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Interview HTF Exclusive Interview with Director Nick Weiss (Drunk Wedding) (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

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Home Theater Forum sat down this week with Nick Weiss, director of the raunchy micro-budgeted Drunk Wedding. Director Nick Weiss, along with his small crew and young cast flew down to Nicaragua to shoot their film on a reported budget of just $100,000. The tale of a destination wedding gone awry was released to digital outlets on May 22 by Paramount Home Entertainment.

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HTF: How are you doing?

Nick Weiss: Doing great. Thanks for taking the time to chat. I appreciate it.

HTF: Well, I was going to say the same thing to you. Let me jump right in. You scrounged up a bare bones budget, you hustled down to South America (Nicaragua,) and shot a movie in some pretty unpredictable circumstances. How did you manage to pull together a cohesive, funny story that made sense and was fun in that kind of circumstance? Were there challenges?

Nick Weiss: I think with this kind of micro-budget film-making a lot of it is adrenalin, really. I think you get an opportunity to go to do something, you get the bare bones resources that you need to pull it off, and then you just kind of start running and you keep pushing. Each of the scenes that you come to you have very limited time to shoot, and you have to have a clear sense in your head, I think, of the relative importance of things, a clear sense of the hierarchy of importance of different moments, so that you know which scenes you need to spend your precious, precious time on – which to linger on and be perfectionist about - and which scenes you do not want to waste a lot of time on and just get it in the can decently and move on, because it's a quick thing that's going to pass by very quickly. Or maybe it's even something you suspect in your gut you're probably going to end up cutting later. There's nothing worse than spending a lot of time on a scene that you then end up cutting which, of course, inevitably happens.

I think it's especially crucial in this kind of film-making to be just careful with your time and your resources because they're so limited. For instance, I can remember there's a big reception scene in the movie and there was a big debate. There were two different parts to the resort where we could shoot that scene. One place would be more expedient to shoot at. It was just closer to other stuff we were shooting and didn't require being moved, and there was another area that just looked better, but it was going to eat up an extra half day which, in a 14 day shoot, a half day is very significant. I remember thinking about it, and sleeping on it, and coming back and saying, "We have to shoot in the good location. This is a big, important scene that's an important part of the production value of the movie." There's some things you fight for, and there's some things that you move towards being expedient, and I think finding that balance is a very important part of also making it, and it's especially important in micro-budget film making where the resources are so unbelievably limited.

HTF: When I think about a movie like Avengers: Age of Ultron and I think about the thousands and thousands of people, the thousands of thousands of hours, the many creative hands and the many corporate hands that pulled together to make this massive project happen, I think the only thing harder than doing that might be comedy (chuckles) because comedy, not only is it subjective, but is incredibly difficult to do right. I was interviewing Clark Duke last week about Hot Tub Time Machine 2, and we were talking about how you can't teach funny. You can teach drama, you can show someone how to be dramatic in a scene, but to really nail down something that's truly funny is incredibly difficult. Comedy is what you've been directing. How do you get the right people in front of the camera? How do you get the right words down on page? And then how do you create the environment where you let loose a little, "It may not be what's on page, but what you did out there was funny or funnier." How do you pull that together because comedy is hard?

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Nick Weiss: I think you've put your finger on a bunch of things. I think comedy's difficult. If you screen a comedy, it's completely clear whether it's working or not by looking around the room and seeing if people are laughing or not. Whereas in a drama, people might be connecting, might be liking it, might be a little bit more disconnected. It's a little bit less binary, working versus not working, funny versus not funny. And, you're right, that's extremely challenging and I do think it begins with casting. I think you'll have an experience oftentimes when you're casting a comedy where a stream of people are coming in and auditioning, and some people just are naturally funny and some people - many of whom are very talented actors - aren't particularly funny.

It sounds so obvious, but there can be pressure sometimes to hire somebody who, in your gut, are like "I don't know how funny they are." Because they have a great look for that particular role or other factors. I think that a great comedic actor or actress that you bring in to a project is like a gift that keeps on giving because comedy's so instinctive and their natural instincts and intuitions will just keep producing for you and keep leading you to things that you just wouldn't thought of yourself and augment and add to the ideas that you put in to the scripts.

There's an example, there is a wonderful actor in the movie named Dan Gill who plays a character called Bill who is kind of a buffoon. There is a scene set up where he has sort of an infatuation with the bride getting married, who is actually his sister-in-law, and he is a very sweet idiot basically. One scene, a party scene, he's very drunk and Elissa comes up and says hi to him and he's swaying back and forth drunkenly telling her how great he thinks she is and suddenly he pukes all over her chest and that's just a moment obviously that we sort of scripted. It's funny and people really laughed at moment. But, what makes it really funny is that, after he pukes on her chest, he just starts saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." And reaches out and starts trying to wipe the puke off of her cleavage basically. We didn't write that. That was a great idea. That was a great impulsive and instinct that he had and makes the scene much funnier.

