Interviews

Prentice Penny Interview: Uncorked | Screen Rant

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Prentice Penny has already made his mark on the world of television with shows like Happy Endings and Insecure, and now he’s making his feature film debut with Uncorked. Though the heartfelt drama was meant to premiere at South by Southwest, the current pandemic meant it had to forego a theatrical release. Instead, its grand entrance will be on Netflix later this week.

The story revolves around a couple (played by the brilliant Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash) whose barbeque business hits a snag when their son Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) turns out to prefer the taste of wine. On a thematic level, it’s actually quite a personal tale for Penny, who directed the film as well as wrote the screenplay. In an interview with Screen Rant, he unveiled the inspiration behind the work as well as the journey of pulling off his double duty.

How did you get the idea for this story?

Prentice Penny: I work in television, and people were always like, "What do you want to do, movie-wise?" I was getting offered to write remakes and sequels and reboots of movies. In TV, you really get a chance to write in your own voice, and I was afraid that if I was writing a reboot or a sequel, I'd be writing in somebody else's voice and I was afraid that I would never discover my own. And so I wanted to hold off to write something until I felt very personally about it, and as I discovered my voice.

At the same time, I was becoming a father, with my own three kids. And it made me examine my father's relationship with me in a very different way, and just kind of understand him less as quote-unquote my father, but as just a man trying to figure things out the same way I'm trying to figure it out.

I wanted to explore what it was like for me, and also to see more father-son stories. I love them, especially movies like Good Will Hunting and Manchester by the Sea, but I often felt like the people of color, slice of life, father-son dynamic movies are always about the father being absent. As opposed to just being about their existence, and I didn't like that. That wasn't my story. I feel like you've seen that; that wasn't my relationship with my father.

So, I wanted to write a movie that felt the same way that a Gus Van Sant movie would feel. That became sort of the drive. I grew up in a family business, where my family ran a furniture store that my grandfather started and my dad took over when he had a stroke and dropped out if college. I was sort of being groomed to be next up, and I didn't want to do that. It became kind of a big indictment. What I realized in hindsight was my father was sort of taking it as a, "Why don't you love me the way I love my father" slight, even though that wasn't how I perceived it. That's what he couldn't articulate to me, but that's what he was feeling.

I wanted to write about that, and I knew I wanted the father in my story that have a family business that felt sort of blue collar. I had friends of mine that ran family restaurants, and also it was very visual. But restaurants feel like, if you have a family restaurant, everybody works in the restaurant. That was a big thing.

And then I knew that I wanted the son's thing to have a little more rarefied air, like quote-unquote white collar or whatever; more creative. And I knew I didn't want that to be writing, because nobody wants to watch a movie about a guy writing. I was like, "Well, what could he want to do?" I couldn't really figure it out, and then I went to Paris for a cousin's wedding. I had never been to Europe before, and I was not even a wine drinker. But if I'm going to like wine, it has to happen in Paris, that's the place where it is. I took a wine 101 class, and the guy made it super interesting and super easy to understand. He kind of demystified it for me, and I just got super into it the whole trip. I was watching things about wine and about somms, and I was like, "This is should be what the son wants to do. He should want to do this."

Obviously, looking back, you're like, "Oh, yeah, food and wine. That's a natural pairing." And the son and the dad aren't. It became very visual; it became very interesting. I feel like we hadn't really seen that with people of color. People of color drink wine all the time and are all in that world, but I hadn't really seen that on film. It's just interesting to set the movie in Paris, and to see an African-American man try wine through Paris. I've never seen that in an American movie. We travel, but you never see us internationally. The most you see us go to is Atlanta or Miami? So, I was like, "How do we give this movie some scope and make it feel as true as we are?" All these things became more interesting, so that's kind of the genesis of all those things converging at the same time.

How much did you learn about sommeliers during the writing process?

Prentice Penny: That became the hardest thing. I knew the wine stuff was always gonna be in flux, I just needed the dramatics of it to be right. The lingo, I knew was like, "This needs work." One of our producers that read the movie, his brother's this very famous African American sommelier. Dlynn Proctor, he's in the documentary Somm and is very much a rock star in that way. Dlynn read it and just gave me notes. I mean, all the stuff that's in there is all Dlynn; what the wine should be, how they should say it, what they would be doing, why this wine is important versus this one... We would be constantly changing it to some degree, but all that stuff was all Dlynn. It was great.

The only thing that was the original thing was we always had Auberge Michaud as the winery. That was one of the first wines I had when I was in Paris, and I just liked it. I just had it as a placeholder because I was like, "I'm not gonna get this place," and then we ended up getting the place. That was a huge blessing.

There's an element of class identification given Louis' barbecue business in contrast to Elijah's passion for wine culture. Can you talk to me about that aspect of the film?

Prentice Penny: Yeah, I mean, obviously we're trying to juxtapose these two worlds. Even though Louis has a successful barbecue business, it has a limit to some degree on what it will be. The idea that a wine license is a little bit more of a rarefied air and a little bit more sophisticated, for lack of a better choice of words. in that way. Again, that's just how the father perceives that world - kind of unattainable. Because he doesn't believe that, but it's just hard to comprehend because it's not so like just laid out or easy to get. You're just like - it's almost like, "Where did you get this idea from, as his son?"

To me, the ironic part is that it's the same things that make the dad character super into barbeque - like, the way the dad talks about the wood is almost the way Elijah talks about wine. I often think with parents, a lot of times you go, "How did this kid get this way?" Then you're like, "That's all me." He doesn't see the gifts he's giving his son, right? In the same way that he's super into barbecue, his son's super into wine. He just sees the flaws of that world as opposed to, "I gave him these gifts that will make them successful in this world."

I think a lot of times we don't realize it, and I'm this way too. My kid who's the most like me frustrates me the most. That's what I wanted to draw on; that his character doesn't realize the things that make Elijah good in this world and stubborn are the same things that make the dad stubborn and great too. They don't realize they're very similar. And the mom is a lot of the bridge that translates their language to each other; they're kind of unaware that they're speaking the same language the whole time.

I talked to the cast this week, and they said that you had a very exact vision of this film. Can you talk to me about the challenges of being both director and writer on a project like this?

Prentice Penny: To me, the biggest challenge was translating something that, in my mind, was the way it was written. Even though I wrote it, now I'm getting it up on its feet as a director and being free to throw away the things that don't work as a director, right? For example, one of the biggest things was that movie was always going to take place in the summer. Well, we made the movie in the dead of winter. So, there are locations, scenes, and dynamics that I thought, "Visually, this will be really cool," that I had to be free to throw away because they weren't going to make sense now.

How do you translate that to a director? It's a such a small change seasonally, but it does a lot of different things to the shots I was gonna do, and the sequences I was gonna have. You have to rewrite those things. Also, now that I'm in Memphis, I'm actually seeing it as opposed to looking at pictures. I'm in the three dimensional places that we have to film. The restaurant looked a certain way in my mind, but that's not what exists here. We have to build this new restaurant. From the directing standpoint, I had to change those things.

I sort of feel that after the first week, I just wanted to keep capturing the spirit of the movie, not like it has to still be as it was here. I still have to three dimensional-ize these characters and these parts; it may have seemed right on the page, but when we put it up on its feet, something's not clicking about it. That was the other thing that was challenging, but very freeing for me. I wanted to come in very prepared. Obviously, it's my first movie and you want to be super prepared. But what it really taught me was, "Hey, if you don't have a parachute, how do you land?" And you have to figure it out and be free on the fly.

