Filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass admit to enjoying a little competition with one another but claim that it is nowhere near the intensity that is displayed by the brothers in their new independent dramedy “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon.”
“We grew up playing sports in the neighborhood and playing parlor sports like pool and ping pong against one another,” Jay said during a recent interview with pingroof.com. “And we do continue to do that stuff but we are actually extremely collaborative in our filmmaking career. We have been really close our whole lives so our competition is not that intense. But it does surface every once in a while.”
“The Do-Deca-Pentathlon,” which opens Friday, July 6 exclusively at Harkins Valley Art, is the story of two grown brothers (Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis) who secretly compete in a homemade Olympics during a family reunion. When their fierce and disruptive competition is uncovered, the brothers must choose between their passion for beating the hell out of each other and the greater good of the family.
“It is a biographical film in that two brothers we grew up with who lived down the street from us actually created this competition in high school,” Mark explained. “We were fascinated by it – and by them – and we always thought that it would make for an interesting movie. But it was not until we imagined doing it with the brothers, fully estranged from one another, reigniting this competition 20 years later and ruining a perfect family weekend that we knew for sure that we had a movie.”
Truth be told, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” was actually shot before this year’s “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” and 2010’s “Cyrus” – the two movies for which they are probably best known – but is only finally being released now as they finally had a break between studio commitments to complete post-production on the project.
“We shot it, came back to Los Angeles and were immediately green-lit for our first studio feature – ‘Cyrus,’” Jay explained. “Mark and I and had the luxury of being able to put the film on the shelf and go actually, for the first time in our lives, get paid to shoot a movie. Then we, fortuitously, got green-lit for ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home.’”
Jay added that, while editing “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” he and Mark started feeling soul-sick, realizing that it had been more than 3 years since shelving “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon.” So, the first chance they got, they booted the project back up on their laptops and worked on it until the film was finished. And Jay was pleasantly surprised with the end-result.
“As we branch out and tackle different themes, such as sports, it is still ultimately a movie about people trying to figure each other out and trying to be authentically themselves while, at the same time, maintaining good relationships,” Jay explained. “These are the same predicaments that we find in our own personal lives. We are not really capable of straying too far from that because it is what we love and it is who we are.”
Mark – who also stars in a slew of this summer’s releases, such as “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Your Sister’s Sister,” “People Like Us,” as well as this spring’s “Darling Companion” – agrees, noting that he and Jay write about characters that they are intensely in love with and happen to have big flaws. He explained that when you really love a flawed person, you feel like you love them more deeply than anyone else.
“They are people who we find society might make a quick judgment on,” Mark said. “Take Jeff from ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home.’ Society could look at him like a little stoner who ism stuck in life but we see him as this guy who has grand ideals and a great destiny ahead of him that he is waiting for. I think that it is just a question of the filmmakers themselves loving the characters and then the heart comes out of that.”
Of course, Jay and Mark are also known for their very organic dialogue. Jay said that this is essentially accomplished by first writing a full script so that everybody understands the tone and the feelings behind a movie but then eventually opening it up to improvisation. Jay added that he and Mark encourage their actors to “come off of the book and … achieve the goal that each character has set out to achieve in each scene using whatever strategies that are most likely to get that.”
“The truth of the matter is, when you are an actor and you walk into a scene and the actor across from you is not going off of the script verbatim, you have to let go of the script and you have to be in the moment with that other actor or else you are going to look stilted,” Jay explained. “It is literally not going to work so the script kind of goes out of the window but the intentions remain the same.”
Mark enjoyed the opportunity to put his own personal spin on the sports genre with “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” – especially because it gave him and Jay a break from having to craft perfect scenes of narrative and just allow inspiring moments to occur in the midst of sports montages. Moreover, he liked watching two guys who are not particularly good at the long-jump do the long-jump.
“Jay and I have about 150 different ideas on our laptops of things that we want to do,” Mark added. “Those go from web-series to television shows to podcasts to miniseries to musicals. So I think that we are just going to be trying to take that approach we have to life, which is showing how we love [screwed] up people and take them into different forms.”
“The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” (NR – 90 minutes) opens Friday, July 6 exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.