Isolation- we've all dealt with it in some way in our lives. Whether it was that summer everyone went to camp but you, being the new guy at the office, or, in the case of Joel David Moore
, by possibly killing a slew of women. The key word there is possibly, because when you're seeing this Hitchcockien suspense driven film you only find out the truth at the end, after becoming invested in the characters so that the answer actually matters. Starpulse spoke with scribe/star Joel David Moore (Dodgeball
, Art School Confidential
) and co-writer Jeremy Boreing about the role of isolation in their film, a cause for its prevalence in modern America, and their fledgling production company Coattails Entertainment.
How did the partnership between you two begin?
Joel David Moore
It began because Jeremy happened to have a truck. 6 years ago I needed to move something. He was a buddy of a buddy. I was on the phone, walking around, like I am now, and I saw his truck and I kicked it. I said, "That's a good truck." He said, "Yeah." I said, "I need something moved. A couch. You think you could move a couch?" He said, "Yep." We came back, we moved the couch, and the rest is history.
: The funny thing about owning a pickup is that random stranger are always stopping you. One of the big regrets of my life is that it wasn't Steven Spielberg
who kicked my tire that day.
It was that guy from Dodgeball. No, not that guy, the other one.
So when did the two of you start throwing ideas around?
: Pretty quickly. Joel approached me with a short film he had written. He was interested in doing something with it and asked for notes. I read it and felt like the characters he had created were really interesting and really dynamic--that really what we should do is put them in some sort of environment that would be feature length. The story Joel had originally conceived was not the story we had in the film. Thematically, it was similar. It was an examination of this lonely person's thought processes. So we took those characters and that theme and set about trying to craft a story that we thought would lend itself to a feature.
Really, what happened was, I don't want to say we "Pulled from our own lives", but we wrote a lot at Joel's house and he's a big fan of an artist called Coburn Hartsell. He had several of Coburn's pieces on the wall and we realized quickly that a great way for this character, Mason, to explore his relationship with the female character, Amber, would be through the use of art. So by the time the script was written, we convinced Coburn Hartsell, the guy who inspired us in that direction, to do the paintings for the film. Similarly, we were very good friends with Zac Levi
), he was one of the partners in our company and a close buddy. We were, from the very beginning, in creating the character of Berkeley, modeling it after Zac, to create something he could bring his talents to. The guys who scored the film, Todd Caldwell and Fish Herring, are also friends of ours. During the writing of the script, we were listening to songs that Todd had written. It was these elements of our experience that became the story of Spiral.
: It was either a really creative process or a really lazy process. We just looked around the room and said, "Yeah, that'll do."
So what are some other elements that you pulled from your own life and your own experiences to create this story?
: Joel may or may not murder women.
: In my bathroom at night.
: I was for that.
: A lot of the characteristics of the character Mason are things that I brought to it, albeit magnified a lot. I have a lot of ticks and -isms that were brought into the character. The clicking of teeth that Mason has is a magnified version of something I catch myself doing when I'm nervous. Putting layers of these character traits was very important to us. Having Berkley have this machismo thing that he's obviously covering something up with--always punching to make the joke, never allowing himself to be too vulnerable in any situation.
: And I think that the main element of the film is loneliness and isolation and the different ways that people deal with it. I think that that's something that not only we're interested in, but a lot of people experience on some level in their lives. Our three main characters are suffering from the same problems of isolation and loneliness. The way that it manifests in their lives, and the effect that it has on their personalities and their responses to it are a lot different. Berkley seems cool on the outside but he's very abusive to women in his own way and has very shallow relationships with people other than Mason and his wife. That stems from his loneliness.
I think that Amber, in her attraction to Mason, is rooted in her loneliness and an inability to have friendships with people who are more mainstream and normal. Mason himself is someone that we, in this business, can relate to. The funny thing is, a lot of these Hollywood people who become the standard bearers of what's cool in the country weren't cool in high school. The cool guys in high school got to play football and marry their high school sweethearts and stayed in their hometown. All of us losers came up to Hollywood and set about trying to be cool.
I think that Mason--he's obviously an exaggerated version of that artist character who is awkward in the real world and in his 9 to 5 job he can't find within himself the ability to relate to other people, but in his own environment, in his art--he really excels. He's able to be expressive, and intuitive, and insightful, and really thrive. None of us in the group are the caricature of Mason, but I think that we all relate to that experience that he has.
