Fans of directors Mark and Jay Duplass have gotten quite the opportunity to watch Mark blossom as an actor this year, as he has appeared in films like Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister's Sister, and People Like Us. Fans also got the collaborative directorial effort Jeff Who Lives at Home this past March (now on video). You'd think their schedule would be too busy for any more projects in one give twelve-month span. But no, now they are about to release their second feature film The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, in theaters this Friday, July 6th, (which is available on VOD right now.)
While it seems like a lot of work on their part, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon was actually shot more than four years ago. They only recently completed work on the film, which had to be put on indefinite hold after Fox Searchlight hired them to helm the studio comedy Cyrus, which was quickly followed by Paramount Vantage's Jeff Who Lives at Home. Now, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon is complete and ready for audiences hungry for more of that unique Duplass humor.
The story follows two very competitive brothers who, well into their thirties, decide to reignite a childhood tournament that consists of twenty-five sporting events. This personal Olympics is actually based on a real event founded in Mark and Jay's high school days. It has now been recreated and immortalized on film.
To find out more about The Do-Deca-Pentathlon and the real brothers behind it, we caught up with the Duplass brothers for an insightful chat. Here's our conversation.
Why did it take so long for this movie to come out?
Mark Duplass: It was more a question of logistics. When we were editing The Do-Deca-Pentathlon in 2008, after we shot it, we got greenlit to do Cyrus. So we had to immediately put it on the shelf to do our first studio movie. This was the first time we'd ever been paid to make a movie, so it was really exciting to us. We did that. Honestly, when we were in post on Cyrus, we got the go-ahead to do Jeff Who Lives at Home, so it was literally two back-to-back studio movies that came on the heels of shooting The Do-Deca-Pentathlon. That caused it to sit dormant for a few years. As soon as we finished with Jeff, we picked it back up and put it out.
Did having those two studio movies come out first help in bringing Do-Deca to the screen? Were you able to throw a little more money behind it here in 2012, as opposed to what might have become of the project in 2008?
Jay Duplass: Not particularly in the sense of being able to put money behind it. We were almost done, and honestly, we stayed true to the underdog concept and model. Also, because it is a movie without movie stars...Unless you are making Paranormal Activity, you have to be reasonable. A big part of the way Mark and I work is, we are financially responsible to the model of the film we are making. That goes all the way up through some of the larger budget stuff that we have done. But I will say, I think we did grow as filmmakers in the time from when we shot it until now. We do have a big film score. Our original films were using music in a very passing-time kind of way. But for this film a few years, we wouldn't have been able to put in the Olympic, Rudy-esque fanfare type score that we brought to this movie now. The score is something we incorporated after the fact. It came in late 2011. That was one of the things that gave the movie the tone that we wanted. This goofy, magical, hopeful, idealistic tone. Our growth as filmmakers did help get The Do-Deca-Pentathlon where it needed to be.
I know, Mark, that you had signed a record contract before you decided to become a filmmaker. Does having a background in music help guide you in scoring a film? Or do you let someone else take over that task?
Mark Duplass: Jay and I have both played in bands for years. It might be a little helpful that we both played music. We can speak in those terms. But as any filmmaker can tell you, as a musician and a director, it can be harmful. We make sure we give our composers enough room to do their thing. On The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, it was really one of our editors, Nat Sanders, that really cracked the code. He temped the big sports montage with the Rudy soundtrack. (Laughs) Everyone just kind of shit their pants. From that tone, we said, "Okay, Julian (Wass; the composer), here is what you're going to do. You are going to do a score that should be created by a fifty-four-person orchestra. But you are going to do it all from your little 4x4 studio with all synthetic instruments." That defines what The Do-Deca-Pentathlon is. It's a goofy, but goofily earnest, Olympics. We wanted to have that quality to it. The movie has a lot of heart, and a lot of sweetness. And it's really funny.
I obviously have never seen the behind the scenes mechanics of your working relationship, but when I see you talking in the press, or hanging out together, like right now, I don't ever sense any kind of sibling rivalry. Are you guys as competitive as the two brothers we see going at it in the movie?
Jay Duplass: No, we are not competitive. We have always been collaborators since we were kids. We've always found ourselves in the unique position to be making art, whether it is now, making movies, or before, when we were in bands...Before that, it was making arts and crafts projects as we were growing up in New Orleans. So, we have found ourselves in a unique position, where we are united and aligned in our attempts to make a piece of art that feels way bigger than ourselves. If we are not united, it will crush us in the process. Of course we are brothers. But those competitive urges have been sublimated into trying to make something bigger, together. Honestly, I think both of us feel that if we weren't working together, we wouldn't see these combined efforts that we get when we are together.
In regards to Mark and Jeremy, the two brothers in the film, is this challenge based on something from your own childhood?
