Cinema Club is a new monthly screening series that pairs a new local film with a curator’s pick; it kicks off at indieScreen this Saturday night, with the early-90s Belgian shocker Man Bites Dog, and with Nothing Yet, a film written and directed by James Benson and Bernardo Britto, who graduate from NYU next week. Nothing Yet, which was shot in July 2009, concerns the comic, fictional travails of the three-piece garage-pop band Frat Dad (which features Benson), and features a score by Julian Lynch alongside songs from friends of the filmmakers, like Real Estate. Benson answered a couple of questions over email this week.
So what was the genesis of the film? Did you light upon the idea of a movie about a band as a way of working with your friends, or did you bring them in after you got the project going?
Bernardo and I decided we wanted to shoot a feature while we were in this boring class on Clifford Odets. We did a lot of funny things in that class, but one of them was write a movie. We would have made the movie with our friends regardless (I don’t know who else we would have made it with) but I’m sure the fact that a lot of us were in bands already probably made the decision easier.
So who else is the cast?
The cast and crew are all our friends—about half from NYU and half from my town, Ridgewood, New Jersey. The one guy we actually “cast” was the label manager guy from the end. We actually hadn’t even met him or even talked to him before the night we shot. He was the only person who responded to a craiglist ad. Could have (probably should have) been terrible, but he ended up being kinda perfect.
Perhaps along those lines, where did you shoot? How much did you work the film around locations you knew, and how much did you have to go out and find places where certain scenes needed to take place?
Except for New York City, I don’t think it’s ever explicit where they’re supposed to be in the movie. We always kind of imagined they were touring from a Chicago suburb to New York, but we shot that entire “road trip” within a few miles of Ridgewood. The end of the movie was shot in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
There were a few locations we didn’t have immediate access to, which we had to go out and find—the factory, liquor store, etc. But, there was also definitely a good amount of “we should use that 24/7 laundromat” or “that house looks cool, we should pretend that’s Sam’s house.” Mostly locations were public places and friend’s houses/apartments, etc. There was also a good deal of shooting in and getting out of a location before people realized what was going on.
How much of a script did you work with?
We had a twelve-or-so-page thing we worked off of. It mainly just described what happened in each scene or specific jokes we knew we wanted in there, but there wasn’t a whole lot of dialogue. Some, but not much. There were a lot of pictures too, like photos of locations or just funny photos of a dog and stuff.
The film seems to have a lo-fi vibe—characters hanging out, a slightly shaky camera capturing slightly grimy lofts and moments of offhand beauty—not dissimilar from a lot of the fuzzy, pretty music in the film. How do you go about shaping an aesthetic that’s also the product of technical necessity?
There wasn’t much shaping of an aesthetic while we shot. The credits read “Shot by: Noah Chamis” and then “and: [about fifteen other names].” So, we weren’t storyboarding or orchestrating camera movements or anything.
I guess any shaping would have happened in writing. We knew we weren’t going to be spending very much money on the movie (we shot it for about $1,500 I think) so I guess we tried to write something that would feel like it should be shot the way we were going to have to be shooting it.
Will we ever see a soundtrack?
We actually recently made some for a couple screenings we had coming up, including the indieScreen one. Track listng:
1. Morning Tape – Frat Dad
2. Droplet on a Hot Stone – Julian Lynch
3. Laundry (Score) – Julian Lynch
4. Beach Comber – Real Estate
5. Door – Liam the Younger
6. Suburban Beverage – Real Estate
7. Cruisers – Fluffy Lumbers
8. City (Score) – Julian Lynch
9. Brosef – Frat Dad
10. Milkshakes (Score) – Julian Lynch
11. Banana Jam Pt. 1 – Julian Lynch
12. Ode to Then – Liam the Younger