For the past year, John Bryant has been wowing festival audiences with his outrageous short Oh My God that needs to be seen to be believed. Now, John returns to Sundance with a new short, “Momma’s Boy,” about a Thanksgiving dinner gone haywire.
We spoke to John about his latest film.
So what’s “Momma’s Boy” about? ^ In a nutshell, it’s about sibling rivalry. Do parents have favorite children? And it also deals with the issue of adoption. What it means to be adopted. Are adopted children loved as much as the biological children of a family? Also, what are the consequences of sleeping with all of your brother’s girlfriends? It also deals with the issue of police brutality. Are tasers really safe weapons? What about mace or pepper spray? These are things that are important to me and have weighed heavily on my mind for several years. In short, my editor, Jay Deuby, probably said it best – he said that it was a ridiculous farce played absolutely, 100% real and straight.
Are you trying to top the shock factor of Oh My God with this one? ^ I pretty much came to the conclusion that “Oh My God” is probably impossible to out-do or one-up … I mean, “Oh My God” takes it about as far as you can go. My goal with “Oh My God” was to make the most retarded film ever. And I think I came pretty close. Trust me, I’d love to one-up it … and, you know, I have some more ideas that are similar to “Oh My God” … in terms of being absolutely ridiculous and funny. But I’m kind of trying to build a portfolio of sorts to try to legitimatize me being considered for directing a feature … So, I wanted to do something a little less “out there” and make something more accessible/mainstream. There’s definitely an element of “shock” towards the end of this short … but, it’s an entirely different game than “Oh My God.”
I wanted to work with actors and really try to build a scene with a group of actors. I’m really just a beginner in terms of directing. I’ve only directed stuff that I’ve paid for out of my own pocket. So, I’m trying to learn and put into practice some ideas I’ve had about how to approach a scene … and I wanted to try to create an engaging scene or story that’s just a bunch of people talking. Really focusing on performance.
What was the audience reaction like to “Oh My God” at festivals last year? ^ Pretty terrific. We’ve played in over 50 festivals. It’s a totally different vibe than if you watch it at home by yourself. There’s a collective conscious there, and usually, by the third credit, people started laughing. At Clermont-Ferrand, there was one audience that literally gave it a standing ovation. Which was pretty unbelievable. Having made really bad movies before, it’s good to occasionally make something people can appreciate and enjoy. The really great thing is this – it’s played everywhere – and you don’t have to speak English to “get it.” A programmer at Short-Shorts (Tokyo, Japan) said audiences that were normally EXTREMELY reserved were laughing their a***s off. So, the international success that also made me feel good.
Have you received letters of thanks from retarded Texans? ^ I’ve received a couple … but the writing was illegible. So, I couldn’t respond
ON A SIDE NOTE: You know, on June 17, 2001, Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed legislation that would have prohibited executing retarded Texans. No joke. Do a google search if you don’t believe it. Fortunately, the Supreme Court in June of 2002 decided that it was unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded people (although Justice Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist were opposed to the ruling). But, that Supreme Court ruling apparently isn’t going to stop us (my fellow Texans) – right now (as recently as December 2005), there’s a mentally retarded man (at least, a bunch of people claim he is) named Marvin Lee Wilson who’s on death row– and he cannot raise the issue in federal court because his lawyer missed a filing deadline – hopefully, someone in a position of power will come to the rescue. But I don’t know … we do like killing retarded people in Texas … so it could potentially come down to the wire and be a real nail-biter.
It’s a serious issue … and it’s really politically charged … but how the hell can you not laugh in complete disbelief when you hear about stuff like this? It’s insane. “ STOP” “THE” “INSANITY” “!”.
What’s up next for you? ^ I’m going to try to get a low-budget feature off the ground with a small production company based out of L.A. It’s a comedy. I’m penning the script right now – but it’s a long road. We’ll see what happens. Most important thing right now is to create a great story and make sure it’s funny – hopefully, if I can manage that, the other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.