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SXSW '07 Interview: "Dirty Country" Directors Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher

by Erik Childress

The “Dirty Country" Pitch: Dirty Country tells the story of Larry Pierce, the raunchiest country singer in America, and explores the underground genre of dirty music in America. In addition to Larry, the film profiles four other “living legends” of the dirty music genre.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.

NICK: We've had a few short films in SXSW in the past and have always had a great time there. Austin is the perfect city for a film festival and the folks at SXSW know how to do it right. That's in sharp contrast to some of the other film festivals we've been to. At one festival, one of our shorts played film in a huge IMAX theater, but there were only a half dozen people in the audience.

JOE: I’ve been to a bunch of film fests, and SXSW is easily the best. No other fest can compare with the atmosphere, the programming, and booths with free cigarettes.

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?

NICK: The honest answer: ventriloquist.
JOE: A rapper.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?

NICK: Making short videos and screwing around with the equipment at our college TV station.

JOE: I learned the technical stuff by working at a camera rental house, and strengthened my on-set endurance by PA-ing on shitty Super Cuts and JcPenney's commercials.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on the festival circuit?

JOE: Not really, but I guess this means my mom will likely see it, which troubles me slightly.

NICK: For me, it means that at least one other person besides us is interested in the underground phenomenon of dirty music.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?

NICK: Lew Zealand, the guy who throws the boomerang fish, for obvious reasons.

JOE: I see more eye-to-eye with the puppets on those religious kids shows.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?

JOE: Not really. During “Dirty Country,” I was too consumed with the stress of production to think that far ahead. Thinking of “paying customers” was laughable, especially at times when we’d realize the mixer wasn’t working midway through an interview.

NICK: The plan from the very beginning was to premiere this movie at SXSW. We felt like it was the perfect outlet for our off-beat music documentary.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.

JOE: While on a road trip in high school, Nick and I came across a cassette tape at a truck stop titled "Songs for Studs" by a guy named Larry Pierce. It turned out to be the filthiest - but shockingly well-written - country music we had ever heard. We later realized this guy had released a dozen albums, each filthier than the next. After years of being his #1 fans, we decided to track him down to see who exactly Larry Pierce was. We wrote him a letter asking if we could shoot a short documentary about him one summer. He responded saying that he worked 3rd shift in a factory, wrote dirty songs on his lunch breaks, was married with children, and that, generally, his life wasn't that interesting. We thought otherwise. Next thing we know, we both quit our jobs and have been working on it full time for the last three years.

NICK: Last night we were up until the wee hours making final tweaks and additions to the movie to get it ready for South By Southwest on March 14th. If you see two guys with bloodshot eyes and greasy hair at the premiere, please say hello.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this
movie, what would it be?

JOE: Make a couple short docs first. Diving head first into a feature is incredibly challenging. Also, don’t hire interns with the intention of having them only transcribe tapes - they won’t last very long.

NICK: Avoid documentary filmmaking at all costs.

So, country fans have completely dismissed the Dixie Chicks based on some kind of conservative political patriotism - but they are completely fine with Doug Clark's Hot Nuts? What does this say about our country and/or country music's fanbase?

NICK: Well, Doug Clark's Hot Nuts are more R&B than country, but it's true that country music and country fans have many contradictions. They extol the virtues of a good Christian life while celebrating the image of hard-drinking good ol' boys. And for the all the brouhaha over the Natalie Maines comment a few years ago, let’s not forget that the Dixie Chicks have the No. 1 country album on the charts right now.

JOE: Contemporary country music is in a sad state of affairs, and fans should be directing their rage more towards songs like "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk."

Is Teddy Bear by Red Sovine the creepiest song ever recorded?

JOE: Teddy Bear is indeed very creepy. The trucker in that song takes way too great of an interest in that little boy. I'm sure Red didn't intend it that way, but it’s easy to take out of context. Check out the cover art to that album - it looks like a drawing out of a coloring book.

NICK: I would say that the recent holiday hit, "Christmas Shoes," in which a poor boy tries to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mother on Christmas day, takes the cake. Download it and prepare to be nauseated.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?

