A Spirited Q & A With “Lovers of Hate” Director Bryan Poyser

A Spirited Q & A With “Lovers of Hate” Director Bryan Poyser (photo)

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As a way of celebrating this year’s nominees for the Spirit Awards in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, we reached out to as many as we could in an effort to better understand what went into their films, what they’ve gotten out of the experience, and where they’ve found their inspiration, both in regards to their work and other works of art that might’ve inspired them from the past year. Their answers will be published on a daily basis throughout February.

When “Lovers of Hate” opens in New York at the reRun Gastropub Theater this Valentine’s Day weekend beginning this evening, it is indicative of two things: one, the sick sense of humor of the theater’s programmers since Bryan Poyser’s comedy is anything but romantic and that Poyser is indeed quite worthy of the John Cassavetes Award at this year’s Spirit Awards since “Lovers of Hate” is the kind of miracle of storytelling that too few filmmakers achieve when they’re all too busy willing a low-budget film into existence in the first place.

02112011_LoversofHate2.jpgIn the case of “Lovers of Hate,” Poyser has crafted a film that’s easy to describe the plot, but considerably harder to discuss its tone, which is at once familiar and darkly humorous, growing out of one uncomfortable situation after another. Even though Poyser’s ability to wring laughs from raw emotions is impressive, it is his overall economy – with words, scenes and the story in general – that enables the film to reach its full potential in tension and humor, involving a simple premise that only involves three characters: Rudy, a frustrated writer (Chris Doubek) who’s destroyed his marriage and discovers that his ex-wife Diana (Heather Kafka) has taken up with his brother Paul (Alex Karpovsky) and follows them up to the mansion paid for by his bro’s successful career in children’s books.

“This is an extremely bad idea, but that’s what Poyser specializes in,” as I noted in my original review of the film shortly after it debuted at Sundance last year, and following his nomination as Someone to Watch at the Spirits in 2005 for his debut “Dear Pillow,” Poyser’s made a film you can’t keep your eyes off of as Rudy slinks around the spacious ski retreat listening to his two closest relations have sex and worse, finding out their true feelings about him as he desperately tries to make a break for it. As Poyser has said in previous interviews, you’re meeting Rudy at the worst time in his life, but as a filmmaker, you could argue the opposite for this writer/director.

Why did you want to make this film?

For several reasons – one, to get myself to stop complaining about not directing a movie in five years; two, to write a lead role for my friend Chris Doubek, an amazing actor that I’d worked with in small roles on a couple previous films; and three, to try to make a love story between three people where the happy ending is that they all end up apart.

What was the best piece of advice you received that applied to the making of this film?

Probably the best piece of advice came in the form of a directive from my friend Athina Rachel Tsangari. She was the Teaching Assistant in my Film I class way back in 1995 at the University of Texas. She became a friend and a mentor and we even co-founded a film festival together, before she moved back to her native Greece and started making movies there (her newest, “Attenberg,” premiered at Venice and is playing Sundance this year). She was one of the first people I showed the script of “Lovers of Hate” to, in its raw first-draft state. After going through a number of criticisms and suggestions, she said, “But you should make this movie and I’ll give you money to make it.” With that kind of totally unsolicited generosity, I felt encouraged, if not obligated to make it happen. And a mere six months later, after several other friends lent us their generosity, we were shooting.

What was the toughest thing to overcome, whether it applies to a particular scene or the film as a whole?

Stairs. The bulk of the movie takes place in this four-story, six-bedroom mansion on the side of a mountain in Park City, Utah. There are 8 staircases in that place, so after the first couple days of production, after running up and down those staircases about 60 times, my calves were in serious agony. Definitely didn’t do enough cross-training before starting the film.

What’s been the most memorable moment while you’ve traveled with the film, either at a festival or otherwise?

Pretty much since the day I got the call from Sundance that the film was gonna play in the Competition, I started freaking out about screening at the Eccles Theatre at the festival. It’s their largest venue, about 1100 seats or something. I just figured there was no way enough people were gonna come to a screening of this tiny indie no-budget film to not make an Eccles screening an empty, embarrassing disaster. But, fortunately, when we arrived there were lines of people waiting. We probably had about 800 people show up. Having that many people laugh at your silly poop-jokes is a pretty overwhelming experience.

What’s your favorite thing about your film that’s been largely uncommented upon?

Probably the score. A couple years ago, my good friend Kevin Bewersdorf had been releasing this album called “Babes” one track at a time on the internet for free. He never finished the last song but this one track, “Power Failure” just totally captured me. I’d listen to it over and over.

I knew I wanted to try to use it in the film, but I couldn’t figure out where, until David Lowery, the cinematographer, was helping me get my two-and-a-half hour cut down to a manageable length and he dropped the song into the beginning and ending scenes of the film. It was perfect! Then, I knew I had to get Kevin to do the entire score. It took some cajoling but he did it, recording everything on his own in this tiny cabin in the woods of western Pennsylvania where he was living. I knew he’d be able to capture the peculiar silly-yet-serious tone of the film.

What’s been the most gratifying thing to come out of this film for you personally?

After some unfortunate set-backs with previous projects, I wanted to “get back to basics” on “Lovers” and do something with a small cast, a small number of locations and a small crew so we could all focus on the stuff that was going to be the most important ultimately – the story and the acting. I decided going in that rehearsals were going to be a necessary part of the process and fortunately, I found an ensemble that was willing and had the time to do that. Megan Gilbride, the producer and I, decided to keep the project pretty low-key – we didn’t do any wide crew calls or anything – just because we wanted to keep the whole thing under the radar. My feeling was if we do this movie with little fanfare and it turns out crappy, no one would be the wiser. So, it was incredibly gratifying to make a small, focused movie on my own terms and have it connect with people on a much larger scale than anything I’ve done before.

What’s been your favorite film, book or album from the past year?

In the last few years, I’ve become such a nerd for history, mostly American history. Novels just haven’t been doing it for me lately. I found the new book “Mayflower” by this author Nathaniel Philbrick, to be utterly fascinating. It’s about the Pilgrims’ trip across the Atlantic and the first 50 years of their colony in New England. The book just expertly brings to life this much more complex and much more bloody history than you could have ever imagined came from the folks who brought us Thanksgiving. Someone could turn this into a kick-ass HBO series. It’d be like “Deadwood” with buckled hats.

“Lovers of Hate” is currently playing in New York and will have a one-week engagement in Dallas beginning on February 18th. It is also currently airing on the Sundance Channel. The Spirit Awards will air on IFC on February 26th.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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