I have recently been given the opportunity to interview Don Thacker the writer/director of Motivational Growth. This article will feature half the interview. I will post the 2nd half of the interview when I am able, but due to a busy schedule it may be a while. TLDR: Don Thacker is a really cool guy and an example that you can pursue your dream. I am really excited to see everything that he does in the future.
Where to see Motivational Growth:
Search ‘watch motivational growth online’ in Google and you will get links for Google Play, VUDU, and Amazon.
Shortened link for it: http://goo.gl/lPaHMn
DFAT: How did you start making movies?
Don Thacker: I started making movies by loving movies. Actually, it’s one of those things where you ask somebody what they want to do and you get one of two responses. There’s “I want to be a thing” and whatever that thing is they know they wanted to do that thing forever. Then there’s “I don’t know I’m trying to figure it out maybe a lawyer, doctor, fireman or maybe something like that”. Those are the only two answers you get. Somebody who knows and somebody who just hasn’t figured it out and I don’t think you do figure it out. I think there’s a moment in your childhood that establishes you. “Yes I need to do this or I’m gonna die” or there’s “I don’t really know”. I think they are both valid and they both have really awesome outcomes. I just happen to be in the camp that knew what I wanted to do forever.
There was never a choice, when I was 4 and half years old I watched a documentary called “From Star Wars to Jedi” on Canadian Public Television. I’m from Detroit so I get a lot of Canadian Public Television. I was 4 and a half and the idea of the television was weird. It’s just a box that fantasy stuff comes out. All I knew was that you turn on this thing and it makes you happy for like 90 minutes. I was kind of into Star Wars. I didn’t know anything, I was super young, and Jedi just came out. They showed this documentary to promo Jedi and I don’t know if it was coming out on VHS or Theaters. I turn on the Television and flip to the station to see what I think is Star Wars but it’s not Star Wars. It’s a bunch of people talking and it cuts to like Star Wars things and I’m getting kind of annoyed because I just want to see Star Wars. They keep showing stuff and there’s a bit where they are building the Gamorrean Guard and the Millennium Falcon. It never occurred to me as a little kid that people build that. Obviously that was just a spaceship in space that exists right? Like the sun comes up you don’t question that. Mom makes you lunch, that’s how the world works. Turn on the box and like fantasies come on. It didn’t occur to me as a little kid that there was somebody building all of that and making those things. I immediately latched on to this idea that if somebody could make those things and I was a somebody I could make those things too. I loved the idea that I was so enthralled and entertained I spent the better part of the tiniest first portion of my life obsessed with Television and movie. The idea that I could provide that back and that I could recycle that and have my own ideas. If I did have ideas, those ideas could be executed. I would watch TV shows and think man this should have ended this way. I would like the story if it went this way. Maybe the Transformers should go back to Cybertron. It was always, “But I’m just a kid who am I?” That documentary made me realize that I was somebody who could eventually one day make it.
So of course, I spend the better part of my late teens and early twenties being a computer programmer. It turns out I’m really good at programming computers. That was the thing, I grew up in just the right age where my mom brought home a computer and I installed my first program when I was 6 and never stopped. I was really good at it and eventually I was the head programmer at a successful marketing firm in Chicago. I had the penthouse and all the stuff you were supposed to have. I had a 401k, health insurance, every single video game console, and 70 pounds heavier than I am now. I had everything and I had nothing deep down inside I wanted to make movies.
I had done projects. I hung out with my friends and shot stuff. I tried to make a feature in 2006 on the weekends, but if you want to make a film you have to commit to film you can’t do it on the weekends. I’m not saying you can’t. It’s very hard and you need to be an extreme talent to be able to make a film on the weekends. I’m not that talented, for me film is something I have to commit to completely. I gotta live it, I gotta breathe it, I gotta wake up every morning with what’s on the docket, what the writing is, how to modify it, change it, and build it. I can’t do it on the weekends. I can’t work 18 hour days programming and then shoot a movie. So I failed miserably, I’ve been making little shorts with friends and I had a little 8mm film camera and I had all kinds of stuff. I never really did anything, I mostly just programmed computers and played video games. So eventually, I had a couple of friends of mine say you know you should really make movies. I said “I can’t I have 401k and an eTrade account and I have all this stuff like stocks and I’m like an adult.”
