picture source: Drafthouse Films
According to Brandon (right) and Jason Trost (left), the sibling filmmakers behind The FP, it’s a film that’s been eight years in the making. After shooting it as a short in 2007 (though there was always a feature-length script, Jason assures), they shot the full version (on a budget of less than $100K) and took it to SXSW last March, where it was picked up by Drafthouse films (it opens in 26 markets today and is available for fans to vote to create their own screenings through Tugg.com). By the time they got to the screening I hosted at SF Indie Fest in San Francisco this past February, they were already veterans of the festival circuit, having played Fantastic Fest, Fantasia in Montreal, the Rolling Road Show and a handful of other places.
After screening the film to a raucous, largely drunken crowd (what do you expect when you let a site called “FilmDrunk” get involved), Brandon and Jason, joined by their sister Sarah (The FP‘s costume designer and a former Project Runway contestant), Lee Valmassy (L Dubba E in the movie), and Art Hsu (KCDC), took the stage for a Q & A. Valmassy, a seemingly soft-spoken, slightly-built eccentric who’d apparently just gotten back from China, addressed the crowd in fluent Mandarin, then took a backseat for most of the rest of the Q & A, bearing bizarrely little resemblance to the manic screaming Mr. T he plays in the movie. People at the after party walked right by him, having no idea they’d just seen him in the film. Meanwhile, the Trost siblings (Brandon the reserved eldest, Jason the brash youngest, Sarah the glib middle) showed that the hardest part of moderating a discussion with them isn’t getting them talking, but getting them to pause long enough for people to ask questions. They’ve got that sibling shorthand thing in spades. All the while Art Hsu, the glue holding the film together and the lone person on stage not from Frazier Park, competently played the role of professional actor like the professional actor he is. The dynamic was much the same the next day when I met Brandon, Jason, Sarah, and Art for this interview, trying not to sound like I’d woken up that morning with a wallet full of singles from a late-night trip to a strip club (no comment). Read our chat below (thank Adam for transcribing) or scroll to the end for the mp3 version.
“A studio would never release a movie with these numbers.”
Vince: Where else have you played?
Brandon: We did SXSW, FantasticFest–
Jason: We went up to Montreal for Fantasia. We’re at it in NY for the Friar’s Club. We had The FP screening at the Rolling Road Show thing. And it’s playing at a bunch of other film festivals that we haven’t made it to.
Brandon: It’s been playing around. It’s always fun just to see the movie with an audience, regardless.
Jason: It’s funny, like the difference of audience where you have one like last night that really gets it and they’re into it, and then you have the one where it’s kind of like 50 people who are just like…
Sarah: Or the test screening where 10 people walked out.
Jason: Yeah, the test screening was great.
Sarah: That was rough.
Jason: Essentially we had a test screening to see if we could even go to SXSW, because our Paranormal Activity producers wanted to make sure if was financially viable to go out there and all this. So they got us a test screening where 10 people walked out. It got like a 52% positive rating, and I remember the producer, Jason Blum, said “A studio would never release a movie with these numbers.” And then we went to SXSW.
Sarah: And now here we are
Vince: This doesn’t seem like a movie that’s a test audience movie.
Brandon: And that’s ultimately our point. It was awesome to have a test done just to see the whole process.
Jason: We still have to make a coffee table book of all those comments. The comments on it are insane.
Brandon: But, you know, it just proves to us this isn’t a wide release studio type movie. It’s the kind of movie that needs to be discovered by people.
Jason: Which is crazy when we’re playing in like 26 cities. Which is nuts that it actually got to that point. We were just hoping, “God, I hope maybe we could only play for one theater in LA maybe or something.” That was our dream back when we were making it.
Brandon: We were hoping we would get a DVD deal.
Jason: Now it’s like ridiculous.
“You have to go hard on everything, otherwise it just wouldn’t be funny.”
Vince: How do you keep the energy where it’s sort of fun and something you do as a goof, but then still put that much work into it?