And that just came with the confidence of having great people to work with, having an amazing VP, doing a lot of prep ahead of time so that I understood, "Even though it's not playing out this way, how do I still achieve this feeling?" The whole movie was shot very handheld. We shot anamorphic; we wanted to give a lot of scope for a movie that's really kind of small in Memphis. But one of the scenes in my head that was handheld was the scene where he comes to take the wine test. When I saw the frames, I was like, "Something's not right. This needs to feel different than the rest of the movie."

So I was like, "Let's put the camera on sticks." Everything is perfectly symmetrical for the first time in the movie; the first frame is him walking into focus, and the wine glasses are perfectly symmetrical. And then we perfectly frame the teachers on one side and him on the other; then we're exactly behind the teachers and then we're exactly behind Elijah; just to give it a more formal feel. And I was really just in the moment of trusting. This was supposed to be on the page, but it's not translating, so how do I translate it as a director?

Those were the moments that I felt the proudest of, because it was just me gut-sensing the feeling and just going back to that. It's good to be super prepared, and you want to be that. But you also want to be so prepared that if it doesn't feel right, you're okay to throw it away and figure it out.

I loved the music in the film.

Prentice Penny: Thank you. Our whole thing there was that the whole sound just had to be Memphis. It's all Memphis artists. That was just very important; that we just lean into the sound of the city. Obviously, when he goes to Paris, we're hearing French hip-hop. We really wanted to lean into where he was regionally, and what that character would expose himself to. That was very important, the sonics of the movie.

Courtney, Niecy and Mamoudou have such perfect chemistry together. Did you have them in mind specifically when you started writing the film?

Prentice Penny: That's a great question. Niecy was the only person I had [in mind]. I didn't know Mamoudou. I had seen him in Patti Cake$ and The Get Down, but I had written the movie 2014, so I only knew the type of character I wanted. Niecy was the only one that I actually wrote the part for. I had worked with Niecy on a short-lived Fox sitcom in 2008. I remember her telling me this story, and I could be butchering it. But either her mom or her grandmother was sick in the hospital, and that's how she kind of got into stand up. She was just trying to entertain her mom or grandma.

And that story just never left me. As I kept thinking about the mom, I just kept thinking, "Who is this woman?" The dad, I was writing with my father in mind, so that was easy. Even with the son, it's a lot of my energy in that part. But the mom is not like my mom. I was just like, "Who is this?" The story just kept sticking in my head, so when I was developing the character, I just developed it around Niecy.

A lot of times, when you see Niecy, she's very glammed up. But I wanted to see a character that was more stripped down. And when she did the show for HBO, Getting On, I was like, "Oh, yes. That's close to what this character should be." I would write with her in mind, and I would tell her, "Hey, I'm writing this movie. I wrote this part for you." She was like, "Yeah, I'll do it." And then she read it, and she was like, "100%, I'll do it. Let me know when you get the money." It took two or three years from that point to get the money. But to her credit, when we got the money, she was in.

More: Mamoudou Athie Interview for Uncorked

Eunice Huthart Interview – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Stunt Coordinator

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Eunice Huthart has never been on a movie quite like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. A veteran stunt coordinator of Harry Potter, Fast & Furious and Justice League, the final entry in the Skywalker saga was her first experience with the galaxy far, far away and the unique approach of Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams.

For Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's home video release (out now on digital, March 31 on Blu-ray), Screen Rant chatted with Huthart about working on the film, as well as her involvement in recent DC Film projects.

I want to start by getting your thoughts on how Coronavirus is impacting the film industry, and how it's affecting such a production-focused area like stunt coordination.

No, it's really crazy at the moment. Everything is stopped; they've stopped shooting everywhere. They don't know when they're gonna start up, so anything that was shooting - Fantastic Beasts, Batman, all the Netflix productions, everything - it's all stopped until further notice. The project I was due to start is The Flash. I was supposed to start at about the end of April, beginning of May. I'm not sure what's happening now with that.

Read More: The Flash Movie Was Going To Start Pre-Production In A Month

Star Wars is now out on digital, and you've worked on many Hollywood tentpoles in the past. How was this movie different to the others?

It's one difference: Lucasfilm. Everyone said to me, when I got the meeting, "Oh, you're going to love working with Lucasfilm." I was like, "I don't how it can be any different, I've done so many films. I don't know how it can be a different experience."

But it really was. J.J. embraced me so well. He brought me in on all collaborations. I really felt a part of it, even in the scriptwriting process. He would speak to me about some beats, and it was just great. I really felt like I was included in the making of this movie. Of course, you're always included in the making of it, because you have such an influence as a stunt coordinator. But I just mean in the shooting, and in what we were doing and how we were doing it and stuff like that.

I would say that The Rise of Skywalker - even if we took out the fact that it is a Star Wars movie, which is a fantastic project for me to take - I would have still said it's my best experience in filmmaking. Lucasfilm, they just do something on such a personal level. You really feel you've helped make a movie. It's great. I loved it; I loved the process.

When did you get involved in the project, since J.J. came in late in 2017?

I don't remember dates, I think it was September. What are we in now, 2020? I was being interviewed with J.J. during September 2017.

I didn't realize it at the time, but he had only just [came on]. I went over for a meeting, and I had my lucky socks, my lucky knickers, and my lucky t-shirt on, desperately hoping that I was going to get it. And then I had a couple more interviews with him after that, and a couple of Skype interviews with Kathy Kennedy. And then I got the job, and that was it.

We had so many phone calls towards the end of that year, and months where we were just doing conceptual design. It was such a great process, and I was so included. It's such a nice thing.

Could you talk a little bit about the development process, and how the story beats of the movie evolved? Not to mention your involvement with that, as you mentioned earlier.

For example, the gymnastic move over Ren's ship, when [Rey's] in the desert - even just that took a good three weeks. Just to create and design the move, practice it with wires, then practice it with the height that the ship was gonna be at, and then practicing it with the actor. Just that alone takes about three weeks, and that's just one move.

Then when it comes to a collaboration in a fight, say like when Kylo Ren was fighting the Knights of Ren... We had to speak about, "Can we show some vulnerability to Kylo Ren, because he's actually been at that point?" Can we show the vulnerability; should we do something slightly different? It can be a bit more pure; should we pay homage more to Han Solo at that point, with certain looks or certain stunts?

There is so much that we actually chip in and try to conceptually design, so that when we come to shoot it, we're delivering something a little bit different on each beat. In the stunt processes alone, like the bog fight, my pitch to J.J. for the bog fight - where we see Kylo Ren fighting the alien - was just that Ren is so angry. He's so angry, and it should be so violent. We should not like Kylo Ren, and we should think that he is a bully and that his violence is unnecessary. Then there's the contrast to when he's fighting the Knights of Ren, and his energy level's different; he doesn't waste energy; he's slightly vulnerable. It's stuff like that.

There is just so much that we would collaborate on and redesign, just on a verbal level. And then we would be apply that in a physical sense to check that J.J. likes it, and show what we were thinking and stuff like that. So, yeah, the process is massive, really.

You talked about referencing Han Solo with Ben's moves. Did you look back on the previous Star Wars films for reference, both for shaping stunts and making sure the choices line up with what is suitable for a Star Wars universe?

Yeah. Absolutely, we did. We tried to slip in - there was a fight that's not in the movie; young Luke and young Leia did a lightsaber fight as a training scene flashback. And so, we really wanted to create the nuances between the two characters from the early movies. The way he'd stand, the way she tilted her head, the way they swished with their lightsabers and stuff like that.

So, yeah, we did our hardest to create all the nuances to pay homage to the previous movies. It was actually one of our priorities when creating stunts for the film.

You've talked about a lot of different sequences, and the time and effort that went into their planning. What was the most difficult stunt or sequence with the most difficult stunts in the movie?