Eventually I was really depressed and super unhappy. I was in this penthouse in Chicago which was right on the border. There was literally a bridge to the ghetto. You cross the bridge and you are in the South Loop where yuppies stay with yuppie filing cabinets next to Target. I’m looking down and I see this guy walking across the bridge in the winter in Chicago, 4 feet of snow and he’s got one of those wire laundry baskets. He’s rolling it across the bridge in the snow and he’s walking to The City Shop (which is Target cause even though we aren’t’ supposed to have targets in downtown Chicago and there’s white yuppies there and they call it The City Shop but it’s just a Target but you are in the city and can’t have a Target so just call it City with the same logo). My building was attached to that because that’s how yuppie I had become. This guy is walking across the bridge in the snow with a wire basket heading towards cheaper Target because white people like cheap shit. He’s making his way across and he stops and looks over at me. I got these 14 foot floor to ceiling windows and I’m staring off at this guy. I have everything, I have all this stuff and this guy is crossing the street in 4 feet of snow to go to cheaper Target and looks up at me. I just image that guy, I don’t want to judge that guy I don’t know anything about that guy but there’s a possibility that, that guy looks up at me and thought “Man that guy has everything.” Right? Because I’m in a penthouse and I never close the windows because like why would you close the windows? I had an arcade machine near the windows and I had all the lights with the track lighting on the ceilings. It was amazing and you could look up and say “holy shit that guy is amazing” guy looks up at me and I think to myself “Man, I am the worst human being. There is a potential that guy wants what I got and I am unhappy. How the hell am I unhappy here?” That is the stupidest thing. Aren’t I the worst human being, I should be the happiest person. There are people who can’t eat, are in abusive lives, who have it the worst. How am I unhappy in a penthouse with the video games and arcade machine with all this stuff? I had to answer that question and I was obsessed with the idea of answering that question. It was because I wanted to do nothing more than what I wanted to do.
I knew when I was 4 and a half years old what I wanted to do so I got rid of the 401k and eTrade account. I went to my job and said “Look I want to take 6 months and make a movie and if you tell me no I’ll walk and if you tell me it’s cool I will be back in 6 months.” They said you can’t be the head programmer in a marketing company and be gone for 6 months and I said OK I’m out. They said if you leave you can’t come back so I left and I made a movie. I made Motivational Growth. I started the company with 2 of my friends neither of whom wanted to be in narrative film. One was a tech guy and the other is an artist more into social stuff and like documentaries but they supported me and we got together and made a company. Three people making a company is better than one person making a company. We got some investors and some interested parties and some awesome family members who were committed to the project. We put together a pitch package and I was pitching a totally different film. It was a science fiction film set in a particle collider with a bunch of cool physicists. Nobody wants to give a million dollars for a film about a bunch of particle physicists that go slightly insane and one of them have sex with a building. That’s not a thing you can sell easily so what I ended up doing was selling something for a quarter of a million and that’s Motivational Growth.
After Motivational Growth came out I had a choice. When you do something like that, there is a three-way split of people in your life. A third are like “holy shit you made a movie, cool man you can go back to being a computer programmer.” They were saying you did it, you did the thing. They don’t get that if you want it and you need something, doing it once is a joke. It’s like before you hit the first rung of the ladder. Making the movie was not the thing. Motivational Growth great movie. I love it. It’s the thing that started my career and I will support it forever. I put all of myself into that movie, but it was the first of many. In my estimation I got 38 films in me before I die so hopefully I will make those 38 films. The second group of people are the people who are like “You are crazy. I’m happy you made a movie but it’s a fluke and you are doing unwise things. You don’t have a 401k or health insurance. You’re not an adult.” and they just expect you to fail. Then there is the third-party that is like “Cool man, what are you going to do next.” Those are the people you gotta hang out with. All of those answers are part of one thing and that is to keep going.
