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SXSW '09 Interview: "Splinterheads" Director Brant Sersen

by Erik Childress

The ďSplinterheads" Pitch: A guy who has been nowhere falls for a girl who has been everywhere.

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

BRANT: Let me start with last night. I did the online! Thatís right. Two days before the premiere and Iím running off my master. So stressful, but itís done and Iím off to Austin now.

I started writing Splinterheads shortly after being conned at a decrepit carnival in upstate New York. A year later I quit my day job at Comedy Central and was in production. My DP Mike Simmonds (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo) was the first person I attached. Rachael Taylor, Christopher McDonald, Dean Winters and Thomas Middleditch followed. We rounded out the cast and 5 brutal weeks later shooting was wrapped. Post started immediately after and I was introduced to what the RED camera can really do. Itís a post wet dream. Itís the greatest camera ever.

Can you define the title for those who might mistake it for a bad horror flick?

BRANT: Splinterheads is another name for the carnival workers that operate the game booths. The origin of the name differs from who you talk to, but the old school guys Iíve talked with from New York to Florida have said that the game booths used to be built from wooden planks. Carnival workers would bump their heads and often gets splinters, thus the nick name.

Got any favorite memories of traveling carnivals that came to your town? What was your favorite ride and why?

BRANT: I grew up visiting my relatives in Ohio every year and weíd always go to the Ohio State Fair. I donít have any cool ride memories other than going on the big wooden roller coaster, but I do remember a concert they had. It was my first concert and the bill was the Stray Cats, The Fat Boys and Red Skeleton. Rockabilly, rap and comedy all in one night. Pretty awesome.

Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story was a favorite of mine at South by Southwest back in 2004 (my god, has it been that long?). It's the kind of under-the-radar film that you just want to show to friends. Of course by now it looks like an all-star cast. Rob Corddry was just getting started on The Daily Show, but it also features appearances by fellow Daily Show cohorts, Ed Helms (now of The Office) and the great, GREAT Rob Riggle, who just left The Daily Show but has been seen in small roles in Talladega Nights and Step Brothers. What would you like the future to hold for Blackballed? Maybe a 10th Anniversary presentation like another overlooked comedy, Office Space, is getting this year?

BRANT: Blackballed has been amazing because I keep hearing from people who have just discovered it. Itís always the same response ďhow come Iíve never heard about this film?Ē I wish they would ask my distributer that!! Iím just glad people are still talking about it. I mean, the cast was incredible. Of course there is Corddry, Helms and Riggle, but letís not forget Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel from Human Giant and Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock. Actually, Seth Morris and Huebel are in ďI Love you, Man.Ē All these guys are really taking off. An anniversary presentation would be killer. Want to set that up?

So tell readers once and for all why Christopher Mcdonald is one of the funniest character actors ever.

BRANT: Oh, Chris McDonald. Heís unbelievable. Heíd show up to the set completely fired up each day. Heíd just lift everyoneís spirits. Heís young at heart and has the best sense of humor. While shooting this one scene Chris and Thomas Middleditch broke out into an incredible freestyle rap. Chris was dressed in his cop uniform and dancing around the street like Kanye West. It was hilarious and I wish the camera was rolling.

How much of your cast is going to make the trek to SXSW for the screenings?

BRANT: Unfortunately, Chris and Dean Winters are working on other projects during the festival so they canít make it, but I expect everyone else to be there.

Your film boasts a sexy con artist played by Rachael Taylor. What are some of your favorite con artist movies?

BRANT: Con artist movie...hmmm...I guess White Men Canít Jump. I just saw it again on HBO and itís still really good.

Do you have any favorite or least favorite film critics? And honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?

BRANT: Of course theyíre important. There are thousands of them right now and each one has their loyal readers. So, yeah they can sway your decision in seeing a film or not. I donít have a most or least favorite, but I hope this time around the reviews are not as lazy as they were with Blackballed. Could anyone find someone else to compare me with other than Christopher Guest and his movies? Itís like one guy wrote a review and everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

What would mean more to you? A full-on rave from an anonymous junketeer or an average, but critically constructive review from a respected print or online journalist?

BRANT: Ya know, they both mean a lot to me. I makes films for the junketeer first and I want them to like it, but film is an art that should be critiqued by a respected journalist. Like painting, photography or sculpture. I think critics help us sort through all the crap thatís out there. If I left reviews of films in my friends hands Iíd being seeing Confessions of a Shopaholic tonight.

During your Q&A after your screenings, if you could replace the inevitable "what was the budget?" question with something more serious and probing about your film, what are you hoping would be asked?

BRANT: What was that whole deal with the Montauk Monster? Why did CNN and Fox News think it was a marketing ploy from by your producers.

In closing, what are you most looking forward to during your SXSW experience?

BRANT: Being in warm weather Austin, watching movies, going to parties and celebrating the premiere with a group of friends that has seen me labor over this project for the last 3 years. Then Iím going to sleep for a month.

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originally posted: 03/24/09 05:26:48
last updated: 03/24/09 05:27:19
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