- 1.Your latest film, Misadventures of The Dunderheads, is a whacky road trip comedy with a heart. Tell me a little bit about what aspects of the script really grabbed you and made you think “this is the one for me.”
D.G. Brock - Director: The tone of the script was totally fresh and unique. The film world is filled with scripts that are clones of each other, but this one was Theater of the Absurd black comedy with a very poignant dramatic heart beating at the center of it. I felt it really revealed in a very unusual manner the essence of one family with a little “f” and also that of the Human Family in a global sense. I’d NEVER seen such distinctive characters before and those characters shouted out for amazing actors to play them.
- 2.How did your cast come on?
I was lucky to have a truly great Casting Director, Ronnie Yeskel. She is a true ”actors” Casting Director and very respected by very talented actors. When she brings their managers a script, they take it seriously.
Olympia Dukakis was my “dream actress” to play Ira, the eccentric Grandmother. She is a leading light of the American stage and an Academy Award Winner. She is also an incredibly brave actress who loved the fact that Ira says so little, so Olympia could convey the character through expression and body language which she does on an amazing level. She was even willing in her 70’s to roll around on the ground in a physical fight scene with her grandson. I tried to talk her out of doing so much of the fight scene herself, but she said “No, I have to do it. Otherwise, it will look fake and it’s what Ira would do.” Olympia totally understood the script when she read it and after talking to me and the producer, Bruce Stubblefield, had confidence that we were all on the same page in regards to the character and film.
Olympia is also a tremendous person. She’s all about the work, and very down to Earth about it. No diva would have sat around truck stop motels in the middle of the Mojave Desert with us at night drinking wine, telling stories, and singing favorite rock songs. She’s supportive of those she works with and especially of women. She’s definitely struggled like most women -- raising her own children while running a theater on the East Coast, teaching, and building an impressive career in film, TV, and theater. Also, she’s gorgeous with beautiful white hair and expressive hazel eyes. We had to really “ugly her up” for the role of Ira, but she has no personal vanity when she approaches a character. She works at staying in shape --- making sure she goes to Pilates classes at least several times a week when she’s not shooting in the middle of the Mojave.
Alison Brie came in and auditioned for me for the role of Ella. I think Ronnie Yeskel brought in every young actress in Hollywood who she thought had real acting “chops” for the role, but the first time I saw Alison’s Ella I knew she was the one. She really caught the magical air of Ella. It was lighting in a bottle. Now everyone knows what a beautiful and talented comedic actress Alison is, but she is really serious about her work. She can do comedy and drama equally well – she was a re-occurring character on “Mad Men”, Trudy Campbell, but I don’t think most people even realized it was the same actress as the one in “Community.” The talent just shines out of her when you work with her. On the set, she was very pleasant but quieter and shyer than you might think. Also, as with Olympia, there was no vanity about how her character needed to look. She just took the crazy hair and weird clothes look and ran with it, but then she plays with great skill and originality how happy Ella is when she gets a new flashy dress.
I’m really a spoiled director now from having worked with two such incredible women.
- 3.Back in the heyday of men’s adventure novels and gentlemen’s magazines , lots of female authors – my own mother included – either used pseudonyms or their first initial and last name so the male reader wouldn’t be biased by the fact the author was a woman. So is that why you choose not to use your given name when credited as a director?
Yes. There is still enormous sexism in the film industry. The number of women directors actually hired to direct films has been sinking for the last 5 years, and it was tiny to begin with. The Chinese say “Women hold up half the sky” but in film and TV we are wasting most of that strength and talent. I would just rather appear to people exposed to my work in what I consider a sort of neutral guise so prejudice doesn’t come into play right away, but of course with the built in bias they frequently assume I’m a guy.
When I won “Best Feature Director” at the Lost Angeles International Femme Festival (the largest women’s film festival in the US), the awards committee had to double check that I was a woman even though the festival was only open to women directors or producers.
- 4.Who is Misadventures of The Dunderheads for? What’s been the general reaction from audiences at the festivals?