Mark Duplass: The film is based on two brothers that we knew. It is biographical in that sense. Those guys were born really close together. They were 18 months apart. That can make you intensely competitive. Jay and I were sparred that fate by having a few years between us. But this just fascinated us. It allowed for a funner, small story about two brothers beating the shit out of each other at sporting events, when they are in their late 30s, and they are too old to be doing this. There is also a deeper story in there about brotherly love, and communicating amidst the frustrations. Why is it that two brothers, who are kind of strange, and who love each other, have to rub each other's faces in the concrete over a game of ping-pong? That is interesting from a psychological point of view, to us.
Do these two brothers know that you made this movie about them?
Jay Duplass: They know about it. We talked to them about it originally. Because it is such a specific idea. That competition? That's their title for it. They called it The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, which we all giggled about. Its like this weird Greek misnomer that was created in high school, in just trying to get some 25 numerical value out of some random words they cobbled together. The two brothers know about the movie. They love it. We invited them to reunite, and we filmed The Do-Deca-Pentathlon redux. Because their original high school competition was cut short. It was shrouded in controversy. We reignited the competition. We filmed it. And it will be a DVD extra, actually.
You say the original competition was shrouded in controversy. What kind of controversy arises from something like this in high school?
Mark Duplass: Well, when two high school brothers get a little carried away with a competition, physical danger becomes a problem. They were beating the living shit out of each other, which made their parents intervene. They were not able to finish The Do-Deca-Pentathlon. Some people thought one of the brothers actually had their parents do this, because they were afraid to lose. There are lots of different theories. But it was stopped prematurely. And hence, the controversy.
Does the outcome in the movie reflect what happened in real life?
Jay Duplass: The seed of what you see in the movie, the brother's competition, is based on that. Both of the real brothers are family guys. They are very similar. It was really the seed of this idea, that two brothers would create a twenty-five event prodded Olympics to compete in and beat each other and establish dominance. That is something that has bothered me for a long time. It is obviously, if you know our work, the perfect gem of an idea that we' make a movie about. But it wasn't until more recently, about six years ago, that we came up with this concept, but the two brothers had become estranged. They would reunite some twenty years later to reignite the games. In the process, they would ruin a family vacation. It was through this process that Mark and I really started thinking about it, and feeling the weight of an idea that could support a whole movie.
Do you think more people are finding your small movies now than maybe just a few years ago?
Mark Duplass: Yes. There is a benefit to bringing The Do-Deca-Pentathlon out four years later. There is more of an awareness of who we are. And what is great is, this VOD platform has come such a long way since then. We actually released the movie a week and a half ago, ten days before its theatrical release. That is in response to our fans that continue to Tweet at us, and tell us, "We are so interested in seeing your movies, but they are only playing in limited release. Sure, we might be able to catch it in one of the thirty or forty major cities...But what about us?" This is us, saying, "Okay, here it comes. It is available on Amazon. It's available on iTunes. It's everywhere, so go get it!"
Is there a benefit to having it play in theaters? Do people still seek these smaller movies out? Or do most people order them on VOD?
Mark Duplass: Very specifically, the answer is that specific movies do well in specific markets in the theaters. There are only a certain amount of screens around the country that will play a sports comedy with no name actors in it, and there, it will do well. There are communities that have a real desire to see this type of movie in a theater, so we do play those towns. That is the best way to see the movie, in a movie theater. In those other towns, where people don't support it in a theater, why not have it on VOD? I'd much rather those people see it at home on their 42-inch televisions. Which is a great way to see movies like this. We are not snobs about it. We want everybody to see it.
Jay Duplass: The reality is that the press is coming out now, and we get a lot of Tweets that say, "Wait, guys! I got all pumped up about this movie, and the nearest movie theater to me is one hundred and forty miles away...Where am I going to see it?" We think the world is changing, and particularly, for a movie like this, that doesn't have movie stars...We love this movie, and we are super proud of it. We feel like a lot of people can enjoy it. So we were interested in exploring a different way to get it out to the world now.
What is going to happen with the documentary Kevin? Is that going to follow a similar route?
Jay Duplass: That movie ran the film festival circuit, and was as much a piece of art as it was a movie. What it turned out to be was a kind of reigniting of Kevin Gant's career. So we took Kevin out to about fifty film festivals. That film tour turned into his comeback tour. That documentary is a like a purest piece of art that has an odd life for distribution. It is only 37 minutes. It's actually available on iTunes right now.
I know Mark has a bunch of movies coming out that he stars in...But what are you doing next as brothers behind the camera?
Mark Duplass: We're actually writing a bunch of scripts. We are adapting a great novel called Mule for Todd Phillips' company. We are also writing a remake of Same Time, Next Year for Scott Rudin's company. We are trying to figure out what we will direct next. That movie will then happen sometime next year.