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Origins Of Goat
When Andrew Neel premiered King Kelly at SXSW in 2012, he was greeted with acclaim for his controversial portrait of a debauched teen webcam star who gets embroiled in a drug deal that goes horribly wrong. Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa at indie powerhouse Killer Films in New York saw King Kelly and championed the film. Killer and SeeThink (Neel's company) began discussing Neel's next film. Convinced that Brad Land's memoir GOAT would make a fantastic movie Vachon had been doggedly holding on to the property for over a decade (in concert with James Franco's company Rabbit Bandini). Gutsy, debauched, and frenzied the material seemed to be a perfect fit for Neel. The script written by none other than David Gordon Green and based on the book by Brad Land, details the horrific hazing process at a university fraternity, as experienced through the perspective of Brad, whose older brother Brett is already a member of the frat in question.

Neel decided to come on board, revising the script with co-writer Mike Roberts. Neel had become deeply drawn to the material. "I realized the film could be part horror movie and part expose," Neel explained. "It was interesting how the whole central section of the film - the hazing section - basically turned into a horror film." Neel, who has made a number of feature documentaries, was also intrigued by the more journalistic angle of the material. "There really haven't been many narrative features made about hazing," he pointed out. "And the subject matter allows us to explore something intriguing, which is men and masculinity with a capital M. I don't just make movies because I want to tell a story - for me, the films I make are often born out of an idea I want to discuss. And this film had a philosophical underpinning that made the story worth telling."

For Neel, that philosophical underpinning is the complex web of codes and assumptions that make up the idea of what it means to "be a man" in contemporary American society, in all of its contradictions and faults. "When men are college-aged, they have a lot of violent energy in them," he explained. "How that energy is focused depends on the circumstances you're in. If you're middle class, sometimes it gets meted out through the mechanism of a fraternity, which means it's not really properly dealt with. Men deal with the specter of violence every day - pussy,' 'bitch,' all these derogatory terms are a part of daily language in our society. It stems from male insecurity, which itself stems from deeply rooted societal masculine expectations. They're brutal systems, and certain institutions tend to prey upon and promote the darkest, most violent elements of the male psyche. I think frats are one of those institutions."

Despite that, Neel's goal was to humanize, not demonize, the members of the fraternity depicted in Goat. "There's something that makes so much sense to me about fraternities. I think coming of age is terrifying. I think a  ot of the people that join frats are actually really self-conscious. I don't mean that in a cruel way. They're just young men who don't know who they are. They're scared because they feel like they don't fit in. They want guidance. The fraternity system offers a simple answer: 'Oh, I'll get together with this clan of guys who will help tell me who I am.'

For the process of casting those aforementioned guys, Neel worked with Susan Shopmaker, whom he'd previously worked with on King Kelly, to build out a compelling ensemble cast of the tortured masculine energies within the frat. Cementing the cast as Brad and his older brother Brett were Ben Schnetzer and Nick Jonas, respectively. For Schnetzer, the part of Brad held enormous appeal. "Brad's kind of like a raw nerve throughout the story," Schnetzer explained. "I think any man, to one degree or another, can understand the struggle to define masculinity and what that means to him to identify as being a man. The script explored all these insecurities that I think a lot of guys feel, that I know I've certainly felt, but in a heightened and distilled manner."

For Nick Jonas, much of the appeal of the script was the nuance it provided of Brad and Brett's relationship. "The thing that came to mind to me when I first read the script was this compelling relationship between these two brothers. At its core, it's a story about two brothers and their strength and support of each other and the journey that they go on. I knew that it was something that I wanted to be a part of from the minute I read it. And I was really impressed by Andrew, his vision for the portrayal for these characters. We did a lot of great work together, Andrew, Ben and I, to really bring out the dynamic at work between these two guys."


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