Brandon: Everything is done with such serious attention put on it, and that’s part of the whole joke for us. Because it is a joke, ultimately, but we throw all these characters into this whole world that is totally ridiculous. Yet If you just kept looking at it, it really is crazy and out of its mind, but we treat as if it’s just life or death and it’s just really serious.
Sarah: You have to [go] hard on with everything otherwise it wouldn’t be funny.
Jason: Yeah, it’s just about as cohesive as the Transformers movie now, but there’s a lot of attention put into a Transformers movie. We put a lot of attention into this in the same way.
Brandon: We went to great lengths to make stuff look as legit as possible with Sarah and all the costumes.
Jason: It’s definitely worth it because all the comments that are so pissed off at Hollywood for bringing this movie out. Like, that’s the joke! To make it look like Hollywood released this abortion of a movie.
Brandon: If there’s any kind of parody involving the movie, for us, it was just on the Hollywood system in general. You’d make a Michael Bay movie or something that has so much attention put on something that is so ridiculous.
Jason: Just the idea if Jerry Bruckheimer were to make a Dance-Dance movie what would it be like?
Brandon: That’s kind of what are whole approach was from the get-go.
Art: What I’m most impressed about these guys is that if that’s the intention you still have to be able to pull it off, and to be able to pull it off and make what I consider a technically perfect independent film is very impressive. Because, you can say you want to pay attention to this detail or that detail, but to be able to do it and to be able to put together the whole thing, and have it turn out the way that it did with everything, the music, the production, the costumes, is a testament to the filmmaking. Even if it is a big joke, it’s still a great film.
Vince: I like the idea that is was such a self-contained world that you made, but then there’s a couple of scenes, like at the gas station, where there’s kind of the idea that maybe the rest of the world is going on completely normal while all of this is happening.
Jason: It’s just the idea that being, every one of these small towns, they just become this post-apocalyptic bunker where it’s just all crazy people. The whole idea was to make everyone delusional. With JTRO at the beginning, I speak like one of those thugs and I’m totally in the world, and a year later I’ve been out of it cutting lawns and shit, and I come back and I’ve seen the actual world, it’s like “What the f*ck are you guys doing?”
Brandon: We never really intended this movie to seem dystopian or apocalyptic.
Jason: It just sort came off as weird.
Sarah: It was also what we had, too: just piles of trash.
Brandon: We also made it like the craziness really only comes out at night in the world too, like when he’s walking around town he doesn’t have the big vest on. It’s like they have their superhero get-ups that they put on when they actually go to the tournaments.
Sarah: They have their battle gear.
Jason: Which, why in the last scene it’s so funny to see them with those costumes on in the day light. It’s so ridiculous looking.
“We didn’t pull anything in. It’s all just shit there.”
Vince: Is there a story behind the eye patch? Is it a trademark, medical necessity, both?
Jason: It’s both of those things.
I wanted to delve more here, but I froze, stuck between “okay, maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it,” and “wait, doesn’t a guy who always wears an eye patch inevitably invite questions about it?”
Vince: I was really interested in Lee Valmassy (L Dubba E). Did you see that character in him? I was at the SF Indie Fest screening with people that had seen the movie 2 or 3 times, and were talking to the guy at the after party and had no idea that he was the guy from the movie.
Jason: He’s just the most ill-tempered, chill guy, and you’d never think in a million years that guy can pull out Mr. T. I didn’t even know he could do it either, because we made these shorts when I was in high school. It basically started out as this joke him and I had when we were in high school, and I was like “Come on, I’ve seen you do this before.” He was like “I don’t know.” He was scared of it, and he started doing it, and he did great back then. I remember he was so embarrassed of doing it when he first did it he almost didn’t want to talk to me again.
Brandon: It was his performance when I even saw the shorts in the first place.
Jason: That’s what did it.
Brandon: I thought he really made it work.
