Comic-troupe turned ensemble-filmmakers, The Vacationeers, have been popping up on the web, individually in commercials and in rotation on Showtime in their first feature, L.A. Noir comedy The Scenesters. They most recently turned up at a panel at Comic-Con in San Diego to promote their latest film, It’s a Disaster, which finds four couples gathered together for Sunday brunch when they find themselves facing the end of the world.
Press Pass L.A.’s Coco Quinn caught up with Vacationeers Jeff Grace, Kevin Brennan, and Todd Berger (who directed the picture) after it’s debut at the Los Angeles Film Festival. They talked about how the film cleverly and comically explores the eight stages of grief, as well as how The Vacationeers are handling the addition of high profile talent (like co-stars Julia Stiles, David Cross, America Ferrera and Erinn Hayes) to their quirky little group.
PPLA: When it came time to find financing for the movie, did you have pressure to cast actors with more established box office pull in the male roles?
KEVIN: Wait, we’re not huge?
TODD: Yeah, a lot of it was like, self-imposed pressure. Like, ‘do we need to do this, should we do this?’ Then I met David. The first day I met him he was like, ‘bro, make the movie that you want to make with the people that you want to be in the movie. Don’t try to put famous people in the movie because you think it’s going to make the movie sell. Put the people who you think are best for the movie in it.’ There’s always this kind of pressure, like, ‘are you having delusions of grandeur?’ Well, maybe…
PPLA: When you finally saw yourselves up there, watching each other, were you happy with how it all came together? I mean, I thought Jeff stole every scene; he was in just being deadpan and hilarious.
JEFF: Well I was going to play all the roles at one point.
TODD: You won’t be happy until you’re like Jim Carey or Eddie Murphy…
KEVIN: Yeah, having a whole Clumps thing going on.
TODD: No, but you know these guys are funny. The fact that every person who sees the movie… you know we had a couple of test screenings where we would invite people over into the living room and we had a questionnaire. One of the questions was, ‘who was your favorite person in the movie?’ and one was,’who was your least favorite character?’ Pretty much everybody’s answer was different. Some people thought Kevin’s character was hilarious. Some people hated Jeff’s. Then some people would say, ‘Jeff’s character was hilarious!’
JEFF: And they hated Kevin’s character!
KEVIN: Yeah, the huge nerds…
TODD: Yeah, I don’t know why we asked people which character they hated…
KEVIN: Like, ‘who do you think is the least attractive?’ It’s like high school.
TODD: But it’s refreshing in a way that each person gets to identify with the character that best resonates with them. Because some people are like, ‘yeah, I would be the fanboy who’s planning for the zombie apocalypse.’ And some people think, ‘I’d be fucking.’ And they kind of get to say, ‘well, that is what I would do’, because the eight different performers are all strong in their own way.
PPLA: Each character reacts so differently because you wrote each to represents a different stage of grief. How did you choose who would portray each stage?
TODD: That’s a good question, actually. I knew I wanted there to be the four couples. In my first draft there were four couples at four stages in their relationship. I wanted to have one that had been married a while and wanted to get a divorce, one with a weird, open relationship type situation, one that’s on say the third date (so they don’t really know each other) and the last one, the couple that we all know, where we’re thinking, ‘why are you together? They seem to hate each other’. So I knew I wanted those couples and so I just looked at the stages and at who would match up well with each other. I made Guilt and Acceptance a couple and then put Hope and Denial, you know, as a couple, and it kind of just went from there.
JEFF: We all first looked at the script, and I think as comedians thought Grief has some pretty great lines, so we all wanted to be Buck [Kevin’s free loving character].
KEVIN: In an earlier version of the movie, where we didn’t have this cast attached and were just going to shoot it over two weekends, we were all going to stretch as actors. (laughs) I was going to play Pete, who is very much against my type, and Jeff was going to play… not Shane [Jeff plays fanboy Shane]. And then when we got the big name actors attached we thought, ‘let’s do what we know’.
TODD: Going back to your question, it was terrifying. At first we were all on equal footing, and then we got people who were pros and we were terrified at the first screening. We thought people would be thinking, ‘these four comedian bozos were outclassed by Julia Stiles, David Cross, Erin Hayes… and even Rachel [Boston] who is not as high profile or as big a name right now. She’s done like series after series and her reel is pretty epic. And our reels are more like, ‘uh, I was once on a T.V. show for like five seconds and I did a commercial’. So I think it’s nice to hear that people liked our performances- that we, hopefully, held our own.
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Watch the trailer.