, but my husband Christopher said it was a horrible movie about the south, so:
Is your movie better than “Talladega Nights”?
HM: Skiptracers is a hicks-ploitation classic. Talladega Nights makes fun of rednecks.
AS: Yes our movie is better than Talladega nights, though it doesn’t have the star power. Our characters are less ridiculous and more true to what we know. And we are from Alabama so it helps that it’s an Alabama commentary on Alabama- not your standard Hollywood stereotype. Though I admit the stereotypes exist for a reason.


Your first movie together “Mullet Men” was a documentary; your second a screenplay. How would your compare your experiences of these two styles?
HM: When we made Mullet Men, we didn’t know the first thing about the technical side of filmmaking. 8 years later we've figured the technical side out; it’s the creative side we are still clueless about.
AS: Mullet Men was all about the miracle of actually finding the story. We had no control over anything that happened and got really lucky when I actually won the Mullet Toss. That gave us our story. People don’t write movies about NBC pages wanting to be fish throwing champions and expect people to believe it’s a true story. With the documentary we just shot every single thing we could and pieced the story together in the edit. With Skiptracers we were in control of everything and with that comes more pressure and responsibility. I guess what it boils down to is if we screwed up on making Mullet Men we could say the crowd was too rowdy, the band was too loud or we didn’t have enough coverage of a scene- essentially we could blame someone else. Making Skiptracers we lost that luxury and if something didn’t work, we only had ourselves to blame.

Where did you draw the inspiration for the characters? If someone in real life, what would or do they think of the character they inspired?
HM: My cousin Tucker says the only real thing about the movie is the X-Ray showing his characters oversized genitalia.
AS: We drew from what we know. A lot the characters are loosely based on folks we know from Alabama and we also took some of our favorite stories from Alabama and expanded on them. The people in Dothan that we based characters on laughed at the movie so that was a relief. It’s pretty obvious to the real people how much we embellished the characters. We just used some folks as a base and went from there.

The movie was filmed largely in Dothan, Alabama, right? What was it like filming in your hometown? Are there any highlights or “lowlights” you can share?
HM:
Leaving my wife to move back in with my mother for 7 months was pretty cool.
AS: Yes we shot 90 percent of the movie in Dothan, AL. The rest we shot in Blakely, GA and Campbellton, Fla. We could only have made this movie in Dothan. We had so much help from so many people. Loads of volunteers and favors that makes it look like we spent a lot more money than we did. A personal highlight for me was having a mullet for 6 weeks. I must say I was twice as aggressive as usual and felt like no one could take anything I said serious. It was an awesome way to live but rather hard to get my wife to show me any affection. The one lowlight that sticks out happened after our movie was shot– our caterer LP Williams who worked so hard for the crew passed away before ever getting to see the movie. He will be missed.

How well did the movie follow the script? I can imagine ad-libbing to avoid too many takes just to get the script right.
HM: The only actor I gave lead way with the script was Andy and his role of Rusty. Being that he co-wrote the movie, I figured he had a pretty good idea how we wanted that character portrayed.
AS: The movie followed the script really close. I ad-libbed several things that made it in to the movie. Some complete scenes were cut from the movie that are in the script but the scenes that stayed are pretty close to what’s on the page minus a few lines of dialogue being trimmed in places.

Some movies change in various ways from writing to filming to editing. After viewing the final yourself, did you find an evolvement?
HM: There are so many concessions made in independent filmmaking that it’s really difficult to stay true to your original vision for how you want things. So much comes down to money and resources and what you can actually pull off, as opposed to what you actually intended when writing, that in the end, the final cut can seem a vague shadow of the film you set out to make. At least that’s how Skiptracers went for me. And not that it’s a bad thing. As new members were added to the team, and problems were being addressed, I found it very satisfying to have other members of the crew, not involved in the writing, put their own stamp on how things ended up. That’s the beauty of collaborative filmmaking.
AS: We have three separate movies. The movie we wrote, the movie we shot and the movie we edited. The finished product is a combination of all three. This movie certainly evolved during the editing phase the most as that’s what everybody finally sees. There are scenes that are exactly like we thought and others that are completely different. We did the best we could with limited resources and time and are just glad to have this first feature under our belt. We learned a lot and are glad that so many folks have enjoyed the movie.

