Joe Neurauter Exclusive Interview – THE WACKNESS

     February 25, 2008

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, my favorite movie was “The Wackness.” While I didn’t get to see too many films, “The Wackness” managed to win the audience award, so I know many others agreed with my assessment. In fact, if you look around cyberspace and read the reviews, you’ll see that the blogosphere fell in love with the movie and all the webmasters can’t wait to help promote it.

Which leads me to the interview below.

Shortly after the film sold to Sony Pictures Classics, cyberspace exploded. The reason was many webmasters felt a personal connection to the movie, and most were hoping Fox Searchlight was going to buy the movie and handle its distribution. Many thought the sale to SPC might bea mistake.

While I wasn’t as incensed as cyberspace, I’ll agree that SPC doesn’t have a great track record and they have a lot to prove with this film’s release. Because if they f*ck it up, the chains come off. I’ll rip them a new asshole worse than Peter (Slashfilm), Alex (First Showing) and Neil (Film School Rejects) did when they heard that SPC landed the movie.

Thankfully, SPC has plenty of time to plan a promotional strategy that can get both mainstream and indie audiences excited for this great film. While many online might compalin about the sale, this could be the movie that puts SPC on the map.

Anyway, while attending Sundance, I managed to meet the producers of the movie and after the sale to SPC, I contacted one of them (Joe Neurauter) to find out why they went with SPC and also how the film came together. While I wanted to get the interview up much sooner, many things arose which delayed the piece. Thankfully, I’ve finally gotten some answers from Joe and they’re below.

But before reading the interview, you might want to read a great review that Kenny Fischer wrote or watch a clip from the movie.

Finally, I just realized that I haven’t posted my video interviews with the cast from “The Wackness.” I don’t know how this happened, but I can assure you they’re going up tonight and tomorrow. They’re great interviews and definitely worth watching. So until then, here’s the interview with Joe.

Collider: How did you guys first come to the project?

Joe Neurauter: We andJonathan Levine did ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE together, which was a really great experience for everyone.He didn’t want to do another genre movie next, so he told us about THE WACKNESS, which is a very personal story for him,on which he had worked on since film school.It all kind of evolved from there.

Collider: Describe everyone’s reaction when you found out Ben Kingsley would be in the movie?

Joe Neurauter: We didn’t expect that he really would be going for it. He’s never done a role like that before, after all.So when he said “yes”, we were quite surprised and obviously every excited.

Collider: Was there a lot of discussion about the rest of the cast, or did you let Jonathan (director) chose who he wanted?

Joe Neurauter: We don’t like to do “stunt casting”–casting a big name just for the sake of it. We had a lot of creative discussions to figure out the perfect ensemble.It’s a collaborative process. We all set out to make the same movie and support Jon’s vision. He likes to cast people that feel very real and authentic and he has great eye for actors that resemble in some kind of way or another the characters that he wrote in real life. So if you know those characters on the page, you just know at a certain point, who’s right and who’s not.The Luke character was definitely the hardest to cast. He had to carry the movie and hold its own opposite an Academy Award Winner. There’s not many young actors, who can do that. So when Josh Peck came in to audition, it became clear very quickly that “this is our guy”.Also, once Ben Kingsley was on board it became a lot easier to cast the film, since we could pick and choose and we ended up getting all our top choices for the other roles.

Collider: How was Sundance? And how stressful was it leading up to the premiere and wondering what everyone was going to think of it?

Joe Neurauter: We all need a break, that’s for sure. Sundance was an amazing and very unique experience, but it was also extremely stressful and it wasn’t that easy for us tojust sit back, relax and enjoy the moment. We finished the movie a day before the premiere and literally hand-carried the print on the plane. They were getting nervous up there. Apparently, we were the last film to arrive inParkCity. We had shown the movie to a few people before the festival and we got very enthusiastic responses that we felt were genuine and honest. We had a good feeling that we were onto something and we knew that the movie would play well with a big crowd — especially in Sundance, where people show up, because they love movies.

Collider: What led to Sony Pictures Classic buying the film? Why them?

Joe Neurauter: They love the film and they only buy stuff they love. They are also great guys to deal with and have a reputation of being very filmmaker-friendly. We met with them and they gave a very compelling pitch on how they were going to market and distribute the film. Once we felt that they “got it” and that we would want to work with them, we figured out the details of the deal.

Collider: When do you think the film may be coming out, and what’s the plan? Will it be a very limited release or will people all around the country be able to see it opening weekend?

Joe Neurauter: We are currently discussing the release pattern with the distributor, so we should know more in a couple of weeks.

Collider: And what else are you guys working on?

Joe Neurauter: We have a movie in post-production called “The Key Man” with Jack Davenport, Hugo Weaving, Brian Cox and Judy Greer and we’re developing a couple of new scripts, one of them with Jonathan Levine.

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