For different reasons, it was probably when we went to Jordan. Just because we only had a certain amount of time to shoot there, and then we had to come back. And we were testing vehicles, because it was really hard to test and see the vehicles for real in the environment in the UK. The sand back there was different, the heat out was different. The obstacles that we dealt with in filming were probably most in Jordan.

I'd say that was more of a question of logistics, as opposed to intricate stunt work, if that makes sense. But we had so much wire work; we had three wire teams in a different location, and there were different cranes. It was quite remote and we had a lot of logistics stuff like that. So yeah, I would say Jordan was a big task, but just for the fact that we had the pressure that everything had to be done no matter what.

One of the other pressures that is amplified in a Star Wars film is the secrecy. They don't want any spoilers or details going out before release. Did that make things difficult for you and your team at all? Did that affect how you worked?

Not really. The Palpatine fight, we were doing our best to always keep that secret. It was really hard for me, to be honest. I was probably the one that was always messing up, because we had code names for everybody, and I kept on forgetting the code names. We'd be rehearsing something, and I'd be like, "Now that's when Palpatine comes in, guys." And then there'd be [someone] walking past like, "Oh, is Palpatine in it?" And I'd be like, "Oh no, did I say - ? No, it's not."

I was the one who messed up most. We had code names for everything that I kept always forgetting all the time. We had code names for scenes, code names for set pieces, come names for everything. When we were in Jordan and Chewbacca got captured by the Knights of Ren and got sent into the air with the Storm Troopers? That spaceship was called the White Van, and I'd be going, "Alright, the white van needs to back up." Of course, there was no white van on the set, but someone might have gone looking for a white van.

So, I'd say the secrecy part was ridiculous, because everything had a codename. The characters had codenames, and we would forget what name was for what person. That was tough.

What was Palpatine's codename?

What was his codename? I can't bloody remember. I could get it over to you, I have it somewhere written down. But I can't even remember - I couldn't remember the codenames when I was actually on the film. From what I remember, Daisy was called Jazz, and I always think she's called Jazz because she used to dance. So, Rey's codename was Jazz. That's the only one I can remember; I can't remember anybody else. It was ridiculous. [It was Thirteen.]

Read More: How Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Kept Palpatine A Secret

Aside from the Luke and Leia sequence you mentioned earlier, was there anything major that you worked on that didn't make it into the finished film?

There were a few things. The young Luke and Leia, I would have loved that to have gone through, because we did it as a seamless take. It was such hard work, and it was so physical for the stunt team who took part in that.

Daisy did some spectacular work for us. She's brilliant; Daisy's ability is beyond - she does this stuff all the time, and I don't think she realizes how good she is. So, she did loads of stuff that we had designed for the training sequence. She did a very, very, very hard gymnastic move, which is called a Giant Swing... and we added that she would slam a staff into a tree, she would run and swing over in, and come underneath. She'd swing over the top of one of the droids that was chasing her, and then she would swipe at it. We had a lot designed that she was brilliant at. She did a swallow dive, which was great because she overcame a fear of heights.

I've done movies where I'd say 60%, 65% or 70% of our action makes the film. I'd say on the whole, probably 90% of what we shot action-wise made the movie.

Read More: Star Wars: 90% Of Rise of Skywalker's Filmed Action Made The Finished Movie

Why was the Luke and Leia cut or changed in how it was presented?

I think it's just that the story changed slightly. I think it didn't fit the time length of the movie, because that scene was about a minute and 20 seconds. It was brought down to something like 20 seconds, so I did hear back that it was just for the time. The reason a lot of action doesn't make the movie is because, if it's not story related, they can't use it to take time in the film. And to be honest, the fighting wasn't story related. It was just the beat at the end, to let Luke know she was pregnant. So, the only bit that they held on to was the very end of it.

Read More: Star Wars: Why Luke & Leia's Rise of Skywalker Flashback Was Cut Short

One of the other big recent movies you've worked on is Justice League. And are you familiar with the whole Snyder Cut movement? Do you have any thoughts on that original cut being released?

Yeah, there's a few questions about that, and I'm sure that I'm okay to say I officially know people who've seen the Snyder cut and said it's absolutely amazing. And I do believe that that's the movie we were making, Zack Snyder's version of the film. You know, with the heartache of what happened with his daughter, we pulled out and they did the reshoots of it. So, the movie took a slightly different turn.

I watched the cinema release of the film, and I texted Zack to say, "What's this I'm hearing about this Snyder cut? I need to see it." And he did promise me next time I'm in LA, that I'll go watch it. So I will at some point, definitely go and watch the Snyder cut. And I have spoken to people who actually said it's brilliant. They said it's absolutely golden.

Finally, you mentioned The Flash. Is there anything at all you can tell us about that movie?

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about it even myself at this point. I just know about a few conversations with the director, and the script is meant to be really brilliant, like, the script's meant to be great. It's very exciting. There's a few hints of the script they've told me, but I probably won't be able to tell you that. But all they'll be doing now is just sort of work in my head to try and see what we can do different.

I'm really looking forward to working with Ezra Miller. He had a very similar sort of style to Adam Driver, just not as serious. Adam's very serious, which I don't mind. But Ezra's the other side of the coin, he's not serious at all but really delivers. He delivers brilliantly. I'm looking forward to working with Ezra for all of it.

I haven't read the script yet, so I don't really know if it's gonna be involved, or at that this moment what to do best to make it look a little bit different from what we've seen before. Which will be quite exciting.

Next: Justice League: Many People Have Seen The Snyder Cut, Say It's Amazing

Mamoudou Athie Interview: Uncorked | Screen Rant

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Uncorked mixes wine-tasting with family drama when its protagonist Elijah butts heads with his family over his chosen career as a sommelier despite his father’s wish that he pursue the business of barbecue. The foodie-friendly film hits Netflix on March 27 after being pulled from the South by Southwest festival line-up due to recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Rising star Mamoudou Athie plays the ambitious Elijah, and he shared his experience with Screen Rant in a recent interview. The actor reminisced about how he learned the language of wine and explained how writer-director Prentice Penny (Insecure) brought his ability as a showrunner to the filming process, while also revealing what has him most excited about his upcoming role in Jurassic World: Dominion.

Your parents in the film are played by Courtney Vance and Niecy Nash, a comedic pairing that almost writes itself. Talk to me about the dynamic between the two of them.

Mamoudou Athie: Oh, they're hilarious. It's one of those things where you just kind of watch and listen. They're truly hysterical. I can't imagine living with them in that scenario day to day, because I was ruining takes laughing. They're wonderful; they're really warmhearted and just genuinely good people. And Prentice is also equally funny, so the three of them altogether was a problem - I'd have to walk away.

Is there any element of class identification in Uncorked, with your father's barbecue business in contrast to Elijah's passion for wine culture?

Mamoudou Athie: I mean, I can tell you how we approached the movie. The thing is, it's just about how this is my interest, and I'm going to go after this because it is my interest. The family has more of an issue with - yeah, they're unfamiliar with the specifics of wine in general. Particularly Louis, my dad, his issue is that I have not stuck with anything. And so this will be another thing that I don't stick to. Not so much it being wine.

I think people have some preconceived notions, and there are some class things about wine. But it's made up, you know what I mean? It's not real, so we didn't engage with it in that way.

Courtney B. Vance is an icon in Hollywood. He's even the president of the Screen Actors Guild. Does his stature in the real world help inform his portrayal as your father?

