Interview with Chris Hansen(Director / Writer)

By Rebecca Dinning
Go To Interview with David Lovic

Where did you first get the idea for the film?
The co-writer, David Lovic, introduced me to the character of Brian in another script he was writing. I really wanted to follow the character more closely, and I thought he would be the perfect subject for a documentary, if he existed in real life. So I opted to put him in a mock documentary so we could follow him around and really get inside his head.

How did you create the characters?
I didnít originate Brian Ė as I mentioned, that came from David. But I helped to flesh out Brian and get at what he thinks and why he thinks that way. I created his siblings, Aaron and Miriam, because it seemed that Brian needed followers who would help to keep his delusion alive, and the family dynamic between them led me to a greater understanding of the things that motivate Brianís delusion as well as his brother and sisterís devotion.

Why did you decide to film the movie  in a mockumentary style?
I felt a character like Brian has such bizarre thoughts that an audience would find them fascinating. In a fiction film, we would have to create scenarios where he could tell people these beliefs. And that would be awkward and forced in a lot of cases. But in a mockumentary, we can pretty much do anything. The format is very freeing. It allows us to explore things and keep things from the audience that the characters want to keep secret. Itís also limiting Ė we have to be careful with what we show and what we donít show. We have to think like a documentary crew.

What were some of the influences and inspirations for the characters and plot of this film?
The style of the film is heavily influenced by films like Bob Roberts, Best in Show, This is Spinal Tap and other mockumentaries. The tone of the humor and the nature of the story comes from films like Monty Pythonís Life of Brian and the documentary American Movie.

How long have you been thinking about doing a film such as this one?
The script was written, in short form, back in 2000. And Iíve been thinking on and off since then of trying to get it made. I tried to mount it as a mini-DV production in 2003 and again in 2004, but various things kept it from happening.

How long did the script take to write, and how many drafts have there been?
Hard to say. Original version was a 22 page short film, then it was expanded to a 60 page short. At that point, I realized it could be a feature. After it became a short feature script, about 75 or 80 pages, David and I would periodically add new scenes or sharpen others. There was never a fully new draft after that first short feature version, but a lot of material has been added and sharpened. I polished it and rewrote the beginning and ending less than a month before production began, and I wrote one scene the day before we shot it!

According to the website, your co-writer lives in New York. Was it difficult to communicate and collaborate with this distance between you?
David and I met via e-mail. He read a script of mine online and e-mailed me to tell me that he liked it. He was about to come visit the grad school I had attended and where I still worked, so we became friends. And though he never did come to school there, we continued to talk and e-mail. Over time, we wrote the film together by e-mail and phone, which was a challenge. But Iím not sure we would have done it any better if we had worked in the same room, because I donít write Ďwithí someone. We can talk about ideas, and flesh out dialogue and actions, but then someone has to sit down and write it, and I donít like to do that with someone standing over me (or with me standing over someone else). I prefer to go into my office, write it, then read it together and evaluate it. David would write scenes and send them to me, and I would tweak things a little and incorporate them into the overall structure of the script (which sometimes necessitated rewrites).

What inspired you to offer positions on the film to students?
With the budget we had, there was no way we could hire a full professional crew. And I have a real desire to see students working on real productions and getting a greater understanding of all the work that goes into making a film. There is no better way to learn the lessons of filmmaking than to be on a set and see it and experience it.

Do you enjoy working with the students?
Working with students has been inspiring because of their enthusiasm Ė theyíre not jaded by years of productions. Theyíre excited to be a part of this process, and that makes it fun for me.

What was the casting process for this film? Was it different from any other film youíve made?
We had several auditions, seeking actors from around Texas. Since the pay was deferred, we didnít get a lot of the most talented actors. Most importantly, we didnít see anyone who had an original take on these characters. So we enlarged the search. We auditioned actors via tape from New York and California, and in the tapes we received, we found terrific actors like Dustin Olson and Ellen Dolan. And Joe Frost, who plays Aaron, has been involved with the film since I began trying to make it. He was always going to play Aaron, and he has stuck with it since then.

Your brother is in the film. Is there an interesting story behind this casting decision?
I had originally cast the role of Tim with an actor, Mark Morman, who is also a professor in the department in which I teach at Baylor. But we had a miscommunication on the schedule, and I realized he was going to be out of the country during our entire shoot. So I was trying to find someone who could play this part of a normal guy who maybe has some anger management issues. And I thought of my brother. When I mentioned this to him, he agreed he could probably play it. And the other thing driving this was something that Francis Ford Coppola said when he was making The Godfather and cast members of his family in it. He figured he might never make another film, so why not make his family part of it? I guess that idea was driving me a little Ėthat I could include my brother in the film in some small way.

When and how do you plan to release the film?
Weíll try to get it into major film festivals. Weíll also be trying to go directly to distributors who might be interested in this kind of small, independent comedy.

31 July 2005