The man behind 'The Game' talks about how Waiting came to be
Waiting...follows a frustrated group of waiters as they try to make it through a single day at ShenaniganZ Restaurant in New Orleans. Movieweb recently sent me down to interview approximately half the cast of this very funny film. First up is Director Rob McKittrick, a serial restaurateur in his own right, who struggled and waited his way through a seven-year gestation period on this project. October 7th finally sees his labor of love to the big screen, and he couldn't be happier about it...
Rob McKittrick: This is my first round table. This is genius.
This is your first one for today, or forever?
Rob McKittrick: Forever. Yeah. This is it. Let's do it.
How do you know when you're being taken advantage of and what do you do about it?
Rob McKittrick: In what regards?
In all regards.
Rob McKittrick: You know what? I don't. I don't feel like I've ever been taken advantage of, so whoever has, has pulled it off. And they pulled it off quite subtly, because I'm not aware.
It's been a long road in getting this film made. Why was seeing it too the screen so important to you?
Rob McKittrick: Well, I wrote the script. When you see it, you can tell that it was tailor made for a first time director. 90 percent of it takes place in one location. Its dialogue driven. It's a little comedy. Who knows that better than the writer? When I wrote it, I did not have the aspiration to make the movie for 3 million dollars. Because that was not a realistic aspiration for me to have. I was a waiter in Orlando. I didn't know anybody in Hollywood, and I didn't have any money. I was trying to go the Clerks route. I wanted to make it for 30 or 40 million dollars...I mean 30 or 40 thousand. Yeah, 40 million dollars. Lots of bullet time, explosions and shit...No, that's what I was going to try and do. Raise about 30 thousand dollars and hope it got into a festival. That was the intent. So I wrote it with myself in mind as the director. And then through some weird degrees of separation, we got it out to some people in Hollywood. My good friend Dean started dating this girl, Saundra, who went to High School with Jeff Balis (of Project Greenlight), whose nextdoor neighbor worked as an assistant to an agent at William Morris. And that's how I got representation. Sort of odd. So, they took it out on the town and Artisan loved it. They wanted to option it, but they wouldn't guarantee me the job of being director. So, I had to give up the right to be the director to get them to option it. That was a really tough dicission to make, but ultimately I sold out. Obviously, I wanted to direct it. I could say no to Artisan, and then make the movie in Orlando for 20 thousand dollars as the director, or I could see it get made at a much larger level. And, at the same time, get my foot in the door as a writer. I opted for that. Two years go by. Another director was attached. But the movie never got made. It fell through. Artisan had a string of flops and they kind of imploded. Then in 2002 we had a writer's strike, and 911 happened. That killed about six months out of the year right there. And it's fucking hard to get money together for a movie. You know? Eventually the rights reverted back to me in early 2002. I fired the director and nominated myself. I seconded the nomination. It went through without a problem. Then I started the whole process again of trying to raise the money through the producers. Two more years later, we got the money together. It was an incredibly long road. And it's crazy that I did sell out, and optioned it without being the director. But it truly ended up being the best scenario. I did sell out, but I got all the money for selling out. And then I actually got to direct it anyway. And I got to direct it at a level I never thought possibly, at 3 million bucks.
What do you think when you look at it, now that it's finished?
Rob McKittrick: You know; I feel great about it. Certainly, at 3 million dollars, there are some rough spots. It was a 23-day shooting schedule. It's certainly not a perfect film by any stretch. I wish I had another week to shoot on the film. And another 5 hundred thousand. But I feel really good about it. It captures, on the whole, what I wanted. It does depict, even if some of the scenes are sort of over the top, what its like to be a server. Like the slow time before the dinner rush and everyone has their finger up their ass. And they're just trying to figure out what they're doing. And then comes the dinner rush. And then the party afterwards. All those types of things. And the truisms of Waiting tables. All the different customers you complain about and have to deal with. I think I hit all of those pretty well. And people that actually wait tables told me that it's surreal watching it. Because it's like they're watching their life. In that regard, I feel that I was successful.
Can you tell us about the casting process?