Mamoudou Athie: I mean, I've admired him since before I was really an actor. I kind of credit him with a lot of the games that I'm able to make as an actor, so yeah, I was intimidated. When I met him on set, I was nervous and very deferential. He cuts a huge figure. I studied plays that he originated, like Fences and Six Degrees of Separation, as parts that would be good for me. So, I kind of looked up to him as a role model.

I still do, but the thing about Courtney is he's one of the funniest people on the planet. So, it very soon came to a point where I was just asking him for stories. "What happened on this project," or "What is this about? Tell me about this." He was just telling me these hilarious stories about his life and his career, and I'm just very grateful to him.

Prentice Penny both wrote and directed Uncorked. How much does having the same writer and director affect an actor's performance?

Mamoudou Athie: It depends. It depends. With Prentice, he's a writer first, so he knows language and he knows what he wants. But he's also a wonderful director; he's a great director. I love working with writer- directors, because the buck stops there in terms of what's going on. Like, they know what they're doing, you know what I mean?

Especially somebody like Prentice, who has worked in TV for so long and knows how to tell a story. I just had complete and full trust in him. When you have that kind of trust in a director who also wrote the thing, it avails you to go down whatever path without having any doubts. I just trusted him.

This is such a dynamic and diverse cast of up-and-comers. Besides yourself, of course, who should viewers be on the lookout for in the future?

Mamoudou Athie: Oh, every single one of them. Wonderful cast. I don't want to single anyone out, because I think everyone is wonderful - actually, I will single everyone out. Gil Ozeri, Sasha Compere,  Matt McGorry, Bernard David Jones - who is just a lovely presence to be in a film with. Everyone... They're all great.

I feel like I worked the most with Gil out of everyone outside of the family, and Sasha, obviously. But they're just wonderful actors, and they're really game and just good people.

For many actors, there's something that hooks you into a given role or story. What was it about Uncorked that hooked you?

Mamoudou Athie: Well, honestly, it was a story about a black family that had nothing to do with any kind of trauma. It was just a story about this black family trying to make it through in this very middle class background. What I'm really trying to say is that it didn't have the specter of white supremacy over it. It was just a very good story about something that you don't see a lot of black people involved in, and that's wine.

And there are black people involved in wine, who have their own vineyards. It's a completely undiscovered subject, and honestly, I was unaware. But more than that, it's a love story of a family. It's a father-son love story. And I think it's really important to share that, as well. Because when I look at a lot of things that are celebrated - not being made only, but celebrated - sometimes I'm like, "We have other stories," and I want them to be portrayed. And that's what makes me proud of this movie.

There was a new language of wine that you had to master. How did you get so proficient at it?

Mamoudou Athie: It's actually really fun. I mean, I had two amazing sommeliers I was working with. Dlynn Proctor - who was in that documentary Somm, which was also on Netflix - and Ryan Radish, who taught me in Memphis and was on set every day, anytime there was anything to do with wine. Those two guys made it so accessible and made it so fun and so exciting, that it was just like, "Oh, I'm interested in this now for myself, not just for this movie."

I have a newfound interest in wine, so I'm grateful to those guys. They just broke it down, because when you look at what these sommeliers have to do, they have to break down a wine by sniffing and tasting it and looking at it. And they have to tell you what year it was made, what region it's from specifically, what kind of grape it is, and all the notes that are in it. It sounds impossible.

Uncorked has a lot of underlying themes, including the tension between family expectations and Elijah's pursuit of his dream. Can you relate to being distracted from your dreams when you're pursuing your goals?

Mamoudou Athie: I've certainly allowed myself to get distracted while pursuing my goals. But that's why you have good people surrounding you; to remind you, "Hey, man. You're not doing the thing you're supposed to be doing, or the thing that you actually want to be doing." And why is that? It's not like, "Don't do that." It's, "Why are you avoiding that thing that you've been working towards your entire life? What's that about?"

I've been very fortunate to be surrounded by good people all of my life. I look at Eliza, and I think his family is [good people]. They might have some reservations - his father in particular - and maybe with good reason. Because you don't see it in the movie so much, but he's had a history of bailing on things. Actually, you do see it in the movie. There's a moment where I'm thinking maybe it's just not for me, but his family loves him no matter what. And they support him by helping him go to Paris. They helped him pay for that whole trip and that whole class.

I'm familiar with that, because my family has always been hyper-supportive of me being an actor - to the point that it's ridiculous. So, I've been very fortunate in that way, and it's worked out so they get to share that with me. It's wonderful.

Another thing you have coming up, or were probably in the process of shooting before it got shut down, is Jurassic World: Dominion. How's that project going? There are so many great actors and legends in that. Who are you excited to share the screen with?

Mamoudou Athie: I mean, I love Justice Smith so much. I think our first time being recognized in any kind of capacity is because of The Get Down. And I just loved working with him because I think he's a good, smart, hard-working talented kid. I can't even call him a kid anymore. He was a kid when we were shooting, but he's not a kid anymore. I love that kid.

But the original three I grew up watching - I'm talking about Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, and Sam O'Neill - I'm very much looking forward to working with them. Because that movie, the first one, had an indelible impression on my childhood and my life. I was huge into dinosaurs as a kid. I grew up in the DC area and always went to the Museum of Natural History. To be able to do this movie is like a dream come true. And working with the people that helped create the whole thing is amazing.

You and Jeff Goldblum both studied at the prestigious William Esper Studio in New York. Have you had a chance yet to sit down and connect with him about stories from the school or anything like that?

Mamoudou Athie: Not yet. I'm not in London yet, and I won't be for a little while, for obvious reasons. But as soon as I am, you best believe I'm hitting all those guys up for stories. I love hearing actor stories. You learn so much, and they're so fun. It's great.

More: Niecy Nash Interview for Uncorked

Directors Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci Interview: Drunk Bus

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Every movie has a particular road to travel before it arrives in front of a viewing audience. Drunk Bus has had a longer road than most. From a distance, Drunk Bus looks like an unassuming indie comedy about a collegiate bus driver trying to find his place in an overwhelmingly large world while navigating the day-to-day adventures of driving a bus full of colorful characters. However, thanks to charismatic and heartfelt acting performances from a talented cast and the unique setting (a real-life bus) that naturally lends itself to a wide variety of characters both down-to-earth and over-the-top, Drunk Bus distinguishes itself with a delightful mix of crass humor, sincere emotion, and genuine authenticity.

The feature debut from directors Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci, Drunk Bus is loosely based on Brandon's own experience as a bus driver during his college years. Originally scheduled to make its grand debut at South by Southwest, the film's future was put on hold following the cancellation of the festival in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic which continues to ravage the world and the entertainment industry. The film's future is somewhat up in the air, as the filmmakers and investors must now seek distribution deals without the shoulder-rubbing of a globally-known festival like SXSW. Still, the directors are optimistic at their prospects, and – having seen the film – so are we.

Related: Screen Rant's Drunk Bus Review

Drunk Bus is currently without a release date, and technically hasn't even had its world premiere yet (it was supposed to happen at SXSW), so the context for this interview was unique compared to how these things normally happen. Nevertheless, Screen Rant got the chance to speak to directors LaGanke and Carlucci, who discussed their work on the film and the atypical circumstances surrounding its status as a high-profile indie that has yet to secure a distribution deal. Brandon spoke to us from his home in New Jersey, while John phoned in from his car, driving across an apocalyptic highway from Texas to Connecticut. Okay, "apocalyptic highway" might a little dramatic, but these are dramatic times.

John: I'm driving back from South by Southwest. It's some real Walking Dead apocalypse s***.

The Last of Us!

John: It's totally The Last of Us.

So, what's been going through your mind with the cancellation of SXSW?