I started to do some short films and some pickup work all the while flogging Motivational Growth. I started this cool theme and the next thing in my company where we do little short films associated with video games. We cut them down into a small format to play on TV and on the Internet. Some jerks call them commercials but they are short films, man. Basically we shoot a 5 to 15 minute short film and cut a commercial format thing out of it and release the full one online. Basically I’m partnering with really cool teams and really cool companies making cool short films that advertise the hell out of that game. We kind of specialize in bringing the game world to real life, but that’s what we do to keep the doors open. That’s the story. I wanted to do it since I was 4 and a half and I was lead astray from the path of the American quasi-dream and then I gave it all up to make movies. So I’m making movies.
DFAT: I love how you mixed the video game feel with having the 16-bit graphics and music for scenes in the movie. What brought that together?
DT: I love two things on this planet, I love video-games and I love movies. I love storytelling really and both of those are a really great medium to do so. I love the separation of those two media via agency so you pop on a movie and you just wait for the director to show you something awesome. In a video-game, you have control. I love both of those forms of storytelling and I’m going to be a huge dork and tell you that the art of cinema moving pictures with music and special effects and visual effects, that to me is the highest form of storytelling. You have control of time, visual, audio, and all the major communicative forms. You can play with every little bit and you can crack the moments. I believe in my humble opinion and I’m a filmmaker so there is a certain bias, I think it’s a higher form than novels and theater. Not because they are terrible, I love both but as far as telling a distinct story. I read a book and my friend reads a book and we see different things. But if we both watch Avatar we see the same thing and it’s basic, visually you see what James Cameron designed. If you read “it’s a big cat person” I’m thinking a big furry thing and someone else could be thinking a tall Sam Worthington in a Muppet costume. People like books because it’s a descriptivist sort of thing, it allows the reader to invent a thing and it takes agency away from the storytelling. I want to tell you a story. I want you to hear My story. I want you to understand what I’m saying and not make some stuff up. I read voraciously I love books and I’m not telling you books and novels are bad. I’m just telling you when I read them I am not reading what the writer wrote, I’m reading what I think that means. So that’s hard.
Theater is awesome but I think it’s limited because of physics. You can’t bend time in theater. You can blow up dudes but it’s normally a huge ordeal and a big mess. One show does it a year. You can’t go and bend reality, fly around the camera, get up close into someones eye, or watch a guy climb a mountain. I’m sure theater people are hating everything I’m saying and they want to tell me all the cool ways you can do this, but I never experienced it. I think I can pop in Jurassic Park and watch dinosaurs run around and eat people. That’s great to me, that’s storytelling.
I like video games as well I write narrative for video games. I have programmed a number of games. I’m currently working on 2 games. If you talk to Don, Don is movies and video games. So when Don makes movies, it’s going to be a movie with video games.
On a more linear note that is associated with Motivational Growth, the movie takes place in 1991. I wanted to scream at the audience a certain sense. It’s a period piece but I didn’t want to come out and say have a title card “July 1991” there are KMFDM posters from a concert in 1990 up there it’s all circa 1980’s and 90’s.
DFAT: I noticed there’s a reference to Gene Roddenberry just died
DT: He just died in 1991. I wanted to tell you that visually as well. If you are between the ages of 27 and 40, I show you a 16 bit video game you are instantly taken back to 1990. I wanted to tell you this takes place in 1990 so what’s on TV? a weird workout tape lady, a yoga girl from the ghetto.
DFAT: I loved the alien cop.
DT: “Officer Zygor: Alien Cop” You are getting a whole bunch of exclusive stuff here. The joke for office Zygor Alien Cop is that it takes place in the late 80’s Detroit precinct. An alien spacecraft crashes to Earth “He crashed to Earth chasing a terrible alien outlaw in deep space”. When you watch the movie that’s my voice doing the voice-overs. He crashes to Earth and is effectively a human being. The only difference between him and any human is that he has the chin thing. He’s got a heart, he’s got ribs and spleen, he needs riboflavin in his diet. He crashes in late 80’s Detroit where there is hyper racism. He’s an alien cop so on Earth he joins the police force obviously. The cops there are 90% African-American. The gag is the whole show Office Zygor is trying to explain that his fellow officers can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be judged by their physical appearance. “You’re saying that cause I’m from the Niterian Sector aren’t you?” And he’s white too which is even better, explaining to these black cops like they can’t get it. To him everyone is just human. Humans have varying colors but that doesn’t matter to him because he thinks it’s all because he’s an alien. “He shot at me first because I’m an alien.” It’s a stupid ironic thing.
