In the days heading up to the premier of Baghead, the Sony Pictures Classics camper about a group of four friends who hole themselves up in a cabin to write a screenplay
before their idea of writing a horror movie comes to life, the amount of buzz surrounding it has been growing quite positively. It was an official selection into the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and has garnered critical praise from Roger Roeper, NPR and Variety.
We got the chance to sit down with writers/directors Jay and Mark Duplass, as well two of the stars of the film, Ross Partridge and Greta Gerwig.
What was the inspiration to do this film?
Jay: We wanted to make a movie that was about something that was weirdly scary and funny at the same time. We were sitting around trying to think of an idea of what's scary and someone came up with the idea of a guy with a bag over his head. That's like the most lo-fi version. Most scary movies aren't even scary; they're movies about people mutilating each other, which is kind of gross and not scary. But even the scary movies are tending to go to more and more extremes of what that thing has to be. We were like, "That doesn't really scare me because that doesn't exist." What scares me is, "There's a guy outside my window with a bag over his head and I don't know who the hell he is, or what he's doing there." It's relatively reasonable to think that it could happen.
Mark: And it's also pretty funny too, when you think about it.
Jay: It was just that dichotomy that you could laugh at that and still be pretty scared at the same thing, was really fascinating to us.
What led you to choosing the four principles in the film?
Jay: I met Greta on the movie Hannah Takes the Stairs. I really liked her and thought she was a natural and was convinced that she had the same qualities that our character Michelle required. We met Ross at a film festival; we not only thought he was a great guy, but we saw that he shared our sense of ambition; a sort of nervous energy that was the desire to get something done. Steve was the president of our high school student council.
Mark: He's our muse!
Jay: And then we cased Elise out of a Backstage ad. Most importantly, we really liked these people and wanted to hang out with them, and could stand hanging out them for three weeks in a cabin while we shot the film. That was important!
Ross, I saw your listed of credits on imdb.com, which are pretty lengthy. How was it for you going from all the supporting role work that you've done in the past to this role where you are essentially the engine for the four characters?
Mark: He's the cooker.
Ross: To me, it never felt like a responsibility. It always felt like a collaboration; I didn't feel like a had to carry the film. I've done other films where I've played parts where I've tried to carry the project, but in this film it was never a problem.
Mark: I think Ross is good at carrying things. He's got a big dad vibe. We hired him as a producer in our last film because he's so good at that. He would drive everybody back and forth to and from the set. All of a sudden on day two he's setting up lights; by day four he's cooking dinner for the crew.
Would you say you're like your character Matt?
Ross: There are some elements that I'm like, some for better and some for worse.
Mark: Ross is a little smarter than Matt. He gets shit done. I mean Matt does too, but…
Greta: His shit's good!
Mark: Right! [laughs]
Jay: Matt's represents the television version of us. When we get our eyes set on an idea, we become less sensitive to the people around us, and we develop this mad energy and get focused.
Mark: We hope that we're not destroying the relationships any more when we're trying to get things done-
Jay: Unless we're making a film, and then it's a given.
Greta, your character Michelle surprised me the most. At the beginning of the movie, something told me that your character would probably be the least important, because she was so nice and innocent. But after you all got to the cabin, your character went through the widest range of emotion and dynamics.
Greta: When I got the script, Mark and Jay gave me a lot of freedom. I bought her wardrobe, decided how she wore her hair, and I wore this pink nail polish throughout the film. I was able to bring a lot of physical elements to the girl, and then I just got completely into who she was, and was psyched to get to know who she was. During filming, Mark and Jay weren't telling me that I had to be this way or that way during certain scenes, and sometimes when we'd improve it out, it kept pushing the boundaries of who she was as a person. I don't think a person can be one thing all the time, or everything all at once.
Jay: Michelle was the youngest in the group. She was new to Los Angeles and wasn't quite sure who she was yet.
Mark: She was trying out new things all of the time.
How does it feel when you stop and realize that in your career you've had multiple entries at Sundance?
Jay: To a lot of people, that's a big deal. …..?
Mark: I have to be honest and say that there was a point in our lives when we couldn't even think about the possibility of having a feature at Sundance, and then that was literally the apex of everything we could have ever wanted. But we're desperate guys who want more. And we work and work, and then sometimes, I might look at an old journal that I might have written in as a kid or see old pictures of us, and I'll think, "Wow, we've had four movies at Sundance, and we have deals with major studios who want to do projects with us." The surreal part, and I know this sounds cliché, but it's really about us just making stuff. Getting paid is awesome, but really, we just want to make stuff.
Greta: I'm going to start working on a project that's tentatively called Art House, about an art commune being bought up by a golf course. Iggy Pop is going to be in it, and I'm playing his daughter. [pause]I look like I be part of Iggy's spawn! I think?
Ross: You know, just fielding offers to do studio movies, deciding what I want to do. I want to get out of the independent world since there's no money in it. I'll make a big Hollywood movie and make like twelve million dollars after Baghead does so well, and then we're gonna go back and make like ten more independents…
Mark: He has to keep up the indie cred… [laughs]
Do you plan on staying the independent course?
Jay: I think it'll be a combination probably. We can't say for sure, but we'll always love making these movies like this. They can get done quicker, so there's an easier chance to get movies like this made. With that being said, we sold a bunch of scripts to studios and they want us to direct those movies. When those iron out, which takes a lot more time, we'll do those.
Mark: If we could make movies that we love inside the studio system then we would absolutely do it.