John: The first week really really sucked. It was heartbreaking. But after a week, it was like, okay, there's some real s*** going down, and that kind of took the focus away. But we've been having some really great press, and we've been doing some fun interviews, which keeps us excited about it. All we can do is just wait and see what happens with the world, and when this movie will have it's right place.

Brandon: At first, I was really heartbroken, like, "Why me? Everything happens to us!" And this has been a really long process. A lot of stuff has gone wrong throughout the process of making this movie, so now it's like, "Oh, another one." But I quickly realized, it's ridiculous for me to think like that. There are serious problems in the world that are so much bigger than this film. I realized I was being stupid, and quickly realized I needed to look out for my family and friends and not worry about the film as much.

John: It's kinda cool, in a way, that there's still an appreciation for entertainment, for movies and stories. It kind of brings us back a little bit, just to remind us that it's okay to think about fun things and bring us back to, not like this crazy reality right now, know what I mean?

I'm lucky that most of my work – not all, but a lot – can be done just on the computer from home, so I'm not 100% financially cut off the way I know a lot of people are.

Brandon: That's something that really hit us. We make our money, our day jobs are doing commercials. No productions are happening, so we're sort of screwed right now.

Yeesh. We'll circle around to the current state of affairs, but first, tell me a bit about coming together to make this movie about being in your early 20s, not knowing what you want to do with your life. Does that come from a personal place for you guys?

Brandon: There were three people involved in this project: myself, John, and our screenwriter, Chris Molinaro. And the three of us wrote this together. It came from taking our personal stories and things from our lives that were either funny or tragic or interesting. The core of the story, this setting, and especially the characters, came from my experience in college. I went to Kent State University in Ohio. I was looking to get a job, and checked to see what the highest-paying jobs were. The two highest-paying jobs were either nude modeling, and bus driving. I didn't want to do nude modeling because I'm horrible looking underneath my clothes. So I became a bus driver, and I would drive all these interesting routes, and one of them was called "The Drunk Bus." Between 2001 and 2005, before Lyft and Uber and all that stuff, we had this service where we would take kids from college campus to their dorms to the bars downtown. This was to eliminate drunk driving. Driving this route, it was like 9:00 PM to 3:00 in the morning or something. It was the night shift. It was a really weird route. It was like, the people who would get on were really bizarre people! We had a guy who had seven DUIs in this wheelchair. I had regulars. I had people who would just ride with me and hang out, kind of like Kat and Justin in the story. It was just a really fun route. I wouldn't, but people would drink on the bus. It was sort of a party! It became a cool thing, not only to get to the destination, but as a destination itself.

Wow, that sounds like a real adventure!

Brandon: I left college and became a filmmaker and moved to New York City, and met John, but I always thought it would be a great story to tell. A story that would only take place at night, on a bus. I also thought, at the time, that it would be really cheap to make. It's just on a bus!

John: It was not the case.

Brandon: You know how they always say, don't work with children or animals because they're hard to shoot? Don't shoot buses during the winter. They should add that to the list. Another part that's true is Pineapple. The character of Pineapple was my friend from college. He was actually my security guard. He's playing himself. Prior to this film, he wasn't an actor. He owns a series of piercing shops and modification shops across Austin and Houston. We were writing for him, and then when we were casting, we were just like, there's no way we can cast this person, so we just cast the real guy. We spent four or five years prepping the film with him, getting him ready for the role. He did a great job. He's amazing. I think he steals the show a lot of times. That's kind of like the backstory of it. And John, you added some stuff from your childhood, too.

John: Yeah. I did.

Brandon: There ya go.

How many years did you drive?

Brandon: I drove from 2001 to 2005, the whole time I was in college. That's why the movie is set in 2006. We wanted it to be before Lyft and Uber. Hopefully, audiences will see this in the film, from the wardrobe to an appearance from the first generation iPod.

Let's go back to when you were driving for real. Did you break your back? My dad was actually a New York City bus driver for 17 years, and it totally broke his back, the poor guy. But I'd guess not, since you were very young and only did it for  few years.

Brandon: No, I actually found it kinda therapeutic! It's so easy because the buses had super power steering. I loved driving the bus. I really enjoyed it. And when we were prepping for the film, we had a whole fleet of buses. We had four or five identical buses, and I would drive them a little bit, here and there, to show the actor, Charlie, who really did drive that bus! We were showing him how to do it with our transport guy. Getting back behind that wheel, I loved it. It's very satisfying, at the end of the day.

Did you get kinda nostalgic? Were you like, "I could do a few round trips," when you got back behind the wheel?

Brandon: Oh, for sure. I loved it. I was like, immediately happy. We were doing donuts in the stadium parking lot. It was great. It's good in snow, too.

John: It's not as difficult as you might think.

I don't drive at all, period. Partly because I'm a city kid, but my dad was an MTA driver, his older brother, who's got 20 years on him, was an MTA driver, and their dad was a bus driver before there were even buses in New York City; he was a trolley operator before they switched over to buses.

Brandon: Like, the 59th street bridge?

They used to have trolley lines all over, back in the 30s and 40s.

Brandon: I think back on this, and I was like, I don't think enough of it that Charlie Tahan doesn't have a car, he just takes Uber everywhere. He doesn't really drive. And we were like, "Hey dude, you're gonna drive a city bus, and you're gonna drive it in the snow! Here you go!" And he learned and he got really good at it! I'm grateful he wasn't inept at that. But it is pretty easy, actually. It's just a big car, really, once you get the hang of it.

I hear it's mostly the intimidation factor of it than the actual mechanics.

John: You have to remember how big your butt is when you're driving. You've got, like, 30 feet behind you.

Brandon: You hit a curb, remember that, John?

John: Yeah, I hit a curb. So what?!

Brandon: You were the only one. Everyone else did it great, and then you got behind the wheel and f***** it up.

John: I also hit a group of schoolchildren.

Brandon: Yeah, but that was on purpose.

(Laughs) You two obviously have a very strong rapport. Where did that develop?

John: Well, it was about ten years ago. We met at an ad agency in New York City. Brandon and I were accidentally put into the same room together. He was working there for a while, and I just got hired, and my boss was like, "We don't have room for you yet, but we found a place where you can work on this computer." They didn't tell Brandon about it. He walked in and was just like, "Ugh, who's this dude?" We were both directing things individually, at the time. We were, like, "check this thing out I made, oh, that's cool, check this thing out!" And we both kind of showed things back and forth, and soon after, we were hit up to do a music video, and he got the track. He sent it to me, and we were both, like, "Okay, let's go listen to the song and thing on it separately." And we both had pretty much the exact same concept without influencing each other. On a whim, we submitted the video to SXSW, and it got in! And we were like, "Oh s***!" And we would make stuff for the agency, like, in-house content for brands. And then we started making more videos and shorts. And then we just decided to take it full time.

Brandon: It was sort of a nights-and-weekends thing for a while. We realized, as we were making more, people were responding to our stuff. And so we thought, we should do this full time. So we wrapped our jobs and we joined forces and became freelance directors and we did commercials. And now we're feature film makers! We have a 16-picture deal.

John: We're going to try to topple the Fast & Furious franchise?

Wait, that's a bit, right?

Brandon: Yes. No, we're focused on making more movies and series and entertainment. This is our first stepping stone into those waters, away from commercials and music videos. Hopefully, people will like it enough to give us another shot at something else cool.

Was it an intimidating jump, going to a feature film? Were you ready?