There is also a cool commercial for a video game called StarrMazer. Which is a point and click horizontal shoot em up adventure game, which also is a game I intend to make. I got a kick-starter ready to launch. I just have to wait for the right window perhaps after the holiday season. StarrMazer. I’ve got all the tools and skills. I got a cool dude from Pixel Jam who wants to do all the bullet physics, I’m going to fully voice the point and click adventure parts with cast members of films and stuff that I have been working on. It’s a really cool concept and I really want to do it. Potentially, I have a distribution partner already and I’m excited about it. I need to put a video game in there because I love it. I want to give you an exclusive story.
DFAT: We like stories…
DT: OK, so originally everything was going to cut to the live action TV and back to the video game commercial but there is a pivotal scene where Ian is down and talking to the mold for the very first time and he is face to face with the fungus. The first time he talks to him he’s kinda in the background while Ian is leaving the bathroom. It’s weird and kind of hazy and he doesn’t know what’s going on. There is a pivotal scene called Scene 24 where he discusses with The Mold the fact that The Mold is actually talking to him. This is the first time it happens in the movie. We had at the time a DIT, which is a guy that handles the data on a digital shoot, he was kinda new and we shot all the footage and sent everyone home and we were in Post production. We were missing a single day of film, the audio was all there but the video wasn’t for Scene 24. That was something we could not cut, we couldn’t lose it because it was the first time the main character meets the antagonist. I was in a pickle. Originally Ian was going to travel into the Television into a Mexican Teledrama. “El Demonia que hace trofeos de los hombres” The demoness who makes trophies of men, which is a film reference to Predator. Where she says they come in the hottest of seasons and this season it grows hot. I changed it to El Demonia to be the female demon. It was a Mexican melodrama like the girl who was sleeping with 5 guys on soap operas you see on Telemundo. Ian was originally going to travel into there but we hadn’t shot that yet and we were missing the video from Scene 24, so I replaced all the El Demonia stuff to him traveling into this video game. So we animated a couple real world sequences to blur the line between fantasy and reality I like to tell people two stories.
- I’m a perfectionist and a combination of all the directors that you would pompously say at a party to show that you know films. I tell people that we tried to obscure the line between fantasy and reality so you don’t know if Ian was really talking to The Mold or having a weird fantasy. We did what they did in Robocop and didn’t explore the actual look of the creature until very much later in the film. When Murphy first gets up and walks through the police station you don’t really see him for a while, things and people are in the way of the POV shots and you get a quick side glance as he walks through a group of people. Then you see him through frosted glass, then you see his foot, then you see him turn the corner and you see his back. You don’t get to see him because they are selling the idea that the dude in the rubber suit is not just a dude in the rubber suit. So they withhold the reveal and make you wonder what’s going on. So me, the amazing artist I am animated the first sequence between Ian and The Mold because I wanted the viewer to question whether or not the mold was actually talking to Ian. When you see that the mold is actually talking to Ian you are going to be amazed and that is going to be my artistic expression. That is all bullshit.
- The reality is we lost the video and I had to do something so I made it a cartoon which was great. I did like Savage Steve did in Better Off Dead when they lost the footage and just animate it
DFAT: Your secret is safe with us.
DT: Yeah, except you are going to print it on the interview. So maybe not
DFAT: It’ll be a secret with our community.
