I was fortunate to interview Maika Monroe, as well as directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen for the wild ride of a thriller, Villains. I met with them at the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center in New York City. It was one of the most fun and informative interviews for one of the movies I had the most fun watching this year. Villians stars Monroe as Jules and Bill Skarsgard as Mickey, two novice criminals just trying to get to Florida to sell seashells by the seashore. When they stop at George and Gloria’s (played by Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffery Donovan respectively) to steal their car, they discover far more than what they ever expected. Please check out the film, in theaters now, but obviously read this interview first!
So whenever I interview director teams, the dynamic is just really fascinating to me. Can you explain how you guys work together? Would you say that you have set roles or do you both just do a little bit of everything?
Robert Olsen: We certainly don’t have set roles. That’s definitely the thing that we don’t do. I’m not saying we don’t have our own strengths, but for the most part, we have very similar brands which is why it works. We have a lot of friends of ours who ask if they should get writing partners, “Like, you guys seem to be doing well with this whole partnership thing”, but we don’t, necessarily. It only works because of how close we are. We were best friends before we were writing partners. If we didn’t have that level of familiarity and the ability to be comfortable enough with one another to be like “this sucks, let’s make this better”. If you just randomly started writing with somebody you’re not going to have the level of comradery to get through things quickly enough and be able to ax certain ideas and work together on other ones. I think it was a process where it took a while to learn how to trust each other and let our egos go. It was a long time ago when we decided we’re just going to put both our names on everything and we’re going to direct, write, and produce. We’ll just do it all together so we don’t have to worry about who did what on which project, and just let that go. What happens if you don’t have that kind of agreement, you start to hoard creative ideas and you don’t want to share them because what if you’re doing your solo project later. So once we made that kind of “blood oath” to just always be working together, it kind of freed everything up and let us flourish with it.
“… if you don’t have that kind of agreement, you start to hoard creative ideas and you don’t want to share them…”
Maika, What’s it like to be directed by two people?
Maika Monroe: Definitely going in, there could be problems with two people. I was definitely aware that it could be hard, but as soon as I talked to them the first time when we had our Skype, they just seemed so on the same page. When we got on set, that made the process go by so much faster. You’re getting scenes because each of them would be doing certain things, and as an actor I loved it. It really just flowed and it was very easy and great.
Olsen: Yeah, on our first film, we were still learning that element. We were both so excited to get on set that we both wanted with every take to be saying something to the actors and the DP and talk about the editing so we would get this thing where you know obviously, there’s the worst-case scenario where we would both be saying two different things to an actor, but I think what was more prevalent was we were both so excited that we would both want to say something. It was a bit like the scene in Office Space where it’s like “Did you get the memo?” Dan would go up to one of the actors and give a direction and say “could you do this with just a little more warmth?” and then I would come up and say, “Yeah you know, just a little less cold.”