Misadventures is for anyone who enjoys films that have a very fresh and unique voice, and loves great performances. The general reaction from festival audiences has been everything I could have hoped for. People laugh and some cry (especially Moms) and many audience members linger afterwards to talk about the film. We were surprised when we first started showing it at festivals at how many social workers and psychologists stayed after the screening wanting to talk about the depiction of a troubled family and were very complimentary about it. This totally blew our minds.
The producer and I constantly receive emails from people who have heard of the film, but couldn’t make it to a festival screening or catch it on the short run on the Starz Channel, and now want to know where they can see it.
Two specific groups who we have noticed particularly responding to it are 18 – 25 year old women who really relate to this “world’s most dysfunctional family” because almost everyone at that age believes their family is “weird” or actually discovers that they ARE. This group really relates to the performances of Alison and Haley Joel Osment. The other group is 40 and up, and includes both genders. They seem to respond to the film as a whole – a fable both comedic and tragic about the nature of family. Also, many of them are familiar with Olympia Dukakis.
- 5.What it’s like trying to market an indie film these days? Is it any better, now that people can access films through so many different devices and outlets? How can our readers see Misadventures of The Dunderheads?
Film distribution is in the midst of a huge upheaval. For the last several years, it has been going through what the music industry went through ten – twelve years ago when unlicensed websites like Napster (at that time)started. A huge number of the companies who used to distribute independent film have gone out of business. It’s starting to get a tiny bit better as some of the audience has migrated to VOD and there are more places to see Indiefilms on VOD, but it’s still a bloodbath. Particularly in Europe. Europe used to be the main market for American Independent films and since the financial world crashed in 2008-2009 Europe has just not come back. I think the fragile state of their economy has a lot to do with this.
One of the biggest bottlenecks for Indie films has always been marketing and publicity, and it still is. If anything it’s worse because the distributors have disappeared (so no money for marketing) and the publicity world has fractured into a million pieces. There are lots of blogs and websites about film, but they each have a tiny little niche audience. It’s very hard if you’re an indie filmmaker with no money to try to DIY outreach to hundreds of tiny audiences. There is an audience that would like to see the film but they have to KNOW about it AND have ACCESS.
That is why the Producer and I just started an Indieagogo campaign to raise money for marketing and VOD, DVD, as well as theatrical distribution of the film around the country. We want to make sure EVERYONE and ANYONE who wants to see this film can and in whatever form they want to see it. You can find the campaign website and support the film at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/distribution-a-completed-film-academy-award-stars
There are premiums (gifts) for everyone who makes a donation and two of the best are a VOD download or DVD of the film BEFORE the release to the general public. Hey, be the first one on your block!
ABOUT: D.G. Brock
D.G. Brock earned a degree in Motion Pictures/Television Production from the UCLA Film School where her screenplay, "Jeremy Todd" was chosen as one of the five Award Finalists in the prestigious Goldwyn Writing Awards.
While still a student at UCLA, she went to work for legendary film producer, Roger Corman, where she gained experience writing, directing, and producing genre features including the cult high school comedy, Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever.She gained further experience as a screenwriter for the Disney Channel as well as on Disney’s Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, and as a director for the Fox Kids Network.
However, D.G.’s first love is independent film and in addition to her work as a writer/director, she has been a busy consultant and/or producer on over 25 films including Buffalo '66, Tristan & Isolde, Girl in the Park, The Brown Bunny, End of Watch, Snitch and recently Begin Again.
Her latest work as a director, MisAdventures of The Dunderheads, won “Best Feature Film” at The Big Apple Film Festival at Tribeca Center (NYC) while still a work-in-progress and was selected to screen in seven cities on The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. D.G received the “Best Feature Director” Award for MisAdventures at the Lost Angeles Int. Femme Festival.
D.G. is currently finishing the screenplay for the next film she will direct - "How To Be A Celebutant.” She splits her time between Venice Beach and Palm Springs, CA.