Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #8: Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott Get Rambunctious and Raunchy with ‘Cooties’

Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #8: Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott Get Rambunctious and Raunchy with 'Cooties'

Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion met in New York at Parsons The New
School For Design. Their collaborations began with animations, but
quickly evolved into other creative endeavors, including art
installations, music videos, commercials and short films. Eventually the
partners focused on writing, producing and directing films such as “Satellite Car Chase,” “Falling Man,” “The Shortest Race” and “Boob.” Their
first feature film, “Cooties,” showcases their distinct visual style and
sense of humor.

What it’s about: “Circle. Circle. Dot. Dot. Now you have a Cooties shot.

“An infected chicken nugget transforms the children of an elementary
school into psychotic monsters forcing a small group of teachers to find
a way out. Cooties is a fast-paced, entertaining, genre-bending mash-up
of adorably grotesque proportions.”

What it’s really about: “Processed food. The opening credits sequence alone should scare a few people off chicken nuggets for a bit.

“It’s also about overbearing parents and out of control kids. We really tried to play
with the established roles and question who is in control. The teachers
and parents are helpless in the face of cursing, cell phone wielding,
yoga practicing brats. Adults act like kids and kids pretend to be grown
up.”
Biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge was the shortened prep schedule. We would have
loved a little more time to develop some aspects and really fine tune
some details.”
Inspiration: “Some films that inspired us for this film are:

“‘Raising Arizona.’ This film has the balls to blow up a bunny, and we
think that is, well, hilarious. The characters in this film are dealing
with serious problems, while being funny, and never falling into camp.
Besides the stellar script, this is achieved through the way in which
characters interact with each other and how they are cinematically
composed. Similar to our approach to ‘Cooties,’ sometimes the cast can be
over the top, but we will always tried to ground them in reality.

“‘Gremlins.’ A dark classic that successfully combines horror and comedy,
our ‘Cooties’ kids are a lot like the Gremlins. They transform from cute
little youngsters to blood-lusting creatures.

“‘The Breakfast Club.’ Five unique characters find themselves stuck in
school, being ‘attacked’ by an outside force (i.e. the principal). As
they try to get through the day unscathed, they discover new things
about themselves and each other, drawing them closer together. ‘We’re
all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s
all.’ This quote from Andrew applies equally to both movies, as there
are many shared themes. Its thoughts on parenting and coming-of-age are
particularly relevant to ‘Cooties.’ Expanding on these themes, ‘Cooties’  delves into the idea of role reversal. As normal children, the kids are
pushed toward maturity and adult hood, while the adults are stuck in a
sort of prolonged adolescence.”

Cameras used: “Arri Alexa with Master Primes.”
Did you crowdfund? “No we did not. The producers of our film got some great financiers on
board that were very supportive of the film giving us creative freedom
to make the film in our vision.”
Hopes for Sundance audience take-away: “We hope the audience leaves with their stomachs hurting from
laughter and their bodies covered in goosebumps from horror. We want to
take them on a ride with this unique group of characters. If they take
away some of the underlying themes and commentaries, that is a bonus. We
like the idea of stealthily tricking audiences into thinking about
deeper issues through laughter and entertainment.”
What’s next? “We have been developing a feature script called ‘Bushwick’ and are
reading scripts from studios and producers that we have connections
with. We have some TV series ideas that we’ve been working to develop.
We have lots of irons in the fire, which is how we feel most comfortable.”

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us
about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they
faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses
leading up to the 2014 festival.
For profiles go HERE.

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