Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Cheap Thrills opened big in its limited run last weekend and continues to expand, so why not a few more interviews for your listening pleasure?
Here we have David Koechner chatting about his co-stars and the difficulties of shooting this movie in 14 days while treating a hangover from the previous night's raucous Fantastic Fest screening of the film with a delicious Torchy's breakfast taco.
I'll admit that it's a pretty surface level, quick interview, but give us a break. It was an early morning after a very, very late night.
Quint: I've been following your work since the Mr. Show movie, Run Ronnie Run, and one of the things that I love about your performance in Cheap Thrills is that you seem to have taken the opportunity to subvert the baggage you might bring to this more serious role. It's kind of crucial for Colin to be a likeable, jovial guy at the beginning or the escalation doesn't work.
David Koechner: That was all by Evan (Katz)'s design, really. We talked a lot about who this guy was supposed to be and how he was going to pull them in. We discussed in a macro sense before we began shooting. We had several conversations about that. It's basically a seduction. Why is he doing it? It's for the love of his wife, right? But that performance was guided by Evan, it really was. He would go through it scene by scene. Where is the character now?
Naturally, who I am is obviously going to come out in the performance, but it's also decidedly not a comedy. I didn't know there were that many laughs! Last night was the first time I saw it with an audience.
Quint: Oh, so you didn't realize how funny some of the darker stuff plays, then.
David Koechner: I did not. I was surprised. (The laughs) go throughout the picture!
Quint: Tragedy and comedy are very close neighbors. There needs to be tension releasers in a movie like this. You can go to the most dead serious horror movie, like The Exorcist, and there's a lot of comedic lines. One of the things I love so much about Cheap Thrills is that it starts out simple, fun... everybody's having a good time and by the end of it you wonder how the hell you got to such a fucked up place.
David Koechner: It's little by little. “Oh, let's have some shots.” And there's a beautiful woman there, which always engages men.
Quint: You mentioned seduction. That's interesting because she's obviously got a hold over the guys, but you're playing them in a different way. You're playing to their ego. You're playing to their desperation, which is more fucked up in a way...
David Koechner: Yeah. He's preying on them.
Quint: Although, I'd say Sara Paxton's character is by far the most mental in the movie.
David Koechner: Mental. Yes. It's her design, isn't it? It's all for her. This is what she wanted. I'll do anything for her. Messed up.
Quint: When did you meet Pat Healy and Ethan Embry? Had you worked with either of them before?
David Koechner: Pat and I had done a show in LA. I did a short run of a thing called Carnieville with Dana Gould. We had Pat as one of our performers once. It was kind of a variety show, I guess. We had breakfast and Pat performed with us. That was the first time I met Pat.
Ethan and I had done a pilot two years before for Spike TV that didn't go.
Quint: Sara would have been the only person...
David Koechner: That I had not worked with yet.
Quint: As an actor does it give you a level of comfort going into a stressful, quick low budget flick knowing there's a compatibility with your co-stars?
David Koechner: Yes. In the case of these guys... I said some of this last night, but please disregard anything I said last night... I certainly don't remember it. Shouldn't behave that way when there's so many members of the press around. But those guys were so good it was almost like you didn't have to act. I really felt like it was a rare thing when we were doing our little play together. It was pretty incredibly. I could tell. This is uncommon. They are such good actors it was almost like you didn't have to do anything. You could just feel it happening.
Quint: One thing that I think is really smart about the movie is that Evan takes audience expectation and twists whenever he can. I brought up earlier that he used the comedic baggage you bring to the role, but he also did the same for Ethan, who plays exactly the opposite of what most people of my generation know him as.
David Koechner: He's menacing. He is so good.
Quint: You guys only shot at a few places as a group, right? The bar, the house and the neighbors' house.
David Koechner: Yeah, and that was actually the neighbors one evening. They shot Pat's apartment as well. Really limited locations. We had 14 days!
Quint: That's insane.
David Koechner: It is insane. It was crazy.
Quint: When you're on a schedule like that were you able to rehearse in advance so everything can be banged out so quickly or did you just have to suck it up and go in and do it?
David Koechner: We didn't have to rehearse. We'd read through it when we were blocking, but more than ever we had to be able to read off book and be ready to go. You know you don't have a lot of takes and they don't have time for set ups. You'd have to ask Evan or Travis (Stevens, producer) how many pages we shot a day, but it was a lot. But it never felt like we didn't get it. It always felt like “That's a good one.” As long you got it on... well, I can't say “on film...”
Quint: On camera, then.
David Koechner: Yes, as long as you got it on camera then it's fine. Technically it was low-res. There wasn't a lot of lighting set ups. Everything was relatively easy in terms of all that stuff. You weren't waiting for turnarounds and set ups, which also lends to the look of the film.
Quint: I'm a big production design guy. Nothing turns me off to a film more than half-assed production design and cinematography. You know, like the mumblecore stuff where everybody is just in apartments with bare walls. I understand there's a budgetary consideration for some of these kinds of movie, but Cheap Thrills is the perfect example of that being an excuse. You didn't have all the money in the world, but every single place you guys are in feels real and lived in.
David Koechner: It looks good!
Quint: And it fits the tone, which is one of the things I think audiences are responding the strongest to. It's so unique. Was that on the page or did that kind of develop as you guys shot?
David Koechner: Part of me wants to say the lighting set the tone because it was so low key. There wasn't a lot of light. There weren't a lot of China Balls. They weren't flooding anything with light. That house set the mood...
Quint: Yeah, it became as important a character as any of the leads.
David Koechner: It really did. And the fact that you have 14 days, so there's this rushed patience and that also fits into the urgency of the film. This couple wants to get somewhere by the end of the night. He's under a time penalty. Ethan's character is not, necessarily, but now there's money. Plus they're all doing coke, so there's this really weird mix of energy. You're kind of getting yourself into that mindset of you're partying, but you're also working. That probably informs it from its own perspective.
Quint: You brought up having to be loose, knowing you only had a certain amount of takes. To me that means you're aware and listening, not just waiting for your next line. If you're in the moment then it's not going to come off as stilted and you're not going to end up giving a bad take and having to move on because of the schedule.
David Koechner: That's what you're supposed to be doing anyway!
Quint: Being that loose, did that mean you went off script a lot?
David Koechner: I can't remember improvising much. I know that Pat and Ethan did in one particular scene that wasn't scripted, but we found we needed to cover a little time when I'm with the dog. We had to make a little time pass, so those guys improvised that piece, I think. As far as me, I don't think I did unless it was just cover movement... where you're leaving a room or need a handle on the front end of a scene. Something like that. You'd have to ask Evan, but I don't really remember improvising much. We didn't have time! And it's really not necessary in a movie like this, I don't think.
Quint: Do you think the film would have the same energy if you guys had a nice, luxurious 35 day shoot?
David Koechner: I don't know. Maybe not. I don't know if we'll ever know for sure, but I think it certainly informed the tone.
I still have a chat with director Evan Katz coming up, so stay tuned for that one. And go watch this movie or VOD it! If you watch at home, do so with a bunch of people. It's a great crowd flick, I promise.