Joel Moore and Jeremy Boreing to talk about the process of making this film, about having to share writing duties, of Joel's directing responsibilities and what it was like to see their written work come to life on the screen .
Jeremy Daniel Bopreing began his career in the entertainment industry at a young age, serving onstage and off in over 30 productions of both regional and professional theatre. His original works have been featured in numerous venues around his native Texas.
Jeremy's culminating achievement during this time was producing and directing the famous BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY as part of the Buddy Holly Music Festival in the rock legend's home town of Lubbock, Texas. The sold-out production drew crowds from as far as the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, and Australia.
Since arriving in Hollywood, Jeremy has developed a number of television pilots, most recently with Eric McCormack and Michael C. Forman's Big Cattle Prods., and served as a producer on numerous projects, notably the feature film SPIRAL, which he also co-wrote with Joel David Moore.
HOW THE PARTNERSHIP BEGAN
MOORE: It began because Jeremy happened to have a truck. 6 years ago I needed to move something. He was a buddy of a buddy. I was on the phone, walking around, like I am now, and I saw his truck and I kicked it. I said, "That's a good truck." He said, "Yeah." I said, "I need something moved. A couch. You think you could move a couch?" He said, "Yep." We came back, we moved the couch, and the rest is history.
JEREMY BOREING : The funny thing about owning a pickup is that random stranger are always stopping you. One of the big regrets of my life is that it wasn't Steven Spielberg who kicked my tire that day.
MOORE: It was that guy from Dodgeball. No, not that guy, the other one.
THE WRITING PROCESS
BOREING: Basically, I wrote the movie but the only way I could convince Joel to be in it was to give him credit.
MOORE: The movie started from a short film I had written and I brought it to Jeremy and he said "Let's make a picture out of it." So we took the idea from the short and did a lot of character development. It was an interesting process because we just locked ourselves in my living room and worked around a movie I was shooting at the time. We wanted to fill out the depth of these characters and took a lot from where we were in our life. A great friend of ours, Todd Caldwell is a jazz musician and has a bunch of jazz songs. So we thought it would be great to actually score this as a jazz score. We brought Todd together with Michael Fish Herring and the two of them scored a what I think is the best part of the movie: the score. It's phenomenal.
BOREING: Joel approached me with a short film he had written. He was interested in doing something with it and asked for notes. I read it and felt like the characters he had created were really interesting and really dynamic--that really what we should do is put them in some sort of environment that would be feature length. The story Joel had originally conceived was not the story we had in the film. Thematically, it was similar. It was an examination of this lonely person's thought processes. So we took those characters and that theme and set about trying to craft a story that we thought would lend itself to a feature.
Really, what happened was, I don't want to say we "Pulled from our own lives", but we wrote a lot at Joel's house and he's a big fan of an artist called Coburn Hartsell. He had several of Coburn's pieces on the wall and we realized quickly that a great way for this character, Mason, to explore his relationship with the female character, Amber, would be through the use of art. So by the time the script was written, we convinced Coburn Hartsell, the guy who inspired us in that direction, to do the paintings for the film. Similarly, we were very good friends with Zac Levi (NBC's Chuck), he was one of the partners in our company and a close buddy. We were, from the very beginning, in creating the character of Berkeley, modeling it after Zac, to create something he could bring his talents to. The guys who scored the film, Todd Caldwell and Fish Herring, are also friends of ours. During the writing of the script, we were listening to songs that Todd had written. It was these elements of our experience that became the story of Spiral.
MOORE: Basically everything that I wrote in the script stayed and the things that Jeremy wrote were cut. (Laughs)
Jeremy had written a lot more than I had and is a very talented writer and he knew a page count that made sense for what we were shooting and was able to get the dialogue and a script that we could shoot. One of the things we also did that, again, since it was our first movie, was to create scenes in the same place because we couldn't shoot in 25 different locations. We needed a solid 4 or 5 main locations and then we could go pop out and do an outside shot or a rain shot or do whatever we needed but it needed to take place in these 4 or 5 locations so that we could shoot for 5 days in one place. We needed to get everything we needed done. And then go 5 days and shoot somewhere else. It really helped in scheduling for us to get this done in 18 days.
BOREING: I've written things and Joel hadn't done as much as that but he made films and I hadn't been a part of that process. I probably had more moments of being not so much surprised but interested in the distinctions between the way I thought things would be on the page and the way they wound up being.
One of the coolest moments for me in my life was being not only a writer but a producer of the film too. As a producer of the film I was party to the hiring of the crew and the winding up of equipment and the spending of the money. But until that first day we walked on set, that beautiful cemetery in Portland, Oregon and saw all these trucks and cranes and all these people and extras everywhere; even knowing theoretically they were going to be there seeing this fully moving big production of a feature film, it was really surprising in an emotional way to me.