: Also, we wanted to put him in an awkward, cold environment so that the audience can see the nervous energy that Mason has. The phone bank, where he has to deal with hundreds of people on a daily basis. One of the things that marks Mason's dealings with other people is the scene where I walk up to Ryan Chase's character and ask him to help me and just get completely verbally thrown off to the wayside. I can't get help from anybody, and you can see the despair that Mason has to deal with because he can't communicate. It's an innocent despair. It's this longing to want to be involved with other people but there's this inability to communicate, to have any connection with people.
Do you think that this sort of loneliness, isolation, and difficulty in communicating with others is becoming more prevalent?
: I think that one of the issues we're dealing with now is that we've embraced the idea of individuality so much that we're almost cultured to be isolationist in a way. I think that it manifests itself in a funny way. We all probably have more friends and broader basis's for friendship than people had in years past, but maybe the quality of those friendships are different. I think that it doesn't take a lot of observation of the world to realize that there's quantity over quality in human interactions. That sort of prevalent superficiality. I don't say that from a place of judgment, just observation. I see it in my own life- that we relate to each other on the 30-second sound bite level. I think that that's something that may be a byproduct of all the technology and the ease with which we communicate. I think it's something that's worth exploring and worth guarding against as best we can.
: It is something that we did explore. I think it's interesting that Mason has no technology that he uses. He uses a computer and a phone at the phone bank, but at home, you never see a computer. We kept a very classic environment in his loft. He has an old record player and sits and paints in there. If the audience can look around and see where he spends most of his time, it's a very simple environment in there. We did that on purpose. We didn't want him to have the ease of hopping on the Internet and having that ease of communication. He's a guy that had a traumatic past and hasn't dealt with it. He wears all of his emotions on his sleeve.
What was your intention when making this film?
: We obviously went for making a film that was in the Hitchcockian genre. It's very deliberately paced and it's something that was an exploration of character for guys like Zac and I who have predominantly done comedy, and that's one of the reasons we chose to write this film for our company, because we wanted to branch out, not only as actors, but as filmmakers. I love Hitchcock
and I love these old stylistic dramas and character pieces. Of course, we can't do it like he did it--he's Hitchcock. But because of who he is, and he's such a unique filmmaker, we were able to at least be in the genre of the kind of movie he made.
I think that what I'm most proud of about this movie is the style that is has, the cinematic appeal for such a low budget movie. We made a choice to spend money to get Panavision cameras and shoot on Kodak film, their Vision stock, which is such a beautiful stock. It's expensive. It would have been a lot easier for us to do it on HD and HD is wonderful. We'll probably shoot our next movie on HD. But for this specific movie, we wanted it to have the warmth and the life that film brings to the project.
You mentioned that you, Joel, and a few others have a production company.
: Yeah, Coattails Entertainment. We knew that we were on a path to all be working together. The company kind of came out of us doing Spiral. It was the catalyst of understanding that the four of us could come together and do more of these. We've produced a couple films since and we will continue to do it. Jeremy and I are writing a comedy. We're going back to that side of it for a while. We continue to push and be creative and find out what the next project as a company can be. We're always looking for good scripts and new, talented writers, and people who want to work with us on things.
What's next for Coattails Entertainment?
: We have a film called Shadowheart that we produced. That will be coming out later this year. We have a couple projects that we have optioned and are working on. We're trying to find the next project for us to dive into. The writers' strike puts a little button on what's going on. I'm overseas shooting, so when I'm done with that, we'll find something nice and meaty that we can sink our teeth into.
Excellent. Is there anything you can tell me about the comedy that you're working on?
: That it's funny.
: (laughs) I'm not even willing to go that far, Joel.
: Is it a drama? Maybe I'm confused. It's a buddy comedy and it's very outlandish, and gets back to the roots of what Zac and I are known for on the comedy side. It'll be shticky, but it'll also have a lot of heart.
And, just so people can know, Spiral comes out in theaters on Feb. 1. Check your local listings. It's got a smaller theatrical release and then it goes wide on DVD, Feb 19th. We did that because we wanted the buzz and the momentum to move straight forward into the DVD release. If you're not in one of the cities it's playing, you can always rent or buy the DVD. I think you'll really like it.
Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer