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Inside With: Filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Part II)

Jordan Vogt-Roberts is putting a very nice wrap on 2009. Directly on the heels of his cheeky-as-hell "Yogi Bear Audition Reel" (which scored his business partner TJ Miller a lead part in the upcoming live-action/animated Yogi Bear movie), Vogt-Roberts learned that his short, Successful Alcoholics, had been accepted to the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and that a greenlit Comedy Central special is on the docket and will be keeping him busy for the early part of 2010. We sat down recently to chat with our old pal and caught up on the latest and greatest.

Apiary: First of all, CONGRATS AGAIN on Sundance! This is extremely exciting, for lots of reasons! What was the process you had to go through to get your short seen in the first place?

JVR: Sundance just has a pretty basic submission system. We submitted back in September. 6,098 or some crazy amount of shorts got submitted this year. For U.S. Dramatic they picked 18.

Apiary: Holy fuck. That's ridiculous. Are you familiar with the others that were chosen?

JVR: No, not yet. I met a few of the directors last night at a gala. Spike Jonze is in my category for a short. So that's pretty ridiculous.

Apiary: WOW. Are you pretty nervous? I mean, just in general, for the whole event and EVERYTHING? Or are you pretty cool Hollywood by now?

JVR: I'm not nervous necessarily. I'm going to Park City with the intention of having a good time and hanging out. Our short is 25 minutes and it's a really dark comedy so it's always interesting to see how it plays. We shot it so long ago (Feb 2008), and post-production took so long because we had no money, so we were working with editors during nights and weekends. It's really nice to have the short get out there and have a good reaction. I guess Sundance is the final test though, eh?

Apiary: For sure. Do you know any details on your screening as of yet? And, who are dreaming of meeting or who are you gonna stalk out? Are there any films you yourself are excited to view? Do you get an all access pass?

JVR: Yeah, they sent me the dates of the screenings today. I'm in the shorts program II. Basically as a filmmaker my understanding is that I can eat and drink for free the entire week. Considering our short is called Successful better believe I'll be pretty drunk. I have a badge that will get me a lot of places but I'm just going to play the whole thing by ear. Last night at a Directors Guild Gala for Sundance filmmakers, I met Jason Reitman, the Duplass Brothers, and a whole bunch of great artists. It was incredible how there's a very real sense of camaraderie with everyone saying, 'FUCK YEAH...SUNDANCE". I'd like to use that kinship to get drunk with Philip Seymour Hoffman or someone like that.

It's just validating considering we slaved over that short for so long it really kinda became this white whale for a while.

Lizzy Caplan and TJ Miller, Successful Alcoholics

Apiary: Let’s talk about Blerds for a bit. We talked about it a couple years ago, but now I’m wondering: How do you see that experience in retrospect? What did it mean to you then, and what has its return been?

JVR: Blerds is crazy in retrospect. I was lucky to be a part of it. You have these comedians who are absolutely destroying both coasts right now — TJ [Miller], Kumail [Nanjiani], [Kyle] Kinane, [Matt] Braunger, etc — and we couldn't get our shit together enough not to self-destruct as a group.

Blerds was when I discovered for myself that comedy was what I wanted to do with film. So that was a pretty big deal.

I also think that for a lot of the comics, once they saw the amount of attention the videos were getting — which basically means the amount of attention their material was getting — it kind of told a lot of them it was time to leave Chicago and take the next step.

Apiary: You also got a TJ Miller out of it. :) What is your working partnership with him, exactly?

JVR: Sometimes we want to kill each other, we work together so often. We have a pretty similar work ethic in the sense that we'll both kill ourselves to get something done, or do something ridiculous for the sake of comedy. The bear video is a good example of that.

Apiary: Ha, for sure! Admit it, you were scared of the bear.

JVR: The bear weighed 600 pounds and could tear us apart. It was an insane Wednesday afternoon. I joke that when I show my L.A. friends their reaction is something like, "wow, this is amazing," and then I show my friends in the Midwest or my family and they say something like, "oh my god...were you safe?", "what were you thinking?' or just, "you're in idiot."

Jordan Vogt-Roberts (right) with Bam-Bam the Bear

But TJ and I own a damn company together at this point for our Comedy Central special, so somehow we've legally been linked together.

Apiary: Essentially, you are married. I'm sorry, I didn't get a gift (yet). So, come again now? Comedy Central special? Do discuss.

JVR: So, this is one of those frustrating Hollywood things where TJ and I sold an hour special / backdoor pilot to Comedy Central almost a year and a half ago. Contracts took a seemingly endless amount of time, but we're finally close to shooting it. We actually would be shooting now if I didn't make that damn bear video, causing TJ to get cast and go off to New Zealand to shoot Yogi.

It's actually somewhat based around the Blerds shorts and a bunch of other content TJ and I were making.We're hoping to use a lot of Chicago people in it. Kumail, Braunger, Hannibal [Buress], and others.

We have the money from Comedy Central now. So nothing is going to stop it from getting made. Which is pretty incredible. It's draining because it has taken so long to get to this point. But we basically have creative license for 42 minutes on Comedy Central to showcase our brand of humor. So um...thanks Comedy Central. It will also be nice because I feel like it's going to act as the swan song for the Blerds format.

We're hoping to start filming in March now. I mean, it has already taken a year and a half of my life and we haven't even shot a frame of it yet. I'd love to deliver a final tape to Comedy Central a few months after we shoot. I'd like to think it will air by the end of the summer, but I have no control over such things.

Apiary: Besides the Comedy Central and Sundance news, what else is coming down the pipeline for you? Because those two things aren’t enough, you know.

JVR: I'm developing something with Al Madrigal that I'm pretty excited about. I just wrapped season 2 of a Web series for FOX with a comedy duo Pete and Brian. Thomas Middleditch and I just finished a trilogy of shorts that we're going to try and pitch something based on. I just try and stay busy. TJ and I have some script ideas that we're hoping Successful Alcoholics will get people excited about. Or perhaps just making a feature of that. Ultimately I just want to pay my rent as a director.

Apiary: Another admirable goal, indeed! I have a feeling on 2010...Do you?

JVR: I mean, I currently can pay my rent as a director...but sometimes you look at your bank account, and you wonder if your 'artistic integrity' would be better served by the sanity of getting a steady paycheck from Starbucks.

I hope 2010 is good. L.A. is fickle though.

Apiary: Speaking of the which, do you have any "only in Hollywood!" stories to share, either good or bad? You've been there, two years now?

JVR: I was once pitching something at MTV and was standing outside with my manager. For some reason, my manager knows Warren G (because that's what people in Hollywood do) and Warren came up to us and started to smoke a blunt. My manager walked away and thus I was stuck smoking a blunt with Warren G. So that was...interesting. Dumb stuff like that happens all the time here; people lose perspective on everything.

I was at a party the other week and Terrence Howard showed up. He interrupted my conversation to ask me something facetiously, which turned into him and I discussing the merits of the movie House Party. It's a weird place.

Honestly, I think about it a lot. There's something wrong with everyone here. We've all chosen to work in a place where people are straight up known to be bad people, mean people, man children, misogynists, whatever. Keeping perspective here is a job in itself.

There are no seasons here, so you go to bed in October and wake up in August saying, 'where the hell did those months go'?

Watch more of Jordan Vogt-Roberts' videos at his Funny or Die station.

--Kristy Mangel

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Reader Comments (1)

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October 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterindiereign

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