Interview by Greg Carlson
Moviemakers Eric Carlson, Marcus Mann, and Andrew Neill, who create projects together under the Two Jackets Productions banner, will be present with the cast for a free screening of their feature length debut “Limpwings” at the Fargo Theatre on Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 9:30pm. The public is cordially invited to attend.
HPR’s Greg Carlson interviewed the trio as they prepared for the premiere.
HPR: “Limpwings” is an interesting title, particularly because the movie’s point of view is filtered through a different character entirely. Where did the choice of title come from?
Marcus: We wanted our movie’s title to be memorable, and “Limpwings” stood out to us as one phrase that viewers will take away from the film. It can also be seen as a reference to our lead’s arrested development—his inability to take flight.
Andrew: Yeah, even though Eric and I were more hesitant towards the title at first – we thought perhaps it was too bizarre – we warmed up to it, and now we wouldn’t give it up for anything. If you Google “Limpwings” right now, the entire first page of selections are us.
HPR: How did the challenges of producing the episodic web-series “3rd West Ballard” prepare you for a feature narrative? What was the biggest difference between making a web series and short movies and the transition to a feature?
Marcus: Writing a feature film is a lot different than writing an episodic piece. In a web series, there are multiple episodes to develop the different facets of each character. A writer can explore relationships and character histories in great depth over a long period of time. With a feature you only have a brief window into the characters’ lives, and as a writer one has to find a story worthy of the format.
Andrew: Our experience from making our short films and “3rd West” were the reason why we felt it was time to make a feature. It was time for us to evolve to the next level as filmmakers. We felt we knew enough about the aesthetics of film to make it look damn good – and shooting it on the RED camera definitely helped make that possible – but we also knew how to budget our time – how to schedule. “3rd West” was a monster to plan, and back then we made a lot of mistakes in under-estimating the amount of time it took to shoot. When it came time to figure out the schedule for “Limpwings,” we were ready.
HPR: How long did you work on “Limpwings” from start to finish? What were your biggest challenges along the way?
Marcus: We had our first official “Limpwings” meeting in April of 2009. At that meeting, we broke some of the overall story and even a few jokes that made it into the film. But, the ideas of stigmata and Daniel’s relationship with Hope originated around December 2008.
Eric: The biggest challenges occurred during the production. All of our actors donated their services to this project, so we had to deal with not having access to the full cast full time. This caused us to have to split principal photography over Summer 2009 and Summer 2010 instead of finishing the shoot in one year as originally intended. But it was honestly worth it to work with such a fantastic and generous group of performers.
HPR: Since “Limpwings” was originated on the RED, can you talk about your production/post-production workflow a little bit? What was your shooting ratio? Were there any scenes, subplots or storylines that you had to cut for pacing and/or running time?
Eric: The RED was a great asset for the film because it allowed us to capture an image that was very close to film-quality without the high cost of film stock. The downside to that quality is that it eats up a lot of hard drive space. We shot about two terabytes of footage, which works out to a shooting ratio of 10:1, and all the footage was backed up to multiple hard drives. We faced a lot of issues with learning the RED camera, lugging it around with minimal crew, and creating an effective post-production workflow, but in the end the images we captured bring up the caliber of the film to a professional standard.
Marcus: There were some scenes that had to be cut for pacing, which I love to see as a writer! I built redundancies into the script because at that point it’s hard to tell what the viewers will pick up on. When we had the film completed it became obvious that what Andrew and the cast had done had sold many of the concepts better than words could ever hope to. We were then able to remove some sections that were no longer necessary and let the subtext in the actors’ performances serve the function of those deleted scenes.
HPR: While “Limpwings” bears the comic hallmarks of previous Two Jackets works, the movie’s tone suggests a real earnest effort to explore friendship and sacrifice. How deliberately did you design the balance between the jokes and the drama?
Andrew: The three of us wanted to make a film with characters who were at the same stage of life as us – that transition period from college to “the real world.” From experience, we know that it’s scary to face the rest of your life, and you have the potential to make a lot of stupid decisions along the way. For the sake of this story we wanted to tell, we needed to find the drama and humor in all of that.
Marcus: It’s all about keeping things grounded in reality. Even in a movie where we have angels, and stigmata, and girl-on-admission-letter sex scenes, it’s important to be honest to the characters. There are scenes where we can have our gags, and our characters can crack jokes; there are scenes where there’s dramatic irony and the characters don’t mean to be funny; but, there are also dramatic scenes where no one would realistically make a joke, and we respected that.
HPR: Can you describe your collaboration with the actors? Obviously, none of the members of Two Jackets are women, so how did you find ways to create a respectful space for a key character who happens to be a lesbian?
Andrew: As the director, I lucked out with this cast. They made my job a breeze. Most of the time, I just told them where to stand! It helped that we had a rehearsal period during the first summer where we went over some of the scenes that really established who the characters were. By the time shooting came around, we knew we could trust each other to make the right decisions. I’m not the kind of director who annotates every twitch of the eye. Collaboration is at the heart of this medium.
Marcus: We had worked with the principal actors before in various capacities. The key again was respect and honesty. We communicated with everyone about his or her needs and spoke about the subject matter as adults. The LGBT community is something I’ve supported my entire life, and we wanted the production to be respectful of that too, even if some of the characters aren’t.
HPR: Given that “Limpwings” contains the very real possibility that the use of stigmata could be construed by some as blasphemous, how did you pitch the project to clergy when you were seeking permission to shoot in church/synagogue?
Andrew: The people at the church and synagogue were much more concerned about the content of the particular scenes to be shot at the locations, so we had them approve of the material ahead of time. However, I spoke with them about how I felt the film had a very positive religious message.
HPR: In the writing phase, how much research did Marcus do on the religious content of the movie?
Marcus: There’s a research component to everything I write. In this movie I explored the history of angels and stigmata pretty thoroughly as it pertained to the film. But these are concepts and archetypes that are in the public consciousness, and that has to be respected as well. In the end, story comes first and I was always willing to adapt portrayals in service of the narrative.
HPR: Following the public premiere of “Limpwings” at the Fargo Theatre, what are the next steps for getting the movie in front of audiences?
Eric: We’re sending “Limpwings” out to film festivals all over the world. To start, we’re sending it to Slamdance and South by Southwest. The film was created with the intention of being seen at festivals, so that’s what’s going to happen.
Andrew: Yeah, we’re currently sprucing up our Withoutabox account in preparation. We’ve done a lot of festival research, but now that the film is done, it’s going to be our main priority. We’re not just going to send it blindly into the fray. We’re going to take the time to find festivals where our film will be a good fit.
HPR: Now that the members of Two Jackets are moving into life beyond undergraduate studies, do you plan to work on another feature or other projects together?
Andrew: Absolutely. The making of this film was a huge test for the three of us in our individual roles, but even more so in our roles as collaborators. There were ups and downs, but we stuck ‘em out together. Personally, I’m glad we began this three-piece-punk-band of filmmakers as early as we did. By the time we were preparing for “Limpwings,” we had established trust between us, which was, and is, vital to the wholly collaborative process of filmmaking.
Marcus: We’re already in the early stages of our next feature film, under the working title, “Allan Card and the Big Suck.” We recently had a meeting that resulted in an outline much like the one we made for “Limpwings” in April 2009. I’m planning to complete a draft of the script by year’s end with the hopes of going into production next fall.
HPR: More information about the movie can be found online at www.limpwings.com.