The musicians involved in the soundtrack are amazing talents. How was music integrated into the movie?
HM:
Early on in the making of the movie, we decided we wanted the music to be a key part of the film, and to that end began looking around for musicians we thought would bring a unique voice to what we were doing. We were very lucky with both Langhorne Slim and the Defibulators. They brought completely unique work styles to the process yet were both able to completely nail their music for the film. We actually got them both on board while we were still in the writing phase, almost 3 years before principal photography.
AS: After we had a rough cut of the movie we assigned specific scenes to Langhorne Slim, The Defibulators & Justin Johnson. They wrote songs and we gave them ideas for the feel we were going for and months later we recorded the soundtrack in a studio in NYC. I met Langhorne Slim about four years ago when we first started working on the movie. I knew I wanted him and his band the War Eagles to do some music and they were happy to help us out. I’ve known Bug, Erin, Michael and the defibulators for 6 years now and they live in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Justin was an old friend from Alabama that has spent his life playing music and I wanted someone that could sing some 80’s rock and I knew he was the man for the job.

How much of you as a musician influenced the making of the movie and its soundtrack?
AS:
I helped out in some of the song writing with Justin Johnson and the Defibulators. Justin and I wrote the nasty songs in the movie and the 80’s power ballad. I helped out with some lyrics to Free Pony Ride with the Defibulators. With Langhorne’s stuff I only added my two cents in the studio. His lyrics were done but we helped shape a few of the short interstitial songs in the studio.

Side questions: Are the War Eagles the band behind Langhorne Slim? Are they related to Auburn?
HM:
The War Eagles are not related to Auburn.
AS: The War Eagles are Paul Defiglia (bass and backing vocals) and Malachi DeLorenzo (drums and backing vocals) Langhorne’s backing band. They are not from Auburn, Alabama.


Has new baby Maggie {in photo above with daddy taken by mommy Katherine Slingluff} inspired any future projects or changed your view of what your work will be or say?
AS:
I’ll make a Grammy winning kids album and raunchy rated R movie the same year that little Maggie turns 9….I hope.
***
Thanks Andy and Harris! I definitely can't wait to see it now.
See Skiptracers at The Memphis International Film Festival
Malco Ridgeway Four ~ Malco 2
Saturday, April 25, 5:00 pm
Tickets available now through the website.
http://www.onlocationmemphis.org/

Other screenings in Tennessee
April 20th -26th at the following theaters:
Thoroughbred 20 - Franklin, TN
Northgate 14 - Hixson, TN
Wynnsong 16 - Knoxville, TN
Carmike 14 - Johnson City, TN
Movie Awards
The Rome International Film Festival’s Audience Award
Best Comedy, Best Actor in a Comedy {Andy Stuckey as Rusty McAndrews} from the Dixie Film Festival
The Excellence in Feature Filmmaking Award at the Accolade Film Fest in La Jolla, CA
Movie Links
www.skiptracersmovie.com / http://www.myspace.com/skiptracersmovie / 2 minute trailer
Skiptracers Audition: A look at a casting session
70 second Teaser
Related Link
Andy is the other half of the musical duo Stuckey and Murray, whose musical parodies I've seen featured on tv. Click here to visit their website. Be warned: you may hear shocking lyrics but laugh until you can't breathe.

3 comments:

John Kuoy said...

oh man i totally wanna see this movie! tell them to do a screening in singapore...

Sophorn said...

do they have hicks-ploitation movies in singapore? do they have hicks?

John Kuoy said...

they have me so they definitely have A hick!

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