Opening tomorrow and at the top of many critic’s picks is filmmaker Todd Berger’s new film, It’s a Disaster starring David Cross, America Ferrera and Julia Stiles. The film premiered at last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival and is now in limited release, distributed by Oscilloscope Pictures.
Eight friends meet for their monthly “couples brunch.” But what starts as an impromptu therapy session/airing of domestic grievances takes a sudden, catastrophic turn when the city falls victim to a mysterious attack. Trapped in the house and unsure of their fates, these seemingly normal people become increasingly unhinged to hilarious, surprising, and revealing results. IT’S A DISASTER is a fast-paced ensemble comedy about the worst brunch ever: the eggs are cold, the tensions are high, and the end is near.
Today we have Todd Berger, the writer/director of It’s a Disaster as our guest blogger. Todd hails from New Orleans, Louisiana and has been making movies since the age of eleven (Dick Tracy vs. Dr. Bubbles, in which he also starred.) His first feature, The Scenesters, played over 30 film festivals in 2010 and took home Most Interesting Film from The Slamdance Film Festival. His feature-length documentary, Don’t Eat The Baby: Adventures at post-Katrina Mardi Gras, played on the final night of the 2007 New Orleans Film Festival. He works as a screenwriter and actor in Los Angeles, with scripts currently in development at MGM, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, Jim Henson Productions, and The Disney Channel. He prefers waffles over pancakes. We asked Todd to talk about his latest work and what/if any role a Miramax film may have played in his pursuit of filmmaking. Here’s what he had to say.
I was in high school in mid-90’s and to my teenage self Miramax was the film equivalent of an alternative record label like Matador or Sub Pop. While most of my classmates were quoting Dumb & Dumber or Braveheart, my cinephile friends and I were tracking down copies of Exotica or Dead Man or Kids. Just the shiny gold Miramax logo at the beginning of a trailer got me pumped. If they had sold t-shirts I would have worn one.
In the summer of ‘95 I got very excited when I heard about a movie being made called Four Rooms that was not only going to be an anthology film by some of my favorite indie directors (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders, and Alexandre Rockwell) but also a comedy. A comedy! You see seeking out arthouse cinema was fun for an angsty teenager, but I still was a comedy fan at heart and there was a definite dearth of laughs in the independent film scene. Yes, there was the talky ennui of Kevin Smith and Whit Stillman, but what about some good wacky old-school farce? It was inspiring to me that these filmmakers were going to cut loose and have some fun by working outside the genre they were known for.
The thing I loved about Four Rooms was the challenge itself. All the filmmakers were restricted to one location (a hotel room) and had to use the same main character (Ted the bellhop, as portrayed by Tim Roth.) The four shorts also shared a similar tone – a throwback screwball vibe highlighted by an exotica Combustible Edison soundtrack. Sitting back and watching how four promising young directors worked under these restrictions was an enjoyable and fascinating experience akin to witnessing an elaborate parlor game.
Now say what you will about the end result itself (In my opinion two stories are great, one is pretty good, and one is just okay) but to this day I still love that spirit of thinking outside the indie comedy box. When I was working on my film It’s A Disaster, I knew I wanted to create a throwback screwball comedy restricted to a single location and Four Rooms crossed by mind more than once. It’s a great reference to see how the different filmmakers with different styles approach the same exact assignment.
In recent years the anthology has caught on with the horror community, but I wish more filmmakers would throw caution to the wind and challenge themselves to make a movie outside of their wheelhouse in the Four Rooms vein. Wouldn’t you love to see a wacky comedy short film by Shane Carruth or Derek Cianfrance? I know I would.
Watch the trailer for It’s a Disaster and if you’re lucky enough to live in one of these cities, check out the film which opens in theaters TOMORROW!