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Entries in jordan vogt-roberts (4)

Tuesday
Apr132010

The LA Hip Tip

Poster illustration by JT Wilcox APRIL 29, 7:30PM and 9:30PM, The Hollywood Musicbox, 6216 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles: Reserve your free tickets now for Mash Up, a Comedy Central Presents live TV taping. Featuring stand-up by Matt Braunger, Hannibal Buress, TJ Miller, and Kumail Nanjiani, this show will be shot by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Vogt-Roberts referenced this project in our recent interview with him here, citing that the final product will be a Blerds-style production, with sketches and shorts interspersed with live stand-up. As for this leg of the production, you would be remiss to not reserve your free tickets for what is going to be a rip-roaring stand-up comedy show starring four poised-to-explode comics.

--Kristy Mangel

Friday
Dec182009

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 Alcoholics...you 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



Monday
Dec072009

Successful Alcoholics to Screen at Sundance

T.J. Miller and Lizzy Caplan, screenshotThe 25 minute short film directed and produced by filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts, co-produced by Lizzy Caplan, written by T.J. Miller, and starring OVER ONE THIRD of Comedy Central's 2009 Hot List -- T.J. Miller, Matt Braunger, Whitney Cummings, and Nick Kroll -- in addition to Lizzy Caplan, Tony Hale, Nick Thune, Allison Munn, Fred Goss, Ryan Ridley, Brian Sacca, Pete Karinen, and Maribeth Monroe -- has been chosen to screen at the 2010 Sundance Festival. This news follows directly on the heels of Jordan's "TJ Miller's Yogi Bear Audition" success. Congrats to all! Watch the trailer for the film now!

--Kristy Mangel

Tuesday
Apr102007

Inside With: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

On a chilly April evening in Chicago, the Bastion got a chance to formally chit-chat with filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts, in between his dates on the coast and right before the DC Comedy Fest this coming weekend (where he'll be chairing the Short Comedy Film portion of the festival). Embodying a famed lyric by one of his favorite music acts, Jordan lives and breathes the war cry, "No sleep 'til Brooklyn!," wherein Brooklyn is the Wide Open Future, or possibly for simplicity's sake the festival, or maybe it’s a development deal, or maybe it's just when his body refuses to take anymore commands and abuse. He's seen very little of that ever-elusive sleep this last week and has another all-nighter planned tonight. With tomorrow's dawn, he may be able to chase around the dreamworld, but daylight will allow that as such when the time comes.

Jordan came to Chicago a few years ago to pursue his studies in filmmaking, and has, in the last year and a half, found himself firmly ensconced in the Northside alt stand-up and improv comedy scene. Initially contacted by the Lincoln Lodge after they got wind of a music video he had directed and produced in Phoenix and that was then submitted to Gen Art for a contest, Jordan agreed to be their "variety act" for one of the shows, and subsequently met stand-up comedian Mike Bridenstine. Mike, a burgeoning filmmaker himself, approached Jordan with the idea of collaborating on a few small projects here and there. After deliberating for a bit, those 'small projects' became what is now known as Blerds, a blog and video site, whose content comes from twelve comedians, nine still in Chicago, and three on the coasts. Jordan became the Resident Filmmaker for the group, and soon found himself dedicating more and more of his free, and then sleeping time, to the group and their snowballing ideas.

Right now he and his sleep schedule are at odds due to the most recent project the group has signed on with – the production of online content for Jose Cuervo’s latest marketing campaign, RespectTheSeason.com. The shorts the group produces will act as the viral/guerrilla video aspect of the site, Jordan explains. Three of the five shorts commissioned have been greenlighted, and now it’s a mad dash to create and finalize the product for the site. According to Jordan, Blerds videos previously produced were found quite serendipitously by a copywriter at Tribal DDB, who then passed the link along to a creative at the agency, and before anyone could say “Salut!” they were dressing up in Victorian garb and beast masks and the director was working a 21-hour shift. “It's new territory for Cuervo.  It's a pretty brave campaign.  In general this kind of stuff is new ground for a lot of the industry right now," he says.