Comedy, I think, is very much a team effort between the script and the direction and the acting. Then, of course, the editing, where the timing which is so crucial to comedy is really fine-tuned and discovered. I think it's many, many elements that need to align to make it work.



HTF: Comedy in the last few years seems to have had the chains loosened somewhat. R-rated comedies are more prevalent than before. You clearly enjoy that space, but have you ever come up with an idea or thought of filming something, or even filmed something, and then either that day or in the editing booth thought, "You know, I think that might be a line I don't want to cross." Or you just run right over those lines and see what happens?

Nick Weiss: You know, I think it all comes back to whether something works or not. I think when you try to cross a line because you feel like lines should be crossed for their own sake, things tend to feel gratuitous. I think, if something is working and is grounded and it's funny to people, it almost doesn't matter how far it goes. For me, my big goal - my guiding light with this movie - was I really wanted to make something that felt very authentic and real, and was depicting real friendships and relationships between real friends. Then, at the same time, taking those characters to big comedic and, in some cases, raunchy moments. The idea being that, when they're real people to you, them being in kind of a crazy situation is much funnier than if they're just sort of cardboard movie characters who are just there to be vehicles for absurd things to happen to. What it comes down to is a moment that you feel like you can genuinely say, "I could imagine this character in this situation doing this thing, reacting in this way." I think you, as an audience, are willing to go there, and I think when you get that little sense of like, "That guy wouldn't do that." I know they want that moment to happen or that scene to go in that direction, but nobody in their right mind would do that, or would do that to another person, or would react that way. I think you just get pulled out of it and then things may feel offensive simply because they didn't work, they're not funny.

HTF: I always it interesting to ask people connected to comedy what they find funny in the current landscape - and I know you're moving into television more which is a completely different set of rules that you'll have to abide by - but, when you look around the television landscape, and even feature films, what do you find funny. I mean, great comedy is harder to find on traditional television these days Community is probably the funniest show out there, NBC dropped it and it found its way to Yahoo. Years ago it was Arrested Development that Fox dropped, but Netflix brought that back.

Nick Weiss: I think there's some strong things out there in animated television. I've been a long time big South Park fan. I think those guys are really comedy geniuses operating at a level that nobody else is on. I've always felt that way about those guys. I think Rick and Morty - I don't know if you know that show.

HTF: Yes, I do. Yes. I forgot to mention that. Absolutely!

Nick Weiss: Rick and Morty is a new comedy with a second season coming – it’s a show that is extremely inventive and surprising. And I watch Silicon Valley. I think that it’s a great cast. I think that show's really trying to take a real look at something out there - a real existing culture - and be funny, but also be observing of it. That’s something I like about South Park as well. Those shows come to mind right away. It’s funny, I feel a little bit more at a loss to recent film titles, because I have two small children and it’s so hard for me to get out of my house and go to a movie. I've receded in to television a lot more. But, I will say generally that I feel like in the last maybe eight years, there's been a real lean towards grounded comedy, certainly led by the Judd Apatow school that probably started with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. I think the influence of that tone continues to be very prevalent and I appreciate that a lot because that's where my taste is. I think, in a way, Drunk Wedding, was an attempt to take the realism of that type of comedy and push that as far as possible, while simultaneously keeping the laughs as big as possible. I see Drunk Wedding as being a crazy beat movie because it has a lot of insanity and a lot of big laughs and, at the same time, has a lot of heart to it and a lot of caring between the characters. I think that's one thing that a lot of people that we've shown the movie to have commented on that. It's a movie for guys and girls.

HTF: Let me ask about your future. Obviously, you're doing promotion for Drunk Wedding, but what is it you're spinning right now? I think you're working with Paramount again. What are you planning there and what might be expected from you in the television landscape?

Nick Weiss: I think, as far in a feature space, I'm talking to a few different places about a few different scripts to direct. I'm supervising a project at Paramount. There's something I'd like to direct there, and working on a script of my own as well, and then I'm excited about working with ABC because I they're a very smart group of people with a very strong sense of who they are and what their brand is, and what kind of television they want to be making. I think I'm excited to take my viewpoint on the world which I see as being genuinely interested in people, and trying to put real people who really care about each other in situations that push them, situations that take them to their limits. I'm excited to take that interest in to the world of ABC and see where that intersects a lot. Having already done a project with them, I found them to be great collaborators, and I'm excited to see where that relationships goes.

HTF: Well, I'm excited to see where it goes too. I sincerely appreciate you talking with Home Theater Forum today. I wish you the best of luck with Drunk Wedding!

Nick Weiss: I really appreciate that. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and to get the word out. The big thing right now is just want to get the word out about this movie and get in front of people because it's been such a fun time making it.
 

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