Friday, December 04, 2009

Vernon Chatman, Interviewed. By me.

So a little while ago I interviewed Vernon Chatman about his new comedic endeavour "Final Flesh".
That interview had to be cut for space, so I thought I'd put up the longer version here. I still omitted a couple of things, namely Vernon praising comediac Derrick Beckles, whom he produced the Totally 4 Teens pilot with for Adult Swim - Chatman feels it was Beckles' cuts that made the final product of T4T so enter"T4T"ning. He also claims a fondness for the work of Toronto comedian David Dineen-Porter, specifically his L'Brondelle's Universe series. It was an enjoyable conversation, and when I go to heaven, I pray that it comes with me...
I hope the sound levels are decent for this interview.
I only do interviews in megabass. The truth is in the low end. That's where all the spooks live. Do you hear that static?
Yeah. It could be on my end.
When I hear static, I get scared and wet my dress. I might bite you. If I show my teeth, back off. I don't mean it.
Final Flesh was an awesome idea.
It was an awesome idea, and then [watching it] all awesomeness went away?
The awesomeness 'went away' into my eyes while I watched and enjoyed it.
So you think that when something enters your eyes that it goes away? You think of your brain as a black hole?
I think my favorite of the four companies that made Final Flesh was the first group, with the baby outfit and the attempt to re-enter the womb.
That was probably my favorite too, because it was the first one we got back. When I watched it, I actually felt repulsion at myself. I wasn't prepared for that – but I got hooked.
Did the actors improvise dialogue to any extent?
No. We were very adamant that they stick totally to the script. There's like four words in the whole thing that are different. I was really adamant that the script was the fetish. The only real music and sounds on there are things that we had to just mix down. One of the companies used a Linkin Park song. It was beautiful. I got massive beef with Linkin Park. Huge, pendulous beef. Drooping beef with Linkin Park. It hurts too much to think about why, so I just sit and stare at my gigantic beef that I have with them.
There's a 2003 calendar on the fridge in a scene. Was set design in your hands as well?
Yes. You know how Orson Welles took 8 years to make Othello? It's like that. It was 2002, maybe 2001. Whatever the Othello production schedule was, ours was like that. It was very important for the story to see that years had gone by. You feel it in the air. In the first one it's like 'what's gonna happen with Iraq?' is in the air, and by the last one it's like 'when are we getting out of Afghanistan'. Every prop that we used was in the script. It was all a script to make [the actors] fail, basically. I figured everybody has a home or an apartment, so as long as I used the kitchen, or the bathroom or the dining room, I would be safe.
No deserts.
I feel like when you watch it, a desert forms in your mind. I know when I first started watching it, sand started dumping out of my mouth. Gallons of gallons of sand. Then out of my eyes – tons and tons of sand. That's what's supposed to happen. If someone buys a DVD and that doesn't happen, they should burn down a Wal-Mart.
When did you discover these customizable fetish websites?
A friend of mine had heard about them, and said 'you should make a music video like that', and I thought it'd be better to hear them talking. It's so much funnier to make porn actors talk.
To step away from the orifices for a moment.
Take stuff out of your holes and really feel, and create moods. Every porn actor is waiting for this moment to unplug their hole and let their heart sing.
You gave them days and days of a refreshingly sex-free life.
If there's a word that combines 'poetry' with 'favor', I don't even wanna know how to pronounce it. I'm just glad it exists.
Did Final Flesh wind up turning into an Orson Welles budgetary situation where it wound up costing more than you thought?
There's a wide variety of price points in this industry. The cheapest was $900, except for the first one – he agreed to$900, because he didn't realise how long it would take. They're used to movies being an hour long, and taking 61 minutes to shoot. They didn't realise that with the dialogue and the cutting, they wound up being there all night, and the actors got really pissed and wouldn't leave his house until I agreed to give the actors all $100 each extra. All the other prices were pretty similar. I don't know what the price per stroke is, but it's low, believe me. In any good porn, a buck a stroke is industry standard.
Animation, puppets, Snoop Dogg or porn stars: who was the easiest to work with?
Porn stars are the easiest because they'll do anything (into any hole) and as long as they can pronounce it, they'll try and say your jokes as if they are totally serious. Snoop is in last place.
While watching it, did you ever get the sense that the actors understood that your lines were in fact, jokes?
I think that maybe in the second one there was a chance that there was some awareness that [it] was more complicated than just softcore fantasy porn from a strange person. Regardless of whether they were hip to what was happening or not, they had to commit or else it doesn't work. It was kind of interesting to see the spectrum. Some people commit like 'this is your thing', and it's really sincere, and it's beautiful and sweet that they would do that. The first group didn't try to interpret, they just executed it. The second ones -I think they tried to really interepret it and add something. But they all [added something], in their own way.
To be deadpan in those parts is key.
Any actor or comedian would be too aware that it was funny, but people doing jokes that they don't know are jokes – to me it's very funny, and it's hard to find that. Farming it out and letting someone fail, that's hopefully what works [with] Final Flesh.
There's a degree of making people do that in your work.
Puppeteering everything. But that's all that making shit is. It's making people or objects do what you want them to do. If you see any Hollywood movie or TV show that has actors in it, they're all doing the bidding of somebody. The examples you're using are more about that power dynamic, so I think it's more honest. You're laughing at the imbalance of power. The manipulation is on the surface, and that's part of the joke. If anyone got angry at me, they'd be part of the joke. People aren't that dumb. I wish! If we were wildly successful, people might get after us like that, but we're just moderately successful.
I liked the episode of Xavier["Chief Beef Loco"] where he becomes a gang member. I thought it was a nice reference to Grand Theft Auto-style gang animation.
I'd never played one of those videogames! People think it's playing with videogames or something, but for years me and John have loved the clumsiness of CG animation. Everything is human scale but it's all so weirdly clumsy, it's hilarious. The animation style is so lamely ambitious. When you leave these computer animation guys to their own devices, they always want to go to some cosmic place. It's so ugly, god damn it. Something about CG attracts a particular brand...I think it's animators who think they're not doing animation. Our animators were not really like that, but we did have to teach them that we liked stuff because it was shitty. We'd have to tell them 'go back to the clumsy, shitty thing'.
So on that end of things, you actually need people to 'get it'.
You can't be playing a trick on them, not when they're crafting things frame by frame.