During the same time that this new project was developing, Jordan got to revisit his very first project with the group -- “Every Eminem Song Ever Made.” A music video for the collaborative "Sugar Powdered Donuts" (stand-up comedians Mike Bridenstine and Mike Holmes), this short is currently seeing a surge in viral distribution, and has been picked up by several portals, including iFilm, SuperDeluxe, Daily Motion, Yahoo! TV, and BestWeekEver.tv. Jordan, a self-described “fantastical-realist”, is hesitant to place too much credence in the medium, however. When asked how he feels about “what’s happening” with the video, he says, “I don't really feel like much is happening with it honestly. That video is a year old.  It's getting 50k to 150k hits on the various video portals that it's on. Ultimately that just doesn't mean much though.  Those views don't really translate into anything. That video is also such a unique beast -- drama it seems to stir with fire and brimstone Eminem fans.  It's nice to know the video is making its rounds though.” As for the viral world itself, he has a few thoughts: “It's such a confusing landscape right now.  No one is really quite sure how to make money off of Internet comedy right now or how to most effectively brand/market yourself. With the SuperDeluxe's, MySpace's, Break's, Rever's, YouTube's, Daily Motion's, iFilm's, Joost's and the infinite-other-distribution-sites-out-there it's a confused landscape. No one is debating how influential the viral landscape is but I think it's also worth noting that it's not as huge as people think it is… I like to know where my work is.  User feedback via comments is always somewhat worthwhile to me, if not from a professional standpoint but from a sociological one,” he says.

Asked if he had any inclination a year ago that Blerds would be the animal that it now is, Jordan says, “Blerds is a really strange thing in every way.  The group of people, the working process, the response we've gotten, etc. [It] still has an infinite amount of growing it needs to do in just about every way.  It's great in the sense that most video groups out there are sketch groups rather than stand up collectives.  It's also rare to get the combined perspective and collaboration of a filmmaker and comedians bringing different aesthetics to their work.  Rather than just a group of comedians picking up a Handycam and flooding YouTube with their 'hilarious video' or a bunch of film students making comedy.  It's a good mix.  People joke that it's like the Wu Tang Clan -- which sucks for me because I have no rhythm -- unless it's in an editing program!"

The Blerds stuff was born out of working with twelve comics who couldn't nail down a cohesive and agreed upon idea for an intro video.  They gave me a week to do it and so the first thing that clicked for me was to go with what we knew worked -- their bits. Visualizing them didn't seem like a particularly new or interesting idea to me, but it seemed like a competent one for the time I had to get the videos done. The style of the videos, which is essentially just stand up comedy visualized in slightly hyperbolized situations, is what made the most sense to me. In retrospect we stumbled upon a rather good way to present stand up comedy online in a digestible format.

Since, apparently, the non-stop Blerds filming schedule wasn’t enough for him, Jordan also recently began collaborating with Blerds member and uber-comedian TJ Miller on a side project. They’ve already had one showcase and screening in Los Angeles, and are currently trying to decide how to best approach the next step. In fact, directly after the DC Comedy Fest, Jordan is winging out to L.A. for some meetings and plans to secure representation very soon – “I'm just being introduced into this quagmire of getting representations, selling work, etc. Quite weird,” he says.

Although he did attend film school, Jordan kept finding himself knowing more about a technical aspect of film than his professor, and voraciously devoured all of the literature on the subject that he could find. What’s become known as the “Blerds style” is a unique method of shooting and editing that Jordan developed over his years of experiencing different situations and reacting to them accordingly, subsequently turning them back upon themselves in a reflection of what he sees: “It's all puzzle-solving to me.  Each project is just solving a problem.  It's a matter of finding what technique works best for the piece itself. My influences are all over the place but a lot of it just stems from being stubborn and thrusting myself into a situation where I'm in over my head.  That was my schooling.  Saying, 'hey, I'm going to go shoot a feature documentary' then reading ten books, then three weeks later flying to L.A. making phone calls and taking the crash course. Or saying, "hey, General Motors, sure I can direct this stuff for you,' and in reality having no prior experience but a good general understanding of the way things and humans behave. That was my schooling," he says.

Speaking of General Motors, fans of Jordan can support the American car company, with stock and automobile purchases: the company could possibly be considered Jordan’s benefactor and most powerful supporter. Back in the summer of 2005, a friend of Jordan’s convinced his place of employment to give this unknown filmmaker a chance to direct and produce a series of corporate DVDs, with the following condition: The company would buy the equipment, and if they liked the final product, Jordan could keep the equipment. If they weren’t satisfied, he would have to foot his own bill. “It's all the stuff I use now for the most part,” he said. And he didn’t have to foot the bill.

Jordan doesn’t see things slowing down for him anytime soon, and one gets the sense that he wouldn't have it any other way, either.

"Here's how I spent my Easter: Dressing up like a caveman and rubbing dirt on my face for a scene while shooting an homage to 2001.  Shooting a Victorian era scene and supervising beast prosthetic makeup. Did that from 9am until 6am. My back hurts.  My eyes are heavy.

"Let's just say that if I'm not sleeping I'm generally editing or shooting something.  It's really strange.  Everyone always warns me that I'll burn out or um, go insane.  Sort of the whole Icarus -- fly too high thing.  Meh, fly by night or build better wings, I say."

--Kristy Mangel