NICK: The Maysles Brothers and Sarah Price and Chris Smith were great examples of how to do quality documentary filmmaking as a two-person unit. They’ve also tackled off-beat subjects in their movies.

JOE: Agreed. Plus both duos shot on film, which totally blows my mind.

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this only different”?

NICK: We watched the Maysles Brothers’ film "Salesman" for practical tips on how to shoot a documentary with two people.

JOE: “Fargo” is the quintessential Midwestern movie and was the inspiration for much of our exterior photography. No movie captures flatness better than “Fargo.”

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?

NICK: Dan Castellanetta. It's only fair.

JOE: I’d just tape a bunch of cats together.

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?

NICK: I've always wanted to write a Broadway musical version of "Revenge of the Nerds," which could then be re-adapted into a movie.

JOE: I’ve always wanted to write/direct another “Police Academy” movie. That’s now impossible, of course, what with the recent passing of Tackleberry, who cannot be replaced.

Name someone involved with your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.

NICK: Our subject, Larry Pierce, has a very bright future. When we started following him, he had never played his dirty songs outside of his garage. Now he's a touring musician who recently appeared on The Howard Stern Show.

JOE: Larry and his band -ITIS are long overdue for a much bigger following. Hopefully our movie reveals not only their filthy talents, but their musical genius as well.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...

NICK: Bored.

JOE: Rapping.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)

NICK: Ironically, Benji.

JOE: It doesn’t take much convincing for me to kill a small dog.

Have you “made it” yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say “Yes, wow. I have totally made it!”

NICK: It'd be nice to get paid to make movies. That would be “making it” in my book.
JOE: Yeah, money would be nice. Health insurance would be great too. Not living off of my girlfriend would also be great.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?

NICK: When it comes to comedies, critics have little to offer because humor is so subjective. So if you read any bad reviews of our humorous documentary, ignore them.

JOE: Important? Not really. Doctors are important. But I enjoy reading certain critics.

You’re told that your next movie must have one product “placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?

NICK: Our subject, Larry Pierce, drinks more Old Milwaukee than any human being I have ever met. Old Milwaukee should really be paying us for all the times we feature their product in "Dirty Country."

JOE: Booze is always good for product placement because it usually means there’s some on set.

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?

NICK: Go with the NC-17. You'll sleep better at night.

JOE: Agreed. I’m not losing that sex scene. It’s integral to the character of Seductress #2.

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?

NICK: In certain cases, it's a complete ego trip to add something like "A Renny Harlin Film" above the title. The average moviegoer doesn't know or care who Renny Harlin is, and if they did, they probably wouldn't be going to see a film by him. In other cases, I think it makes sense. We've had a lot of help with "Dirty Country," but I certainly feel like it is our film.

JOE: There are a lot of lame things about movies. I think that one ranks around #26.

So Larry Pierce could totally kick the ass of those Garrison Keillor lugs played by John C. Reilly & Woody Harrelson in A Prairie Home Companion?

JOE: Yes, in a battle of raunch, Larry would totally kick their asses. Physically, I’m not so sure.

NICK: Whereas John C. Reilly and Woody Harrelson were charmingly naughty, Larry Pierce is unabashedly explicit with his raunchy songs. But luckily there is a place for all sorts of styles and sensibilities in the world of dirty music. We explore many of these in "Dirty Country."

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?

JOE: Everybody has a favorite dirty song that they either learned on the playground or made up themselves, so I think people will appreciate a movie that focuses on the artists who create these timeless songs. Dirty music is a genre that has dwelled exclusively underground for ages, and this is the first film to surface them.

NICK: And for what it’s worth, we can guarantee that this movie will have more dirty words in it than any other film at South By Southwest.


Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher’s Dirty Country will have its world premiere at the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival on Wednesday, March 14 at 9:45 pm and screen again on Saturday, March 17 at 6:45 pm (both at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Downtown.) And check out for even more info!

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originally posted: 02/28/07 05:42:29
last updated: 03/07/07 09:06:56
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