Hey everyone! In the midst of the SXSW craziness I was able to sit
down with the director and cast of THE BOUNCEBACK, a romantic comedy I
reviewed earlier in the fest. Director Bryan Poyser, as well as Sara
Paxton, Ashley Bell, Zack Cregger, and Michael Stahl-David had a lot
to say about their film, so I hope you enjoy our talk.
Annette Kellerman: Bryan, you've written and directed your previous
films. How was the creative process different directing a film you
Bryan Poyser: It was good in a lot of ways because I didn't have to
come up with a story, which was awesome. I just got to take a story
that I really like and connected with and make it my own and figure
out what I wanted to do with it. So, it's not something I expected to
do ever, because ever since film school I've always written my own
stuff. It was a great experience, and it was great to have people to
bounce stuff off of...
Ashley Bell: To "bounce back." (laughs) Sorry!
AK: Pun intended?
BP: Thank you! I was gonna try. Now it's hard for me to watch the
movie and remember what was my stuff and what was Dave and Steve's
stuff. But watching the movie yesterday, the part that got the
biggest reaction and also during test screenings was the whole text
messaging scene. That's a scene that Dave and Steve- not sure which
one of them it was- added to it several drafts in, and as soon as I
saw it I knew that was going to be such a great scene and it didn't
change from that point forward.
Zack Cregger: That was like one of the funniest scenes. (the rest of
the cast nods in agreement)
AK: That actually raises a great question. There are certain plot
devices like Facestalking and text conversations throughout the film.
How do you think technology is changing the romantic comedy genre?
BP: It basically just gives you more opportunity for laughs. You can
look at it in a bad way in that now we spend so much time doing this
(mimes looking down at a phone) instead of looking people in the eye
or at the world around you. You can also look at it like its still
communication and being social, it's just in a digital realm. But
there's also so much more that's possible. For me, actually when I
was working on my drafts of the script I spend a few months out in
L.A. and I was away from my girlfriend who was yet to become my fiance
and wife, and we would have, like, 4 hour Google video chats which was
a great thing to be able to do that was not possible even five years
ago. So technology can be good and bad, but for close relationships
it can really make a difference.
Michael Stahl-David: It's good for starting relationships. It's
like, you can't call somebody when they give you their number, you
have to text first.
BP: Right! One of your lines in the movie which was improvised by
you was when you first meet Haley and Zach's asking if you're gonna
call her, you say, "Nah, I'll text her first." Texting is better at
this stage. Then he threw in, "I wish I had her email." It gets such
a good laugh because its so relatable.
MS: You know what my new move is though? I call. I like to leave
AB: (shaking her head) Always call. Always call.
ZC: Do you know about this app called Straight To Voicemail? It's an
app on your phone, so the phone doesn't even ring. It just goes
straight to voicemail.
MS: Oh my god I love that!
ZC: It's the cowards way. (everyone laughs)
AK: So Ashley, how does doing horror like THE LAST EXORCISM films or
being a total badass in the post-apocalyptic film THE DAY compare to
playing the good girl in a romantic comedy?
AB: Yeah, I did bring my shotgun from THE DAY to THE BOUNCEBACK set
and Bryan was like, "No, you use your words here Ashley." (everyone
laughs) There were a lot of exorcism sex scenes with a lot of back
bends, but it was just too much. (more laughs) I studies at NYU, my
mom is one of the founding members of The Groundlings. I was raised
always visiting her between projects and playing at the The
Groundlings, so it's been incredible to do horror genre films and play
characters that transform like that, but I really did want to try
something that would be a relationship piece or a comedy piece. When
I read the script and had a chance to meet Bryan, I loved the
character of Cathy. I love that she is on the edge of falling out of
love and falling into love within two days and she has to go back to
Austin to do that. I was really hoping for a departure like this and
to get a chance to play a character like this.
AK: Sara, you've done had lot of family-friendly roles in the past.
Do you like playing the bad girl?
ZC: Don't forget about Shark Boners.
Sara Paxton: Don't forget about Shark Boners! (everyone laughs)
Yeah, it was great. I read the script and fell in love with Kara
BP: Well, the truth is, we actually met with you to talk about the
role of Cathy.
AB: Whhhaaaattt?! (laughs)
BP: (to Ashley) It was before we had met you! But yeah, we did
actually met Sara for Cathy.
SP: Yeah, I met you and Megan a couple months before the movie and I
was like, "Wait a minute! We need to talk about something because I
BP: But we had already cast someone.
