The Duplass Brothers Head to HBO

The question right now really is: what are the Duplass brothers not doing? Last week we reported Mark and Jay would be producing the upcoming found-footage film Peachfuzz, which Mark wrote the story for and will be starring. And on top of their film projects popping up left and right, they’ve oddly enough seemed to become recurring characters as super hot midwives on The Mindy Project—mortal enemies of Mindy and her OB/GYN pals. However, after some weird weeks of sexual tension, Mark has gone from Mindy’s target for a causal hookup to possibly something more…[insert cute shrug here] ?

And with HBO taking on a slew of new pilots, they’ve ordered up a half-hour comedy pilot titled Togetherness to be penned and directed by the Duplass brothers. The concept of the show isn’t too far off base from the what they’re used to, dealing intimately with strained relationships in a half comedy, half drama world. Togetherness will center on two couples living together under one roof and struggling to keep their relationships alive while pursuing their individual dreams. As of now neither brother has plans to appear onscreen in the show but with these two, that’s always subject to change. This will be their first foray into writing for the small screen and although I’m not always sure I enjoy their style of filmmaking, I do really enjoy Mark in just about everything—especially The League— and besides, they just seem like great dudes you want to sit around, have beer with, and talk about movies—so I’m supportive. And this is also a good sign for HBO on the comedy front, who look to be picking up a bit of lighter material stemming from the success of Lena Dunham’s Girls

Blumhouse Productions Picks Up Duplass Brothers’ ‘Peachfuzz’

Filmmaking duo, Mark and Jay Duplass have been the masterminds behind some independent cinema’s most buzzed about films over the last few years. With Jeff, Who Live at Home, Your Sister’s Sister, and Safety Not Guaranteed, the two have had a pretty good year for themselves and have now moved onto their latest venture, a found-footage film called Peachfuzz who has just found distribution with Jason Blum’s company, Blumhouse Productions. Preemptively, Blumhouse has snatched up the rights to the project and will work as a partner on the picture, making a financial investment and also working with the brothers and film rep Submarine on distribution and marketing. 

Peachfuzz is said to “follow the story of a young man who answers a Craigslist ad and gets more than he bargained for.” Well, that doesn’t sound too far off from the short synopsis for this year’s Safety Not Guaranteed: “three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.” Interesting. However, Peachfuzz will be helmed by new director, Patrick Brice with Mark starring in the film. And although the project is already in post-production, the rest of the details are apparently being kept secret. Blum says, “Mark, Jay and Patrick have put an exciting new spin on found-footage horror, and we look forward to working with them.” And we look forward to a release date.

Mark and Jay Duplass Talk Their New Film, ‘The Do-Deca-Pentathlon’

Mark and Jay Duplass, better known as the Duplass Brothers in the entertainment business, are quietly becoming some of the more prolific talents in Hollywood. Since their Sundance darling The Puffy Chair in 2005, the brothers have created their own style of small films that always have a Mariana’s Trench of emotional depth, often morphing into a story you never expected to see or feel—comedy with poignancy, to put it in simpler terms. By sharing writing and directing duties on fine, indie-sized studio films like Cyrus and Jeff Who Lives at Home and executive producing the charmingly weird Safety Not Guaranteed, the Duplass duo would seem to be following in the tradition of brotherly filmmaking forbearers, Joel and Ethan Coen.

But then Mark had to go and have his acting career take off, with roles in sap-fests My Darling Companion and People Like Us, landing a spot on the FX series The League and roles in a number of upcoming major studio films, including one directed by Katherine Bigelow where he helps kill Osama bin Laden. If you had to guess which of the two brothers star is currently shining brighter—for people who care about such things—the safe bet is clearly Mark (though there is an outside chance Jay may actually be the next Brando, pre-obesity). I only stir all this up to cheaply pivot to the fact that the plot of their newest film together, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, is about two overly competitive middle-aged brothers who try to solve their differences through a series of competitions, and, in true Duplass Brothers fashion, end up facing a much more complex, deep-seeded emotional issue. I chatted with Mark and Jay the day after Do-Deca premiered at this year’s SxSW and was picked up for distribution through Fox Searchlight for an early July release. After that type of success together, it’s all brotherly love.

