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

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire January 12, 2014 at 12:8PM

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.
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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.


This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Cooties, Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers