Your new movie Driven
to Succeed - in a few words, what is it about?
Without trying to sound like too much of a sales pitch - Driven
is a raunchy comedy about a run-down driving school, and the
ego-centric slackers that run it. It was fun to break from the
traditional horror driven content that we're known for at Dire Wit Films
and try something different!
question of course, why a driving school? And is any of what happens in
the film based on your personal experiences with driving schools?
definitely drew on personal experiences when writing the script. I
vividely remember helping my long-haired hippie driving instructor run
errands like returning video rentals, so this is a more exaggeratted
version of that. Prior to writing the script, I had just started a
new job that makes everyone who drives a company vehicle sit through 2
DAYS of drivers "re-education", which is where I had the epifany
that some of this material would be ripe fruit for satire. Overall -
I knew it was something everybody could relate to somewhat.
sources of inspiration when writing Driven
It's rooted in a lot of 80's comedy
tropes, but influenced by a lot of modern TV comedy like Curb Your
Enthusiasm or Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We wanted it
to be less focuesed on the driving though and more about the wacky
scenarios that ensue, sort of like a Simpsons episode... you hardly ever
see Homer in the Nuclear plant anymore.
What can you tell us about your
co-writers Dave Spencer and Bryan Preston, and what was your collaboration
Both have been longtime friends and are awesome to
work with. Dave is a published novelist and has a literary
background, while Bryan is a stand up comic that is great with jokes and
Bryan and I actually first teamed up to write a 30 minute pilot version...
we essentially envisioned this as a TV show initially. We shot it,
but had little luck pitching it, at which point we decided to turn it into
a feature. At that time, Dave had already written a second episode,
parts of which actually became the middle portion of the final film, but
we first regrouped to figure out a new structure and an over-arching plot
that would carry through the whole thing. The film itself is
ultimately 3 episodes of a TV show, and we broke up the writing duties
Of your film's three leads, Rod, Liz and Jeremy,
who can you identify with most, actually?
haha, but maybe Liz, since she's the most level-headed of the bunch.
The overall goal though was to make these seemingly despicable characters
likeable enough so that the audience ultimately does care about what
happens to them.
Do talk about Driven
to Succeed's brand of humour for a bit!
is really based in the fact that there's really no repercussions
whatsoever for the immorality of these people, and in fact it's the GOOD
people around them that end up suffering as a result... sort of like real
life. But, we do throw in a lot of goofy, seemingly random scenarios
(the trip scene, the demolition derby) that we just felt would be some
funny sequences to shoot, so that sort of balances out the mean-spirited
nature of the rest of the movie.
Additionally, the political campaign that provides the overarching thread
is obviously inspired by American politics. At the time we wrote it,
it was based on New York Congressmen, Anthony Wiener, who was sending
dick-pics around to unwilling recipients. Who knew that a few years
later, we'd still be talking about him, and his penis helped cost Hillary
Clinton the presidential election. There's also MANY strong
similarities to Trump that are purely coincidental - they're both
egotistical businessman with no political experience running for office.
Hell even the "Trump University" scam is eerily similar to
Russell's college loan program. I think what we got wrong was that
in the film nobody votes for Russell - the reality probably would have
been that EVERYBODY votes for him. We may have underestimated the
stupidity of the American public when we wrote it.
you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
didn't focus too much on storyboards or shotlists, but rather the
performances. We typically shot 4-5 takes of each scene and ran two
cameras at once. The first couple takes would be off script, while
the last few would be improvisation, and we'd blend the two during
editing. Generally I probably favored the improv takes in the edit,
but would resort back to the scripted takes when there was a key plot
point or joke we needed to hit.
talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?
cast was amazing - we had a bunch of funny people in this, and I wanted to
be relatively "hands off" to let them do their thing. Chris
Kamsch, Kathy Carson, Jamaal Jordan & Urssula Waters were all good friends of mine that I
had worked with before. They're all just naturally funny people that
I knew would really make this shine. Rick Miller, Signe Renn, Michael
Everett Johnson, David Gamble & Prince Tawro all came in through auditions and
blew everyone away. Initially when we shot the pilot, Prince only
had one scene, but we laughed so hard at that one scene we knew we had to
make his role much bigger in the feature.
Additionally, having the luxury of shooting the pilot prior to the feature
gave everyone a chance to really figure out who their characters were.
There's so much more chemistry in the feature that isn't as prevalent in
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was pretty much all location shooting, and we wrote it deliberately trying
to avoid any major expenses... so lots of parking lots, the classroom,
etc. We laughed A LOT, and I think that comes across pretty clearly
on the bloopers and outtakes on the DVD. I already miss working with
these folks, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. That isn't to
say there weren't some really stressful times as well. We got pretty
much every location for free, but often that meant we only had a limited
amount of time for each shoot. We'd have to pack a lot in quickly.
$64-question of course, when and where will Driven
to Succeed be released onto the general public?
comes out December 13th, and will be available on DVD and streaming - most
notably on Amazon Prime. You can also order a limited Blu-ray from
the Dire Wit Films
storenvy site. Both the DVD & Blu Ray have
the 30 minute pilot episode I mentioned on there as an extra feature.
future projects you'd like to share?
Dire Wit Films
currently getting back in the horror arena, and helping to produce Zombinatrix
from Michael Kyne and Bianca Allaine. It's about a zombie
dominatrix, and features a lot of the same cast as Driven
website, Facebook, whatever else?
You can find us at
@DireWitFilms on Twitter, or
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
want to thank all the amazing folks that worked on this project - it was
over 130 in all, on a volunteer basis. It takes a village to make
these no-budget pictures come together. Also, thank YOU once again
Mike for giving us some coverage. You're commitment to indie cinema
is amazing, and we appreciate it!!
for the interview!