How are you guys able to keep both the studios and the indie world happy? It seems as if everyone is enamored with your films these days.
Mark Duplass: It’s a little something we call Black Magic. We’re from New Orleans. We believe in voodoo. Honestly, we don’t know. It’s not about keeping people happy. There’s something about our sensibilities that are mainstream adjacent and also straddles the indie world. Most filmmakers have the opportunity to make one indie film, and then when they have the opportunity to make a studio film they’re just fuckin’ done with the indie world because they don’t like hanging lights and doing odd jobs on set. But we still like that, so we’re able to keep a foot in both worlds.

How did Do-Deca come about? The obvious thought is that it was born out of a competition between you guys as brothers.
Jay Duplass: We grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, and in our same neighborhood there were two brothers who were born about a year and a half apart. I think everyone knows that set of brothers who were born too close and they are literally competitive about everything. That was them. And it’s real. They actually created something called the Do-Deca-Pentathlon, a 25-event personal Olympics, made up of primarily parlor sports that they competed in mostly as an excuse to beat the shit out of each other and also show how much they love each other because they are not very good at communicating. Mark and I have been sweetly obsessed with it since the late ’80s when it first happened. Finally, we figured out a way to bring it to life as a film when two out of shape middle-aged brothers compete in it later in life.

How many Do-Decas did they actually hold? Was it a yearly thing?
No, they created the singular Do-Deca competition to determine who was the better brother and, no joke, the results were shrouded in controversy because they were beating the shit out of each other too much that their parents finally had to intervene before the competition was finished. So…we’re not that creative, actually, is the answer here. This is more or less a true story.

Do you still talk to the brothers and have they seen the film yet?
We definitely still talk to the guys, though they have not seen the film yet and we have something special planned that will be unleashed onto the world in a couple months when the film is released. We’re excited to show it to them. We can’t say what it is…

Are there Cain and Abel elements to this story? Or am I reading into this too much?
I think the answer to that is: yes?
JD: We definitely don’t think about those sorts of things that intellectually when we were making the film. But when you say that, it makes sense to me and I’m sure it makes sense to Mark. We came up with a very indie, renegade filmmaking way. But we are products of cable TV and HBO of the mid-’80s. We believe in classical stories and we love classic structure. We never in a million years would say Cain and Abel in a creative discussion with each other, but maybe we are harboring those things subconsciously.

Are you guys competitive with each other, as brothers tend to be?
I don’t think so, man. I mean, we’ve been to therapy and the egos have been checked and we’re just trying to work together and go for the big win.

Is budget and resources the biggest difference between the indie and studio films? Or is there more to it?
Yeah, on the indie ones, we’re doing every task at hand, from cooking food to directing to…
MD: Stressing the wardrobe. You kind of get to experience every job on set.
JD: But on the big budget films you don’t actually do anything by hand, you just have a million conversations with people to do it for you or for people to approve what you are doing and understand what you are doing so that they feel comfortable giving you millions of dollars to do it.

What do you prefer more, the hands-on or the studio films?
It’s tough to say. Each film is very, very different. Jay and I both have very grass-is-greener personalities. You know, we’ll be in the middle of shooting a little micro-budget indie film and we’ll suddenly miss the craft service and someone to take care of the props so you’re not losing them while you are shooting. But then on a studio film, it feels like you’re dragging a hundred people around and it takes forever to do anything and you wish you were a crew of eight and you could run across the street, shoot it and move on in 15 minutes.

BB: Do you see yourselves ever making something outside your very well defined style?
Well, anything’s possible. To be honest, every time Mark and I make a movie, we feel like it is something entirely different and new. But when we get done editing and it is reviewed, people see it as part of our oeuvre or whatever you want to call it. We’ve kind of come to realize we are hopelessly and helplessly ourselves. We’re obsessed with things that are simultaneously hilarious and tragic and we’re also obsessed with relationships and family. Our films are basically the private conversations Mark and I had been having for 30 years and it wasn’t until we tapped into those conversations that we made a film that didn’t suck.

Five Must-See Films From This Year’s SXSW

The film conference may be the least influential of the three portions of South by Southwest, due primarily to the fact it has so much competition amongst other film festivals out there. Interactive has launched a few hundred million-dollar ideas that we all now have access to on our smart phones, and the music conference showcases some the best brand new artists in the world on a yearly basis. Yet film, despite consistently having a fantastic, unique lineup every year, could be considered the underachieving middle child. When an independent filmmaker looks to premiere the next Napoleon Dynamite, they look to Sundance or Tribeca first; when an Oscar-winning director has made his or her passion project, it’s across the pond to the austere Berlin or Cannes Festivals. SXSW Film falls into the upper middle of most top tier Indie submission lists.

