Everything is connected by pizza. Or karma. Mostly karma.
No matter what you believe in the nature of coincidences, karma and pizza, believe this: Matt Walsh brought his new improvised comedy film, A Better You, to Indiegogo and not Kickstarter or anywhere else for help crowd-sourcing his post-production finances because his role in another independent film (David Cross’s directorial debut, Hits) had brought him to Sundance where a chance meeting led him here.
It’s an organic sequence of events. Like improv, finding the unusual thing and running with it.
“I hid my shame, and I’m trying to have fun with it,” Walsh told The Comic’s Comic this week about going to Indiegogo to ask for money. “Truthfully, I was at Sundance for a movie. I ended up talking to these guys…we ended up getting pizza, and I found out they were on Indiegogo.”
So Walsh and Brian Huskey, who co-wrote the outline for Walsh’s second improvised movie as a director, are specifically asking for $52,650. They have until April 21, 2014, to reach their goal. The film’s already shot. “Your contributions will enable us to pay for such post-production services as color correction, ADR sessions, sound mix and balancing, music rights, finishing our score, MPAA rating fees, and quite possibly allow us to shoot one last minute scene,” the project notes.
A Better You follows Dr. Ron (Huskey) as he attempts to fix people of Los Angeles through hypnotherapy. Of course, the person who most needs fixing turns out to be the good doctor. Horatio Sanz, Joe Lo Truglio, Rob Huebel, Erinn Hayes, Adam Pally, Morgan Walsh, Seth Morris, Andrew Daly, Riki Lindhome, Reid Scott, Mo Gaffney and Parvesh Cheenah all co-star.
Here’s the trailer:
What did you learn from directing your first improvised movie, High Road, that served you well here?
“I think practical lessons, with a small budget you try to limit locations,” Walsh said. “That’s really smart. That rehearsal before you get into filming is really helpful, because then your actors learn the world they’re inhabiting.”
“Every day before the scene, have some jokes in your pocket that you can pitch the actors. Or know what’s funny about every scene before you start rolling.”
With improvised comedies — you mention the Christopher Guest films as well as the way Curb Your Enthusiasm uses plot outlines rather than scripted dialogue — they’re really in vogue now among your contemporaries. Judd Apatow films lots of takes. Adam McKay — an O.G. UCB member! — just put out a second, alternate edition of Anchorman 2 replacing existing jokes with other improvised punchlines and tags.
Walsh said he thinks great comedic actors “have always been given freedom,” adding: “Jerry Lewis, or Charlie Chaplin, or Peter Sellers…they were given some latitude to play. I don’t think it’s anything new. But I think people are more savvy now about improv. I’ve worked with Todd Phillips. I’ve worked a little with Judd. He’s improv-friendly. Plus. You’re not burning film anymore. So you’re not burning an essential resource. So that may be part of it. And a lot of the people who are coming to the forefront in acting and directing have experience in improv, and bring along with them a posse of improvisers.”
“I think a lot of directors who are comedy writers, they love to chip in jokes. The more fresher the jokes, the better the spontaneity,” he said.
“So those would be my quick observations.”
How much pre-planning did you have for your Indiegogo pitch video with Huskey?
“The pitch video? We had a mental outline. We got to my house in the morning. I knew we needed to have three or four gags and keep it moving. I outlined what I thought was unique about improv filmmaking…I knew the four or five points that were true…and then on successive takes we molded and adjusted it.”
In addition to Hits, Walsh also will appear in this summer’s Into The Storm, “which is an action-tornado movie” but a real thriller (no sharks) directed by Steven Quale. And he has HBO’s Veep, where he plays Mike McLintock, the communications director to Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) — that series returns for its third season April 6, with Meyer eyeing a run for the White House.
“This year, we’re not in D.C. very much for the whole season,” Walsh said. Meyer spends a lot of time meeting powerful special interest groups wooing potential voters and campaign donors. “I think everybody is more spread out. For my character, you get to see his home life. ‘Do I really want to do this forever?'”
Walsh said Veep is “very rehearsal-heavy improv” but stick close to the script when filming.
Any advice for other filmmakers looking to Indiegogo, Kickstarter or elsewhere for donations?
“The idea is find a way to make it fun,” Walsh said. “It’s tricky to ask people for money. It’s not something I enjoy. I try to make it fun and friendly. If you give away fun prizes for smaller donations. I’m going to be making a bunch of videos that are funny in itself.”
You can see those “life hack” videos on the Indiegogo campaign’s Updates tab. “A thank you for visiting the page,” he said. “So I’m not coming hat in hand every time. It’s a softer sell, which I’m more comfortable with.”
Watch this life hack from Judd, showing you how to keep the cheese off of your fingers when snacking.
Walsh also is giving back, financially, too. “I’m with a grassroots foundation, The Awesome Foundation. Every month we give out $1,000 to an awesome idea,” he said. “They just have to write a couple of paragraphs of what they’d do with the money.”
“We gave a guy 1,000 bucks to hang 50 swings throughout Los Angeles in unused spaces,” he said. To another, $1,000 for emergency broadcast systems, to use the PA systems in place “to have little concerts come out of them and surprise people.”