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An Evening With The Duplass Brothers

Kieran, here. When I saw Sean Baker’s Tangerine (discussed here), I was taken aback to see Mark and Jay Duplass (pictured left, in that order) listed as executive producers. While they’re certainly known for micro-budget features (their first film, The Puffy Chair was made for only $15,000), an indie dramedy about transwomen of color in East Hollywood seemed a far cry from their typical oeuvre.  Listening to them talk last night at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, I quickly realized my perception of them was misguided. They themselves seem aware of how they are perceived. Mark joked at one point: 

I think people think we sleep in bunk beds together. We're actually married and we have children--with other people"

Once the conversation turned to Tangerine and why they signed on as executive producers, they were eager to discuss the Sundance breakout hit. [More...]

“Working with filmmakers like Sean [Baker] keeps us young. It’s our way of seeing movies and storytelling from a completely unique perspective. It’s quite an even exchange,” Mark commented, his excitement about the Tangerine very evident. Both brothers spoke at great length about watching a variety of different movies from a diverse group of directors and how important that is to the creative filmmaking process. This was refreshing to hear from voting Academy members (the Duplass Brothers were invited to join in 2014) because it seems we often hear about how few movies some Academy members actually watch. “A lot of the time, you have these veteran filmmakers who have ten years of good work and then they hit this slump. It’s because they’re out of touch,” Mark stated.

When speaking of their beginnings, first growing up in New Orleans then at the University of Texas, the brothers listed a variety of influences.  They included films like Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie and Ordinary People, citing the importance of of HBO in seeing a lot of these titles. HBO would later go on to air their series “Togetherness,” currently in production on its second season.  

Richard Linklater and Mike Leigh also came up frequently. Jay in particular said that he was almost immediately fascinated by Mike Leigh’s process of finding the script in rehearsal. They showed a clip from Grown-Ups (not that one, don’t worry), Mike Leigh’s 1980 BBC TV movie starring Brenda Blethyn as a woman intruding on her newly married sister played by Lesley Manville, both of whom would later go on to be Mike Leigh regulars.  “The plot description could easily be for a 'Two and a Half Men' episode,” Jay joked. “But Mike Leigh takes it, stretches it over 85 minutes and somehow it works.”

Mike Leigh's GROWN-UPS, An Early Influence on the Duplass Brothers

More than anything, what you get from the Duplass is a clear love and reverence for cinema. The moderator eventually asked a slightly cheeky question about Jurassic World. The 2015 summer blockbuster was directed by Colin Trevorrow who also helmed Safety Not Guaranteed, which the Duplass Brothers produced. Mark chuckled somewhat nervously, stating that while directing films of that scale is definitely an admirable skill, they prefer to work with a leaner budget.  “Tangerine needed to be made cheaply. It wouldn’t have worked on a huge budget. And because we made it cheaply, Tangerine will make money. It already has,” Mark stated, making sure to bring it back to Baker’s film. They’ve just begun to make the rounds on the awards publicity circuit for Tangerine. If there’s any justice, it’ll pay off because that film is just fab and the Duplass Brothers definitely know how to promote it.

Towards the end of the discussion, Mark spoke enthusiastically about the freedom that keeping things small avails a filmmaker. Minimal crew and lighting. Bringing the filmmaking apparatus to the actors and observing them. The Academy is very strict about not allowing photography in their theaters during events, but I was able to snap a quick, blurry photo before the Duplass Brothers got on stage. Given their advice about filmmaking, I’d like to think Jay and Mark would approve.

more on the great Tangerine


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Reader Comments (3)

Here's hoping they bring us more interesting projects. I've thought about Tangerine more than almost any other film this year, and discussing it with other cinephiles has been a real treat.

October 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

The Duplass brothers can do no wrong in my book. I'll watch anything they're involved with, as actors, producers, directors, and/or endorsers. Not all of their projects are great, but they're always interesting.

October 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam

When I saw this in theaters, I too was taken aback to see their names. But kudos to them for helping put this film out there!

October 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

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