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CYRUS

About The Production
Jay and Mark Duplass first came to the attention of producer Michael Costigan at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, where he saw their feature debut, THE PUFFY CHAIR. Written, directed and produced by the young siblings and shot on a rock bottom budget of only $15,000, THE PUFFY CHAIR impressed Costigan with its uniquely personal style and point of view. "I remember feeling it was unlike any film I'd seen before,” says Costigan. "Mark and Jay had made a movie about relationships that was incredibly original and funny and moving.”

A semi-improvised snapshot of the waning days of a relationship, the film went on to win the Audience Award at the prestigious SXSW Film Festival. THE PUFFY CHAIR's reputation quickly spread by word of mouth. "It was like a chain letter,” says Costigan. "A lot of people saw the movie and then told friends about it. 

The producer then made a point of seeking out the Duplasses' earlier short films SCRAPPLE, THIS IS JOHN and THE NEW BRAD. "I found out they wrote them, sometimes they starred in them and they directed them together,” says Costigan, president of Scott Free Productions and producer of films including BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and SMART PEOPLE. "That's how they've always made their movies.” 

Costigan met with the brothers to discuss the kind of film they would be interested in making if they had access to studio-level budgets. In CYRUS, the brothers continue to focus on the painfully funny realities of modern relationships.

The original idea was simple: make a relationship-based movie with experienced, professional actors that maintained the intimacy and autonomy of the brothers' previous films. "We wanted to use a relatively small group of people and try to do what we do best,” says Mark Duplass. "We have always focused on the funny and the tragically comedic elements of relationships. We love that ambiguity. Is this very serious? Is this funny? You can talk about it over coffee afterwards.”

Jay adds, "What we have to offer are the truthful moments that you might not normally see in movies, but you have experienced in life. We never made an aesthetic choice to shoot cinéma vérité or documentary style, but that's how we make movies.” 

The brothers adopted a lean, documentary-style production process as well. "Our previous films could be made very cheaply because we did it all ourselves,” says Mark. "Jay held the camera and I held the boom. Our actors roamed about the space with no blocking or marks. There was a script, but the actors improvised as they went and we captured it as it happened.” 

The Duplasses' sensibility straddles the demarcation between comedy and tragedy. "Mark and I try to find those fine lines where you're not sure if you're supposed to laugh or be uncomfortable,” says Jay. "We get in that middle ground where people are experiencing different emotions. A reviewer once said about one of our films, ‘It's John Cassavetes with humor.' And that's honestly what we're going for—emotional rawness and truth in a relationship movie. Hopefully when you're watching it, you're laughing a lot but knowing that underneath it's really about the people and what they're going through.”

That ability to create comedy out of realistic situations and authentic emotions is what makes the brothers' films so satisfying, says Costigan. "If the movie doesn't feel real, then it doesn't feel funny,” observes the producer. "All of the comedy is based in a very real, human dynamic. Even as it gets bigger and broader it stays firmly grounded. That's the way they build their movies. And that's what made everyone involved feel like they were creating something really special.” 

Working on this larger scale was unfamiliar and initially intimidating for the brothers. "They asked me to help put together the team, which is what I love to do,” says Chrisann Verge

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