In the hilarious indie film The Rumperbutts, Bonnie and Jack, a married couple and indie band (played by Mates of State’s also-married duo Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner), regretfully accept a job on a children’s show of the same name. Despite money and success, their relationship turns to resentment and disaster, until one evening, a magical man leads them on a path of rediscovery and gives them a second chance at happiness.
The movie is also known (unofficially, of course) as “The Mates of State movie,” since Hammel and Gardner co-wrote all the music and perform it on screen. Here, writer/director Marc Brener talks about the making of his first full-length feature, working with the band, and where he got the idea to make a musical.
TLW: I watched your short Say It Ain’t Solo and heard the Mates of State song in the credits. How did you first hook up with Mates of State for that project?
Marc Brener: I got her [Gardner] email address online and just contacted them and just said “Hey, how do you all feel about something like this?” They were cool with the idea. I wrote the lyrics and they did the music and away we went.
TLW: What was your casting process like for that? You have some really big names in that short.
MB: I had my brother [Silicon Valley’s Josh Brener] and Stephen Tobolowsky first, who’s also our cousin. From there, I knew Eddie Kaye Thomas so I asked him to do it. Then, I loosely knew Joe Mantegna, and after that I just started trying people – like Christopher Lloyd’s agent, then from there, Malin [Akerman], Emmanuelle [Chriqui], and Jason Alexander, then lastly, Kunal [Nayyar] from The Big Bang Theory. It was just a matter of finding people you like, and rolling the dice and hoping for the best.
TLW: When it came time to write The Rumperbutts, did you write the script first or did you gear it around Mates of State?
MB: They were in town on tour and we got together for dinner. I proposed the idea to them. I said, “I haven’t written anything yet. Are you guys interested in making a feature film where you guys star in the movie and also do all the music,” and they were excited. What was cool is that they did all the music but I got to co-write the lyrics with one of my favorite bands. Not a bad day at the office!
TLW: Was the notion of “selling out” something you specifically wanted to explore with this film?
MB: Yeah, selling out is part of it, but I think everyone has to make a decision whether they’re creative or not: Are you going to take that job that’s going to kill your heart and soul, but you’re going to be paid a lot of money, or do you do what you’re passionate about. I think it works across any industry. There are jobs where you could go and have a very peaceful life and make 40-, 50-, 60- thousand dollars a year, or you could go and work for someone who’s a nightmare, or where the hours are twice as long and you’re making two or three times the money, but you have no life and you’re miserable. It’s a balance for everyone and artists, too, of course.
TLW: Was the movie always going to be a musical as opposed to another form of comedy, and what made you want to write a musical?
MB: It was always a musical. I’m a big fan of the Irish movie Once. I love how they used music to help tell their story. That’s what I tried my best to do while incorporating one of my favorite bands with storytelling and movie making.
TLW: You mentioned that you co-wrote the music with Jason and Kori of Mates of State. Can you tell me a little bit about what that process was like?
MB: In the first pass of the script, when I was writing it, I didn’t write any lyrics, I just left notes in each section where a song was supposed to go that said, “OK, this should be an upbeat tempo and a happy song and it’s about love”…or sadness or whatever. That’s what I did 8, 10, 12 times throughout the script. They ended up saying, “Well, we did it on Say It Ain’t Solo, why don’t you take a first pass on the lyrics and we’ll go from there with rewriting the lyrics and [adding] the music.” I said, “Great, as long as I’m not stepping on any toes because you guys are songwriters and I’m more of a scriptwriter,” and it turned out great. The beauty of it is that they took all the terrible lyrics that I wrote and turned them into awesomeness and I get credit for half the writing, so that worked out nicely!
TLW: That’s a good deal! So the movie was shot in Connecticut, my personal stomping ground. Why did you choose to film here?
MB: We originally talked about doing it in Austin and that was the first draft. Then, they really liked the script and they were like, “Hey, it would make our lives so much easier if you could change some of the locations specific to Austin, and make them specific to Connecticut.” And I said, “I’ll do my research, I’ll just need your help if you think it makes sense.” They were so great and so helpful. They introduced me to Brian over at Toad’s and everyone over at BAR, and from there we expanded to The Bijou Theater in Bridgeport, and The Space—everyone was so kind and helpful. We had a great crew that was mostly from the Connecticut area. I felt really lucky.
TLW: I read another interview that said when you were filming, Metro North (the train line connecting New Haven and New York City) was striking or down or something…? What was going on with that?
MB: Shut down, yeah. Every movie, they say, has at least one crisis and that was our big thing. Metro North went as far as one town—I can’t remember if it made it all the way to Bridgeport or a few stops before. For about a week, the production team knew where it would stop and we had a Production Assistant waiting to pick up the actors. It was crazy, but thank God for the production team.
TLW: How about working with your brother [Josh] in the film. Did you always plan on having him in it?
MB: Oh, yeah. I definitely wrote Richie specifically for him. We had so much fun, I think it was the third or fourth time we’ve worked together. I don’t even need to direct him or anything like that. We both know what each other wants. It’s a good feeling having someone you could always rely on and feel comfortable around.
TLW:What are some of your film influences?
MB: I’m a big fan of Pedro Almodóvar, of course Tarantino, Woody Allen…I like Sofia Coppola, Steve McQueen is great.
TLW: What’s your favorite Tarantino movie?
MB: Favorites are the Kill Bills. My favorite scene of all time is the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds.
TLW: So what’s next for you?
MB: A post World War II story that I handed in recently. It’s a little bit different, but the character I wrote for my brother is the comic relief character, if you will. It’s called Historical Fiction – that’s the working title right now.
The Rumperbutts is currently available to buy on Vimeo! Use promo code “tlwmatesofstate” and get $1 off your purchase! Check out the trailer below:
Subscribe to TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/sxaw6h Subscribe to COMING SOON: http://bit.ly/H2vZUn Subscribe to INDIE & FILM FESTIVALS: http://bit.ly/1wbkfYg Like us on FACEBOOK: http://goo.gl/dHs73 Follow us on TWITTER: http://bit.ly/1ghOWmt The Rumperbutts Official Trailer 1 (2015) – Kori Gardner, Jason Hammel Comedy HD A married, indie band duo regretfully takes a job on a children’s show (“Rumperbutts”).