What is your name and where are you from?
I’m Brett Gelman I'm originally from Highland Park, Illinois. It’s on the north shore of Chicago, then I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Drama.
When you graduated what did you think was going to happen? The Career you have now, is that what you expected?
I think it some what resembles it, I thought I was going to be doing more legit theater right away. I thought I was going to be a broadway star because I thought that there wasn’t much of me in that space. I’ve always considered myself to be made of that world, I’ve been very influenced by that world, but I didn’t get an agent right out of college. It took me awhile to get representation. So I was floating a little bit, but a good friend of mine that had already been living in New York had gotten involved with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, that was something I always had a knack for. Bob Francesconi, one of my teachers at school said I was going to make my career writing my own stuff. I’ve been acting in television and film especially television, a lot of those projects have been written by other people, but those roles also reflect my sensibility. I make my living off of acting and I want to get involved in theatre.
What is the project you’re working on at SPACE?
There's a lot of instincts of perversion that’s happening with white male comedians in my scene, and on top of that there has also been a real trend of autobiographical films and TV shows about comedians. A lot of those I love. The work of Woody Allen's great films cover that. Anne Hall feels like that. To me you don’t really get better than that movie. There are other people, Jerry Seinfeld , Garry Shandling, Louis C.K. and Larry David, Lisa Kudrow with The Comeback, and Lena Dunham. There is just a lot of stuff like that that’s really good. There’s also bad examples of that too. If anything is working it's not a crutch, and if it’s not working it’s a crutch. I wanted to write something that is addressing all this perversion and how comedic geniuses get protected by their genius and their fame, and how they are fucked up sometimes and how they are not fucked up sometimes. In the case of Cosby, It’s a completely different human being than we imaged him to be. I’m fascinated with a comedian that is not necessarily so far away from the possibility that they are darker, because they are doing dark material, and you find out that their actually persona is really darker.
Why do you want to direct this script?
I thought it’d be a good movie for the first movie that I’d directed, I think it's always been a dream of mine, to follow in the footsteps of a lot of my heros, like Woody Allen who is not a hero of mine in his personal life, but artistically I can’t deny...but you know Mel Brooks, Chaplin, Kenton, Albert Brooks. There’s a lot of these comedic auteurs. Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge have been very inspiring calling the creative shots with Atlanta and Flea Bag. I just felt like I should do this myself, It’s always been a dream of mine. If Janicza wanted to direct it I’d be fine with that, but that's the only other person I’d let direct this. She’s pretty busy, she’s got some things lined up, So I figure It’s time to start.
What is it that you look for in a director?
I love directors who have a real knowledge and interest in every aspect of the job. Who have a real respect for actors and the job the actors have to do. I don’t mean to allow actors to act like children and be difficult, that’s on us when we act like that. Directors who really see acting as an art and know it has to be really good. As cinematic as Janicza gets she knows that if the acting is bad she doesn't have a movie, but in addition to that Directors that respect the production designer, the cinematographer, the sound designer, the composer. There are a number of directors who sit in the chair and yell action and cut. They tell people people I like that and I don't like, that’s not really collaborating. Just using the job to be sort of like a sovereign. I don’t really like that type of director, unless in that sovereignty the couple notes that they give are so enlightening that it is collaborative, but that's rare… and I don’t like directors that are assholes. Oh and I also don’t like directors who just like everything, who are like “that was great” and aren’t looking at how it could be better, I don’t like anybody who is like that.
I like when directors treat every take as rehearsal because you don't always get a lot of time to rehearse. You shouldn’t be walking into the first take and be like “this is how it’s gotta be or we are fucked” It’s gotta be like “how can we make it better?” I mean sometimes you don’t have that luxury, and you only have one take of something so it better be good, but event then approaching it with an open attitude and discerning eye. I like a director who is never totally satisfied. That’s how I feel about every artist not just directors.
What’s been the most valuable thing about working here at SPACE? Is this what you expected?
It is what I expected and that’s a wonderful thing, the space that you have, the beauty that you are surrounded with, the communal aspect of it and that you are surrounded by people who are working on their things, and also people who are working around the farm as well and the art of that, and the art of cooking the meals, and building the yurt, and planting the vegetables.
That adds something to it?
Yeah I think it definitely does, the beauty of the space allows you to zone out into the thing that you are doing, and you don’t really have another option of what you could be doing. You do, you could surf the internet and procrastinate, but something about the whole nature of the thing, and the purpose of coming up here that is that it’s a residency. You feel like a total asshole if you aren't up here doing the thing you came here to do.
This is the first residency we’ve had for filmmakers, if we did it in the future what could be added to this experience?
I think it is pretty rock solid, I gotta say I know I just said I’m somebody who doesn’t like people who don’t have criticism, but I've felt very satisfied by what I’ve been given and felt very taken care of.
If you were a farm animal, which farm animal would you be and why?
Oh my God, there’s so many of them, it’s hard to pick but I guess a horse.
Is there a particularly kind of horse?
I’m not that knowledgeable about horses, but the running, it’d be like let's RUNNNN. Get that stress out of ya... Big fan of cows, big fan of sheep, big fan of ducks, chickens, geese. They all got things going on.
Interview by Grant Conversano