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“V/H/S” co-director Joe Swanberg talks horror, beer and independent filmmaking

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IFC: One of the things I noticed about the anthology and I’m sure was sort of a goal was that it took familiar horror conceits and subverts them. I’m curious what your inspiration was as someone who hasn’t done much other horror work beyond, say, “Silver Bullets.”

JS: And even “Silver Bullets” was very sort of abstractly related to horror, but definitely the closest thing I’ve done up until this point. Inspiration-wise, definitely YouTube videos, and imagery-wise, we just kind of tried to make it as realistic-feeling and looking as possible. And, honestly, the biggest influences for me right now in terms of that stuff are like Ti West and Adam and Simon, sort of like interesting filmmakers who I consider them to be filmmakers first and horror filmmakers second, you know? You could talk to Ti and Adam as much about boring art films as you could about horror films, and they know about all of it.

What these guys have been doing within horror is super interesting and, because they’re friends of mine and collaborators of mine, I’ve sort of gotten a window into their thought process and sort of why they work in the horror genre and what they feel like they can accomplish through that. And additionally, just in my own career, I’ve been making a lot of movies lately and I was fearing that they were all sort of starting to hit the same audience over and over and over, and that there wasn’t a lot of new ground being covered. That’s like my biggest fear as a filmmaker is to just sort of get comfortable within a certain zone and then kind of keep doing the same thing.

So this movie came along right at a time where I was really excited to kind of challenge myself and try something new, so I really went in rather than, for instance, subverting the genre by doing a mumblecore version of horror, “V/H/S” seemed like a really good opportunity to do horror horror, and to really surprise people. And so I took it really seriously, the opportunity to like really make something scary and not make something that was like more realistic than less scary.

IFC: You still stuck a little bit of the relationship stuff you love in there, so that was fun.

JS: Yeah, I can’t help it. [laughs]

IFC: Are there any other genres that you are interested in trying soon?

JS: Definitely. It’s all interesting to me at this point. I had a real sort of revelation experience working on this movie called “You’re Next” that I acted in that Adam Wingard directed. It was really cool to be on the set of my friend’s movie and to see him sort of like taking on a really big task of making an action thriller and sort of having to visualize and shoot these really elaborate action setups with multiple cameras and stunts and all these kinds of things and I realized as a director I really want to have that skill set.

Even if I never make an action movie, I would still love to know how to shoot an action sequence. How to effectively cover a chase scene, or something like that. So I’m kind of open to all of it right now. I would be happy to dive into more genre stuff and just keep learning as a filmmaker and as a director how to get better at certain things. And I feel like all of that carries over even to relationship movies. Knowing how to shoot an action sequence certainly would help me also know how to shoot a dinner table conversation in a more interesting way.

IFC: You’ve been a big part of the independent filmmaking and mumblecore community, and that’s a community that’s changed a lot in the past decade. What elements of the process do you think are the most important to preserve?

JS: For me, the independent films that inspired me and that I fell in love with were tackling stories that were too small or bizarre or whatever for Hollywood to tell. That was kind of like, in the ’70s and ’80s, that was where American independent filmmaking fit into the picture was like everybody wanted to make studio movies but certain stories weren’t going to be told by studios, so if you wanted to tell that story you had to figure out a way to do it yourself.

That’s changed a lot. So now I feel like a lot of independent films are just Hollywood movies told on a smaller budget, and oftentimes with the same actors that are in the Hollywood movies. So I’ve been really still interested in attempting to use independent films to tell stories that just don’t make sense on a bigger scale. Like I only need $20,000 to tell this story, for instance. I don’t need to try to go out and raise $2 million and get big-name actors. It’s been a really fertile sort of practice stage for me to be active as a filmmaker, and I believe the only way to get better at something is to keep doing it and practicing as much as possible.

On the bigger scale where it takes several years between projects, those directors are busy all the time but they’re not necessarily busy on set directing actors, and that’s the kind of thing I’m trying to be good at. The last three or four years for me have just been about making as much work as possible and really just trying to be active in that community as a director, as an actor, as an editor or whatever else it is. As I’m getting old — I have a son now, I have a family and a house — there are practical concerns that are starting to come in that will probably necessitate a change from doing just $20,000 movies.

IFC: I was going to say, it’s interesting you’re saying that about the big stars because “Drinking Buddies” has Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake M. Johnson and Ron Livingston. Those are really big names right now.

JS: Yeah, absolutely. “Drinking Buddies,” I would almost call it my first film. It’s like a reset for me of taking all the things that I’ve learned and all the work that I’ve made over the past seven or eight years and now trying to apply that skill set to a movie that is a conventional movie. It’s still low budget and it’s still improvised and sort of taking the process that I’ve developed and applying it to a bigger movie. But it’s not “Silver Bullets” or it’s not “Art History,” these very sort of intensely rigorous art films that are very obviously going to appeal to a very small art house audience. Like, “Drinking Buddies” is a movie that’s meant to appeal to everybody, and it’s been fun to see if I can take the same way of working and apply that to a movie that’s aimed at everybody, including the art house audience.

IFC: Can you talk a bit about what “Drinking Buddies” is about?

JS: Sure. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson play friends who work at a brewery in Chicago and Anna Kendrick plays Jake’s girlfriend and Ron Livingston plays Olivia’s boyfriend. I won’t say much: it’s a relationship movie about couples. It’s about craft beer and love. [laughs]

IFC: What more does a movie need?