Brandon: Yes. When we were trying to finance the film, we'd always get the response of, "Hmm, first-time filmmakers... You guys are first-time, I don't know." We'd always say back to them, "Okay, we're first-time feature makers. We're not first time feature makers. We've been making films a lot longer than a lot of first-time feature makers." We've been doing this for ten years or more, constantly. I felt, and John, I'm sure you agree, I felt extremely prepared. We had everything. We shotlisted it, exactly to what we wanted. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. We were prepping for years and years. We're not just filmmakers, but we're also editors. That's really important, I think. As you know, independent features are always about making concessions and changing. If you have an editor's brain, like John and I do, we were able to kill stuff because we were cutting in our heads. We knew exactly what the story was, how it would unfold. We didn't need to do any pickups. We had zero pickups at the end. We were very exact. I didn't feel intimidated at all. I was super prepared. I felt more anxious to just do it!

John: I'm sad it didn't happen sooner! We were so ready to do it. It happened at the right time for the right reasons, with the right cast and location and producers and crew. The bump was really something that people presented to us, with this branding of "first-time filmmakers." Nobody wants to be the first person at the gambling table to throw money down. They're so risk-averse. All of the leading up to the shoot days was probably the most meticulous, but once we started shooting, it was like, "Finally! This feels like we're swimming now." It felt really good, it was fun.

Brandon: You made this reference, John, it's sort of like practicing if you're on a team, like, practicing basketball. Practicing sports sucks, but the game rules, and you f****** kill it! It's the same with our actors. With Pineapple, we were worried up until the day we started shooting. But once he got in that uniform and got on set, it just came alive.

John: It's all those details that make it so exciting. The first time was when we got Charlie and Pineapple in the room together, and their chemistry was palpable, and we'd been writing lines of dialogue for close to 40 years, and finally, they had voices and they were real. It takes on a whole new form, and it gets you so excited. The fittings, when you see them in costume, you're like, holy s***, they're real people now! It's super exciting.

One of my favorite things about this movie is how sincere it is, even when it's got loads of gross gags and wacky shenanigans.

Brandon: We try to do that a lot with everything we do, whether it's comedy or drama or horror or whatever. We have so many different genres that we play with. I think we always try to insert authenticity in all of our work. I guess if you were able to separate us from anyone else, I think that's something. Everyone wants authenticity, but we do try to strive for that, no matter what the topic is, or the genre. Thankfully, I've been reading some of these reviews that say, even though it's ridiculous and has poop humor, it's very authentic and the characters are true to life, you know?

I think a lot of people don't necessarily understand the way independent films work. It's not part of the vertically integrated studio system. You don't automatically have distribution into 3,000 theaters. You make the movie and it's not the end; it's the start of a whole new process of getting people to see it. And that process has been totally upended right now, with the whole film festival circuit, SXSW getting cancelled. That's not a formality like when Joker played at Cannes, and stuff like that. It's really do-or-die for you guys. Is there an anxiety of, like, "Okay, we know we made an awesome, hilarious, and sincere movie, but now we have to get people to buy in to really get this out there." Can you talk a bit about that process for you and this movie?

John: I think there was a little bit of anxiety leading up to it, but I mentioned earlier that our first thing went to SXSW, and we've been back several times. We have really good relationships with the programmers there. And this felt like a homecoming, a decade later. Our first feature. They were really happy for us. We got a great screening time, we got a great theater. We have a lot of industry family and friends down in Austin, and so we knew this was going to be a really great experience, the closer we got to it. The greatest thing was, we had Charlie scheduled to come down, which took our premiere to an official SXSW red carpet moment. At our press docket, we had 15 slots on our red carpet, and they were all filled with our waiting list. So we were like, "Holy s***! This is going to be an awesome premiere!" It was probably going to sell out. It was a 420 person capacity. We had shot glasses made, little pins and stickers, and CBD gummies, and... Woah, I just had an idea. We should have them make gummy Devo hats!

That would be awesome.

John: Anyway, we were very excited.

Brandon: We were excited to see how people responded in the theater. You don't just make a film for yourself. I mean, we made it for ourselves, obviously, because it was our story, and my story, but I was anxious to have people see it and react. As John said, there were a lot of family and friends there. It's also, like, SXSW, as opposed to Sundance or Cannes or anything else, the audience is so warm and inviting. They're really accepting of new voices. I just knew they were going to love it. I knew they were going to love this movie and really respond to it. I was really excited about that. We were going to go to Cleveland afterwards, and I was excited about that, because we were going to be part of a section called "Local Heroes," because I'm from Cleveland. Basically, after SXSW got cancelled, we were like, "We're taking our film home, now." And then that got cancelled, too. It was a s**** thing, but listen: we're going to find distribution, we're really hopeful there, and this movie will be shown in a theater setting of some sort. We'll see. I think we'll have our chance. It's just not going to be the same as the SXSW red carpet experience.

You'll have to save that for Drunk Bus II.

Brandon: Pineapple's Revenge.

John: And The Rock is gonna play Pineapple's kid.

You guys really hit the ground running, and you've done great things, and I know you're going to continue doing great things. I don't want to take up too much more of your time--

John: I've got all day.

Oh right, you're on the road, John. You're driving from Austin to home. Did you drive there in the first place?

John: I actually flew down. I have a sister who lives in Austin. My plan was to stay at a hotel, then go move in with my sister and her husband, get to see the baby, and then fly to Cleveland. But once SXSW was cancelled, I thought, I'll still go because all the financiers are from Houston, and Chris, the writer, was still going to go. But then it really became a thing, where it was like, nobody's going anywhere anymore. I was in Houston at that point, it's where I flew into. I was supposed to drive down with one of the investors, but he was like, "No, I don't feel comfortable anymore." Thankfully, I got a ride with my brother-in-law, who happened to be in Houston. And then it was just, like, riding things out. I was quarantined in a hotel until yesterday. Then, it was like, how do I pivot? Where do I go? I couldn't go to my sister's, because the risk to the baby was just too high. And then I was like, I have to get back East, somehow. So I got a car, I slept in a rest area just over the state line in Arkansas last night, that was exciting. I went shopping at a Wal-Mart at 8:30 this morning, and they haven't understood how serious this is. I got a lot of stuff I needed, but nobody was wearing gloves, nobody was taking things seriously. It's kind of weird. It's been surreal. And also, just, like, we're creatures of habit, and everything has to be reprogrammed. Even when you go shopping, you have your list, but then you have your routines. And you're like, "Wait, this is the apocalypse. You don't need these things. You need the basics." It's been kind of a weird thing to be very displaced. Because I'm also not driving back to my apartment. I'm driving further east, to Connecticut, where I have family. It's a weird thing. Then you think about, this could go on for 18 months, worst case scenario. What does that mean for us as homemakers? The entertainment industry serves a purpose, but it's not a necessity in society. It's a weird thing.

More: Patrick Corcoran Interview: NATO Movie Theaters And Covid-19

Directors Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci Interview: Drunk Bus

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Every movie has a particular road to travel before it arrives in front of a viewing audience. Drunk Bus has had a longer road than most. From a distance, Drunk Bus looks like an unassuming indie comedy about a collegiate bus driver trying to find his place in an overwhelmingly large world while navigating the day-to-day adventures of driving a bus full of colorful characters. However, thanks to charismatic and heartfelt acting performances from a talented cast and the unique setting (a real-life bus) that naturally lends itself to a wide variety of characters both down-to-earth and over-the-top, Drunk Bus distinguishes itself with a delightful mix of crass humor, sincere emotion, and genuine authenticity.

The feature debut from directors Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci, Drunk Bus is loosely based on Brandon's own experience as a bus driver during his college years. Originally scheduled to make its grand debut at South by Southwest, the film's future was put on hold following the cancellation of the festival in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic which continues to ravage the world and the entertainment industry. The film's future is somewhat up in the air, as the filmmakers and investors must now seek distribution deals without the shoulder-rubbing of a globally-known festival like SXSW. Still, the directors are optimistic at their prospects, and – having seen the film – so are we.