Jason: It’s probably all his fault that this movie ended up actually getting to where it was: him being so good at that character.
Sarah: It’s a combination of 5 separate dudes from the FP.
Jason: Yeah, it’s 3-5 guys that him and I knew and didn’t really see eye-to-eye with in high school. It just is them.
Brandon: Mutated into one character.
Vince: Your parents are filmmakers. How did you guys end up in Frazier Park growing up?
Brandon: Our dad does special effects. Most, either, effects guy or stunt men in Hollywood tend to abandon the city and just run to the outskirts.
Sarah: He also moved to Kern County, it’s right on the LA County/Kern County line, because he does special effects and he has magazines where he stored explosives, and it’s much easier to do that in Kern County but be close to LA County.
Jason: So he needs his land, and he needs all this stuff to store, and he also wants to be able to carry his concealed weapon.
Brandon: He lives kind of interesting out in the wilderness.
Sarah: He also kind of a hoarder, so that’s where all the trash and weird old cars and all that stuff came [from]. We didn’t pull anything in. It’s all just shit there.
Jason: We wrote the movie knowing what we’ve got. We’ve got a pile of trash over there, we’ve got all of these machines, and so it ended up becoming so post-apocalyptic because our dad has so much machinery.
Sarah: And old equipment, pieces of steel, and just weird odds and ends.
Vince: Growing up in Frazier Park, I’m guessing there weren’t a lot of other children of people that work on movies?
Sarah: There are! One of our good friends, his dad has an animal training company. They bring all the animals, so he’s got camels, lions, and tigers and stuff out on his property too. We went to school with his kids.
Brandon: There’s a lot of movie people, just because it’s a commute from LA, there’s a lot of people that just don’t want to be in the city and live up there.
Vince: So you made the short. How did you take it from being a short to a full movie?
Jason: From when I say I’ll never play Beat-Beat Revelation again and slam my hand down, that’s the end of the short. The short was just the James Bond opener in the first 10 minutes. We always had the script.
Brandon: There was always a script.
Jason: That’s why everyone’s like “How can they stretch this thing out from that short?” There was always a script.
Brandon: Even after we had made that initial short we went through and sort of ripped the script apart, and put it back together again. But that opening scene stayed the same, basically. That was the one thing that seemed to work so well. We needed the first short that was the original opening to show it to people.
Jason: Because you get it in a script, and it’s like “What the?”
Sarah: You get turned down.
Jason: Then they do the Art thing, “What the hell is this?”
Brandon: We ultimately used it to find what little cash we got to make the movie. We just needed more money to be able to make it. We did, and we just went for it.
“Holy shit, you can actually do this?”
Vince: Has there been a reaction from industry people?
Jason: Yeah, “stop.”
Jason: When we tried to take this thing around agencies and stuff, and so many times they watch 10 minutes and like “Yeah, get out of here. We have a lot of black clients. We can’t be associated with this.”
A little aside here, as I mentioned in my review, the characters drop the n-word freely (“nigga” even gets its own acronym, “Never Ignorant at Gettin Goals Accomplished”), but I took that more just as the slang world they were creating than anything particularly racial. And let’s be honest, if your characters are supposed to be cartoony weird white kids influenced by hip hop culture, it makes complete sense. In fact, it’s probably sanitized to a good degree.
Brandon: But outside of that, though, there have been people we’ve shown it to that are friends of ours who are, even producers, who are people that we might end up working with again have come out saying “Look, it’s unique, it’s crazy, it’s weird,” but the stuff they’re the most impressed by is the quality of the acting in the movie. Just that everyone really seems to know their character and that everyone feels directed. Which is something, I guess, that people are looking for.
Vince: What was the idea behind the costumes in general? I really loved the high-water pants, just the way Art sort of pranced around in them like Peter Pan.
