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DID YOU READ

SXSW 2008: The Zellner brothers on “Goliath”

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03072008_goliath3.jpgBy Alison Willmore

If you know short films — and, given how hard it can be to see them, you’d be in a select crowd — then boy, do you know the Zellner brothers. David and Nathan Zellner are an Austin-based filmmaking team whose distinctively deadpan, frequently funny and unfailingly if oddly affecting shorts have earned them high praise on the festival circuit. This year marked their fourth in a row with a film at Sundance, and their first with a full-length feature, “Goliath,” which is both true to and expands upon the off-kilter sensibility that made their shorter work so successful. In simplest terms, “Goliath” is a film about a missing cat and the recently divorced man desperately searching for it. But, as director/writer David Zellner puts it, “I guess more stuff happens.” I checked in with the Zellners on the unseasonably cold day before “Goliath” was due to make its hometown premiere at SXSW.

What’s it like being bringing “Goliath” back to SXSW and Austin after Sundance? Any major differences?

David Zellner: They’re both cold.

Nathan Zellner: Yeah, just as cold here as it was there.

It was your first feature at the festival — that must have been an interesting experience.

DZ: Yeah, it was different from the shorts because you get more attention. And if you get attention, you know it’s for your film and not for another one in the block of shorts.

NZ: And in the Q&A, you know that every question’s directed to you. When you’re at a Q&A with a short [film] program there’s always one [film] that gets left out, until someone’s like “This question is for everyone.” “What was the question? What was the budget for your film? I can get that one.”

What’s the difference in your process between creating the shorts and developing a feature?

DZ: For “Goliath,” actually, very little, because we’d done a bunch of shorts and got all the mileage we could out of those, festival-wise and also in honing our skills and vision. We were ready to tackle a feature, and a couple of larger projects that were getting close to taking off didn’t, and we didn’t want to sit around for another year and we didn’t want to do another short. We had this script on the back burner and it happened very easily. We used the same crew we use with the shorts and it was easy to segue into it, to look at it like a bunch of shorts glommed together.

I’d read in one interview that part of impetus for the film came from your fixation on — is it… a pole saw?

DZ: The pole saw. Oh, yeah.

…and wanting to put that in a movie.

DZ: I’d seen them at Home Depot and I’d seen greenskeepers using them. You know what [a pole saw] is?

NZ: Like a chain saw with a —

DZ: —a spear with a chainsaw on it. It’s incredibly fun, and I hadn’t seen it in a movie before. I’d fantasized about using it in a movie when appropriate… and also, just for personal reasons, wanted to play with it. You know?

03072008_goliath1.jpgHow do you two divide up work on your films?

DZ: Ultimately everything overlaps. We each have a say, but I come from more of a creative background, Nathan from more of a technical background, so I’ll typically tackle more of the writing/directing and Nathan more of the editing and producing. That said, it all overlaps, and we definitely have to have a consensus before we go forward — which we usually do.

NZ: It’s a good structure, the checks and balances.

DZ: I have a film degree and he has a computer science degree—

NZ: Together we make…

The ultimate team?

NZ: Well, we need a third sibling with a business degree. And then another one with a PR degree. And one with a doctor degree in case someone gets sick.

DZ: A doctor degree?

Has working together this long ever caused problems? It doesn’t dredge up any old sibling grudges?

DZ: Not really. I think just because we’ve been doing it so long — it’s all an extension of what we’ve been doing from little home movies when we were kids. One thing leads to the next, and hopefully the quality improves over time.

NZ: No more in-camera editing.

DZ: Or movie spoofs. When you’re eight that’s about all you can do, right? Movie spoofs.

Can you tell me about your decision to both act in the movie?

DZ: That’s one thing that, if we had just started to do now, I’d be freaked out about, but since, for better or worse, it’s just an extension of what we’ve always done, it’s kind of second nature. Part of it is that we like to act and it’s built around our abilities — we’re going to try to be smart with our casting because we know that if people feel our performances suck then we deserve all the flack in the world for being vain bastards and putting ourselves in. We’re really hard on each other when we’re filming — we don’t mince words. We really like to do it, and when it’s appropriate it’s a lot of fun to do.

So who’s the cat owner?

DZ: That’s—

NZ: —our parents.

DZ: Our parents have had tons of animals, so we grew up around them. They still have way too many animals now.

NZ: We always find them adopting strays. Or strays adopt them.

DZ: It’s all our dad. Our mom is tolerant of our dad’s obsession with feral cats.

NZ: They appear in the yard and then he gives them a name and you’re like, “Oh, don’t give it a name because then it’s gonna start coming around.” “I call that one Two-Boots” or something. “Oh, I won’t adopt it. I’m just giving it a name.”

DZ: And then you have three male, kind of feral cats in the house that—

NZ: —don’t get along—

DZ: —and mark everything. Yeah, it’s bad news.

[Photos: David Zellner; David and Nathan Zellner in “Goliath,” Zellner Brothers, 2008]

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…