Rob McKittrick: It was just this great thing. It was so fortuitous. It just took so long for this movie to get made. We actually had a lot of people that tried out for it a long time ago. Like, big people that got attached to the script. Ryan read the script before Van Wilder came out. He loved it, and was really right for the role. He has such a deadpan sarcasm; he can do it better than anyone. Then Van Wilder comes out, and it's a hit. He was attached to our script, so now he meant something. He rolled with the punches as many times as it fell through and almost got made. Same thing with Anna Ferris. When she first read, I think she'd only done Scary Movie 1. By the time we shot the movie, Scary Movie 2, Scary Movie 3, Lost in Translation, and Friends all came out. She just got that much bigger. Milonakis? I didn't know he was going to have a show on. I just thought he was fucking hysterical. We saw the little rap videos he did on the Internet, and we thought that this guy was great. He came in, he auditioned, then he did a free style rap. Did you guys stick around to the end? To see that rap? He wrote that. I knew the guy was going to be great. I hired him right there in the room. Then three months later, he finds out that he has his own show coming out on MTV. Dane Cook? I loved him. I've seen his stand-up a million times at Dublin's Open-Mic comedy night. I begged him to be in my movie. Now, all of a sudden, he has a huge CD. It was crazy. Everybody got attached early, and then they got much, much bigger.
What about Koechner? How did you come across getting him in the movie?
Rob McKittrick: Koechner came in a long time ago and read for it, and he just blew us away in the room. It's actually going to be on the DVD. Casting directors typically don't laugh. They have to deal with this all the time, so they don't break. The casting director actually broke down and started crying. She had to leave the room because she was crying, laughing so hard. And Koechner followed after her. He wouldn't let up on her. From very early on in the casting process, he was the man. Really, one of the funniest human beings. Most of the really funny stuff he says is him. He's just one of the truly brilliant ad-libbers. The whole thing at the end, that sort of stuff, was him. I just let the camera roll and tried to catch as much of his brilliance as possible.
You wrote the script. Were you comfortable letting the actors improvise?
Rob McKittrick: I would have loved to have done that more than we did. We did a pretty fair amount, but when you have a 23 day shooting schedule, and you're trying to get as much coverage as you can, and I'm trying to make it look like a studio film, with plenty of options in the editing room...That doesn't leave much breeding room. How great would it be to have things like Anchorman, where they can just shoot and shoot and shoot? We didn't have that luxury. But when ever we could, I let them have it. And it always worked out. There's probably a good fifteen laughs in the film that I didn't write. I just let the camera roll, and I let them do their thing. I still get credit for it anyway.
You've worked as a waiter?
Rob McKittrick: Oh, yeah.
Can you give us an example of the worst person you ever had to wait on?
Rob McKittrick: Its funny. It's not the worst customer I ever had. Obviously, in the movie, there's the big scene where they fuck with the food, and it's horribly over the top. That's an exaggeration of what happens. And only an exaggeration. But it's not a fabrication. There was one table, and again, this wasn't my table. It was one of my waitress friends, and she was dealing with this incredibly bitchy woman. And she had no regard for anything. And she had two children. And the children had no regard for the waitress. And the woman just let it happen. I couldn't believe that someone was being this rude and allowing her children to be this rude to another human being. I was just watching that. The woman sent her food back in the most disdainful way possible. What she didn't know was that the waitress' boyfriend was the head cook. So, I know he danced it up a little bit. Then, personally, for my part, I've only tainted someone's food once. And it wasn't even my table. It was so egregious, this woman's cruelty, that it warranted her food being tea-bagged. That's where you put your testicles on the food. Its true. I did do it. And I would do it again. She deserved it.
Were you pretty sweaty?
Rob McKittrick: Oh, yeah. I was in the back of the kitchen with the heat lamps. Oh, yeah. It was nasty. And I didn't just do her food. I also did her children. No question. I stand by it.
Was "The Game" based on something that really happened?
Rob McKittrick: Oh, yeah. We played that at Steak N Ale. Its been closed down. I wonder why? We played a game similar to that; the cooks and the waiters would play this game where they'd pull their balls out in the middle of a shift. I took the game and sort of expanded upon it a little bit. I made the rules a little more defined. But it is rooted in truth. We did a version of the game.
Out of the whole cast, whose genitalia do you never want to see again?
Rob McKittrick: You know what? Its much easier for me to tell the ones I want to see again. Ryan Reynolds, I just can't wait. It's very shorn. No...Actually, I never saw anybody's genitalia on set. Maybe the crew. I know the actors played with each other. I escaped unscathed. I was a big farter. That was my thing. I'd wait until we were in a really small room, and then fart at a really inopportune moment. But, I would have to guess, not having seen any of them; I'd go with Luis Guzman. He's old. He was a bigger guy. If I had to hazard a guess, his would probably be the worst. What do you guys think?
Stay tuned for Part 2 with Ryan Reynolds...