SP: Bitch. (everyone laughs)
ZC: Judy Dench. (more laughs)
AK: We call her Dame Judy Dench, okay?
BP: Right, and Maggie Smith for Cathy.
AB: Maggie Smith had mine!
BP: Yeah, she was gonna do air sex and was very excited about it.
(everyone stifling giggles and shaking heads)
AK: Which brings me to my next question! The film features a
competition we have here in Austin called Air Sex where contestants
simulate all sorts of sexual acts with the air. Like air guitar, only
with sex. Zack, how did you prepare for your big Air Sex scenes.
Were they choreographed or improvised?
ZC: I don't remember. I knew we were gonna do Fuckasaurus Sex.
BP: Which was your idea.
ZC: Which was my idea. And it came put great, but I really really
wanted the Jurassic Park theme (starts to sing the theme song and mime
his air sex routine). What was the song you ended up using?
BP: That was Screamin' Jay Hawkins. It was a song I came across
years and years ago and I wanted to use it in something, but I was
always like, how am I going to use a song about a cannibal tribe? So
when Zach wanted to change the air sex character to Fuckasaurus Rex I
finally had my opportunity. And no one has ever heard of that song
and all the producers were like, what?
ZC: I was your square peg in the round hole.
BP: Yeah! But for both of them, we didn't really work out the
routines until right before shooting them. I had written ideas about
what they were gonna be or do.
ZC: What was I supposed to do originally.
BP: I think you were going to turn your dick into a jackhammer or
something like that.
ZC: Oh right!
AK: I was so curious about how much was actually scripted. I need to
see those pages.
ZC: An extra actually gave me an idea when we were shooting the
Carlsbad Caverns bit, but it didn't end up making the final cut.
AK: Michael, did you enjoy playing the straight man to Zach's outrageous Jeff?
MS: Yeah yeah. I love that. I love playing the straight man. In
fact one of the first days we shot was when I witnessed the air sex
for the first time. It was making the crew laugh, it was a lot of
fun. But I've done some comedy. I had a web series several years ago
where I pretty much played the straight man in that, so yeah, I just
want more chances to do that.
AK: Bryan, do you find it easier or harder to do raunchy material in
a comedy versus a drama?
BP: Um, I don't know. It's something that I'm drawn to and I don't
know why. Actually I'm drawn to it for a couple reasons. We still
have this puritanical attitude toward sexuality in American culture
thats just sort of in our DNA because of the Pilgrims. (everyone
chuckles). But because it is something that makes people feel
uncomfotable, there's such an opportunity for comedy. That's what
comedy is, someone pushing the envelope and putting something into
hour brain that you're almost ashamed to express and when someone else
expresses it you get a release and can laugh at it. In my previous
films I used sexuality as a way to make people feel uncomfortable for
character reasons or that was just the purpose of the film to explore
stuff that you don't see onscreen as much. Whereas in this movie I
wanted to make people uncomfortable, but I wanted to make people laugh
and make you love the characters more. I guess for a comedy and a
drama its the same thing. You want to make it believable and make it
seem like these characters have more of a life than what you see
onscreen. The funniest stuff is the stuff that is played seriously.
Like when Joe does his air sex, none of us had seen him do his routine
and Zach gets up and starts giving him notes. Those were his actual
notes, so at the end when he's screaming at him and says, "We're not
gonna do an M. Night Shamalamma thing!" The reason that is so funny
is because he is so serious about it.
AK: Talk about some of the obstacles shooting in downtown Austin on 6th Street.
AB: So much barf, so much barf.
ZC: I've never seen so much puking and tasing in my life! (everyone laughs)
BP: And running into walls and stepping in horse shit... No, but I
like to say that this is sort of a tribute to the town and all the
things I love about it- 6th Street is not one of them.
ZC: It's the only place where the riot police make a scheduled
entrance (laughter erupts).
BP: So that was a big obstacle and we deliberately avoided shooting
on Friday or Saturday night. So we did actually shoot on a Thursday
night with Haley and Stan, and it was a pretty long scene. Because it
was a Thursday night, we didn't start shooting until 3 am and the sun
was coming up around 6:00, so we literally only had like 3 hours to
shoot and it was 5 pages of the script. So that was really tough.
And then at some point the grackles starting making their noises.
ZC: What are grackles?
BP: They're these really noisy birds. So that was another really big
challenge. We shot this movie in 23 days, and for a film with this
much scope, that was really tough. That's why we had to move so fast.