And then also the scare moments. Adam and Joel put together a shot list and have a lot of experience in that field; in how to create scare and amplify the suspense and there were moments on set where I was just really amazed at how he could take just a few words off the page and turn them into being great. One of the scenes with the homeless guy on the street playing a saxophone and the way Mason flashes back to a moment back earlier in his life with that exact song being played on a record and the girl scared him. That was written in the script but to see that come alive, that visual creativity, the way Adam and Joel put it together was not surprising, that's not the right word, but it was inspiring and exceeded my expectations for sure.
JEREMY BOREING: When we first sat down to write the movie, the question came up several times: "how do you write a film where the antagonistic character is the lead character and he is the one who is the bad guy in the end?" but we tried to maintain his innocence, not innocent in crime, but in his approach and motivation? I remember several people asked us if there were any fights on set and the truth is there weren't but the closest thing to it was repeated conversation between Adam Green and myself. It was over (without giving away any spoilers) it was over the climatic scene with Joel and Amber.
And Adam, who brought his experience of HATCHET and love of horror to the film in a really positive way, helped us to really exploit the suspense and the scary moments of the picture. But he wanted that scene to be a certain way. He felt like it would align with Mason if he lost the ability to look back on the journey with any compassion. And the way I wanted to do it was very soft and natural looking. Now, if the scene were you've seen it so you know, what he does in that scene is he's apologizing the entire time and that was sort of the compromise out of that conversation.
It's one of the really inspired moments of the movie and it was born out of compromise of all the creative parts and our desire to keep Mason as likeable as possible. And then, of course, the other way we tried to do it was making the Berkeley character so outlandish. In the end he's not the bad guy but we let him be the heavy throughout the film so there is at least a character that seems worse on the surface then Mason so we can balance out Mason and make him more likeable throughout.
MOORE: A lot of the characteristics of the character Mason are things that I brought to it, albeit magnified a lot. I have a lot of ticks and -isms that were brought into the character. The clicking of teeth that Mason has is a magnified version of something I catch myself doing when I'm nervous. Putting layers of these character traits was very important to us. Having Berkley have this machismo thing that he's obviously covering something up with--always punching to make the joke, never allowing himself to be too vulnerable in any situation.
BOREING: And I think that the main element of the film is loneliness and isolation and the different ways that people deal with it. I think that that's something that not only we're interested in, but a lot of people experience on some level in their lives. Our three main characters are suffering from the same problems of isolation and loneliness. The way that it manifests in their lives, and the effect that it has on their personalities and their responses to it are a lot different. Berkley seems cool on the outside but he's very abusive to women in his own way and has very shallow relationships with people other than Mason and his wife. That stems from his loneliness.
I think that Amber, in her attraction to Mason, is rooted in her loneliness and an inability to have friendships with people who are more mainstream and normal. Mason himself is someone that we, in this business, can relate to. The funny thing is, a lot of these Hollywood people who become the standard bearers of what's cool in the country weren't cool in high school. The cool guys in high school got to play football and marry their high school sweethearts and stayed in their hometown. All of us losers came up to Hollywood and set about trying to be cool.
I think that Mason--he's obviously an exaggerated version of that artist character who is awkward in the real world and in his 9 to 5 job he can't find within himself the ability to relate to other people, but in his own environment, in his art--he really excels. He's able to be expressive, and intuitive, and insightful, and really thrive. None of us in the group are the caricature of Mason, but I think that we all relate to that experience that he has.
MOORE: Also, we wanted to put him in an awkward, cold environment so that the audience can see the nervous energy that Mason has. The phone bank, where he has to deal with hundreds of people on a daily basis. One of the things that marks Mason's dealings with other people is the scene where I walk up to Ryan Chase's character and ask him to help me and just get completely verbally thrown off to the wayside. I can't get help from anybody, and you can see the despair that Mason has to deal with because he can't communicate. It's an innocent despair. It's this longing to want to be involved with other people but there's this inability to communicate, to have any connection with people.
MOORE: We wanted to do something interesting with the characters of Mason and Berkeley and have them mirror each other in a way.
Obviously, they're very lonely characters and also have had some sort of trauma in the past. We give the audience hints of that as the movie progresses. And I think what is interesting is the difference between them is the way they reacted to those traumas. While the character Berkeley reacted by covering it up and trying to be outgoing and chauvinistic and being outgoing and just keeping himself in the spotlight so he cannot think about what's going on.
