Back in November, we told you about the best film that film festivals didn't understand: Kevin Hamedani's Junk. Today the film is available on iTunes and DVD, so we sat down with Kevin to discuss its trajectory and what he picked up from crafting his unique take on friendship and filmmaking.
Part of what made the movie so intimidating to the festival world is that it doesn't fit neatly into any particular box. It's not entirely a hilarious look at the festival circuit (though it does offer some spot-on observations), and it's definitely not another generic movie about young people trying to sort themselves out. Before you even start the film, Kevin would like you to know "that it's not a stoner comedy," he explained. "It's actually a bromance with some heart, and I would say some insight into being a creative person, the struggles of independent filmmakers in particular."
Indeed, what we have is a film that works on multiple levels. B-movie screenwriters Kaveh (played by Kevin) and Raul (co-writer Ramon Isao) haven't seen each other in a year, and it's not too hard to fathom why: the former is a stoner who can't let go of his ex-girlfriend, while the latter is at Columbia University and in a committed relationship. The two are involuntarily brought back together when one of their movies gets into an obscure film festival in Seattle, forcing them to deal not only with each other, but the various characters that populate film festivals, an enigmatic producer who could jump-start their careers, and an overeager festival liaison named Billy (brilliantly played by a familiar face, Brett Davern).
"I think the heart of the film lies in the reunion scene between Kevin and Raul," Kevin said. "That's when people start to realize the film's a little more deeper. A little more personal. A little more human."
And it's honestly not that hard to grasp. The movie made the rounds in Los Angeles and Seattle last fall, which he told us " was a complete success. Non-filmmakers loved it. Non-festival attendees loved it. Regular audience members, when we did the theatrical run, didn't even think about the film festival. It was just a backdrop."
Junk's heroes go through things that can be near universally identified with. We're introduced to Raul through his writing class, where the professor wants to know if he minds the group discussing what they hate about his latest story. It hits the nail on the head when it comes to the frustrations of being a writer - but also the irritation of dealing with anyone above you who really is full of it. There's Kaveh trying, however unsuccessfully at first, to prove that he's changed and isn't going to waste his life getting high. And you'll learn by the end of the movie that you really shouldn't screw with Billy. In the middle of all this, there are appearances from actual film festival veterans and musical performances by OK Go that are little pleasant surprises throughout.
Then there's the fact that all these guys just want to be able to do something that they love without having other people screw it up. Serving as the co-star, co-writer and director of a film commenting on what it's like to try and make a film, Kevin learned a few things along the way himself. "I learned a lot," he said. "I don't know where to begin. I guess the main thing I learned was, never lose hope. If you believe in a project, if you believe it's good, you should hold onto that belief."
In addition to the film itself, if you pick Junk up on DVD, be sure to check out the commentary track with Kevin, Ramon and Brett, which is alternately informative and endearing. The passion these guys - and really, everyone from their supporting cast to their crew - have for their project comes out in the commentary. In this cynical, often overcomplicated business, it's refreshing to hear from folks who just simply enjoy making movies and want to share that enjoyment with the rest of us.
"Brett, Ramon and I hadn't seen it in at least maybe a year or two together," Kevin told us. "The three of us having a drink, watching the film, it was great. Brett says it was the most fun he's ever had on a film set. You'll just hear a lot of anecdotes."
Luckily for us, the trio is already talking about working together again in the future, potentially on a web series. And as for Kevin himself, he's stepping out from the comedy world into a new direction. "I'm starting a drama, a family drama," he explained. "I signed on a really great producer named Max Borenstein - he's the writer of the new Godzilla film - and we're developing it."
If his take on drama is even half as good as his comedic work, it'll be worth waiting on the edge of your seat for. Thankfully, audiences are finally starting to grasp what Junk really is. "We haven't gotten a single bad review. It just needs exposure," Kevin told us. "It's a good human dramedy. It's not just a slapstick comedy." What we'd call it is one of the best small films we've ever seen.