Baghead: Making of the Duplass Brothers Film

Ever wonder about those who crowd, or maybe thinly populate, the seats at unheralded film festivals The ones whose outstretched hands scream pick me! at every postscreening Q&A And who scheme to make it past the bouncer at the exclusive premiere party, only to discover a room filled with the Chamber of Commerce and a $3 Bud special

During the festival tour for their lo-fi first film “The Puffy Chair,” the Duplass brothers apparently got to meet a lot of these folks and clearly developed a profound fondness for them. With apologies to Diablo Cody, they also probably watched “The Blair Witch Project” on Starz about a thousand times.

But it says about their second feature “Baghead” that its the first movie about would-be auteurs caught in the woods and not quite alone to be invited to Sundance in a very long time.

With “Badhead,” the Duplass brothers hand a Scooby-Doo narrative, which advances various pursuits of sex alongside a half-baked bid for instant fame, over to a quartet of incredibly naturalistic actors playing actors. In the gentle, patient hands of the Duplasses, who managed to elicit genuine emotion from the vision of a burning La-Z-Boy recliner, the audience is invited to develop an overpowering affection for these desperate dreamers too.

The Meat:

So what would this film at its core actually be about Jay and Mark spent almost two years on the festival circuit promoting “The Puffy Chair.” During this time, they were confronted over and over again with one consistent element–desperate actors. Those poor, slightly pathetic characters always waiting outside in the cold to get into a party that doesnt want them. The ones who approach you as if youve been best friends for years, and hand you a bulky DVD with their reel and poorly designed business card.

At first, Jay and Mark were (like everyone) disgusted and turned off by these actors. But, over the course of time, the Duplass Brothers had a change of heart and fell in love with the desperate actor (after all, the desperate filmmaker is a not-so-distant cousin of the desperate actor).

Although highly tragic, these people showed enormous persistence. Almost like the classic hero structure–they prepare for a battle, knowing they are going to lose, but they go in anyway. Mark and Jay eventually found the humor and heart there that would form the backbone of the characters in Baghead. Four desperate actors head off into the woods to write the next great American screenplay, without a clue as to how to get it done. The perfect human vehicles for their unique blend of tragicomedy.

The Fixings:

All of the roles were cast with unknown actors and, in most cases, the parts were written specifically for the cast members. Theres Matt, the hottie Type-A group leader. Chad, is Matts chubby best friend and sidekick. He is crushing hard on Michelle, the young midwestern transplant new to LA (though she may be more interested in Matt). And of course, theres Catherine, the painfully desperate pushing 40 actress who wants to solidify her on again/off again relationship with Matt before she loses him to a younger girl.

The Bun:

Although Jay and Mark had an offer from a major studio to make Baghead within the system, they chose to make it they way they knew best. Guerilla style. The entire production process was as stripped down as possible. The cast and crew numbered under ten people. Jay held the HD camera and Mark held the boom. The film was shot over the course of 3 weeks in the woods, everyone bunking together in the very locations they shot in. Actors carried lights, lighting guys offered script advice, and directors cooked dinner. Like Cassavetes, it was a true family-style collaboration.

Time to Eat:

The filming process was the same they used on “The Puffy Chair.” In order to get the most spontaneous, natural performances possible, there would be no rehearsals and no lighting set-up changes. Scenes would begin and run all the way through to the end without stopping. And, though they did work from a tightly structured screenplay, the actors had the freedom to go anywhere and say anything they wanted inside of a given scene. Jay and Mark would follow the cast around like a documentary crew, catching it all on the fly. About 30-40% of what ended up in the film came from first takes, where the real
surprises happened and the actors reacted accordingly.

Digestion:

The edit took about a year. Jay Deuby is the secret mastermind behind the Duplass Brothers movies. He makes them look good by sifting through the somewhat chaotic footage and putting together 90 minutes that make sense.