Patrick Brice on the Challenge of Directing Prosthetic Penises Underwater in ‘The Overnight’
Patrick Brice’s titillating new comedy The Overnight comes with a fair share of notable names attached to the project. The film is executive produced by indie darling Mark Duplass, it’s the first feature released by Adam Scott and his wife’s production company’s Gettin’ Rad Productions, and it stars Jason Schwartzman as well as Orange Is The New Black‘s Taylor Schilling. Brice’s film explores a hilarious situation involving a pair of parents to young children arranging an “overnight family playdate” at their home that turns into a sexual exploration; however, The Overnight is only the second narrative piece made by the filmmaker.
Sitting down with Way Too Indie, Patrick Brice discusses his senior thesis documentary on Paris’ last 35MM porn theater, producing his first feature Creep with only Mark Duplass and a camera, as well as the transition into working with a full crew for The Overnight.
Are these premieres exciting for you?
Yeah, they’re very exciting.
It’s good to see it with a crowd?
Oh yeah, it’s the best. When I first wanted to become a filmmaker I never thought I’d make movies where it would be contingent on crowd noise and crowd reaction. I go see my friends’ films that are dramas, and you don’t hear anything at all throughout the movie, so it’s fun to watch this movie with an audience for sure.
Did you want to be a more serious filmmaker? Not to disparage this film.
Yeah, yeah. You mean, make movies with a more serious subject matter?
Just making movies that are more dramatic.
It’s funny. I’m not interested in one particular genre. Both movies I’ve made have been these kind of genre hybrids. That’s just a result of me navigating these stories and deciding what feels right in any given moment. Whether it’s a darker moment or something that’s lighter.
So I was going to ask what it’s like directing prosthetic penises.
[laughs] It’s the best! I mean, it’s hard to do. Everyone is giggling the whole time so it’s this ridiculous, fun—it doesn’t feel like work basically. At all.
I can imagine the diving underwater being hysterical on set, a little tricky to give direction for, but it’s a really funny moment.
For sure. And we couldn’t keep them in the water for that long. They’re made of this sponge-like material, so they actually absorb water. Jason’s was… [Patrick makes hand motions].
It expands more?
Yeah [laughs], it was a bad thing.
What was the initial inspiration for The Overnight?
Mark Duplass and I had worked together on this film Creep, and we were just trying to think of another small project to work on together, he said he would produce a script if I wrote it and I was thinking a lot about what I can do with a small amount of money essentially. An idea of having the film set in one house, and having only four actors. Then reverse engineering it from there in terms of how do you make a single-location space dynamic? I had made a documentary when I graduated from Cal Arts, and my thesis film was about the last porn theater in Paris that still plays 35MM film. So sex has kind of been on the mind for sure.
I was thinking about movies like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and After Hours and these movies that take place in 24 hours, so [I] ultimately decided it would be this film about this foursome. Then it was once again reverse engineering it from there and thinking about how I can create a situation where it’s actually believable that these characters would get to the point that they do.
Do you get excited by that reverse engineering process?
Well it’s all I’ve known so far. I’ve only known working within constraints because I’ve only had a certain amount of money for each of my projects. For Creep we had basically no money because we had no crew. The whole movie was just me, Mark and a video camera.
So then with this movie I knew I was going to have a small amount of crew, and even just having the people around me that I did felt like a luxury because I had this other experience where I had no one. It’s been a great way to ease myself into making stuff, because I recognize each new tool that comes in and find that I’m able to use it consciously more. Actually having a relation with your gaffer, you know? I don’t know if that’s a result of the way that things have gone so far or that’s just my weird way of working but that’s the way it’s gone.
What kind of benefit do you get from having Mark Duplass on as a producer?
I wouldn’t have been able to get all these actors if it weren’t for him, and if it weren’t for his reputation. He was kind of like a godfather figure of this show. We knew that Adam & Naomi had started Gettin’ Rad Productions, their production company, and that Naomi was wanting to produce features. So it was really great bringing those guys in because we kind of had this package of this amazing actor with Adam, and then Naomi who’s one of the best professional relationships I’ve had in my life. She’s just an amazing producer.
It’s been a great relationship working with Mark because he’s not only been someone who’s sort of helped guide me through this world, but he’s also someone who appreciates my sense of humor. To have someone who not only is kind of your boss but also gets you and appreciates you, that’s priceless.
How’d you first end up developing a relationship with Mark?
We have mutual friends. I’m good friends with Adele Romanski, she’s a producer. She produced The Myth of the American Sleepover and a couple other movies. She produced Mark’s wife’s two films The Freebie and Black Rock so it was just through moving to Los Angeles and meeting them. I was still in school, I was in Cal Arts when I met Mark. We had just met for coffee a couple times, you know. Kind of discussing—there are just so many ways your career path can go in terms of film, so it was an organic relationship.
Like you said, you’re expanding the scope in terms of this production. Were there any obstacles to incorporating all these new elements as a filmmaker?
I don’t think I ever felt obstacles with it. I’m a pretty open guy. I’m fairly egoless, so I would go to each new person that I’d be working with that I hadn’t worked with. I hadn’t even made a short before, I had primarily done documentary stuff, and then I made this odd found footage hybrid experiment thing with Mark. For me it was a chance to really understand all of these roles and just try to elevate everyone in their own way. I never pretended to know something I didn’t know. I was with enough people who had enough experience that when there were moments when I felt like I wasn’t the authority, they would step in. I see the role of the director as guiding the energy of a shoot. Obviously I wanted to protect and guide the story for sure. Because I had such smart, conscious collaborators that’s why I was able to make this movie in the way that we did.
How structured was your script?
This was a full, detailed — it was totally scripted.
So it’s not like some of the highly improvised Duplass-produced movies?
No, I had done that. Creep was totally improvised, that was just a 10-page outline, but The Overnight had a full script. Which was great to have that as our sort of anchor, and then people ask if there’s improv in the movie, and there is, but it’s almost peppered within the lines. It was really just trying to create an environment where the actors felt free. Free to play, but we already had a nice guide there for us.
Does that mean like fun run type of stuff, or loose last takes?
We did that a couple times but for the most part it was just someone would say a line in the middle of another line that worked, or there was a reaction that was unexpected or something like that. Going into this we wanted to play it real as much as possible, so we wanted it to feel as natural as possible. I think with some actors that might be kind of scary to say you can play. A lot of people need that sort of structure, but these guys were game.
What’s the next step for you? The film comes out in June, so are you doing mostly press or have you started a new project?
Yeah, I’m writing right now. I’m writing the next project but in between that, the next two months are going to be really crazy. We’re playing a bunch of different film festival: San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago Critics Festival. Then we’re going to be doing New York and L.A. premieres for the movie so it’s going to be a lot of distraction from writing. I’m looking forward to getting back into the “putting on sweatpants and taking my dog on a walk.”
You prefer that aspect?
Yeah, for sure. But this is fun, too, obviously.