Sarah: It’s pretty obvious 80’s “street clothes, man.” There’s a lot of different ways to answer that, but the boots basically started all of it. We had the boots since Jason was in high school. My dad bought off some other crazy old man on the mountain. The boots were in the original shorts that he made in high school, and then it turned into this weird Double Dragon/Warriors situation, and there were two gangs and there were two teams. So, I was like “Let’s base it on the Civil War.” If you watch it you can see that the two rival gangs are based on colors and flags, and everything references from the Civil War. So that sort of infiltrated the whole thing, on top of we have no money, so let’s pull out anything that’s just interesting and cool, and kind of fits into this weird future of the trashy 80’s world.
Brandon: A lot of thrift store runs.
Sarah: A lot of thrift store, but we had, there was a point where we emptied out, because we have a storage container there, and inside it was just bags and bags of clothes I had as costumes. There’s clothes from when we were little kids that are on actors. KCDC (Art Hsu) wears a lot of shirts that have ducks after his duck speech. He wears a lot of clothes that have ducks on them after that. There’s one sweater that’s like this white sweater that’s really small, and I cut the sleeves off of it, and he wears it in one of the training montages. It’s a duck that has pants for some reason, and the pants are down, and it just says “Shit happens” over the duck’s area. Which is a sweater I bought when I was ten-years old at a year sale. Why? I don’t know. Why do we still have it? I don’t know.
Art: I think that explains a lot of The FP.
Vince: The duck speech was my favorite scene of the movie.
Sarah: It was a lot of piecing together a lot of stuff that we had, and a fair amount of the design, especially all of Lee’s jumpsuits, the majority of them were made, especially his final battle jumpsuit is completely custom made from the ground up. It’s just whatever fabric I had that I could put together that was in that color realm and that made sense for the 245 Team. There are probably four layers of shoulder pads in that jump suit. It builds up his shoulders. It’s crazy. Then he puts it on and turns into a raging bull. It’s so funny to watch his posture change when he put everything on.
Art: In the dressing room there were sketches, Sarah’s sketches, of the different characters and of the different concepts that she had for the costumes, jumpsuits, and all that.
Jason: By dressing room, Art means the top floor of the barn.
Art: But all the concepts, she had sketched them all out, and to see then actually come to life with what she put together was just really amazing.
Sarah: It’s really helpful for the actors too because it is something so extreme, especially with the dialogue and how weird and different it is, if you match that with the costuming it changes them. It helps, especially with Lee, if Lee didn’t have costumes like that he would not be convincing in what he was doing. You could feel it too. When he puts it on, and he told me “Yeah, I turn into a different person.”
Jason: I always thought costumes were so important to movies. I think a lot of people just throw it away, but as even being an actor you put on a cool costume or something where you feel awesome in it, you just feel it. I don’t know what it is. As opposed to being in a lame costume, something that’s fitted and you feel like a superhero, you just become…it’s weird.
Sarah: There is something to be said about putting on, and you can tell when you’re fitting a suit, you can tell when you’ve hit the right thing because there’s always a change, there’s always a shift. You can always feel the energy change when you put on the right thing.
Jason: The cage match wasn’t originally in the script until pre-production when Tyler (B. Robinson, production designer) was building the foundation, and he was sitting and looking around…
Brandon: We had this piece of fence.
Jason: We had this piece of fence from like Mortal Combat that dad had with all these pipes on it, and Tyler was like “You know, we could probably do a cage match. That would be cool.” No way, we’re not going to do that, and I come back–
Brandon: Two hours later.
Jason: And he’s got a cage hanging, and I’m like “Holy shit, you can actually do this?”
Brandon: You can see the old, dead motorcycle that’s the counterweight for it actually rising in the background. That’s how it really operated.
Jason: Then Bryan Goddard, who was Sugga Nigga, he was an extra because all our extras were just…it would be us or whoever.
Sarah: We had a maximum of 8 extras, I think.
Jason: Lee is an extra several times in the background. We’d have 8 people, maybe, sometimes to be extras, so they’d be dressed one way over here, and then we’d flip the coverage around it’d be the same guys in different costumes.