DT: I imagine your community is massive so everyone on Earth will know when this goes out. We did the 8 bit music and the 16 bit graphics. I love the idea of animating Ian. He looks so weird animated with his big head. I did really want to work with the animator we had Jérémie Périn from Paris who is an amazing animator. He did Flairs, Truckers Delight. It’s raunchy because it’s French so don’t watch it with your kids. Cool pixel animation, I really wanted to work with him more than just on the commercials so getting to work with him more on the narrative stuff was really incredible. I hope to one day work with that guy again. He doesn’t just do pixel stuff, he does it incredibly well so that’s the story with animated stuff in the film.
Here’s the thing 3 weeks before the movie came out I had 900 interviews a week and they wouldn’t stop and all asked the same five questions. So now you get all the fresh excitement. And not just like “Yes, it was Jeffrey Combs, he is great, shut up” it’s great and I’m all excited to talk about my movie again.
DFAT: We read a few of the interviews online and I was trying to not hit on the exact same questions they had.
DT: Good, people always ask the same 5 questions “Where did you get the idea for Motivational Growth?” Thank you for meeting me Ridley Scott, where did the idea for Alien come from? He’s going to tell you I was hired to make a movie. Can we go to something interesting?
DFAT: I noticed when a lot of people write their characters, they will come out of people they know or aspects of them, Where did Ian come from?
DT: Ian is me circa 1999. I was really unhappy living in LA. A lot of the opening sequence stuff is just me. I was staying in the little flop in LA with 4 people and I had a portion of a bedroom. I moved to LA thinking you move to LA and they just give you a budget and an academy award and you are forever famous. I’m from Detroit, I was 19 and I moved to LA and it turns out LA is a soul crushing hate machine full of lies and terror and it’s like got walls around made out of the tears of people who wanted to do something amazing. I’m not really down on LA but that’s what happens when you move there when you are 19 and expect a budget. I go to LA a lot and it’s awesome. So I was living in this apartment and I wasn’t allowed in the common area because I didn’t pay for that. I would sneak out in my underwear and secretly turn on the TV and watch Telemundo or anything else that was on. I would cry and be an emo 19-year-old. If the television was taken away from me I would die.
DFAT: Did you name your television as well?
DT: …no. Kent is actually named after the sub antagonist crony from Real Genius. I put a shit ton of Real Genius in Motivational Growth. At one point Ian is wearing a I heart toxic waste t-shirt. I thought to myself immediately after “Hey man, that’s a really cool premise for a movie” so basically Ian was me. What I wanted to do was when I looked back to pitch a movie for a quarter of a million I thought what can I make that’s small? What can I make to explore something interesting in an interesting way? I thought I’m 30 now, let’s go back at look at some of the earlier ideas that I had. If you look back into your old shit when you were young and you thought you knew everything and you had no perspective and you thought “I am the center of the universe” you look at your stuff and you realize it’s shit. But you can look at that shit and re-imagine it. So I thought “What if I use my adult acumen and experiences and I take that feeling that I had when I was 19 and I wanted to die in front of this stupid television. Wouldn’t it be interesting if I tried to take that and re-purpose it through a 30-year-old lens. So I made Motivational Growth which is a sort of cartoony film about depression, where the character tries to kill himself. I took that melodrama when you are 19 and I put it through a storytellers lens. I spiked the levels and changed the colors and I tried to make it something interesting to care about. I started it with Ian being effectively me.
When I gave my script to my mom for the first time, she was like “Don you just wrote you man.” Funny story, I haven’t had to live with my mom since I was a teenager so she didn’t know what I was like day-to-day. Her version of me was the 19-year-old me, which I felt was great like I really did my job there. Everyone else is just like a cartoon. Wouldn’t it be cool to blow out some ideas, like Box the Ox is like a crazy landlord guy, I thought it would be neat if he was like a lovable bigot. I love the idea that there is this big brutish guy who can beat you to death and break and chimpanzee’s arm and you kinda like him. The delivery girl, I thought it would be cool to have a punky girl invade his space and at one point she was like, ah you live here, alright. Everyone else is like holy shit everything is terrible and I wanted to give it a perspective of someone who can kind of accept him. But he feels superior to her which I thought would be a good dimension to give Ian. The only person in the film who sees his apartment and says hey man that’s kinda neat. He’s like fuck you get out of my house. And I thought that was a really interesting turn.
