EXCLUSIVE: Matt Besser Talks ‘Freak Dance’ DVD

We also have an exclusive clip from this raucous and revved up dance comedy musical, available this Tuesday, July 10th.
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Matt Besser Talks Freak Dance

Matt Besser talks Freak Dance, on DVD this Tuesday, July 10th

There are dance movies. And then there's Freak Dance, the movie to end all dance movies, finally putting the genre back in its rightful place. Arriving on DVD this Tuesday, June 10th, Matt Besser and Neil Mahoney direct this whirlwind of flying feet and dance fights under the Upright Citizens Brigade banner, and it's a raucous musical comedy that will have you looking at Footloose and You Got Served in a whole new light.

Taking the clichéd construct held within such classics as Lambada and Step Up, the UCB create their own indelible homage that is as timeless as Honey, and dare we say, funnier than Honey 2. It is sure to become a cult favorite amongst midnight movie freaks and Frank Sinatra fans alike.

We have an exclusive clip from this upcoming release, followed by an interview with Matt Besser. Continue on to check it out, and then go buy Freak Dance for your collection today!

Neil Mahoney is listed as your co-director...Is he a real person, or is that just a name you threw on there in case someone doesn't like a certain joke? Let's just blame Neil...

Matt Besser: (Laughs) He is an actual person. And he wouldn't be blamed for any of the jokes. Only the direction. I fully put the writing on me. I wrote all of the jokes. I will take all responsibility for the jokes. Neil Mahoney was definitely the visionary in taking Freak Dance from stage to screen. He made it more cinematic. He brought the choreography, all the ways to shoot that. I was more the director of actors. I was in front of the camera directing, and he was behind the camera directing.

I think Honey serves as the high water mark for the dance genre, where we realized we can't take these movies seriously any more. The whole genre had gorged itself on its own tail at that point. From Honey until now, what did you focus on in bringing this genre full circle with Freak Dance?

Matt Besser: Well, I think the story ran out years before Honey. The dance movie story was decided upon way back in the 80s. The plots of those movies are all the same. Those plots were still being used in the movies of the 90s. Now, we pulled from Honey, in particular...There is not a dance movie you can name that I haven't watched, and with everyone of them, I would track lines that I felt were in all of the movies. I thought I'd track those clichés and build our movie upon all of them...But from Honey, I remember they were really into dance moves being stolen, and how bad it is to steal someone's moves. If you remember, from Honey, the shoulder brush is some kid's dance move that Honey incorporates into her dance video. You know, she brushes dust off her shoulder, and the kid is all, "That's my move!" We took that. We took the shoulder brush directly from Honey...

When you first saw that move, you thought it was funny, right? In Honey...

Matt Besser: I thought all of these dance movies were funny. They are all the same...

That's why I brought up Honey. It leaves no stone unturned in pulling in every cliché from all previous dance movies. Yet, it does it with a completely straight face. It's not trying to be funny, which, I think, makes it the best dance spoof of all time. It came out of this dance genre resurgence from the early 2000s. What dance movies came out in the 90s? Were there many? It seems like there was a lull between 1989 and 2001, when suddenly these movies were topping the box office week after week again...

Matt Besser: Hmm...That is a good question. I have never looked at the years. I never thought about it too much. I didn't get back into watching the dance movies until You Got Served. That's when I started to watch them again...God, I can't even think what made me watch it. I just thought the opening dance scene in that movie was incredible. I was sincerely blown away by it. But then the rest of the movie is terrible. As far as story and acting...But that is the case with all of these dance movies. I think that type of dancing looks so cool, maybe I'm giving that movie too much credit...But I feel that after that, a lot of movies started coming out, like Stomp the Yard, and then movies that weren't really dance, but they were a lot like that, like Drumline...They started this whole kind of movie where the story was still the same, but the actual dance moves were pretty damn impressive. Then you had Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew, which came out on MTV. That was a pretty great show. That is were we recruited a lot of our great dancers...But I don't know! The 90s? I'm going to have to look that up. Maybe you're right...Maybe there aren't any good dance movies from the 90s. I certainly wasn't watching them then.

