Jay Duplass, an independent filmmaker whose latest film, “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” screened Nov. 5 at the Savannah Film Festival, stumbled upon his love for film as a teenager.
“I grew up in New Orleans. I didn’t even know that filmmakers existed,” he said. “I just thought that movies got piped in on cable television and just came from some magical place.”
It wasn’t until he saw “Raising Arizona” in 1987 that he realized that “human beings made these movies, very thoughtful and funny human beings.”
But he still continued on with his life, going to the University of Texas and majoring in psychology. Of course, it wasn’t long before he had his next big film experience in 1991 when “Slacker” was first released and “El Mariachi” was in the making.
“There was just sort of like common knowledge around that time that you don’t need millions of dollars to make a movie. You don’t need movie stars. You actually can make a movie for $25,000,” he said. “That’s when it really came together … we started realizing that there’s something else going on here and maybe we could do this.”
What’s his advice for a new generation of student filmmakers? Duplass had one simple word of advice: create. Make tons and tons of movies.
“Don’t think too much about what you’re doing. I remember being a student and thinking, maybe I’ll make a movie this weekend, and you always don’t make the movie. You always just think about making the movie,” he said. “What schools don’t teach you is who you are and what you uniquely have to offer the world … you can’t figure out what you have to offer the world by thinking about it, you do it by accident, basically.”
In Duplass’ case, he’s had a partner to figure it out with, his brother Mark. It is safe to say that a love for film is something that runs in the family.
“My parents are not artists. My dad’s a lawyer and my mom’s just a mom, works in retail. But, every Christmas we would go to the movie theater, and watch some big blockbuster and cry and have a peak emotional experience in a movie theater.”
Working with his brother as a filmmaker was a natural step for him.
“We’ve always been close, and we’ve always done creative stuff together — we were in bands together. When we were kids, we would do all kinds of creative projects, so, for us, it’s just [about] making stuff.”
The brothers focus on capturing “cringe-worthy laughs” in the movies they make.
“We’re obsessed with human beings, human nature and we watch people and we talk about the really embarrassing, passive aggressive things that they do to each other,” he said. “And I think that’s kind of like the meat of our movies is cringe-worthy laughs — truthful things that happen and hopefully, you laugh about it later.”
Their most recent film, “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” is something the duo has never done before.
“We got to go back to our hometown of New Orleans to make the film, which was really fun. It was a little different for us because all of our previous movies were very domestic movies that happened inside a house, and the first scene of this movie happens inside a house, but after that it’s like the characters venture out into the world and really start interacting with the universe.”
The movie is also bigger than anything they have done before.
“It was exciting and challenging, especially because we shoot in a very uncontrolled, sort of documentary fashion, so it was a new challenge for us.”
“Jeff Who Lives at Home” is centered around two brothers, and there’s a good reason for this according to Duplass.
“We’re just obsessed with brothers,” he said. “The brother relationship is very interesting because you’re talking about two men who share a level of closeness and intimacy that they’re probably not comfortable talking about … we’re just kind of strangely obsessed with brothers, I guess.”Contact Augusta Statz.