Related: Screen Rant's Drunk Bus Review

Drunk Bus is currently without a release date, and technically hasn't even had its world premiere yet (it was supposed to happen at SXSW), so the context for this interview was unique compared to how these things normally happen. Nevertheless, Screen Rant got the chance to speak to directors LaGanke and Carlucci, who discussed their work on the film and the atypical circumstances surrounding its status as a high-profile indie that has yet to secure a distribution deal. Brandon spoke to us from his home in New Jersey, while John phoned in from his car, driving across an apocalyptic highway from Texas to Connecticut. Okay, "apocalyptic highway" might a little dramatic, but these are dramatic times.

John: I'm driving back from South by Southwest. It's some real Walking Dead apocalypse s***.

The Last of Us!

John: It's totally The Last of Us.

So, what's been going through your mind with the cancellation of SXSW?

John: The first week really really sucked. It was heartbreaking. But after a week, it was like, okay, there's some real s*** going down, and that kind of took the focus away. But we've been having some really great press, and we've been doing some fun interviews, which keeps us excited about it. All we can do is just wait and see what happens with the world, and when this movie will have it's right place.

Brandon: At first, I was really heartbroken, like, "Why me? Everything happens to us!" And this has been a really long process. A lot of stuff has gone wrong throughout the process of making this movie, so now it's like, "Oh, another one." But I quickly realized, it's ridiculous for me to think like that. There are serious problems in the world that are so much bigger than this film. I realized I was being stupid, and quickly realized I needed to look out for my family and friends and not worry about the film as much.

John: It's kinda cool, in a way, that there's still an appreciation for entertainment, for movies and stories. It kind of brings us back a little bit, just to remind us that it's okay to think about fun things and bring us back to, not like this crazy reality right now, know what I mean?

I'm lucky that most of my work – not all, but a lot – can be done just on the computer from home, so I'm not 100% financially cut off the way I know a lot of people are.

Brandon: That's something that really hit us. We make our money, our day jobs are doing commercials. No productions are happening, so we're sort of screwed right now.

Yeesh. We'll circle around to the current state of affairs, but first, tell me a bit about coming together to make this movie about being in your early 20s, not knowing what you want to do with your life. Does that come from a personal place for you guys?

Brandon: There were three people involved in this project: myself, John, and our screenwriter, Chris Molinaro. And the three of us wrote this together. It came from taking our personal stories and things from our lives that were either funny or tragic or interesting. The core of the story, this setting, and especially the characters, came from my experience in college. I went to Kent State University in Ohio. I was looking to get a job, and checked to see what the highest-paying jobs were. The two highest-paying jobs were either nude modeling, and bus driving. I didn't want to do nude modeling because I'm horrible looking underneath my clothes. So I became a bus driver, and I would drive all these interesting routes, and one of them was called "The Drunk Bus." Between 2001 and 2005, before Lyft and Uber and all that stuff, we had this service where we would take kids from college campus to their dorms to the bars downtown. This was to eliminate drunk driving. Driving this route, it was like 9:00 PM to 3:00 in the morning or something. It was the night shift. It was a really weird route. It was like, the people who would get on were really bizarre people! We had a guy who had seven DUIs in this wheelchair. I had regulars. I had people who would just ride with me and hang out, kind of like Kat and Justin in the story. It was just a really fun route. I wouldn't, but people would drink on the bus. It was sort of a party! It became a cool thing, not only to get to the destination, but as a destination itself.

Wow, that sounds like a real adventure!

Brandon: I left college and became a filmmaker and moved to New York City, and met John, but I always thought it would be a great story to tell. A story that would only take place at night, on a bus. I also thought, at the time, that it would be really cheap to make. It's just on a bus!

John: It was not the case.

Brandon: You know how they always say, don't work with children or animals because they're hard to shoot? Don't shoot buses during the winter. They should add that to the list. Another part that's true is Pineapple. The character of Pineapple was my friend from college. He was actually my security guard. He's playing himself. Prior to this film, he wasn't an actor. He owns a series of piercing shops and modification shops across Austin and Houston. We were writing for him, and then when we were casting, we were just like, there's no way we can cast this person, so we just cast the real guy. We spent four or five years prepping the film with him, getting him ready for the role. He did a great job. He's amazing. I think he steals the show a lot of times. That's kind of like the backstory of it. And John, you added some stuff from your childhood, too.

John: Yeah. I did.

Brandon: There ya go.

How many years did you drive?

Brandon: I drove from 2001 to 2005, the whole time I was in college. That's why the movie is set in 2006. We wanted it to be before Lyft and Uber. Hopefully, audiences will see this in the film, from the wardrobe to an appearance from the first generation iPod.

Let's go back to when you were driving for real. Did you break your back? My dad was actually a New York City bus driver for 17 years, and it totally broke his back, the poor guy. But I'd guess not, since you were very young and only did it for  few years.

Brandon: No, I actually found it kinda therapeutic! It's so easy because the buses had super power steering. I loved driving the bus. I really enjoyed it. And when we were prepping for the film, we had a whole fleet of buses. We had four or five identical buses, and I would drive them a little bit, here and there, to show the actor, Charlie, who really did drive that bus! We were showing him how to do it with our transport guy. Getting back behind that wheel, I loved it. It's very satisfying, at the end of the day.

Did you get kinda nostalgic? Were you like, "I could do a few round trips," when you got back behind the wheel?

Brandon: Oh, for sure. I loved it. I was like, immediately happy. We were doing donuts in the stadium parking lot. It was great. It's good in snow, too.

John: It's not as difficult as you might think.

I don't drive at all, period. Partly because I'm a city kid, but my dad was an MTA driver, his older brother, who's got 20 years on him, was an MTA driver, and their dad was a bus driver before there were even buses in New York City; he was a trolley operator before they switched over to buses.

Brandon: Like, the 59th street bridge?

They used to have trolley lines all over, back in the 30s and 40s.

Brandon: I think back on this, and I was like, I don't think enough of it that Charlie Tahan doesn't have a car, he just takes Uber everywhere. He doesn't really drive. And we were like, "Hey dude, you're gonna drive a city bus, and you're gonna drive it in the snow! Here you go!" And he learned and he got really good at it! I'm grateful he wasn't inept at that. But it is pretty easy, actually. It's just a big car, really, once you get the hang of it.

I hear it's mostly the intimidation factor of it than the actual mechanics.

John: You have to remember how big your butt is when you're driving. You've got, like, 30 feet behind you.

Brandon: You hit a curb, remember that, John?

John: Yeah, I hit a curb. So what?!

Brandon: You were the only one. Everyone else did it great, and then you got behind the wheel and f***** it up.

John: I also hit a group of schoolchildren.

Brandon: Yeah, but that was on purpose.

(Laughs) You two obviously have a very strong rapport. Where did that develop?

John: Well, it was about ten years ago. We met at an ad agency in New York City. Brandon and I were accidentally put into the same room together. He was working there for a while, and I just got hired, and my boss was like, "We don't have room for you yet, but we found a place where you can work on this computer." They didn't tell Brandon about it. He walked in and was just like, "Ugh, who's this dude?" We were both directing things individually, at the time. We were, like, "check this thing out I made, oh, that's cool, check this thing out!" And we both kind of showed things back and forth, and soon after, we were hit up to do a music video, and he got the track. He sent it to me, and we were both, like, "Okay, let's go listen to the song and thing on it separately." And we both had pretty much the exact same concept without influencing each other. On a whim, we submitted the video to SXSW, and it got in! And we were like, "Oh s***!" And we would make stuff for the agency, like, in-house content for brands. And then we started making more videos and shorts. And then we just decided to take it full time.