This may be due to the fact that SXSW is more diversified as an event then the other fests that focus almost solely on the art of filmmaking—they don’t have to share attention with another medium. However, sleeper films are truly beginning to break at South by—last year the virtually unheard of sports documentary Undefeated was picked up by The Weinstein Company, and went on to win the Academy Award for best Documentary Feature.

So I went in search of sleepers at this year’s film conference. I definitely didn’t see all the films I intended on seeing, those that were getting post-screening buzz heard in various badge lines or while fiddling with my scheduling app, waiting for a film to begin. However, the five films I have listed below are the best of the ones I saw at the conference, all worth the price of admission.

The Imposter
Unlike any documentary you will ever see, The Imposter tells the true story of a thirteen year-old boy who was abducted in San Antonio in the mid ’90s. Three and a half years pass with no trace of the child before a person claiming to be him is picked up by authorities half a world away in Spain. The family is notified and the boy is returned home to America—despite the fact that it is in fact someone else pretending to be this boy, an imposter, as the film’s title suggests. Director Bart Layton sews together interviews with the Imposter himself and the boy’s family with beautifully photographed narrative feature-length reenactments, making you feel as if you are watching something between a narrative and a documentary—in short, something wholly unique. The film is such a perfectly intense and fascinating experience that I honestly can’t stop recommending it to everyone I see. The Imposter will be out in July through Indomina.

Somebody Up There Likes Me
The third feature from off-beat Austin director Bob Boyington is undoubtedly his best yet, which feels like a tightly written, fast-paced Wes Anderson comedy with the darkly humorous stylings of something from Eastbound and Down’s Jody Hill. Comedically, nothing is sacred in this film. The sharp, straight-faced banter between leads Keith Poulson and Nick Offerman (best known as Ron Swanson in NBC’s Parks and Recreation) is hilarious yet quietly philosophical. Despite some forgivable Indie film mistakes (focus, dammit and mind the camera’s reflection), Boyington is poised to become a new, aggressively brilliant voice. At the time of this writing, Somebody Up There Likes Me does not have distribution.

Fat Kid Rules the World
Remember the tall, lanky, funny guy who was one of the killers in Scream? Or the narrator of that off-beat cult classic SLC Punk? Well, it turns out he can direct, too. Matthew Lillard fell off many people’s radars when he became Shaggy in the Scooby Doo franchise—something he admits to me made him feel like a sellout. Yet, as all true artists out there, he had a passion project and the young adult book Fat Kid Rules the World, for which he had done the book on tape for nine years prior, was it. A finely acted, funny teenaged tearjerker with Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready doing the original score was the result—a spectacular achievement for a first-time director working with a budget of less then a million dollars. At the time of this writing, Fat Kid Rules the World did not have a distributor.

Richard Linklater is synonymous with the Austin film scene and Bernie is a welcome reminder of just how talented he truly is. He’s been on the latter end of hit-and-miss recently, with features like Me and Orson Welles and Fast Food Nation being considered box office and critical failures and A Scanner Darkly suffering mightily from a hellish production. However, all will be forgotten with Bernie, the funny East Texas true crime Americana tale starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McCounaughey, based on the article by Skip Hollandsworth in Texas Monthly. As career history has shown, Linklater may be at his best when he returns to his roots. Bernie will be released through Millennium Entertainment in late April, early May. 

The Do-Deca-Pentathalon
What everyone will soon realize is that the Duplass Brothers are proving themselves to be some of our generation’s best filmmakers. They consistently tell engaging and funny yet intimately personal stories, despite their seemingly amateurish shaky-cam, blurry style of HD cinematography. It only reinforces the notion that great storytelling, direction and acting will trump low-production value every time. The Do-Deca-Pentathalon, a story of two overly competitive brothers trying to rekindle their relationship, harks back to their earlier, truly-Indie films like The Puffy Chair, Hump Day, and Baghead—before they had A-List casts and major studio backing for projects like Cyrus and the upcoming Jeff Who Lives At Home. Acquired at SxSW this year, The Do-Deca-Pentathalon will be released by Fox Searchlight and Red Flag in June.