I don't think you're giving You Got Served too much credit. The dance sequences in that movie are incredible. But you're right, the rest of it is unwatchable. B2K! That notion has to have affected the way you made Freak Dance. You've got some great dancers in the movie. What you did was take those chunks of the movie no one wants to watch, and you turned them into something palpable...Now I don't have to fast forward through the mess...

Matt Besser: That's what my thought was in creating this for fans of the dance genre. If I can have those same dancers that are in those other movies, and have just as interesting, or somewhat funny dance moves in the choreography, then I'm at least as good as their movies before I've even written a line of dialogue. That's the way I look at it. I wasn't truly interested in doing a parody as I was in using the structure of dance movies, which is a clichéd structure. We take that and put obscure sketches on top of it. I don't think you have to be a dance movie fan to understand the comedy in this movie. I don't feel like you'll be lost, "Oh, man, I didn't see any of these dance movies! I don't get this!" I think every scene is pretty much a funny sketch held within the confines of a dance movie story. If that makes sense.

That's what sets it apart from Dance Flick, the dance parody that the Wayans family made a couple of years ago...

Matt Besser: When I read that movie was coming out, I was super bummed. We already had ours on stage at that point. It had always been a thought to turn it into a movie. But it takes forever to make a movie. Especially when you are making it yourself. When Dance Flick came out, I was like, "Those mother fuckers beat me to it!" The day it came out, I went to watch the movie. I had my notepad, and I was going to get rid of anything that was similar...And I didn't write down one thing. They took, to me, the obvious route. Which was the white versus black thing. I think that was their biggest joke in that movie. I just didn't touch that. I made ours more of a class thing. Then I made up a cliché, that all dancers have big dicks, and that all non-dancers don't appreciate the big dicks, and the bulges, and they think that dancers are what is wrong with society. I just decided to make up my own thing, versus going with the black side of town going against the white side of town. Which is in so many of the dance movies.

I think the main staple of the dance genre is the rec center that is about to close down, and the only thing that can save it is this young, hot girl and her dance moves...

Matt Besser: Yeah, I know. Saving a community center is something everyone can get behind...(Laughs)

I don't know of a community center near my house that needs saving through dance. I've never encountered that in my own life...

Matt Besser: I've never seen people settle an argument with a dance off...

I did! I happened upon an intense dance off while I was in Amsterdam. I was amazed that this truly exists in other parts of the world.

Matt Besser: You saw an argument actually settled?

Yes! These two gangs had a beef, and here they were in the park, settling it with their dance moves, just like I'd seen in so many of these movies...

Matt Besser: You know, I used to go to those dance circles when I was a kid. When Break Dancing was first popular in the 80s. I would be in Boston, or I'd head up to New York, and I would stand in those circles, and I would just be blown away. That is one of the common things about all those dance movies, especially the ones that take place in the streets...These toughs gangs, these drug dealers, these guys that carry guns...You don't ever see them pull a gun. They don't pull their knife...They settle it with dancing. I find that so funny. That's why I made Freak Dance a musical, too. I just like that juxtaposition of how people act in the streets, walking tough and acting badass, and suddenly they break out in a song and dance. Even in West Side Story, I find that to be unintentionally funny.

When we see the DVD box for Freak Dance, and we see Upright Citizens Brigade on it, does this mean you guys are kicking off a franchise not unlike National Lampoon? Will we see more films under the Upright Citizens Brigade banner?

Matt Besser: Yeah. We also had an improvised movie called Wild Girls Gone, which came out going on eight years ago. But that was always the plan. We don't keep any of the money anything makes, our theater or school...It all goes back into the UCB. Our original intention was, if we ever get into the black, if we ever make profit, then that will go to creative endevors. We don't have the backing, nor do we look for the backing, because we want to keep control, like National Lampoon would have...But as soon as the pot fills up...

Does that mean a lot of the people involved with the project are donating their time as opposed to getting a paycheck?

Matt Besser: Um...No, we couldn't do that if we wanted to, because SAG wouldn't let us. Everyone is getting a paycheck. And in fact, every one of the main actors has a point on the movie. So they are all owners.

Which means that all fans of the UCB should buy the DVD. Don't pirate it!

Matt Besser: Yes. Right! Thank you, sir!

Don't be a butt pirate! Buy Freak Dance on DVD this Tuesday, June 10th.

Freak Dance was released May 15th, 2011.

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