We sat down with actor David Arquette and director Brandon Dickerson at the Austin Film Festival to talk about creating a comedy.
Filmmaker Brandon Dickerson (Sironia, Victor) deliveres his highest-profile film yet with Amanda & Jack Go Glamping which hits the screen on November 10th. Starring David Arquette and Amy Acker, the film is a comedy that explores the relationship between a couple whose already on-the-rocks marriage takes a hit when Jack (Arquette) allows his frustration with his writing career and his “one-hit” novel to get in the way of his personal life. To reignite their relationship, Jack and Amanda go “glamping” (fancy camping) only to find a honeymooning couple has been double-booked with them. While they don’t exactly get the peaceful alone time they hoped for, they deal with numerous situations and obstacles that help them to discover more about themselves and their relationship.
With its world premiere being at the Austin Film Festival, we were able to sit down with Dickerson and Arquette to talk about their latest film and all of the fun that comes with making a comedy.
Brandon, your feature film career started with Sironia at AFF about 6 years ago. So, how does it feel to be back at the Austin Film Festival with your new film, and how do you feel that you’ve grown as a filmmaker since then?
Dickerson: I couldn’t be happier about being here. The film festival is near and dear to my heart because that’s where I premiered my first film. Not only that, this is a film about a writer’s struggle, so as a writer’s festival and the fact that we filmed it literally in the backyard of the festival, it was just the perfect place to premiere, so I couldn’t be happier about that and about premiering. And it went so well and I was thrilled with the response. I love that question. How have I grown as a director?
Yes, and just, how you’ve developed as a feature filmmaker.
Dickerson: Hopefully, I mean, it’s so interesting because filmmaking is the one thing you don’t get to practice. If you’re a musician you can write 50 songs and one of them is good, and if you’re a painter you grab a canvas and go, but filmmaking, you don’t get to practice. But I’m thankful that this is my 4th film, and I just feel that maybe there is a little… I think I’m bringing something to the party that I’ve learned on all of my films and was able to apply that. I would say one thing is that the desire for connection with the actors before was something that I had yearned for and achieved it in this film, meaning that we all got to hang out and really dive into kind of what we were all bringing to the party. David and Amy and I sat in the Spartan, so we were on location, and we’re talking not about lines, but about themes. So we were talking about the themes of the film and the things we wanted to communicate. And so all of us are laying out our own personal stuff. I mean, David pretty much said, “this is all my crap that I’m bringing to this role and here it is.” So that just set the stage for trust and then vulnerability. So if you can have trust and vulnerability with your cast, that’s just golden. And so, I think that I was able to achieve that…I mean I think I grew in a way that sort of fought for wanting that and then it just paid off. You know, it adds a day and it adds time, but I think the film is special in that way because everyone brought themselves to it. Versus, just showing up and saying “I’m Brandon, I’ll be directing you. Here are these lines.” And it was fun too because it’s a comedy so you don’t assume… I mean we didn’t spend time talking about the funny. It came naturally. The funny came really naturally. But we spent time and hopefully, it pays off on the emotional side of it, that there is some sort of underlying depth and authenticity that I hope comes out in the film.
That leads perfectly to my next question for both of you. What about the film do you believe is most important to you? And David, what was most appealing to you about your character and about your role in this film?
Arquette: For me, the script really just spoke to me. When they sent it, I read it immediately and one of my first lines is “hey munchkins.” That’s what I call my kids. So something like that just had me, like, “wow” and then I read more and more and more, and just the themes of it, of the character, and the feeling of not being appreciated, and just really hustling. I just, a lot of it, had to do with that, and past relationships, and you know, just relationships in general and the dynamic of man and woman. All of that came into play. And then I could just tell he wrote such funny, well-rounded, characters who were super developed. So it was easy it dive in and just have fun with. It was great. He put such a great cast together. With everyone coming together and meeting everyone, and then being on the site of where it was inspired by, was just a remarkable opportunity in general.
Dickerson: I think for me, the things that motivate me are the ideas of what’s really important and where do you find your value, and as David said, related to relationships. It’s a film about getting your act straight related to what’s really important, and as a writer, as anything, as a banker, you can make your work…maybe more so as an artist. The idea of you putting your value in your work and potentially losing sight of the beautiful things around you. Jack’s character is at a point where his self-pity party could ruin the most beautiful thing in his life which is his marriage. Combined with the idea, I’m such a fan of unplugging, like for people to take a moment, and that’s why it’s set at the glamping retreat, that’s why we started that place. For people to come and unplug. When you do that, when you slow down, you just have a healthy perspective. When you’re constantly on your phone, just images, images, screens, screens, you just don’t have a healthy perspective and can lose your way. Especially if you combine that with ego and any sort of finding value in the way that people think of you and your art, and so that’s why I wanted him to have a little taste of fame with his books, but then actually feel like. This is interesting, we haven’t talked about this, but the idea that when he says his other books are better and the fact that the other one is a hit. I think there is something there that I think I would want the Jack character to come to a point where it’s good enough if the other books are better and they’re not as liked, or retweeted, or quoted. That doesn’t mean that first one was better and that what he is doing now, he should do it for himself and what’s truly important. That relationship side wasn’t the… it’s a work of fiction, but certainly, all of the stuff related to the writer’s worth and all that is very personal. The marriage stuff is not. My wife and I are doing great.
How was it for both of you to work with a comedy film and script, and what were maybe some of the most fun scenes to shoot for this film with it being a comedy?
Arquette: Well he’s just a really funny person in general. So it’s no surprise that when he decides to write comedy, it’s really funny. And I just love comedy. I love the balance when you can have drama and comedy. When you can sort of have a grounded, heartfelt comedy, that’s the best. Because then you can just… you know, I was really worried about being just a jerk in the movie. Just completely like a downer and a bummer. But then when it’s a comedy, and he’s also writing funny lines, it makes you like the character despite the fact that he is completely caught up in himself and is a self-loathing person. So it made it a little easier to portray.
Dickerson: Yeah, and I came off kind of heavy… you know I did a documentary on Kosovo, then Victor which was like an addiction film. And it’s funny because people that know me are surprised that I don’t write comedy. I’ve got a lot of people that say ‘you should do that.’ And I love comedies. So it was liberating. To come off of those films and write a comedy was just pure joy. It was almost therapeutic, like there was a comedy that needed to come out, but not just for yucks. It wasn’t just a comedy for comedy’s sake. I still wanted that kind of soulful, meaningful story. And I love relationships that are reconciled. I love that. You asked the most fun scene, but there were so many fun scenes. We had kind of fun in every scene. It was fun, the stuff in the woods, where you’re (to Arquette) so willing to do physical comedy as well, and like anything I asked, you were willing. Even some of the stuff with the boy in the woods was fun.
Dickerson: It was fun because we were in the woods and playing. That made me laugh, some of that juxtaposition of where you’re at and where that boy’s at. It was hilarious. And then anytime, also the Adan [Canto] stuff, when Adan and David were interacting. I get tickled when you throw the coal at him.
Arquette: Me too, that was funny.
Dickerson: The Richard Robichaux stuff is just so funny. Where he plays the kind of country guy. So yes, we had a blast.
Arquette: It was a really fun set. The whole thing.
Dickerson: It was good. I hope that comes out in the film.
Arquette: And I like the light moments too with Amy because there were so many heavy ones. That when we would just sort of start reminiscing and then we would joke sort of at the beginning, where it just felt that little spark and you’re just like “stay, stay in that space for the relationship.”
Amanda & Jack Go Glamping opens in limited release on November 10th.