DFAT: There is one shot that was a closeup of her lips playing with her tongue ring, was that supposed to sexualize her? (Interviewer’s Note: In hindsight after the interview I realized that this question actually says more about me than it does the film)
DT: I originally did a cut where I did sexualize the hell out of her. That girl, when you put lipstick on her and she chews gum for some reason… I’m not saying this as a dude looking at girls, I’m saying this as a filmmaker trying to show pictures. When you put a person on film everything changes, the whole world changes. I was originally going to have a delivery boy but she came in for an audition for Leia. She walks in with a motorcycle helmet on with a leather jacket, 10 minutes late to the audition and she takes her helmet off and says “yo, is there any place I can put my helmet?” And I was like, you are not Leia but I think I have something for you. She’s chewing gum and popping bubbles and is like “yeah, do you want me to like read?” You are not Leia, Leia is like the perfect girl next door but you are something. When you meet her in real life you are like “she’s a cool girl and kind of edgy” but when you look at her through a camera lens all you see is lips and her mouth while she chews gum constantly. She does this gag where she would move this giant tongue piercing across her teeth in general conversation. I have a kind of mouth thing and she’s talking and I can only see the weird shit she is doing with her mouth. The first cut we tried to sexualize her with the makeup having the red on there and I kind of sexualized her a bit but that didn’t feel right. Ian is not super sexual and any time anything gets even slightly sexual he gets weirded out. If you watch it again you will notice that Ian is just staring at her mouth the whole time and she is annoying him. Anything she says he can’t notice that, he’s just staring at her mouth and he’s like I don’t know what you are saying but you need to leave. We cut right to her lips and her rolling the tongue ring so that was Vanessa. It’s cool to have a character where in a different world Ian could be like “hey do you want to help me clean up and maybe watch some TV and read some comics.” She would be like, “yeah, I have to deliver a couple of things but I can come back.” She’s the only person in the film where he could have a realistic human conversation and he totally rejects her because of it. He hates her and wants her to leave and she’s like the most annoying thing. She’s not really annoying even the character is not.
Leia was perfect. We have like 230 reviews of our film online and like 18 shitty ones who hate it for no reason. Now by shitty I don’t mean negative reviews. There were some that were negative but had some really good constructive criticism that I write in a notebook and take with me to the next movie. The 18 shitty ones were more like “It’s dumb and shitty and I WANT TRANSFORMERS!!!” Some of the shitty reviews were like “No girl would get puked on and want to hang out with the guy afterwards, she should be puking and unhappy, that’s unrealistic” Yeah, of course it is, that’s the point. Half the movie the guy is talking to a fucking fungus and you didn’t say anything about that.
DFAT: (Laughing) Apparently the suspension of disbelief stops at the girl getting puked on and not the talking mold.
DT: The talking fungus is fine! He’s great! Not one review did anyone complain about the mold being unrealistic. Look man, I won, I won the game, I won the match, I made a movie where 50% of the character is a talking mold. I won the game. There is not a single review that says the mold is shit.
DFAT: Who made the mold?
DT: I lucked out man. Here’s the thing, you give a person a quarter of a million dollars they are happy. You give a filmmaker a quarter of a million dollars he wants to throw up. You can’t make a movie with a quarter of a million dollars. I mean, you can and it has happened but my scope is a bit bigger. I have like animatronics and blood and special effects. It isn’t just two people talking over coffee about feelings. I had a to get a guy that could execute once.
