“Turns out when you make films for Netflix, millions of people all over the world watch them.”
Jay and Mark Duplass are the latest filmmakers to sign over to Netflix. The masters of mumblecore will squeeze their way into an infinite field of Adam Sandler comedies and Cloverfield surprises with a four picture deal. The as yet untitled first film will land sometime later this year and star Ray Romano. Described in a press release as “a bittersweet bromance about friendship, mortality, and made-up sports.” Like me, have you been eagerly awaiting a BASEketball sequel? Perhaps Rollerball?
Romano is coming off a major critical win with The Big Sick, and his pairing with the Duplass Brothers suddenly seems like a perfect fit. Post-sitcom, Romano has appeared in a variety of projects that tap into his ease with pent-aggression. As seen in Men of a Certain Age, Vinyl, and Get Shorty, the stand-up vet excels with the contemptuous nature of his characters while still selling a good-natured soul. Given the bromance subject matter, depending on who he’s cast against, there could be a solid dose of appropriately uncomfortable social interactions. That’s where he lived with Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick, and you can easily picture him mumbling his way through Duplass films like Cyrus and Jeff Who Lives At Home.
The Duplass Brothers are not unfamiliar with Netflix. Back in 2005, the company’s Red Envelope Entertainment co-distributed the filmmakers’ debut feature, The Puffy Chair. Two years ago, they signed an SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) deal with the company to include their films Blue Jay, Take Me, Creep 2, and the upcoming Duck Butter and Outside In. This agreement allowed distribution rights to Netflix after a short theatrical tour. No doubt you’ve seen several of these flicks fluttering past your search algorithm.
In the press release, The Duplass Brothers stated:
“Turns out when you make films for Netflix, millions of people all over the world watch them. This is not a terrible thing for an independent filmmaker. As Netflix continues to grow and develop new ways to reach viewers, we couldn’t be more thrilled to grow our partnership.”
The conversation around what role Netflix has in the future of cinema has been an intense one. Our own William Dass has written multiple pieces exploring the streaming service’s positive impact on film distribution without avoiding the concerns of those cineastes fearful of an apocalypse. In the wake of The Cloverfield Paradox’s peekaboo release after the Super Bowl, he urged the company in an open letter to fight for the independent filmmaker. Moves like this one, which recognize the worth of the independent spirit and also promise a space for them to thrive, are deeply encouraging.
The Duplass Brothers can see the writing on the wall. The theatrical demand for the low-to-mid-budget picture is dwindling, and the void of VOD is depressingly daunting. At Netflix, they can not only survive amongst the never-ending flow of titles, but can rise to the top thanks to the company’s confidence in them.
From the same press release, Netflix spokesman Ian Bricke had this to say about the brothers:
“Jay and Mark are the most enterprising filmmakers in the business. They have embraced Netflix as much as our subscribers have embraced their films. Having worked with Mark and Jay for over a decade, we have huge admiration for their creative passion and filmmaking smarts. We are thrilled for this next chapter of our relationship.”
That sounds pretty good. Netflix’s only concern is keeping their audience refreshing their subscriptions. Their plan to release 80 films this year alone shows that they’re going for every demographic. They’ll score some points with the weirdly addictive pursuits of Adam Sandler, as well as genre terrors like Before I Wake and The Ritual. Just as cable television has become the bastion for adult oriented content, Netflix is stealing the attention of those film fans that struggle to find big screen entertainment beyond the endless wave of blockbuster titans.
Jay and Mark Duplass are one-man-band (or two-man-band) filmmakers. They do it all. Producing, writing, directing, acting. If they’re tying their wagon to Netflix, it’s time to pay attention. They’ve fought to find their place in the industry and have built a cult of followers around them. Let’s tag along.