Vince: That was my other favorite thing was just watching the random people in the background. On that note, how do you convince the person to be like “Ok, you’re going to be the background boob lady?”
Sarah: Oh, she was hired to do that.
Brandon: That was a joke that we always wanted specifically so we needed to get her.
Vince: Did you put out a casting call specifically for that?
Sarah: “Hey, my pornstar friend, do you want to come do this? Ok! See you later.”
Brandon: She’s in that biz so it was easy.
Vince: Are you guys working on anything together going forward? Future collaborations?
Brandon: We definitely have a few things we’re working on.
Jason: A couple of things were kicking around.
Brandon: Ultimately, it was trying to get this done.
Jason: Just get this 8-year saga out of the way, and hopefully next time we’ll never take that long.
Brandon: Although, everything we talk about doing we also love, but it seems The FP2, I think, that thing that seems to be the most we’re probably the most excited about.
Jason: I would say that’s probably what will happen first is an FP2, because I’ve waited so long to do The FP2 at this point, yeah, The FP 1 is just coming out, but we’ve been waiting three and a half years to do the sequel.
Brandon: Right, because we’ve always wanted to make the Rambo 2.
Jason: The reason, for me at least, why I originally came up with the idea with the movie is I wanted to make the sequel more than the first one. So, I just want to get this one out of the way so we can get to the one I always wanted to make, our Empire Strikes Back of The FP series.
Vince: What’s the basic premise of the sequel?
Jason: We can’t say too much, but we go to Hong Kong.
Sarah: Why not?
Jason: We can’t get to an end without JTRO meets up with his father, NITRO. Shit gets double serious and double hot.
Vince: Are those nicknames made up for the movie?
Jason: The JTRO nickname I actually had in high school because it was the J-Lo time, and then people just called me JTRO. Actually that nickname led to me creating all the other names, because in the original shorts it would all just be my buddies that’d be in high school. KCDC was buddy Kyle. He liked AC/DC so he came KCDC. I was JTRO because Jason Trost. L Dubba E was just Lee. BLT just came out of nowhere.
Brandon: And Stacy.
Jason: Well, Stacy was Stacy Lacy Macy. Stacy is a play on a name of what the main character’s name on The O.C. was. I don’t even remember what her name was. It’s been so long since I’ve ever thought of it. I can’t even remember, but I know that Stacy came from an O.C. reference and I can’t even tell you what it was now it’s been so long.
Jason: The entire short, the first short, and even part of the movie, which you may not even know, the structure is based off of The O.C. pilot. The whole thing; the guy coming into town, the girl living next door, him wanting to fight for her, it’s straight out of The O.C.
Jason: When you get down to it, it’s really not that unique. I always figured if you steal enough stuff from a lot of different things it just becomes your own. That’s how this came about. “Nobody would put that many things into a blender.” Well, we did.
Vince: When you do make a sequel, do you think it will be easier?
Jason: It has to be. Nothing could be harder than this movie was.
Brandon: It won’t be. Will still find a way to make it ambitious enough, too.
Jason: It will be easier because we’re definitely all better at our job now at this point than when we made this movie. We have so many more connections and so much more help that there’s no way it could be as hard as this one. No way will we be all bankrupt living in a barn while we’re shooting the sequel.
Sarah: That’s true.
Jason: That’s never going to happen.
Sarah: Living on a weird mattress in a barn.
Jason: I’m never going to be eating Easy Mac and hot dogs, and having craft service steal the spoons and stuff from us at night because we can’t afford to have them so I have to eat things with my hands. That’s never going to happen again. Now I can actually buy my own spoons if I have too.
Sarah: Scorpions in the shower.
Jason: Yeah, getting stung by scorpions in the shower. There’s no way, man.
Here’s the audio:https://uproxx.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/the-fp-interview.mp3|titles=The