Jon & Al Kaplan [Interview]
February 3, 2017 Leave a comment
We are breaking our generally stagnant mold here folks, we have a serious treat for you fine reader(s). For the first time since we started doing these things, we have a duel interview going! It’s not that we were ever against it. We just never really had the offer. But today we are fortunate enough to have a filmmaking duo that is so god damned spectacular, that I now realize that it would have been a disaster to not have the both of them on at the same time. The work that I fell in love with is a combined effort, so of course we need to have both of them.
With that, today’s interview is with a couple of brothers who have taken on the world of filmmaking, music, stage craft, and more in a magnificent way. It is no secret that TWS is a HUGE advocate of campy horror presentations, and these guys could very well be one of the greatest proprietors of such a genre, as the dudes behind the cult classic film Zombeavers. For those of you who are unaware, yes, it’s a film featuring zombie beavers. And yes, it is fucking fantastic. And as per usual, I would come to find out that these cats have done even more amazing work that deserves a genuine showcase. Work like an off broadway musical based on Silence of the Lambs. Seriously, that exists, and it is genius. So with that, please enjoy our wonderful interview with the brilliant filmmakers/musicians/writers/lots of things, Jon and Al Kaplan. Enjoy!
How did you find yourself in your line of work? Was it always something you aspired to do with your life?
Al: We’re still not exactly sure what our line of work is.
Jon: We grew up listening to soundtracks from when we were born, and we’ve wanted to actually be in the film music industry since college. Doing musicals and writing scripts started out as ways to stay involved in the industry and pass time when we weren’t getting enough composing work. Now we have more script work than composing work, but sometimes we get to score our own scripts once they’re produced, like Zombeavers.
You guys work rather closely with one another on most things. What do you believe it is about your partnership that tends to work pretty well?
Jon: We have similar tastes in music and comedy. There are also some key differences that make us into one well rounded brain, as opposed to two semi-functioning ones. Without each other, at least one of us would be in a mental hospital.
When going into the work of a film as crazy and freaky as something like Zombeavers, what is your process, and what are you looking to convey to an audience music & story wise?
Al: Our friend Jordan Rubin was looking to make his directorial debut, and we pitched him Zombeavers. We have great respect for the horror genre; our original intent was to play the situation very straight with both the script and score, and that the comedy would come from how seriously we were treating a ridiculous concept… but the beaver puppets came out so silly-looking that a choice was made to have the film be more overtly comedic and jokey, with lots of profanity.
Jon: There is an audience for that kind of thing though, so it found a fan base, even if it’s not exactly what we originally envisioned. In the end, we were still able to treat the music very seriously, and scored the beavers as if they were a genuine threat.
Random Zombeavers questions: As a huge stand up comedy fan, I have to ask, how did Bill Burr manage to become a member of the film’s cast, even briefly? Was the part written for him specifically?
Jon: Jordan is friends with Bill Burr, and the majority of Bill’s part was improvised. Jordan always planned to have celebrity cameos in both truck driver roles. John Mayer was the other trucker and they both did a great job.
I am extremely intrigued by your work on the Off Broadway production, Silence! Can you tell our readers, who are sure to love the idea, a bit about this project, and how did you become involved with this project?
Jon: We created Silence! (a musical parody of Silence of the Lambs) in 2002 as an audio-only internet musical before there was such a thing as an internet musical, and much to our surprise it was a big hit. After developing a cult following, the first stage version of the show premiered at the NY Fringe Festival in 2005, and had a long and winding road before finally making it back to NY, Off Broadway at three different spaces, while running over the course of two years. One of our favorite versions of the show was actually in LA, where it premiered exactly 10 years after we first wrote it.
Al: Most of the filmmakers and cast members from the actual Silence of the Lambs movie have come to see the show, which we had originally conceived as a screw-around project, and it’s been beyond our wildest dreams.
You have done some work as a “Music Arranger” for a couple of awards shows in your time. What exactly is a Music Arranger, for those of us who are obviously ill informed? And what have you personally done in this line of work?
Jon: It basically just means taking a piece of music that already exists and reconceiving it in some way—like in the case of the “Lonely Island Medley” for the MTV Movie Awards, where we were asked to take Andy Samberg’s raps and translate them into show tune styles.
Al: We were working on that show initially as writers, doing presenter patter; Andy Samberg was hosting and there was a plan to do a big number in the middle of the show, so they turned to us for the music. It was a lot of fun but stressful. Adam Lambert was scheduled to sing the big “Dick in a Box” finale, but he dropped out at the last minute because he thought the medley was somehow insulting to Broadway. Forest Whitaker came on board at the last minute and saved the day.
So what is next for you guys? Anything you would like to plug here?
Jon: We have a new movie that we wrote with Jordan that’s in post-production right now. It’s called The Drone, and it’s about a Phantom-3 consumer drone that gets possessed by the soul of a killer. We hope it comes out this year. We have a few similar things in the works but they are not quite announceable yet.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Jon: The last fart I made.