DID YOU READ

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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.