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SXSW '06 Interview: 'Live Free or Die' Directors Andy Robin & Gregg Kavet

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Live Free or Die' Pitch: An offbeat comedy about a would-be criminal who's struggling to escape the dreariness of his northern New Hampshire hometown. He finds himself in real trouble when he teams up with a dim-witted high school friend and attempts to prove his chops as a local outlaw.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
What's with those guys who sell speakers out of the back of a van?

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.
First time to SXSW or any other festival. We did once watch three movies back-to-back-to-back.

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?
Andy: Larger, hairier version of myself.
Gregg: Army guy, perhaps Dwight D. Eisenhower

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
We shot this film. Seriously.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”
Now when we repeat lines from the film out loud, there's a small chance we won't get blank looks.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Andy: Gordon.
Gregg: I can't watch the Muppets. I keep thinking of how tiring it must be for those guys to hold their arms in the air during filming.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Yeah, but then we'd go "Fuck, nobody's shooting the film!" and get back to work.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
After Seinfeld, we spent a lot of unhappy mercenary years in TV. Then we decided to wash the dirt off ourselves and write something just for us. We wrote Live Free or Die in spring, 2001. Like many indy projects, this one had financing set only to fall apart more times than we can remember. The project finally went ahead when one of our producers, John Limotte, decided apropo of nothing that we were filming in the fall. With that barefaced lie, actors signed on, money fell into place (barely) and we managed to get it done.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
The human body begins to die when it makes films outdoors in late November in New Hampshire.

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

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
No, we yelled "We can plagiarize this shit and no one will know."

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Wow! Let's see. First, we would let our casting department come up with lots of sugggestions, then we would carefully go through them, trying to picture each one as Homer Simpson. After narrowing down the list, we would audition several actors for the role, using pieces of dialogue from the script ("sides"). Then, after deliberations (and, no doubt, lots of friendly arguments!), we would re-audition our favorites and carefully choose the actor who seemed, overall, to best exemplify Homer Simpson. Then we would slit our wrists and let the decision fall to someone else.

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?
A movie adaptation of "The Guinness Book of World Records, 1977 edition"

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
Our sensitive actors would wilt in the hot spotlight of fame.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
Andy: ...the son of the lady who invented liquid paper.
Gregg: ...a struggling but happy flip-book creator.

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

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!”
We have not "made it" nor will we ever "make it" until poverty is wiped off the planet, war is eradicated, and we can have rampant sex like bonobos.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
Critical. Absolutely vital. They shape the craft by providing the necessary feedback essential for the filmmaker's ouevre considered in the broad, classic tradition of the arts as filmic contributions to the timeless civilization of man.

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

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?
Ahh, just leave it in, dude.

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?
Did the director set up the lights? Did the director pick out the nutritious goodies at the craft service table? Did the director say the lines? Did the director develop the film in that cheapass crampt, sweaty darkroom that smells like potatoes? 'Nuff said.

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?
It's funny shit, man.


Live Free or Die, starring Aaron Stanford, Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Rapaport, Judah Friedlander, Kevin Dunn, and Ebon Moss-Bacharach, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for film & festival information.

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originally posted: 03/03/06 10:15:47
last updated: 03/03/06 10:18:30
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