In a world of features, short films rarely get much attention. Yet the best five-minute shorts usually contain more originality and creativity than your average Hollywood blockbuster. That’s why we launched Short Stuff, a weekly profile on a promising short-form filmmaker and their newest piece of work. Think of it as an investment in the talent of tomorrow.
Writer/director Richard Keith pokes fun at Rogen-esque man-children with Grow Up Already, an endearing romantic comedy short that’s peppered with recognizable faces. Johnny Simmons (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) plays Andy, a twenty-three and three-quarters year-old boy trapped by his overprotective parents in a state of perpetual toddler-dom. But after his girlfriend Winnie (Odette Annable) gets fed up with changing his nappy and dump him, Andy realizes it might be time to sever the umbilical cord once and for all.
Keith’s amusing script bounds along with the aid of an immensely hummable main theme, as Andy, with the help of his similarly infantile friend Bunky (Ethan Suplee) sets about becoming the man he’s destined to become.
Watch the film’s trailer, and check out my conversation with director Richard Keith, below.
What is/are your favourite film/films?
In Bruges is my favorite. I’m a huge fan of Martin McDonagh (his play The Pillow Man is also my favorite play). I’m a big fan of comedy that comes out of playing with the tone of the movie while still keeping a realistic and heartfelt thread running throughout. Not to in any way compare my short, that involves the mother from Titanic bouncing a grown man in a diaper on her lap, but I am really entertained and inspired by that kind of writing. I also really love the classic romantic comedies from the 90’s. Anything Richard Curtis. Notting Hill and Love Actually (not 90’s I know) are two of my favorites. He’s great at writing really unique, specific love stories, rather than the generic Matthew McConaughey and Katherine Heigl love stories that seem to litter the landscape today.
How long have you been interested in filmmaking?
Since I was a little kid. I’ve always been someone who enjoyed escaping into films. According to my mom when I was two years old I used to watch Flashdance over and over and over again. Hopefully my taste has evolved since then.
Did you study film and if so, where?
In the words of Quentin Tarantino, “[No I didn’t go to film school] I went to films.” I started out as an actor and quickly became interested in getting to tell people what to do rather than being told what to do. So I started making short films with my sketch comedy troupe at ACME Comedy Theater and learned by doing. Eventually we were able to get some really cool people to act in our shorts, like Lea Thompson, Neil Flynn, John Hawkes, Matthew Lillard and Dani Pudi, among others. I really think “learn by doing” is the way to go now-a-days. Although, then I watch a Quentin Tarantino film and realize I have no idea what the heck I’m doing really [and] wish I had a film degree rather than a smart ass answer to that question.
Tell me about some other projects you’ve been involved with?
I sort of answered this in the last question, but a bunch of those shorts I referred to are actually online at http://www.funnyordie.com/ilooklikemymom. They’re in reverse order of when I made them starting with the trailer for Grow Up Already (a pretty large budget) all the way back to the first video I ever shot, Seeing Eye to Eye (no budget, no lights, I did it all myself). So you can actually kind of watch me learn (or maybe not learn) as I go.
Where did the idea for Grow Up Already originate?
Well I was sitting on my mother’s lap in a diaper while she spoon fed me pureed carrots. No, I was trying to think of a fun hook for a romantic comedy short…and I just kept seeing this recurring man-child motif and that’s where it started; me wondering just how unsuitable a guy could be for a girl for her to actually break up with him. Then I went five steps past that.
You’ve assembled a really impressive cast for this short. Tell me a little bit about how each of the primary cast members got involved.
I really owe it all to Francis Fisher. She is friends with my producer, Tom Rice, and had worked with him on his feature film The Rising Place. She read the script and trusted that I wouldn’t make her look silly. And that trust that she placed in me helped me convince the rest of the cast. So once she signed on we offered the role to Johnny and he also thought there was a really sweet message underneath the silly story. (Well to be honest I don’t know if he thought that, but I assume/hope he did). Odette is repped at my same management company (Evolution Entertainment) so that helped us get to her. Again Jim was a friend of my producer. And once we had that cast in place, we were able to convince Ethan to do it (he had read the script and responded but wanted to see who we cast before he signed on). I have to say every time I watch the short I’m blown away by how amazing and talented they all are and that they agreed to help me bring my silly idea to life.
You’ve worked as an actor yourself? Has this been beneficial for you in terms of your directing?
Very much. A large part of directing is being able to communicate your thoughts and ideas to everyone on set. So having acted I knew how I liked to work with directors, so I started from there and just tried to be as collaborative with my cast as possible. I think that’s true for crew too, which is why I’ve worked on crews as much as possible.
Were there any films or filmmakers that were of particular inspiration to Grow Up Already?
Judd Apatow and Richard Curtis. My hope was to bring those two worlds together with this film. A slightly over the top man child combined with that awesome specificity Richard has in his love stories that make them resonate with audiences.
How much time have you spent with the film in total, from conception to production to having it screened?
A little under two years. I wrote the first draft in August of 2011. I hadn’t even met my wife yet. Movies take a long time, even short ones. Actually the short ones usually take longer because you have amazing people working for you for little to no money in their spare time.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing emerging filmmakers at the moment?
The deluge of content brought about by DSLR cameras. It’s not nearly as hard as it used to be to make a film that looks amazing. Unfortunately it’s still just as hard to make a GOOD film. So audiences have a lot more content to wade through to find the good stuff. But on the other side of that, it allows people with more talent than money to make a film that shows just how good they are and what they’re capable of. So it’s a double edged sword.
As a short filmmaker, how does the internet affect the way you market and distribute your movie?
It’s everything. Without it there’d be a very small (or no) market for short films. Now anyone can distribute their stuff to the world. Not to mention the internet has shortened our attention spans so people are looking for high quality short form entertainment more than ever before.
What other projects do you have you got coming up in the future? Would you like to make the transition into features at some point?
I would love to! I have a couple of TV pilots that are in various stages of development, as well as a feature length romantic dramedy called Fall… that I’m really excited about. It takes place over one night and is about a suicidal man who agrees to spend one night with a woman who says that if she can’t prove to him that life is worth living, she’ll kill him herself. It’s sort of (500) Days of Summer meets a dark It’s a Wonderful Life.
Where are some of the places Grow Up Already has been screened so far, and where can people catch it now?
It’s done a fair amount of festivals, including The Heartland Film Festival, The LA ShortsFest, L.A. Comedy Shorts Festival, The Atlantic Film Festival, The Tri-Media Film Festival, The Asheville Cinema Festival, The Napa Valley Film Festival, and the Miami International Short Film Festival. It’s screening April 27th at the Charleston International Film Festival and this summer (July) at the New Hope Film Festival. It will also be available on IndieFlix.com on April 30th.
Do you and/or the film have an online presence?
We sure do. Please like us. It’ll make me like myself more: http://www.facebook.com/growupalreadyfilm
Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself or the film?
I think I’ve probably already said to much. So all I’ll say is how grateful I am to all of the wonderful cast and crew that helped me make this film possible (and I hope you’ll all work with me again soon!)