I read that Jim Henson inspired the way you went about exploding heads in the short.
Yeah, totally. With all of the exploding head stuff, there are no computer-generated effects. We didn’t do anything in 3D. I was reading this piece in Wired earlier today and they were talking about how JJ Abrams was going to make the new "Star Wars" movies and there was a list of criteria that all of these comedians and filmmakers were saying they wanted to see in the new movies. It was basically how not to make it as shitty as the last. A lot of people were talking about no Midichlorian bullshit, and no CG, and Abrams’ writing partner on “Lost,” Carlton Cuse, had a really good one. He said that he wants to see flaws, like everywhere. I want you to make as much stuff real as possible. The magic in the original “Star Wars” was when you could see Yoda’s ears twitching when they weren’t supposed to be and when you saw how rough and actually tiny a section of the Death Star was when you saw all of the Jedi’s flying over it. It’s that kind of stuff that brought magic too it.
Maybe I’m the crazy one, but when you watch movies today it all sort of looks like a video game to me. It’s like Andy Serkis’ Gollum and Brad Pitt aging backwards, it’s this uncanny valley place. Humans were built to determine what other humans look like. It’s like the thing we can do best out of anything. So if you’re creating something that isn’t real, it makes me really uncomfortable and I’ll call bullshit quick.
So everything you saw was shot practically. The half-faces are done with this system called “motion control,” which basically turns your tripod into a computer where if you move that camera around, it records that movement and when you press play and it does it again. So what that means is that you can shoot multiple takes and put different things in that frame. It’s how Spike Jonze made two Nicolas Cages talk to each other and Robert Zemeckis cut off Lt. Dan’s legs. You’re doing something real; it’s just sort of cut and paste. So in the apartment we’d do one take with an actor screaming and falling on the ground, another with an actor with actual special effects makeup that does the second half of it. We shot an air cannon with blood and guts in it, and throw in wigs and hats and shit like that. Then it’s just cutting them all and piecing them together, and it creates something completely bona-fide. There’s also just more glory in doing it for real. It’s like when Kubrick builds that huge Ferris Wheel so that guy can run around, and puppeteering Yoda. It’s like we destroyed a living room, and that means something.
And now to go on a completely different tangent, could you just tell me a bit about yourself? How you moved up through the ranks and ended up at Greencard?
I grew up outside of Philadelphia. Small town that was really idyllic and just a lot of fields. It was sort of like "Lord of the Flies" or "To Kill a Mockingbird." But now it’s all just Wa-wa’s or CVS’s. It’s all just destroyed. It’s terrible. There was this hiking trail that we used to go up, by this beautiful, applish landscape. But now you go up and it’s just strip malls. But anyways, I went to NYU right across the street. Tisch in 2002. Graduated in 2006 and moved across the street. Started making commercials with my buds and that’s it.
(laughs) Really easy.
How did you meet your buds, now at Greencard?
The DP on this was the DP from freshman year. Same with one of the producers on it. Everybody just kind of knew each other, we didn’t really know anyone else here so we were pretty insular. We were the good community folks and we all just kind of followed each other.
How would you describe your aesthetic? Do you guys all have a similar mantra that you like to stick to?
The generation that we all are still remembers what it is like to play outside before "Super Mario 3" came out. And we were still in love with Jim Henson. We represent this one small group, well we all do between the ages of 25 and 35, where you’re going to be in love with doing things yourself and making things that look real and not necessarily relying on computer design. So I guess if there is a similarity among us, it's that we are the last group that’s still in love with the reality of it. Maybe that’s not true and maybe that’s bullshit, I don’t know though. I’m worried we’re the last generation to get sick at 3D movies.
So you’re not a fan of the 3D form I’m guessing?
It just fucks me up. I was reading this article earlier today about Google Glasses?
You put them on and there’s a little screen that projects in the upper part of your glasses and connects you to the Internet. So you can walk around and like look at a building and it loads up maps. It’s a real thing, like there’s no second guessing it. It’s happening and it’s going to happen in the next year. It’s crazy.
What kind of a career do you see for yourself?
I want to make three good feature films. Just ones that I think are good and that probably takes a lot. Just three good ones, well two is fine. And then find a beautiful girl and get a farm before I’m 65.
So we can only expect three feature films and then you’ll just hibernate?
No, I’m going to have to make a bunch before any of them are any good.
Oh, I don’t believe that.