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DID YOU READ

How About a Lil Poison?

How About a Lil Poison? (photo)

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The first thing I need to know is, what do you call your film’s subject? Poison, Lil Poison? Little Vic?

I call him Little Victor. We used to call him Baby Victor, but now he’s 12 and it seems more appropriate to say Little Victor.

Okay, burning question answered. So, what gave you the idea of the film?

Close to four years ago, I first read about Victor in Wired magazine. I saw the picture of him and it jumped out more than the text. It was sort of a dark bedroom, and with some SpongeBob stuff, and Victor sitting there with his headset. This little kid that plays… I wondered where he goes for all those hours every day.

Judging by the trailer, below, it seems like you’ve got two things going on: There’s a glimpse into world of competitive gaming, but also the story of one kid’s family life. What was the first thing you wanted to learn about Poison’s world?

The first thing I wanted to learn was about gaming, and getting insight into that world. I didn’t realize it existed. And I guess just from the photo and the article I though wow, there’s a young generation of gamers out there and this is the first generation you can look at that’s been playing this long.

When I met him and started to hear more stories through him and his dad, and other kids, it became much more of a world. And I realized there are MLG tournaments with thousands of players-a lot of them are teenage boys- who compete all across the country.

It makes sense that most are boys…

Although girls are the fastest growing demographic of gamers. That’s interesting, too.

How did you approach the project conceptually?

I thought it would be more a “Spellbound”-type film, where we’d sort of follow him to the top. Then as I started filming, probably four or five months into it, his parents got divorced and a lot of family drama evolved. So, throughout everything, there was a kind of back and forth. Is this a gaming story? Is this a family story? In the end, we realized the family story really trumped the gaming.

You’ve obviously spent a lot of time with Little Vic and his family. Do you have any idea where his aptitude for gaming might have come from?

I think it’s from his dad, but I think he must’ve been born with some super hand-eye coordination as well. Apparently, Andre Agassi’s dad dangled a tennis ball above his crib. So you have to think that maybe part of it is nature, part of it is nuture. His father definitely played video games before he was born. And I think saw the talent at a young age and maybe he could capture that.

At the beginning of the film, we have footage from Little Victor’s birth. Five hours after his son’s come into the world, his father turns to the camera and says, “I can’t wait until he’s old enough to play Nintendo.”

It’s funny because we don’t think of skills like those being passed on. You can look at, I don’t know, Patrick Ewing’s son and say yeah, he’s tall because his dad was seven feet tall. What Little Victor does is a new sort of competiton that’s not even a generation old, so it’s probably harder to think about the sort of processing and awareness necessary to play games at a pro level as being a genetic skill.

So what kind of preconceptions did you have about video games and people who play them before you started filming? And how did they change over the course of filming?

I thought a lot of them would be sort of stereotypically nerdy gamers. And it turns out there’s a lot of difference subcultures. There’s definitely a range. The kids that play Xbox at the MLG tournaments, I would liken them more to like the skater culture than I would, say, the computer gaming culture. They have girlfriends who get dressed up in outfits and would sit in their laps for five hours while they game, and kind of had loads of gold chains and bracelets. It was you know, a very different look than I was expecting.

Right, not necessarily the kid in their mom’s basement and…

It’s not the type of kids you would expect to be video gaming all day on the inside.

It’s not like they don’t think they’re not cool anymore.

No, I mean it’s like it’s their main after-school activity. So

Were you able to appreciate video games differently after working on the film?

I don’t really like video games. I don’t mind them. I just I don’t play them. My attraction was more this little kid, and this generation. But it was very funny. In college I had a boyfriend that gamed all the time and I always wanted him to stop gaming and playing “FIFA” and “GTA.” And now, during this film, I would call them up and say, have you guys played the beta version of “Halo 3”? And they would say you are so much cooler than you were in college. So yeah, I don’t think my perspective has changed on them other than the fact of how omnipresent they are in the world now, so.

There’s been some conversation about Victor’s age and being a professional gamer with regard to content. He competes on some M-rated games. Do you feel like that affected him in any way? I’m not invoking the whole game violence argument, but do you think he was able to kind of…

I don’t think video games breed violence. People said when films came out that they bred violence. It’s just the next step in evolution of what kids are into. I don’t think it has changed that much. They may look realistic, but look at movies; they hit a lot closer to home, as does the news.

I think that they are making kids more socially withdrawn, especially if they’re playing for five hours a day. I don’t think that has to do with the type of games, whether they’re rated Mature. But you’re not having interaction with people. I think they same thing could be said about Second Life and those type of virtual worlds, too.

You know, because some would argue that it’s a different kind of socialization, but I guess what you’re saying is that the in-person element is missing…

Well, I think if the whole world operated like a video game or like “Second Life,” maybe you would be extremely social. But when you then are faced with going into a crowd without a headset on to shake somebody’s hand, or talk to them, it’s a whole different skill set in a way.

Little Victor is a kid who was able to turn his passions into something that became profitable for his family. Do you think that he was more or less able to cope than an average kid whose parents are going through a divorce? Did you see a personality change as his parents were breaking up?

Yes. I think he withdrew a lot more during that time and has now kind of come back and is more himself. It’s important for any kid going through that to have an outlet but for him, because it was video games, he became more socially withdrawn, I think. But you wonder if he had people to talk to? On the surface, it took his mind off of things but perhaps there would’ve been other ways.

And there’s still pressure and obligations associated with games…

There’s one scene in the film you’ll see, but there’s a moment after a fight where he’s in the basement alone playing the Wii. When you see him playing games that he doesn’t compete in, that’s a world that’s all his own. And so when he plays the Wii, or if he’s playing…he had like a virtual pet for a year and I think all he did was press space bar and he would do it for like an hour. It reminded you he was a kid.

If you’re in the New York City area, you can still catch “Lil Poison” today at 6pm, when it screens as part of the New York International Latino Film Festival.

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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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