Out until five in the morning, Patrick Brice had a wild birthday last year. A massage parlor in Thai Town, a topless video shoot in an office and generally raising hell on the streets of Los Angeles, one would guess he was having the time of his life, if only he wasn’t hustling so hard to get through the 10 pages of script required during a relentless 11-day shoot for “The Overnight.”
“We don’t have a long blooper reel for this movie just because we were moving pretty swiftly the whole time,” says Brice. “We had to in order to get it all in in the time that we had.”
Now it’s audiences who get the pleasure of catching up with Brice. Through a bit of serendipity, the writer/director has two films coming out in the next month, both following celebrated festival runs, starting with “The Overnight,” an incisive and mischievous look at marriages that have lost their mojo cloaked in the guise of a raucous one wild night comedy in which two Silverlake couples, one new to the area (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) and one not (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godreche) shed their inhibitions as well as clothing in search of what it is they want from each other.
Soon after, audiences will also be able to dial up “Creep,” which is debuting on Netflix in July, in which its producer/star Mark Duplass uses his crinkly smile to leave a videographer he invites to his isolated cabin (played by Brice) to wonder whether he’s a serial killer or simply an eccentric selfie aficionado. While the movies are entirely different beasts from each other – an apt descriptor in itself, given Brice’s penchant for wild, almost primal interrogations into the darkest corners of human behavior -both could be described as mildly uncomfortable encounters between strangers that spiral out of control and share a sense of danger that’s all too rare onscreen these days.
That’s made Brice stand out already at the start of what promises to be an interesting career, making films that are as visually provocative as they are thematically. Shortly before the double gut punch of “The Overnight” and “Creep” hits homes everywhere, Brice had a few minutes to spare to talk about how he built on the bare bones-style of production for “Creep” to make “The Overnight,” where the line is between believable and absurd, and how Adam Corolla’s house became a den of debauchery for his latest film.
After seeing both “Creep” and “The Overnight,” which have completely different plots, but are both largely self-contained and mostly a single location, I wondered if that approach is born out of necessity or if it’s a challenge you enjoy?
It’s a couple things. Born out of necessity is a good way to put it because both of these films came from thinking about a production model first almost and then letting the plot and the characters, and all the other elements come in after that. “Creep” started with the idea that it was going to be entirely shot with just me and Mark, then “The Overnight” was thinking about this as a film that is going to take place primarily in one location with four actors. Because the elements had to be so bare, any of the tension or the reason why you are engaged with the film had to come from the interpersonal relationships of the characters. We couldn’t have a car crash happen or something blow up. For me, it was gravitating toward the idea of trusting someone, which I think is something that comes out in both these movies.
Even though this is a larger scale film, did the “Creep” experience help inform it? I understand even before shooting when you’d go through the script, it wasn’t just a collaboration between you and Mark, but also your editor Chris Donlon, who would typically come in later.
Absolutely. With this one, Chris was involved from the beginning as well. In terms of what I was able to take from “Creep,” that was the first time I ever really learned how to incorporate narrative tension into a movie, so with “The Overnight,” I felt like I was able to be a lot more deliberate about things that in “Creep” we learned as we went along. “Creep” was more like this amorphous project that kept shifting in tone as we would make tweaks. Once Jason Blum had become involved, obviously we pushed it more into the horror realm, but making that movie was a confidence-builder.
I was able to trust my instincts a lot more on “The Overnight,” which helps, especially now that we are making this movie with other actors and a crew and all these other things that just felt like luxuries to me while I was doing “Creep.” I was excited that I actually had more than two collaborators, you know? [laughs]
Speaking of confidence, I wouldn’t want to spoil all the crazy things that happen in “The Overnight,” but were you ever concerned with pushing things too far while keeping it rooted in some relatable reality?
I am pretty good at censoring myself when it comes to something like that. Even though things get fairly absurd in “Creep” and really absurd in “The Overnight,” at the end of the day, I would question everything that I was writing in terms of whether or not it made sense to the story, so I was able to follow my bliss when I was writing. To give it to these actors and Naomi Scott as a producer and Mark, and to have all these folks respond as positively as they did, even though basically every single person that read it was like, “I love it, but it’s crazy,” it was really nice to just trust in the material and in each other. I think we all went into it with a little bit of fear, as you do with anything, but I’m so pleased with the way it turned out.
It’s really universal, but I thought you just nailed some of the small chit chat that seems particular to Silver Lake. Was it fun to poke fun at LA culture?
I live in LA and I love LA. It’s where I found all my collaborators in my adult life, so while I definitely wanted to poke fun at it, it would be in a way that was also understanding and loving. It didn’t come from direct personal experience, but I know what it’s like to move there and feel like a bit of a fish out of water. I wanted to take the tension that comes from that where you feel like you need to reinvent yourself or ingratiate yourself to certain people in order to make friends or simply find a contact.
Whether or not you know these people are nice people or people you want to even be in a relationship with of any kind, there’s almost like the fear of offending and how that will propel you to maybe put yourself in situations that you didn’t think you would be finding yourself in. I wanted that to be a driving force for keeping Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling’s characters in that house.
Something else that’s particularly striking is your use of light and color – in “Creep,” it seemed limited to a range of more usual ambient colors, but in the film – there are very high contrasts in some scenes between bright, almost neon yellows and oranges, and deeply saturated blues and blacks. Is that something you think about early in the process?
Yeah, it came on early on because we were going to be shooting primarily in this one location, so I wanted to make absolute certain that the film was going to feel visually dynamic. When you were in a house, I wanted it to feel like another planet almost. John Gulesarian, the cinematographer and I, were really lucky. In the three weeks leading up to the filming, we met probably twice a week and just go through the script and shot list, and we would watch movies for inspiration. Because the film was going to be shot in 12 days, it was an extremely quick shooting schedule that would behoove us to shoot it handheld so we could be a lot more fluid and try to use practical lighting as much as possible.
Then for John and I, it became a challenge of how do we stay away from any cliches associated with shooting that way. We wanted it to feel deliberate at the same time it was handheld, then there would be moments where we were allowed to play a little bit and allowed to stretch things. Like in the kids’ bedroom where we use some blacklight and illuminated the room with these night lights for kids, then in the massage parlor where we have like two blacklights set up and feels almost like the opening scene of “Belly” or “Into the Void,” I was excited that we were able to get that dynamic range that I was hoping for in color.
Is it true it was Adam Carolla’s house you shot in?
Yeah. It was hard to find a house. We needed an all-in-one location where we were hoping to have our entire production office at the same place that we were shooting in, and we looked at house after house. Most of them were not big enough for us. Finally, that one had come up because Naomi Scott used to work with Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel with their production company, so they were friends and Adam was nice enough to let us use the place.
“The Overnight” opens in Los Angeles at the Arclight Hollywood and the Landmark and New York at the Angelika Film Center on June 19th. A full list of theaters and dates is here. “Creep” will be available on iTunes on June 23rd and Netflix on July 14th.