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SXSW 2009: Tim McCanlies “Bobs” Into New Territory

SXSW 2009: Tim McCanlies “Bobs” Into New Territory (photo)

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Tim McCanlies once told me, “I find your average beauty-parlor-operator in Texas to be far more interesting a person than your average studio executive in Hollywood.” He’s putting that theory to the test by working outside the studio system for his third directorial effort, “The 2 Bobs,” a manic comedy that premiered at SXSW to an enthusiastic local crowd and was made for a budget that likely wouldn’t have paid for craft services on his last film, the Michael Caine-Robert Duvall family flick “Secondhand Lions.”

After a career spent working in Hollywood from his home in Bastrop County penning such films as “The Iron Giant” and quietly creating The CW’s long-running “Smallville,” the Texan is doing an indie two-step — first with “Bobs,” an Austin-set send-up of the video game industry about two game designers named Bob and their struggle to recover their most recent creation after it’s been repurposed for virtual porn by an obnoxious spam king (played by Broken Lizard’s Jay Chandrasekhar), and following up with “Alabama Moon,” an adaptation of Watt Key’s coming-of-age drama that hews closer to the writer/director’s previous family-friendly oeuvre, but was funded almost exclusively by Southern friends and fans of the author. Between the big festival premiere of the former and a screening to investors of the latter, McCanlies talked about his latest film, video games and how one can easily obtain sex toys for a movie production.

Although the film is more adventurous on a technical level, did you also write the screenplay to be more experimental than you had been before?

In some ways. The script goes off in directions that most scripts don’t. It starts off with a two-minute backstory to these guys, but it’s all about the history of computer gaming and how it’s matured. In a way, I wanted to do like a “Big Lebowski”-type story as if I was shooting “Trainspotting,” so that was sort of my aesthetic going in.

I wanted to do something really fast-paced. The things I’d done were family films that are deliberately paced — the camera work, you stay back and don’t call attention to the direction and I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be able to turn the camera upside down if I wanted to. I want to just go nuts, so it was fun to be liberated that way. And I wanted to shoot hi-def.

You definitely captured how Austin is both very low-key and very high-tech and you also mentioned at the premiere that the two Johns [John Carmack and John Romero, the video game designers behind “Doom”] out of Dallas were an inspiration for the title characters. How did those ideas coalesce into what eventually made it onscreen?

It just seemed like they would be interesting guys who were at the top of their profession, but it’s such a narrow profession that no one else knows who they are. They’re celebrities, but it’s such a narrow world. They’re very wealthy and yet they work 24/7 and haven’t had dates. They probably have never gone out with girls. In a way, they’re almost still living at home. To take them out of this comfortable environment and throw them into the real world just seemed like an interesting thing to do.

03252009_the2bobs8.jpgWhen you were pitching the story around, were people surprised by some of the raunchier aspects of the script?

When we first sent the script around town — and obviously, I’m known to be family film guy — they would get the script and go “Oh my God! You wrote this? It’s so full of F-words.” I had one executive say, “I probably would’ve enjoyed it more had I not known you’d written it.” I’m not sure what that meant, but it didn’t sound good. People would much rather I do family films. In fact, I just did another family film on the heels of “2 Bobs,” but then other people read the [“2 Bobs”] script and really liked it.

First Look was going to give us $10 million before they imploded. It’s a bit of an odd duck movie in that Hollywood’s not familiar with the gamer subculture at all. They don’t know what Twitter is. They didn’t have a handle on a lot of stuff, but to me, it’s like everybody knows geeky IT guys. Everybody hates spammers. It seems like there was enough cultural touchstones for everyone to get. We ended up shooting it ourselves here in Austin for little or no money, but interestingly, my crew were all twentysomething guys and girls who completely got it, totally bought this world, so fingers crossed, I think we’re in really good shape.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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