We were always racing to beat the sun. But in terms of the city
opening their arms to us and the businesses we wanted to shoot at,
almost without exception they were all totally great and excited about
the movie. Even El Azteca where we shot a big scene in the movie,
there had been a lot of road construction in front of the restaurant,
so when they heard the name of the film, THE BOUNCEBACK, they took it
as an omen that their business would bounce back.
AK: Ashley and Michael, how was it playing romantic who, aside from a
flashback, only shared one scene?
AB: It was a lot of fun shooting that first scene and having their
whole relationship set up there in the bar. I guess what was hard to
determine was what made Cathy leave and the strength it took to leave,
then that just sort of set the tone for how the rest was going to
shape up. I was watching the film yesterday for kinda the first time
because I wasn't there when they shot the air sex scenes, so I was
just dying laughing. My world was just Sara and Tim.
MS: Honestly, I think it was about substitution sort of. What is it
like to want to be with someone you can't be with. That's a hard
reason to break up, because of logistics. Then there's the friction
between my character and Cregger's character. My character goes after
something but isn't sure if he made the right call, so I can relate to
AK: Bryan, you chose a pretty straight forward style. Talk about
going with a more traditional straight forward look versus something
ZC: Did you ever think about making this a found footage movie?
AK: A found footage romantic comedy! This, I have to see.
BP: Yes! I have to start writing this immediately! (more laughs) I
had an awesome time working with PJ Raval who was our DP and is also a
director- in fact he has a doc showing at the fest and our films
played against each other so we had to miss each others films. He and
I talked a lot about how we wanted to make it look pretty. You know,
we really worked on the lighting to make it not look like your
standard romantic comedy in terms of not being afraid of color, not
being afraid of darkness. So many romantic comedies are so bright and
ZC: That scene in the apartment when the girls are just freaking out
and leaving is so dark and it is so cool.
BP: So in terms of the actual shooting, we just wanted to let the
actors do their thing. We actually tried to do as little coverage as
we could and we did certain scenes in one shot because it's just
better for the actors. They get to play through the moment instead
of, "Let's do this angle, let's do that angle." There were certain
scenes that, for editing, we wanted to have options, but we just had
fun with the steadicam. We would play a whole scene out from this one
angle, then take what we needed in editing. But just looking at the
footage, the actors are just so good, so it was great to just let them
play it out. This is defintitely the prettiest movie I've ever made.
The other films I've made were super low-budget and we didn't have a
whole lot of resources which forced us to be creative and use the
resources we had. And we were still limited on this one, but we had a
little more time to just make everything look really pretty and show
Austin in a kind of romantic but multi faceted way. And having all
these attractive people (points to actors) never hurts.
AK: Any future projects you guys can talk about?
ZC: Sara's in another film at the fest.
AK: Yes! CHEAP THRILLS. I can't wait to check it out.
BP: I have a project I want to do next that is a dysfunctional family
chase film in Mexico that I want to try to shoot before the end of the
year if I can. It was six years between my first and second film.
Now it's been three years between my second and third. So I really
want to do this one soon.
AB: I had the LAST EXORCISM movies and the second one is in theaters
now and I worked on an action film that just came out as well. I was
in a film called CHASING SHAKESPEARE that's going to premiere in
Dallas next month. Then I'm stepping behind the camera. I was in
Cambodia in January doing a documentary on the plight of Asian
elephants. A close friend of mine owns the Cambodian wild life
sanctuary, so I filmed her in January saving two illegal logging
elephants from Vietnam.
ZC: Ashley Bell! (astonished exclamations and laughter all around)
Look at you.
AB: As soon as I got the call that it was happening, I pretty much
packed in 24 hours, got a couple cameras and went out with a skeleton
crew. We're going to go back this summer and shoot the rest.
ZC: That is very impressive.
AK: And Michael? Saving any Asian elephants?
ZC: I have beaten Tomb Raider! (everyone laughs) Twice.
MS: I'm about to drop a movie about a family of assassins.
ZC: Are there elephants killed in it?
MS: There are two elephants killed in it. (laughs)
ZC: It was too expensive to CGI elephants, so we flew some in from Cambodia.
AK: And on that note, my time is up. Thank you so much for your time.
This was a really fun interview with a cast and director who obviously
like to be around one another! THE BOUNCEBACK is screening at SXSW on
3/15 at 9:15 pm at the Stateside Theatre and again on 3/16 at 4:00 pm
at the Rollins Theatre at the Long Center.
- Rebecca Elliott