So how long did it take you to get comfortable with the guitar before you could start filming it?
I'm still not comfortable with the guitar. I'm absolutely uncomfortable with guitar, was absolutely not comfortable with singing when we filmed. I'd never even sung along to a song before I started trying to pick it up before filming. So I was certainly very self-conscious about filming. The idea was that the character was doing exactly what I was doing, and just learning was sort of a left-turn - as it was for me, to even imagine that. In the film, my father character is surprised and sort of amazed that I've picked up something that just is not part of the family culture, so I think it worked with wherever I was at. It wasn't this songwriter who was really good, or if he just got his chance he could be a star or whatever. I guess that was obvious.
So you're not going to be playing your own shows?
Actually at this point I definitely have shifted gears to being absolutely serious about making it happen as far as music. It's new and I'm so undeveloped when it comes to performing. I've performed maybe a couple of times; the scene in the film where I say this the first time I've sung into a microphone was absolutely the first time I'd sung into the microphone. I have the intention to make a go at it and treat as seriously or more seriously than film. I'm definitely going to try to travel with it and get some things recorded and see where that takes me.
On the commentary track it seemed that you were concerned with being as close to reality as you could: for example, in the break-up scene, you talk about how you were acting a little more naive than you would. So I'm curious about how comfortable you are with trying to portray yourself on-screen and how far you can get away from that and still feel like it's authentic, if not to yourself, that it's a plausible way a person might react in a given situation.
Well. [pause] I'm not interested to any degree in going away from my personality as far as acting. I don't have the desire to portray another person, and I don't have the desire to direct people portraying other people. I don't know how far that can take me, I don't know where we could go with that, but something becomes far less interesting in directing people trying to do something other than replicating their personalities as closely as they can. It's a tricky line, and I know we definitely strayed from that when convenient.
The film that we just completed shooting, we stuck to it much more closely. We have a character whose real sister and brother are playing the family, and they're just playing themselves and replicating a situation that happened. The first scene in the film is his sister graduating from law school, and we went back and rented the same space she had for her graduation party and got the same people to come and had the same congratulation speeches. And even saying that, it seems like maybe that wouldn't strike someone as a valid approach. But when I see somebody being someone else and I'm directing that person, I can't watch it. I just shut down. It's as simple as a feeling. I can talk about it and try to describe it, but that's all it is, just a gut feeling that it doesn't feel right. But that's just how I feel right now, but certainly these things are not... it all comes down to the gut feeling, not to be cliché or whatever.
So did you get that gut feeling on the short films?
The shorts are not as applicable to what I'm talking about. It's about trying other things. It doesn't necessarily apply to those things, and I don't think it applies as much, and I think it's maybe I haven't even done it yet. It definitely applies to the new film the most, the one we just finished, but I don't think... this is all developing month by month, and the ideas I'm working from now are nothing I had in my head when we were starting to work on Team Picture, which was two years ago. It feels like the theories and ideas I'm talking about these days won't really apply for years, as far as the actual output.
Is it easier to shoot in Chicago? You have a lot of known people in... I'm not going to say the word, but the retro you guys were part of at IFC, a lot of those people worked on Ginger Sand [including Joe Swanberg and Frank V. Ross]. When you get out of Memphis, do you get more of a sense of connection?
I do absolutely feel connected to Joe Swanberg and what he's doing, and I was thrilled to have him shoot the epilogue. I feel like he's right on board as far as how we do things. In fact, I acted in that web series he did with Ronnie Bronstein [Butterknife], and was amazed by how similarly we did things. It was really relaxed: it's like, "Alright, we'll show up and we'll find someplace to do it and we'll put on wireless mics and we'll just keep doing it until we get it." Doing it this way is an exciting way to work, regardless of whether it's easy or not.
And that definitely doesn't happen in Memphis. I definitely don't feel anything very smooth about doing things as far as people in Memphis understand how films go down. People don't take this shit seriously because it's done so casually. Coming from the perspective of Hollywood films or student films which are taught in school, it doesn't feel real if you're not taking five hours to get a shot, it doesn't feel like it's hard work enough. I think film students are Hollywood-type people - you know, they worked 14 hours to set up a shot. And that's fine. I'm just sort of turned-off about how some people can become so self-righteous about that approach. I don't think nothing happens in Team Picture, and I think the humor probably helps people who aren't really on board. I don't think people get it for the most part as far as the general spirit. I absolutely expect that, and I don't expect people to go crazy over the movie, but I guess the idea is that it's not trying to convince you of how smart or witty it is. I think once people see it has some attention outside of Memphis, they start to understand that maybe there's something to it.
I'm guessing the answer to this is no, but you probably didn't go to film school?
I went to Savannah College of Arts and Design for a year and figured out it was too much to spend for going to school. I graduated from the University of Memphis with a communications degree, which is a radio-TV-film production concentration. I don't know if that's film school but it didn't feel like film school. But that's what I wanted.
And did you learn anything that helped with the movie?
No, I don't think so. I was... I can't really think of anything I learned. I definitely just was... yeah, probably learned some things. I definitely felt like going to college in general was something. If nothing else, it gave me some time to come to understand something about myself and something about what I wanted to do and not have to really fend for myself. As far as specific to the movie... I don't think I really used any of their advice from film classes.
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