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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.