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Mark Duplass talks the impact of his films, trying new genres and “Game of Thrones”

Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed

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It’s hard to think that the same man who co-wrote and directed “The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead” and “Cyrus” is also the same guy who plays leading man Pete in FX’s hit fantasy football comedy “The League.” But upon first meeting at a “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” DVD/Blu-Ray release party in Santa Monica, it’s clear to see where Mark Duplass‘s two worlds collide.

The world is Duplass’s metaphorical oyster — or sandbox, as he later refers to it — but right now he and brother Jay are just doing what makes them happy. We chatted about the response to “Jeff,” his work on “The League” and where he wants to go next with his filmmaking career over glasses of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, admitting that we were both “punching above our weight” at this point in time.

IFC: It must be so rewarding for you to see how well received “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” has been.

MARK DUPLASS: My whole career has sort of felt like that. Jay and I were these two kids who were making these movies about what we perceived as very small, personal things. I guess the way we describe it is we like to explore the epically small, and that hopefully in somebody’s quest for wood glue, you can extrapolate some grander machinations of the universe and its inner workings. But I honestly never thought, genuinely, that we would get this far. That we would be able to make the movies that we like making, which are so small and personal, and have a company like Paramount not only put the film out but also give us free food and beer to talk about it, and $75 fucking whiskey, man. We’re punching above our weight here.

IFC: “Jeff” is this intimate little story that has really reached a wide audience, but it doesn’t sound like you planned for it to be something that could affect everyone.

MD: I discovered something in my 20s with Jay which was we spent quite a few years making really shitty movies that no one will ever see, thank god, and they were very derivative of other people. We tried to be the Coen brothers and you’re not going to be the Coen brothers without being the Coen brothers. And one day we made this little short film completely by accident that was improvised, shot with out parents’ video camera with terrible lighting and terrible sound, but it was about something that we experienced that we thought was sad and funny, which was why do we have an emotional breakdown every time we try to record the out-going greeting of our answering machine. Why is it that you have to keep rerecording it to present yourself so directly to the world? So we shot a 20 minute take about someone trying to perfect their personal greeting of their answering machine and cut it down to 8 minutes and that was our first movie that got into Sundance. And from that moment, we’ve never really strayed from this belief that like, if it’s funny and sweet and sad to us, we just need to take that and present it to the world through our eyes, and hopefully they’ll find something in it too.

So while a stoner living in his basement who’s obsessed with the movie “Signs” isn’t someone that people can immediately connect with, the core of him as this guy who wants more for his life and believes that there’s something great out there for him, I guess there’s a sweetness and a comedy to that that I think, I guess I’ve learned, do connect broader than just the specificity of his character.

IFC: You managed to bring these great performances out of Ed Helms and Jason Segel that no one has really seen before. Do you find that more actors are coming to you now and saying that they want to work with you?

MD: We are now in that position, which is huge. To speak to the business end of that, the fact that name actors want to work with us means that like, if there’s any tenure to be had in this business, that’s our tenure is that we make movies cheaply and, luckily enough, movie stars want to work with us, so we are able to play in our little corner of the sandbox and do what do, and I’m just hopeful we can keep making them.

IFC: Would you ever want to explore any more of that metaphorical sandbox?

MD: We like to expand our movies a little bit every time we do one so we’re not just repeating ourselves. In a lot of ways, “Jeff” was kind of an adventure quest movie. If we made a movie like “Battleship,” it would be about all the guys on the ship and maybe some homoerotic behavior and people getting their feelings hurt. That’s what that movie would be. I want to see Spider-Man stub his toe and get sad. That would be my thing. So I don’t know, we are interested in genre films and, as long as there’s a way to tell a really personal small story in there, I think that’s what we would be good at. I do believe we would be terrible at directing a Marvel film. We would just make a shitty movie, so I’m not going to do that any time soon.

IFC: What sort of genres would you want to try?

MD: If you look at our movies at the DNA, they are all relationship movies, and they’re all personal, but “The Puffy Chair” follows the form of a road movie, and “Baghead” follows the form of a horror film, and”‘The Do-Deca-Pentathalon” coming up is a sports movie, and this is kind of a quest movie, and “Cyrus” is a love triangle film. But they’re all very odd versions of that genre. So I am actually interested in making a science fiction movie in space that is a little more relationship oriented. I mean, that’s fascinating to me. To a certain degree, I think “Eternal Sunshine” did that a little bit with like taking this science fiction genre and making a more personal take on it. So it’s hard to predict where we’re going to go, but we’re definitely interested in branching out so we’re not just repeating ourselves.

IFC: Jay teased earlier that you guys have some other projects coming up. Can you talk a little bit about any of those?

MD: There’s a couple of things going on. I have my acting career and I have a lot of things I’m doing with that. We’re writing a bunch of things. Some of them are personal projects that we’ll direct, some of them are studio projects. And we are kind of tossing around this idea of kind of getting involved in television. So we’ve got a bunch of little irons in the fire.

IFC: And “The League” has really found such an audience.

MD: “The League’s” fun. It has a very rabid little fanbase. It’s cool.

IFC: Has working on that show changed your perception of the television industry at all?

MD: I never thought I could do TV because I’m a filmmaker. I was like, I can’t go beyond the office because I can’t be gone nine months of the year. But “The League” is a three month commitment, so cable TV as a shorter commitment really works.

IFC: So what you’re telling me is you want to direct the next “Game of Thrones” episode.

MD: Fuck yeah, man. Just get weird up in there. Just super weird.

IFC: It would be like that Rian Johnson episode of “Breaking Bad.”

MD: I love Rian. I love Rian so much. It’s a weird meeting of worlds.

IFC: [Jay and Judy Greer] were joking early that you guys should direct a live action “Archer” episode.

MD: That would be [awesome]. I fucking love “Archer,” man. I love me some Judes.

“Jeff, Who Lives At Home” comes out on DVD on June 19.

Would you like to see the Duplass brothers expand into different genres? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.