The Aug. 28 edition of Austin Film Festival's 'On Story' podcast featured an inspiring conversation with film makers Jay and Mark Duplass. The Duplass brothers are the men behind great films like “The Puffy Chair”, “Baghead” and “Cyrus.” Throughout the interview, Jay and Mark shared their influences growing up, the importance of blending drama and comedy and the best advice they ever received on film making.
The Duplass brothers first gained attention from the film industry with their short “This is John” about a man who is near a nervous breakdown because he can't get the greeting right on his answering machine. They made the film for only three dollars and introduced the world to a new, very human version of comedy. Jay and Mark discussed the success that followed and how they had to say “no” hundreds of times to big studio money for working on sub-par films. They went on to make “The Puffy Chair” in the same vein as their shorts, proving that trusting your instincts and not over-thinking things is the way to go. As Jay put it, “thinking about art, isn't making art.”
“It's free to make films now,” they stated, encouraging young film makers to get out there and make a movie. The Duplass brothers are consistently making thoughtful, funny movies full of “real” characters for a fraction of the cost that a studio spends to make a romantic comedy. They made their indie horror film “Baghead” for only $50,000 and by self financing, they control all of the rights to the project, as well as all of the profits.
The Duplass brothers have teamed up with studios for “Cyrus,” starring John C. Reilly and “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” with Jason Segel. They are also working with HBO on the new show “Togetherness” in which they will be writing and directing with Mark also appearing on screen alongside Ken Marino and their frequent collaborator Steve Zissis.
The interview ended with Jay and Mark discussing the importance of putting your energy towards making the best possible project, rather than spending time marketing a sub-par film on the back end. They shared the best advice that they received early in their career and that is to “make shorts, not longs.” They went on to explain that film festivals are able to be more flexible with their programming of films that are eight minutes and under.