Mason, in turn, wears his emotions on his sleeve and obviously reacted to his trauma by retreating into himself, so very neurotic and out of touch and awkward. It's one of those reasons we put him as a worker in a phone bank because we wanted to put him around tons of people so the audience could see how awkward he is and how he wants to be involved and wants to deal with half these friends but doesn't know how to because he doesn't know how to relate to people.
And the other thing about the relationship is that Berkeley needs Mason just as much as Mason needs Berkeley. Mason is Berkeley's ticket to still feeling like he is a good person. So he can be a jerk to everybody else in his life and he can be a jerk to Mason as well but at least he deals with Mason, whereas other people don't. The scene between Tricia Helfer who plays Berkeley's friend and did it wonderfully; I think she is just a class act, she kinda calls him out in the scene and says "He's like your pet" and I think that is an important scene in the way Berkeley reacts to it. He says, yeah, I'm the same asshole who is a jerk to him from behind his back and in front of him and I am that guy but at least I'm his friend.
BOREING: I think that all three of the main characters deal with loneliness on different levels and as much as Berkeley seems like a cool guy but is abusive to women in his own way too. He is dealing with whatever the upbringing that sort of is implied throughout the picture that maybe the two of them share a similar history. It manifested itself in different ways.
Berkeley's inability to have meaningful relationships with any of these women throughout the movie I think is part of the reason. And the same with Amber. Why would a girl like Amber wind up with a guy like Mason? I think why these three characters invest in each other is because they are the only three people they have to invest in. And I think that is just born out of the loneliness they have. They are isolated souls in a way and it manifests itself in different ways as it filters through their personalities. One is a womanizer, one is a chatterbox, and one of them may or may not be troubled but they are all dealing with a fundamental issue.
THE CONNECTION WITH JAZZ
BOREING: The film starts out as an exploration of loneliness and the way it affects these three people and the world right now is we have more contact with people and we are all better attached and connected than ever before but we are constantly on guard at the superficiality that relationships can become when every thought you have can be instantly communicated and texted…then there's not that depth of thought and reason.
I think we are all kind of struggling with that and it's something Joel and I talked a lot about in the writing of the film. I think, in answer to your question specific to Mason is that he, like a lot of us, wants to be the cool guy.
It's funny, a lot of actors try to define what is cool for the country but none of them would have been considered cool in high school. If they were cool in high school, they would have gotten the girl, gotten married when they were 18 and would not have moved to L.A.
So, there is this interesting phenomenon that the people who are in the arts can sort of relate to this loneliness. Mason can't do a 9 to 5 job out in the world and with the fluorescent lights and the headset and timecard he can't be himself, he can't relate in that environment. And a lot of us who come out here are that way, but when Mason's at home he is immersed in the music that he loves and the art that he loves and thinks that he's knowledgeable about things that he can relate to and open up to be the artistic, insightful guy.
The jazz and the oil and canvas is probably the least accessible art forms as far as the general population is concerned and we are not claiming to be those guys either but we wanted to pick the ones that were the least accessible because Mason does relate to them. He is a super intelligent guy. He does understand the nature of jazz and the nature of visual art and that's where he thrives. And, unfortunately, the world doesn't know what to do with a guy like Mason and just as unfortunately with his personality traits he doesn't know what to do with himself either. He can't find the conformity necessary to function. And I think the reason we picked jazz is because we had those things in our environment. Like Joel said, our friend is a jazz artist and I think they just lent themselves to the story we were telling.
THE ISSUE OF LONELINESS/ ISOLATION AND THE DIFFIUCLTY OF COMMUNICATING
BOREING: I think that one of the issues we're dealing with now is that we've embraced the idea of individuality so much that we're almost cultured to be isolationist in a way. I think that it manifests itself in a funny way. We all probably have more friends and broader basis's for friendship than people had in years past, but maybe the quality of those friendships are different. I think that it doesn't take a lot of observation of the world to realize that there's quantity over quality in human interactions. That sort of prevalent superficiality. I don't say that from a place of judgment, just observation. I see it in my own life- that we relate to each other on the 30-second sound bite level. I think that that's something that may be a byproduct of all the technology and the ease with which we communicate. I think it's something that's worth exploring and worth guarding against as best we can.
MOORE: It is something that we did explore. I think it's interesting that Mason has no technology that he uses. He uses a computer and a phone at the phone bank, but at home, you never see a computer. We kept a very classic environment in his loft. He has an old record player and sits and paints in there. If the audience can look around and see where he spends most of his time, it's a very simple environment in there. We did that on purpose. We didn't want him to have the ease of hopping on the Internet and having that ease of communication. He's a guy that had a traumatic past and hasn't dealt with it. He wears all of his emotions on his sleeve.
NEXT PAGE: DIRECTOR ADAM GREEN SHARES HIS VIEWS