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Nash Edgerton, Stuntman Turned Director of “The Square”

Nash Edgerton, Stuntman Turned Director of “The Square” (photo)

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Never has Christmas brought such bad tidings as in “The Square,” a darkly comic thriller where tree lights are blamed for setting a house ablaze and holiday cards are used for blackmail. Yet this sordid tale of two cheating spouses (David Roberts and Claire van der Boom) whose plans to run away together go disastrously, spectacularly awry is a gift in the hands of Nash Edgerton, a first-time feature director who may have picked up both a knack for building tension and an appreciation for black humor while cheating death as a stuntman on such films as “The Matrix” and the “Star Wars” prequels.

Based on a story from his brother Joel (who co-wrote the script and has a supporting role in the film), “The Square” caused a bit of a sensation in its native Australia — it was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute Awards and picked up buzz here with a standing-room only screening at last year’s SXSW Film Festival. (As it turned out, it would be the first punch landed by the Edgertons’ Blue Tongue Films’ collective, a group of Aussie filmmakers who descended on this year’s Sundance with the Grand Jury Prize-winning “Animal Kingdom” and “Hesher,” two of the fest’s rare acquisitions.) Although it’s probably best not to know too much about “The Square” going in, Edgerton took the time to talk to me about the transition from stuntman to director, his filmmaking band of brothers and going to this year’s Oscars.

As a stuntman, you’re asked to take everything into account for safety’s sake — does that lend itself to directing a film with such an intricate plot?

I found that being a stuntman is all about being adaptable and about problem-solving. To me, filmmaking is very similar, just on a grander scale. Every day as a director, you’re working against time and weather and egos and always trying to make things better and refine things. As a stunt performer, you’re trying to make something look dangerous but do it as safely as possible and make it repeatable, so I guess I found that similar in those ways. And then the detail of the plot, everything has to tie up. I think I was constantly on top of that.

04062010_TheSquareMovie3.jpgAfter working on shorts and performing stunts, was it hard to keep your own excitement level up over the course of a feature?

It was definitely harder just to pace myself during the process. I had worked on films that had gone for a long time, but just the mental capacity of trying to contain the whole film in your head and shooting it all out of order was totally challenging. The first couple of weeks, I was like “I never want to direct a movie ever again.” But the further I got into the process, you get to know your crew a lot better and you get on a roll, and then I was really enjoying it and I just was dying to make another one.

Your brother Joel had the idea for the story since 2000 — that’s a long time to be living with something.

He didn’t actually start writing it for a while, he just kind of wrote the idea down, put it in a drawer. He and I were writing something else together and we didn’t know how to write a script. We had never written one before, so we were learning as we went. In the mean time, he started writing [“The Square”] on the side and when he thought it was good, he was like “I think you should read this.” He was working as an actor a lot and I was working as a stuntman, we were just both busy doing other things. But I just kept making shorts during that whole process just to practice directing.

One of the things that struck me about the film was how much of it took place in broad daylight, which goes against the conventions of the noir genre it’s been associated with. How much did you want to embrace those conventions or avoid them?

04062010_TheSquareMovie2.jpgI like the idea of working within the conventions and doing things differently — setting it during the day and playing it really straight. I thought the more I could base it in reality, the more tense it would be and the more realistic it would feel. The relationship [between the lovers] is not a steamy sexual affair like you see in the movies — it’s real, they’re having an affair and like in any relationship, it gets a little mundane. Then you hardly ever see what Christmas is like in Australia in movies, Christmas in the summer, so I just thought it would be nice to show that. There’s lots of those little things that I hadn’t really seen on film before.

You’ve spoken before about not wanting to set the film in a specific time or location, but at the same time, it’s set in a suburbia like the one you grew up in.

In the same way “Jaws” is set in a made-up town, I wanted that feeling — the town could be anywhere in any part of the world. It just happens to be Australia because that’s where we’re from. But I like that whole idea of containing it in a town where everyone kind of knows each other and would make [the lovers] feel a little bit more trapped.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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