Writer-director Marshall Cook and actor-comedian Will Sasso spoke with Solzy at the Movies about their film fest satire, Film Fest.
What was the genesis behind the screenplay for Film Fest?
Marshall Cook: Well, I would say 23 years of—nope, 15 years of experience of just going to film festivals. I started going to them when I was about 23, hence the number mix up. But yeah, just a lot of time in different places all over the country, Write what you know, right?
Will Sasso: I don’t believe you! I’m sorry, Danielle. I don’t believe you, Marshall.
Marshall Cook: To me?
Will Sasso: Yeah, man. I don’t know. I’m just keeping it flowing and flying. I can’t. That I can’t tell you. Sorry, Danielle. Go on.
Was there a film festival in particular that inspired the film festival that we see in Film Fest?
Marshall Cook: I’m not here to name names. There’s a couple. I mean, it does take place in Idyllwild. I believe there’s a festival there.
Will Sasso: Yep. Have you been to that? I’m sorry. Danielle. Marshall have you been to that festival? Have you had a film at that festival?
Marshall Cook: Yeah.
Will Sasso: There you go. That’s the answer to your question.
The larger film festivals are always the dream for a world premiere but what is it about these obscure film festivals that make them so ripe for comedy?
Marshall Cook: I think the big ones are ripe, too. I guess it’s just the different kinds of characters and just that air of desperation that’s just in everything. I like looking at how things work. Like, nothing matters but it’s so important to the people involved. That’s just my way of looking at it.
Will, what was it about the script for Film Fest that drew you to the role of Montgomery Nash?
Will Sasso: Initially, it would have been my dear pal, Marshall Cook, saying, “Read this script and you’re probably going to be in this.” And then, when I read the role—I mean, I enjoy characters that that are—I guess the kids would say cringe. This is like a very cringey character. It’s a fellow who probably believes his own hype more than anyone else possibly could. It was really funny stuff and I was looking forward to doing it. But directly to answer your question, it’s because Marshall said this is the part you’re playing in the movie that I’m making.
Marshall Cook: Yeah. I wrote this thing for you. Will you do it? Yes. Okay, thanks
Will Sasso: Okay, now you can read it, he says.
How much fun was it to record the theme song for the podcast?
Marshall Cook: Oh, yeah. That was great. Here’s some advice: Don’t listen to that song because you’ll get ear mites. I can’t get rid of it. If I play it, it’s in my head for days.
Well, it’s kind of too late for that because I had to watch the film first.
Marshall Cook: I think you got it in one, didn’t you, Will? We did a couple.
Will Sasso: Yeah, I got it in one take. I went back to my days of auditioning for various bands that were produced by the NSYNC guy (Ed. note: Lou Pearlman). I tried out for a lot of those bands. Four plus one minus two equals two or three. That was the name of the first band. We just did a lot of malls in the Midwest. I enjoy singing and it’s more of a hobby now.
What was the most challenging part of the production?
Marshall Cook: I feel like just every day. I think like there was a week in Idyllwild where—this was the week Will was there. We had a six day schedule and it was nine page, nine pages, nine pages, 11 pages, 10 pages, nine. It was just back to back to back. It was just relentless the amount we had to do. On top of that, Idyllwild was being so quaint and beautiful to see but just a bustling little town with trucks, chainsaws, and dogs. The dog’s a mayor. A house burglar across the street.
Will Sasso: The dog is a mayor.
Marshall Cook: They’re just inventing ways to disrupt your film. That being said. the community was very film friendly and accommodating. It’s just a lot going on.
Will Sasso: It’s a very nice place to make a movie because the mayor is a nice golden lab. It’s true. I forget that mayor’s name but it’s literally a dog and it rides around the back of—
Marshall Cook: Max.
Will Sasso: Max rides around the back of a pickup truck around town. There’s all sorts of places where you can buy jerky, wood art, and stuff. Everyone’s very nice there and they’re in a good mood because of the dog and the jerky.
Marshall Cook: Pro tip: don’t film when Max is out because Max gets excited and likes to bark and ruin takes.
Good to know.
Will Sasso: If you don’t like it, maybe you should just get the f out of Max’s town. What do you think of that, Hollywood?
Marshall Cook: Well, I did.
Will Sasso: That’s right.
What is the current status of the comedy series that the two of you are developing?
Will Sasso: Dead. Dead to Rights. Oh, that. Yeah, that. Depending on what stuff you’re looking at, it might be old. Marshall and I were developing a show based on a short that we made. It’s on YouTube called Follow Me. As most things in television, you follow the snakes and ladders and you try to get it and then it dies unceremoniously and you move on.
Marshall Cook: Yeah. Or like our friend, Chad Coltrane, likes to say, dead for all time.
Will Sasso: Yep, it’s dead for all time.
Marshall Cook: Unless it’s not, who knows? Someone could come in and then maybe it’s not.
How were you able to land Rachael Leigh Cook to play herself?
Marshall Cook: We actually wrote her in the script before asking her This is one of those weird things where it wasn’t like “Celebrity Cameo” in a script. She was in it. She was working out in the same place I did. I walked up to her because I’m just so fine with being told no. I was like, “Hey, we’ve got the same last name. Want to be in my movie.? It was something a little less slick than that. She said yes. She played a lot. She was very brave, trusted us, and had a blast. We’re so fortunate to have her.
What’s the reception been like on the film fest circuit?
Marshall Cook: We wanted to do the film fest tour during 2020 but for some reason, they were not doing them. We premiered at the Austin Film Fest, which is a great festival that I was very proud to be involved. It was a little double-edged though because I really wanted to go to Austin. I mean, this movie, I think, would have played really well in theaters. The only theatrical screening experience we had was a kind of a friendly cast, crew and friends screening at the Chinese Theatre. We had over 300 people and it was amazing. But yeah, we just kind of weren’t able to do the festival circuit with it.
Will, you’re from Canada. Let me ask you, why do so many Canadians end up in comedy?
Will Sasso: I’m not the first person to say this but I feel honestly like being Canadian and sort of growing up hooked up to the same cable as America but at the same time, feeling completely different and feeling completely detached, although culturally, it’s very similar and especially when it comes to pop culture. Especially when it comes to people that grew up in the television age that now you see from the age of John Candy on down to younger people that are still—Seth Rogen—and people that are still in comedy and in the business. I think it’s a bizarre sort of detachment from what’s going on. It’s therefore an ability to look at it as a third person and make fun of it.
Canadians are—we’re a very self-effacing people and there’s a lot of comedy in that. I feel like people with a bit of a sense of humor in Canada are usually very self-deprecating and that helps. I’m a piece of shit. See?
Marshall Cook: Will!
Will Sasso: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m just being funny, Marshall.
Marshall Cook: How did it get there?
Will Sasso: Because I’m just being Canadian. Look, I have the British Columbia flag there. It’s all sorts of mess of different things and yeah, I’m legitimately Canadian. That’s a wooden fish. I’m annoyingly Canadian.
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