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SXSW '07 Interview: "Kenny" Director Clayton Jacobson

by Scott Weinberg

The "Kenny" Pitch: Part philosopher, part comedian and all heart, Kenny is one of the cogs in society's machinery; a knight in shining overalls taking care of business. We follow Kenny as he juggles family tensions, fatherhood and sewage with charm, humor and unflinching dignity.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
Mockumentary about one of societyís unappreciated cogs - a toilet plumber - told with heart and humour.

Is this your first trip to SXSW?
It will be my first pilgrimage to SXSW and Iím as happy as a pig at a vegetarian BBQ about coming.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be "When I grow up I want to be a ... what?
The back end of a Chinese dragon in a festival parade, because the last guy always got to let off all the fireworks.

Not including your backyard and your Dad's Handy cam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?
When my school teacher allowed me to submit a class room project as an animated short - My classmates applause and adulation got me hook line and sinker.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"
No - like a father sending his son overseas on an exchange program - Iím keen to see how he's received - will people like him - will they think he has good manners and will they invite the rest of us over to stay rent free next time round.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
The cook because although no one understood a word he was saying - the guy had great conviction in everything he cooked.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Honestly with a film centered around a toilet cleaner I expected a barrage of toilet pun reviews - I have not been disappointed in either the reviews or their puns.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning?
The film idea grew from stories told by the owner of a toilet rental service - His self effacing humour and wit belied a deeper truth about humanity that I found entertaining and intriguing.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
Embrace compromise - many of the films finer moments were born out of finding alternative solutions to the occasional sudden dilemma - film making is problem solving for the most part and when embraced the twists and turns can be very exciting.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
Midnight Cowboy was a seminal movie experience as a young teen. Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and documentaries in general are all constant sources of influence.

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell "This! I want something JUST like this .only different."?
American Movie has the heart and truth I wanted and a film called Demon Lover Diary has the structural shift I was looking for.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
A younger Alan Arkin.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
Baby Doll.

Name an actor in your film that's absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
My brother Shane Jacobson because he is a brilliant actor - he's cheap and most of all he is sitting here beside me while I write this.

Finish this sentence: If I weren't a filmmaker, I'd almost definitely be...
Disappointed (I know you didn't mean that - but I do)

Who's an actor you'd kill a small dog to work with? (Don't worry; nobody would know.)
Rin Tin Tin because he's larger and has screen craft. But failing that Iíd choose Paul Newman.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
As an audience they are only as important as you allow them to be - for better or for worse - it's all about how much you align your self with their views. As a film maker however we are always left at their mercy and I doubt that will ever change as long as film remains a subjective art form.

You're told that your next movie must have one "product placement" on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
A DVD of my last film.

You're contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that's absolutely integral to the film or you're getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
We re-shoot it with sock puppets? Mind you I've known some filthy sock puppets in my time.

What's your take on the whole "a film by DIRECTOR" issue? Do you feel it's tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film - or do you think it's cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
Filmmaking is a directors medium - everyone collaborates to realize the directorís vision so it seems apt to me.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do It?
By asking the question "have you ever had your heart touched by a portaloo delivery man" or by relating the fact that our movie was the highest grossing Australian film for the past three years and on curiosity alone is worth a look.


The Jacobson Brothers' Kenny will have its U.S. premiere at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festvial. Check out the official Kenny website right here. And check out for even more info!

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originally posted: 02/21/07 00:33:20
last updated: 03/07/07 09:33:20
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