YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up? How did you get into directing?
Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria then London then Herefordshire (basically Tolkien’s ‘The Shire’) then London at 20yo for Central St Martins Art School. I was in a graphic design course, it was the hype thing to study in 2000. But after 2 weeks I realized it was going to be a desk job and I didn’t even have an email address let alone my own computer with layout Apps. Everywhere I looked around I saw super rich international students with $50k each worth of the latest tech. So, I retreated into the AV room and befriended a Technician called ‘Steve Radmall’. He’s the reason I became a director. He let me smoke roll up cigarettes in his office and we would talk about Jan Svankmajer and dark AF Eastern European animators. Steve leant me the college 16mm Bolex camera which hadn’t been used for years. I went from making animations to shooting live action. I didn’t hand in a single piece of graphic design. I handed in a VHS tape (no irony, it was what we used to use). Cut to 4 years later after my stint as guitarist for the singer Tom Vek, I was drunk at a rooftop bbq in Hackney and some kids were talking about needing a music video, I drunkenly said ‘I’ll do it’. Then 2 weeks later had to work out how to make one. I made 2 more videos, then was signed by Ridley Scott Associates off my Myspace. Lol.
I made commercials for a decade then made my first short film with Matt Berry, which lead me to the Arquette movie.
What would you say are your influences as a director? Any favorite filmmakers, or other kinds of art or personal experiences?
My favorite director is Paul Verhoeven. You can see all of his influence in the Arquette movie and my short film Action Man:Battlefield Casualties (https://youtu.be/8KtyMcb86go).
That HI-BROW LOW-BROW mash up is a my favorite. Art house directors making what looks to the layman like a bullshit action movie, but when you dig a little deeper you realize they were subverting the entire genre, and having fun while doing it.
I also love 80’s John Landis, Brian De Palma, all those peeps were doing so much cocaine and somehow delivering amazing movies. Wild.
Can you tell us what was behind the vision for your film, You Cannot Kill David Arquette? What inspired making the movie?
I had initially arrived in LA from London to make a different movie completely. A scripted comedy that I had worked on for a few years. After flying half-way around the world, the
LA production company suddenly said ‘Oh hey, we’re actually only financed for pure documentaries so we can’t make this film, sorry’. I was devastated. I was in the Erwin Hotel in Venice on my own, it kinda felt like Barton Fink unraveling in real-time. I had just said goodbye to all my friends in London. Then a miracle, or more likely, guilt, the production company said ‘Hey this has just come in… it’s very shlock but it’s up your alley as you did Action movie parody, maybe you can rework this idea?’
The project came from David Arquette’s agents. He wanted to legitimately make a comeback as a wrester and right some wrongs from the past. Initially, it was a straight doc suggestion. Like an HBO 30 for 30, which I had no interest in doing. There are much better documentarians out there for that angle.
I decided to approach it completely as a narrative Retro action sports movie. Feeding in Actors and elevating the drama whenever possible. I wrote a treatment in 2 days, pulled my images like I would do on a TV commercial or music video, did my Indesign layout and the Arquette’s loved it.
We did a call and the first thing I said on the call was ‘David, the one way this is going to work is if you look worse than you’ve ever looked, you’re gonna have to look like a piece of shit’.
David Arquette laughed and screamed ‘I Love it’. 3 days later we were rolling. I asked my buddy and exec doc baller David Darg to come on with me. As Darg lived in Virginia, I decided to move to LA for a few years to make it happen and to be on call for the Arquette family. The 6-month timeline turned into nearly 3 years. But I think it shows in the movie. There is a great sense of time evolving. I see the film as a parable for aging in Hollywood. Aging in an industry where you are defined by external validation. And what happens when that adoration starts to fade, what do we do to fill that void. All those serious themes…but funny.
What was it like working with David? Any favorite memories from the shoot?
He’s a sweetheart. A troubled, gifted adorable, maniacal sweetheart. The first time we met him in person there was a bar fight. We were filming a conversation at a bar, but it was dull, dull as dishwater so I decided to troll and provoke these 400lb monsters into making something happen. I kept filming when I was asked not to. It worked, a real fight broke out. We had drama finally. But they broke a camera of ours. David Arquette stepped in to help us and he got mixed up in the mayhem.
That’s Arquette in a nutshell, he will do anything for his friends and family. When you are shooting with anyone for that length of time you become family. That is how the filming felt.
How long did you shoot the film for? Did the film go through any major changes from when you first started shooting to the final edit?
We shot for nearly two years on and off. I had 240 hours of material in the edit room. The original 60-minute first cut is in the movie in its entirety. That was myself and Paul Rogers at Parallax cutting every day for 22 weeks. I broke their beautiful couch with my barbarian body mass, you can still see my indentation in the faux leather.
The first 18 minutes of the movie was recut many times, with exec notes, outside notes, notes from celebrity gardeners and their assistant’s mothers. You know the score. Movies can go so many ways. Especially on in a documentary style. Everything you place on screen has an impact. It’s important that everyone involves has some connection to the film craft.
The movie rocks, so I’m super happy we all got to collaborate on chipping away at that piece of film Granite.
Have you done documentaries before? Was there anything different about the process of making this one?
It definitely took me a few weeks to master the cameras. I approached the film as a movie. I was able to be passive when needed to let dialogue unravel, but in reality I was always pushing the story beats to match a John Avildsen movie. Knowing that a certain shot would be the final shot of a scene before we started shooting. There is definitely a crossover where planning and natural play meet in the middle. That is my favorite grey area.
As I had laid out the story beforehand, when we were at pivotal scenes I would feed dialogue off-screen to the cast, or block scenes to have drama unravel before our eyes.
Do you have any ideas of what you would like to shoot next?
I’m definitely in the lane of GENRE DOC. I call the Arquette movie a “ROCKY DOCY”. I want to make underdog movies that adhere to a genre, like martial arts or sci-fi, but shoot them in a loose handheld doc style. But delivering all the popcorn genre movie tropes…that is where I have the most fun. I want to make funny fun movies in a doc style.
Any advice for young filmmakers and directors who would like to make their first feature film? Anything you wish you had done differently?
Keep going. Do what inspires you. Don’t listen to anyone. Don’t even listen to my advice.
Interview by Bonnie Foster.