JS: That’s what I’m talking about! It was a blast for me to be able to shoot a movie in a brewery. I’m a home brewer and a real beer geek, so it was really just a dream come true for me to make that movie.

What do you think of Swanberg’s thoughts on independent filmmaking? Do you plan to see “V/H/S”? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

Jack McBrayer Conan Weiners Circle

All Smiles

5 Funny Jack McBrayer Videos That’ll Have You Grinning

Catch Jack McBrayer in the final three episodes of Todd Margaret season three tonight at 10/9C on IFC.

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TBS

Bright, shining, and with a smile from here to his native Georgia, Todd Margaret star Jack McBrayer is the perfect actor to play any role that calls for serious pep. Best known for his work on 30 Rock and his various appearances on Conan O’Brien’s late night programs, Jack has amassed a slew of classic scenes and hilarious performances.

To get you ready for the final three episodes of Todd Margaret season three (airing tonight at 10/9c on IFC), here are five hilarious Jack McBrayer clips that’ll have you smiling from ear to ear.

1. Jack and Triumph Visit Chicago’s Weiner’s Circle, Conan

Nicest guy in the world Jack McBrayer is put through the ringer when Conan sends him to the brutally honest Weiner’s Circle in Chicago, an establishment that earns much of its business by insulting the customers. But Jack exacts his revenge — and gets to don a vendor hat as well — when he enlists Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to unleash a barrage of killer put-downs.


2. Sherlock Doug, Todd Margaret

With the unexpected third season of Todd Margaret, Jack takes over the role of Doug from actor-director Spike Jonze and puts his usual jubilant spin on the character. But when he consigns to investigate the disappearance of another Todd Margaret character, he becomes a cold-hearted flatfoot in search of his perp. (Of course, he’s still pretty chipper.)


3. Jack Struggles to Talk Over Triumph’s Quiet Reading, The Tonight Show

The rapport between Jack and Triumph proved to be too valuable to abandon, so the duo kept the act going when they visited Jimmy Fallon on the set of The Tonight Show. But like the classic “straight man/comic relief” acts from the Vaudeville era, Jack can’t seem to get in a word in edgewise as he keeps getting upstaged by the canine answer to Don Rickles.


4. New Breaking Bad Drug Lord, Conan

Few television series reached the dramatic tension of Breaking Bad largely due to the phenomenal actors. But Conan discovers that one pivotal scene from the show was woefully miscast. Take a look at who was hired to play Walter White’s latest rival. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


5. Backwards Day, 30 Rock

30 Rock had one of the greatest ensemble casts in a television comedy, and Jack played a huge role in that. (His Kenneth the Page character ending up being immortal was just a bonus.) But if you happened to miss the series when it aired, check out this easter egg of Jack McBrayer’s dedication to learning how to phonetically say a phrase backwards. When the scene plays in reverse, you’ll see he nailed it.

Eddie Murphy Beverly Hills Cop

When Eddie Was Raw

5 Classic R-Rated Eddie Murphy Moments

Catch Beverly Hills Cop this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: © Paramount Pictures / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Before becoming the voice of Donkey in the Shrek movies and every family member of The Klumps, Eddie Murphy exuded raw comedic genius on the big screen. His rock star magnetism was so big in the ‘8os, he was up there with Prince, Michael Jackson and E.T. Before you catch Eddie in Beverly Hills Cop this month on IFC, take a look at some hilarious moments from his wilder, raunchier days. Put the kids to bed, because this is NSFW Eddie we’re talking about.

5. Billy Ray shows off his kung-fu moves, Trading Places

In this scene, Eddie Murphy as Billy Ray Valentine shows off his impressive karate skills to some tough guys, one of whom is Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gus Fring from Breaking Bad. It is doubtful that Mr. Miyagi would be able to talk his way out of getting a prison shiv in the gut the way Eddie does here. Luckily for Billy Ray, his hilarious antics let him avoid a confrontation with a Barry White look-alike before a guard arrives.


4. Akeem says good morning to the neighbors, Coming to America

Prince Akeem bids good morning to his neighbors the Big Apple way in this memorable scene. We think he’ll fit in just fine.


3. Impersonating a Rocky fan, Eddie Murphy: Raw

In this R-Rated story, Eddie captured the essence of a testosterone-filled ’80s Rocky fan stupid enough to pick a fight and demand some Jujubees from a much taller man. Eddie Murphy is probably the only comedian who could’ve pulled off wearing a blue and black leather jumpsuit on stage.


2. Posing as a building inspector, Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop is filled with hilarious moments that showcase Eddie’s improv skills. This scene finds Axel Foley reading the riot act to some builders and delivering the classic line, “What are you, a f–ing art critic?”


1. Messing with rednecks, 48. Hrs.

From the moment Eddie Murphy takes the badge from Nolte and enters the redneck bar until he puts the cowboy hat on his head at the end of the scene, he was perfect. This is the moment Eddie went from being the funniest cast member on SNL to a full-fledged movie star. While pointing out how much he enjoys messing with rednecks, most of whom are clearly too stupid to have jobs, he matches Nick Nolte’s intensity throughout. The scene announced that there was a new Comedy Sheriff in town, and his name was Eddie Murphy.

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