Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi Talk WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS

     February 13, 2015


I really loved What We Do in the Shadows when I saw it last spring at the Stanley Film Festival in Colorado. While I wasn’t yet working at this outlet at the time, our own Phil Brown saw the film at TIFF and seemed to really dig it as well (review here). If you’re not familiar with this new mockumentary from Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) you should check out the non-spoilery first trailer (and, if your heart desires, the slightly more spoilery second trailer).

Waititi and Clement wrote, directed and star in this vampire mockumentary and I recently spoke to them about how it all came together, as well as their now successfully completed Kickstarter campaign to garner wider distribution. What We Do in the Shadows will be in select theaters this Friday, February 13th. The film also stars Rhys Darby, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford, and Jackie Van Beek.  Check out our interview below.

what-we-do-in-the-shadows-imageCollider: Had you guys always wanted to make a mockumentary? Or were you going through vampire films and realized there was a lot of material there?

JEMAINE CLEMENT: I wanted to do a vampire movie. I grew up, not obsessed with vampire movies, but they were probably my favorite kind of movies. I always wanted to do a vampire film and I wanted Johnathan Brugh to be in it with us. We didn’t know him that well, but it was initially the three of us as vampire rivals that lived in different parts of the world. A bit like Highlander, I suppose. And then Taika was interesting in a mockumentary idea that was different than the other mockumentaries that were around when we did the original short film back in 2005. 

A lot of the film seems improvisatory in nature. How tightly scripted was it?

CLEMENT: It was totally structured. There was a start and end point to every scene that we filmed. Sometimes we’d throw in a scene because we had the camera going, like say us playing music that was the soundtrack to the film. We put that together because we had time. Otherwise it was tightly structured, but we let the actors do weird things in their own way. We didn’t give them lines exactly. 

How long was the original cut of the film?

TAIKA WAITITI: I think about two and a half hours.  

CLEMENT: Maybe even three hours. But we didn’t even watch the assembly cut that the editor first put together. We thought it would be pretty depressing. We went through it scene by scene and then we watched it. We always wanted it to be short.  

what-we-do-in-the-shadows-imageThe most successful humor in the film comes from digging into these characters. There’s a lot of payoff. 

WAITITI: Because of the documentary nature we wanted it to feel as real as possible. With people not waiting for their line, but saying what they wanted when they wanted and not really worrying about it.  

Most comedy trailers give away the film’s best jokes, but those remain unspoiled in your trailer. Was it a battle to save the best stuff for the movie?

CLEMENT: Unfortunately there’s a new trailer that gives away the best jokes. 

That trailer aside, was your initial goal to withhold the best stuff?

WAITITI: Yeah. You see everything in the trailer nowadays, even with American films. I feel like they’re tricking people into going by saying they have the best jokes and then there’s [nothing left]. 

And you’ve got a Kickstarter [which is now successfully funded] set up as well to cover distribution costs. Is that for P&A?

CLEMENT: The plan is to do platform releasing in order to get more cities than we could normally get to on our own. This isn’t a Hollywood film, this is a very independent low budget film. The difference between a New Zealand release and an American release is huge.


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