Jacob Vaughan [Interview]
November 5, 2013 Leave a comment
Dear fine readers: I am writing today to be so kind, and to let you all know about something so delightfully wonderful, you are definitely going to be thanking me later. But being the oh so modest individual I am, I will not take the credit (but, thank you). Today I present to you the man behind one of the most original, hilarious, and even heart felt films to be release in a very long time. And it also involves a shit monster. Yes, you read that right.
Jacob Vaughan is not new to the world of filmmaking. He has actually been a film editor for quite a while, working with folks like the Duplass Brothers to edit films like Jeff Who Lives at Home and Cyrus. But, he has broken out of his element completely to write, produce, and direct his first feature film, Bad Milo. This is a tale that is so unique that is it almost entirely breathtaking. With all the talk out there about how there is nothing original being created out there in the world of cinema, this is exactly what we needed. And now it is time to but our money where our ass is and acknowledge Mr. Vaughan’s creative genius in all of its glory. Bad Milo is a film that should have been campy and disregarded. Instead it is rightfully revered and celebrated. Jacob Vaughan has managed to turn something as weird as a shit monster, and turn it in to the most adorable thing since the Mogwai, or hell, I would even say E.T. Trust me, it is that great. So today we are fortunate enough to get to steal a few words from Jacob to ask him about his latest film, and some of the other fine work he has done in his career thus far. Enjoy!
What initially drew you in to the world of filmmaking or film in general? Where there any films from your childhood that made you yearn to get in to this world?
Like most people, I was entranced by movies when I was a kid. No other medium makes you feel like you’re living a different life quite like cinema. The films that most affected me in the very beginning were Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Empire of the sun, basically anything that Spielberg made. Then later I saw Trust by Hal Hartley and it really surprised me by showing what else movies could do. It was so understated and simple and human. It was my introduction to indies.
Later, I discovered David Cronenberg. His films had a huge impact on me.
As a film editor, I can only imagine you spend an amazing amount of hours staring at faces of folks that some of us go apeshit about just seeing them for an hour and half or so (i.e. Jason Siegel, John C. Reilly, Catherine Keener, etc.). Tell us if you would, do you ever lose any sort of awe or impressed feelings for some of the folks you have had stare at on a constant basis?
Not really. Especially for those folks you mentioned. I remember on JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME I was continually amazed that I was actually editing scenes with Susan Sarandon in them. I felt and still feel very lucky to working with such amazing talent.
I am only just learning that you also did some work on one my latest and most favorite discoveries of a film, The Happy Poet. How did you come to team up with Paul Gordon on this quirky little film, and how was the experience for you?
I met Paul in Austin when we were both living there. At the time that I got involved with his film I had been working a lot as an additional editor — I would come onto projects for 3-4 weeks after the film had already been through a lot of editing and I would bring a sort of fresh set of eyes to it. Most of the work had already been done on THE HAPPY POET but it just needed another push to get it over the finish line. I watched the cut and told Paul what I would do to it and he agreed. I think I spent 3 weeks on it. I love that movie and Paul has such a unique comedic voice. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Your latest film in which you wrote and directed, Bad Milo, is a truly original and wacky idea for a film, something we haven’t seen the likes of in a few decades at least. Where did the idea for the film stem from?
It’s completely autobiographical. I kept a bathroom journal for a couple of years and I just recorded events as they happened. I have no clue where ideas come from. I like David Lynch’s metaphor for creativity — he says it’s like fishing. He uses meditation to practice going deep within himself, and then (not necessarily in meditation) he waits, like a fisherman, for the ideas to swim by and then he tries to hook them.
I’m so proud of all the actors and everyone behind the camera. I’m proud of the film, how weird it is and that I got away with it. It still makes me laugh when I’m forced to watch it. I don’t think there’s much I would do differently. We stretched our budget about as far as it could go.
So what as the overall experience like working on a production of this size with such an amazing cast like for you? What are somethings you learned from the experience?
It’s an amazing experience being at the helm of a movie, especially one with such talented people. But there’s a heavy set of responsibilities that go with it. Not only are you trying to be true to your vision, but you have you try to be of service to the people around you. You have to help them be the best actor, best production designer, best grip they can be — which to me means you have to come to the set every day with a lot of confidence and enthusiasm, even while the voices in your head are casting doubt on everything you’re doing. It’s basically a mindf*ck.
What has the general reception for the film been like overall? Are you happy about the way viewers have reacted?
I couldn’t be happier. I mean we’re talking about an ass monster movie, and people seem to really dig it. I think there’s a large chunk of people who are scared off by the synopsis when they come across it on VOD, but I would just tell those people that there’s a side of the movie that’s really tender and heartfelt. Sounds strange but it’s true.
Because of the content of the film, you have had to have heard some great “shit” complements or complaints, even though you managed to keep it classy as well as campy. What are some of the best comments you have received from viewers and critics?
I’ve heard that people are starting refer to their grumbling stomach as their own Milo. As in, “oh man, Milo is starting to act up.”
When picking and eventually directing a lead role in your films, what is it that you are specifically looking for in an actor, and how do you know that you have “gotten it”? Is there a lot of faith put in to the actors?
I don’t have a ton of experience picking a lead actor, but for me, on this film, I knew that I wanted somebody who was really smart. Ken is incredibly smart and is just a great storyteller. He’s a writer and a director as well, and has a lot of ideas, and he knows how to deliver his ideas in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Yes, I have to have a lot of faith in the actors. But at the same time, they’re putting their trust in me as the director, to not embarrass them, to support them, to help them be fearless in their choices.
What is next for you? Any new projects in the work you could tell us about?
I’m working on a lot of things right now. I’ve got an action-comedy that I’m writing with a friend, a horror-comedy that I’m developing, and a sequel to Bad Milo, if anyone’s interested. I’m also reading a ton of scripts and there’s a couple that I’ve read that I’m very excited about. With any luck I’ll be making another film next year.
What was the last thing that made you smile?