How did you get started in film — did you go to film school or attend the shool of life? ^ No film school, or music videos, although I wish I had. I really got started doing commercials, and at some point, got the chance to make a short film with Mike Wilkins (my co-writer and the Producer of The Independent) called “Birch Street Gym,” about a gym where men in their seventies go to box. The film was nominated for an Academy Award. It lost, but I got to urinate next to Barry Levinson. And that’s how I got started.
Have you ever worked on some of those ultra-low-budget films yourself? ^ I didn’t, but the experience of having to beg for every f*****g inch of this film came very close to that experience.
Did you make any shorts previous to The Independent? Was the inspiration for “The Independent” based on anyone in particular or was it a combination of guys like Roger Corman and Lloyd Kaufman? ^ Mike and I had seen a film called “Hollywood’s Wild Angel,” a doc about Corman. In it, a young Jonathan Demme said that Corman said all films should have sex, a car chase, and a slight social message. We thought it would be funny to make a film about a guy who liked things the other way around. ^ As we got closer to shooting, I met guys like Andy Sidaris, whose fine offering “Return to Savage Beach,” I most highly recommend. From Andy, I took his strong (and well deserved) need to be recognized. At the end of the day, I really, I really respect those guys. They are in the movie business because they love it. And they have the herpes to show for it.
Have you heard anything from those kings of the B’s about the film? ^ Both Andy and Roger Corman were very interested in receiving their paychecks. (Andy’s scene was cut in the end; we paid him anyway.)
How close is the sleazy world of B-movies portrayed in the film to the real world? ^ Some of the biggest compliments I got were from people like Julie Strain and Fred Williamson, who said, hey, this is just like doing a REAL shitty low budget movie. I think the thing that the film mirrors most directly is what I consider the complete innocence of the low budget independent filmmaker. For instance, the way a guy can really believe that it’s important for a girl to be naked in his film. The way he can be totally sincere in explaining to an actress why a shower scene will be good for her career.
How did you go about writing the script — did you watch a ton of bad B-movies? ^ The script started with Mike and I sitting down at a table and saying, “What’s a film that we could write and shoot real fast?” That was in 1993, I believe. We started with the film clips, but as we wrote, we got more and more into the story of Morty Fineman and his daughter. When we got closer to shooting, we watched a bunch of the Something Weird video trailer series, and stole things accordingly.
Jerry Stiller is hysterical and really seemed to get into the role of Fineman, how did Jerry take to the role? ^ Jerry’s acting process was quite interesting. At our first readings, he would say a couple of lines, and four questions about why Morty was saying them, and then make notes on his script for five minutes. Janeane and Max would start cracking up at the table, and Jerry would keep writing, writing, writing. As we started to film the movie, he did a lot of his Jerry Stiller screaming stuff the first couple of days, and then started to realize that he had to bring a lot more shades to his performance. Although that screaming s**t cracks me up. I think the first time we dressed him in Armani and gave him a $200 haircut, he instantly got into character.
Janeane Garofalo is also in her element. She has a great rep on the set as a partier. What was the shoot like with her? Tell us some good stories. ^ Janeane and I have been friends for years, but I still submitted the script through her manager and was shocked that she took the role. All I could say is, if you think Janeane’s eyes are beautiful sober, you should see them after a few bourbons–very clear, deep-focussed, brilliant. Too bad she stopped drinking. ^ The best thing I could tell you about Janeane’s process is that on Day 2 of shooting, she showed up very tan. On Day 1 she was alabaster. She said, “I had this idea that Paloma should have one of those tans like those girls on the Upper East Side have.” I said, “Yeah, but what about yesterday’s shoot? You were white.” And she thought and said, “That will be funny. She’ll be a different color in every scene.”
Get the whole interview in part three of B-MOVIE BONANZA: TRUE “INDEPENDENT” STEPHEN KEssLER>>>