Special effects in motion pictures are horrible. They are the worst even the best ones. If you watch “The Thing” you are like “Oh my god the practical effects are amazing” Rob Bottin went to the hospital due to stress and filming for over 24 hour periods. It never works, it’s always good. It always looks amazing but it never works. I didn’t have the budget to get a guy that could make something in multiple takes. I needed a guy that could do it and get it done in one take or two takes maximum. So I started to look for special effects guys and I was looking for a guy that could pull it off. Steve Tolin did a play called “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” which apparently is an incredibly bloody play which all has to happen in real time on stage. For 200 nights a year this guy has to hold up a fake shotgun and blow another guys face off consistently. He won awards for this play that he did all around the world so I knew this guy could build a thing that would work. I lucked out because not only did his stuff work it was also incredible. His company is Tolin effects out of Pittsburgh which is amazing. I worked with him on the general shape of the mold and brought in some mech guys for the animatronics. Andrew Hosmer is one of them he also brought his special effects make-up team with Midian Crosby. She has a company Monster Make-up Effects in Colorado they are amazing she did all the makeup as well as the alien makeup. Jeff Waltroski is an incredible filmmaker himself. He released some really awesome films. They all came together. I got guys who saw the potential of The Mold to be an iconic thing. If the Mold doesn’t work the film doesn’t work.
One of the happiest moments of my life was getting this video from a shitty flip phone of The Mold and I wanted to cry, it was beautiful. It was the most beautiful 240×140 pixel resolution video I have ever seen. It was perfect and they came on the day over-prepared. They skinned it multiple times and they only needed the one skin. On a movie where the special effects are so big it was actually the one aspect of the film I didn’t have to worry about. Except for Adrian, Adrian is amazing. But the special effects didn’t need any kind of push not once. So if you are making a movie and you need a practical effects guy that knows his shit, Steve Tolin form Tolin Effects. The whole movie rests of those guys. I could really say that about anyone in the movie. The whole movie rests on Adrian DiGiovanni. Do you know who the movie doesn’t rest on? me.
DFAT: I know you’ve gotten a lot of “How was it working with Jeffrey Combs?” Did he improv any dialog or was it all written?
DT: I have a thing, I wrote the movie so I don’t want people changing my lines. When you write a movie you think you are God. Four hours go buy and you eat three bags of Doritos and drink six Mountain Dews and you write one word and you are God. People should be worshiping you. That is what it feels like to write a film and it’s stupid. But, once you put 120 pages together, you don’t want anybody changing that. But that is as a writer.
As a director I look at my own script that I wrote and I think to myself “Who the fuck wrote this? This is stupid. How am I supposed to get from this point to that point? How am I supposed to shoot this? Oh great, you wrote a thing where a guy travels into a television, how the hell am I supposed to show that?” There is a totally different thing from where you are writing there is this universe that you get into. If you watch any of my other films or videos on imagosfilms.com I play with language. Language is super important to me and what’s cool about Jeff is that he has worked a shit ton of Star Trek. He was always talking that Star Trek bullshit language and Jeff can read that and spit it out perfectly like nobody’s business. I gave him the script full of complicated language. If you listen, half of the shit is literally made up. Those aren’t real phrases, I made those up. I stole a bunch of 50’s greaser slang and I wanted the idea that The Mold wasn’t a 50’s greaser but he was like a greaser dude’s dad. This asshole who would turn a wonderful young kid into a guy that rolls a pack of cigarettes up into his sleeve and beats girls. That’s the kind of character I wanted from The Mold. This authoritative bigoted aggressive manipulative asshole and I used a bunch of slang to give him all this kind of flavor. I made most of it up, that’s a gag that I like to do. I have a flair for the grammatic.
I like playing with Language so of course Jeff couldn’t change any of it. However, at one point in the film, and this is how an artist knows his art, Ian runs into the bathroom saying to The Mold “you gotta be quiet Leia’s here” and out of nowhere Jeffrey Combs yells “Bitchin’!!” I had to use it because it was perfect. I told him no improv. Stick to the lines and he’s like “sure thing boss” but that moment came and he saw the moment and he took it. It’s funny because even if someone hates the movie they still laugh at the Bitchin’ line. That was from Jeff’s improv even though I told him not to. He kicked ass and he improv’d the one line that always gets the laugh. A few times we had the scene and I had him improv some stuff after and he came up with the coolest shit but it definitely didn’t fit the flow of the movie. But, that bitchin’ was perfect. It was one of those moments where you are in the studio and you’re like, “Yup that’s golden”
Stay Tooned for the next part of our interview with Don Thacker, director of Motivational Growth.