Brandon: It was sort of a nights-and-weekends thing for a while. We realized, as we were making more, people were responding to our stuff. And so we thought, we should do this full time. So we wrapped our jobs and we joined forces and became freelance directors and we did commercials. And now we're feature film makers! We have a 16-picture deal.

John: We're going to try to topple the Fast & Furious franchise?

Wait, that's a bit, right?

Brandon: Yes. No, we're focused on making more movies and series and entertainment. This is our first stepping stone into those waters, away from commercials and music videos. Hopefully, people will like it enough to give us another shot at something else cool.

Was it an intimidating jump, going to a feature film? Were you ready?

Brandon: Yes. When we were trying to finance the film, we'd always get the response of, "Hmm, first-time filmmakers... You guys are first-time, I don't know." We'd always say back to them, "Okay, we're first-time feature makers. We're not first time feature makers. We've been making films a lot longer than a lot of first-time feature makers." We've been doing this for ten years or more, constantly. I felt, and John, I'm sure you agree, I felt extremely prepared. We had everything. We shotlisted it, exactly to what we wanted. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. We were prepping for years and years. We're not just filmmakers, but we're also editors. That's really important, I think. As you know, independent features are always about making concessions and changing. If you have an editor's brain, like John and I do, we were able to kill stuff because we were cutting in our heads. We knew exactly what the story was, how it would unfold. We didn't need to do any pickups. We had zero pickups at the end. We were very exact. I didn't feel intimidated at all. I was super prepared. I felt more anxious to just do it!

John: I'm sad it didn't happen sooner! We were so ready to do it. It happened at the right time for the right reasons, with the right cast and location and producers and crew. The bump was really something that people presented to us, with this branding of "first-time filmmakers." Nobody wants to be the first person at the gambling table to throw money down. They're so risk-averse. All of the leading up to the shoot days was probably the most meticulous, but once we started shooting, it was like, "Finally! This feels like we're swimming now." It felt really good, it was fun.

Brandon: You made this reference, John, it's sort of like practicing if you're on a team, like, practicing basketball. Practicing sports sucks, but the game rules, and you f****** kill it! It's the same with our actors. With Pineapple, we were worried up until the day we started shooting. But once he got in that uniform and got on set, it just came alive.

John: It's all those details that make it so exciting. The first time was when we got Charlie and Pineapple in the room together, and their chemistry was palpable, and we'd been writing lines of dialogue for close to 40 years, and finally, they had voices and they were real. It takes on a whole new form, and it gets you so excited. The fittings, when you see them in costume, you're like, holy s***, they're real people now! It's super exciting.

One of my favorite things about this movie is how sincere it is, even when it's got loads of gross gags and wacky shenanigans.

Brandon: We try to do that a lot with everything we do, whether it's comedy or drama or horror or whatever. We have so many different genres that we play with. I think we always try to insert authenticity in all of our work. I guess if you were able to separate us from anyone else, I think that's something. Everyone wants authenticity, but we do try to strive for that, no matter what the topic is, or the genre. Thankfully, I've been reading some of these reviews that say, even though it's ridiculous and has poop humor, it's very authentic and the characters are true to life, you know?

I think a lot of people don't necessarily understand the way independent films work. It's not part of the vertically integrated studio system. You don't automatically have distribution into 3,000 theaters. You make the movie and it's not the end; it's the start of a whole new process of getting people to see it. And that process has been totally upended right now, with the whole film festival circuit, SXSW getting cancelled. That's not a formality like when Joker played at Cannes, and stuff like that. It's really do-or-die for you guys. Is there an anxiety of, like, "Okay, we know we made an awesome, hilarious, and sincere movie, but now we have to get people to buy in to really get this out there." Can you talk a bit about that process for you and this movie?

John: I think there was a little bit of anxiety leading up to it, but I mentioned earlier that our first thing went to SXSW, and we've been back several times. We have really good relationships with the programmers there. And this felt like a homecoming, a decade later. Our first feature. They were really happy for us. We got a great screening time, we got a great theater. We have a lot of industry family and friends down in Austin, and so we knew this was going to be a really great experience, the closer we got to it. The greatest thing was, we had Charlie scheduled to come down, which took our premiere to an official SXSW red carpet moment. At our press docket, we had 15 slots on our red carpet, and they were all filled with our waiting list. So we were like, "Holy s***! This is going to be an awesome premiere!" It was probably going to sell out. It was a 420 person capacity. We had shot glasses made, little pins and stickers, and CBD gummies, and... Woah, I just had an idea. We should have them make gummy Devo hats!

That would be awesome.

John: Anyway, we were very excited.

Brandon: We were excited to see how people responded in the theater. You don't just make a film for yourself. I mean, we made it for ourselves, obviously, because it was our story, and my story, but I was anxious to have people see it and react. As John said, there were a lot of family and friends there. It's also, like, SXSW, as opposed to Sundance or Cannes or anything else, the audience is so warm and inviting. They're really accepting of new voices. I just knew they were going to love it. I knew they were going to love this movie and really respond to it. I was really excited about that. We were going to go to Cleveland afterwards, and I was excited about that, because we were going to be part of a section called "Local Heroes," because I'm from Cleveland. Basically, after SXSW got cancelled, we were like, "We're taking our film home, now." And then that got cancelled, too. It was a s**** thing, but listen: we're going to find distribution, we're really hopeful there, and this movie will be shown in a theater setting of some sort. We'll see. I think we'll have our chance. It's just not going to be the same as the SXSW red carpet experience.

You'll have to save that for Drunk Bus II.

Brandon: Pineapple's Revenge.

John: And The Rock is gonna play Pineapple's kid.

You guys really hit the ground running, and you've done great things, and I know you're going to continue doing great things. I don't want to take up too much more of your time--

John: I've got all day.

Oh right, you're on the road, John. You're driving from Austin to home. Did you drive there in the first place?

John: I actually flew down. I have a sister who lives in Austin. My plan was to stay at a hotel, then go move in with my sister and her husband, get to see the baby, and then fly to Cleveland. But once SXSW was cancelled, I thought, I'll still go because all the financiers are from Houston, and Chris, the writer, was still going to go. But then it really became a thing, where it was like, nobody's going anywhere anymore. I was in Houston at that point, it's where I flew into. I was supposed to drive down with one of the investors, but he was like, "No, I don't feel comfortable anymore." Thankfully, I got a ride with my brother-in-law, who happened to be in Houston. And then it was just, like, riding things out. I was quarantined in a hotel until yesterday. Then, it was like, how do I pivot? Where do I go? I couldn't go to my sister's, because the risk to the baby was just too high. And then I was like, I have to get back East, somehow. So I got a car, I slept in a rest area just over the state line in Arkansas last night, that was exciting. I went shopping at a Wal-Mart at 8:30 this morning, and they haven't understood how serious this is. I got a lot of stuff I needed, but nobody was wearing gloves, nobody was taking things seriously. It's kind of weird. It's been surreal. And also, just, like, we're creatures of habit, and everything has to be reprogrammed. Even when you go shopping, you have your list, but then you have your routines. And you're like, "Wait, this is the apocalypse. You don't need these things. You need the basics." It's been kind of a weird thing to be very displaced. Because I'm also not driving back to my apartment. I'm driving further east, to Connecticut, where I have family. It's a weird thing. Then you think about, this could go on for 18 months, worst case scenario. What does that mean for us as homemakers? The entertainment industry serves a purpose, but it's not a necessity in society. It's a weird thing.

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