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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I’m awesome. I wrote a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

You can see how much I enjoyed this film.

Watching SEX DRIVE in a crowded theater I was pleased that I was able to laugh along with what was happening on the screen without feeling sorry for the producers of the film. With abhorations like DATE MOVIE, EPIC MOVIE, MEET THE SPARTANS or any number of forgettable films that seek to be outrageous SEX DRIVE just wants to be funny. And it succeeds, in part, because of the man who helmed the co-writing and directorial duties, Sean Anders. It’s a name that not many people are familiar with but people should. Anders has crafted a movie that balances, like the scales of justice, genuineness and abject depravtity in a way that hasn’t been seen for some time.

CHRISTOPHER STIPP: I really liked this movie. I think I went from casually enjoying the trailers to, after I saw the film, to appreciating what you managed to do. As an aside, I think the older I get the more cynical I get about comedies. None of them speak to me anymore. American Pie? I thought it was just OK. This one I genuinely found myself laughing and having a good time sitting in a theater with other people.

SEAN ANDERS: Oh good.

CS: It was all over the board, in a good way. It wasn’t obnoxiously crude and, during those moments, it was done in a way that was fresh. How did you come in to all of this? Because I read the production notes, and it seemed like there were a lot of people pitching about what they wanted to do in order to make this movie.

ANDERS: It started out as a book and the book was sent to us. We read the book and immediately liked the sort of throw back teen comedy appeal of the premise. Kid meets the girl on-line, and of course that’s not throw back, but the idea of the kid who feels a little bit of a romantic outsider getting an opportunity.

We didn’t really go out to Hollywood with the intention of making a teen comedy. That’s not what we set out to do. We didn’t set out to do any particular thing except comedy in general. When that came up, it was all of a sudden really exciting. We grew up with those movies. Those were the movies that my friends and I, people that I have been friends with since high school, still speak to each other in quotes from 16 CANDLES. So the idea to have a crack at being a part of that world was really exciting to us. But unfortunately the book itself was not really the kind of thing that we do. I think it was focused a little younger and just wasn’t the kind of road movie we wanted to make. So we went back and said, basically to say no to it, to say we read it, we really liked these characters and the premise but the story that’s in the book, we don’t really want to screw up your book but it’s not what we do. And they said, “What would you do?” And we said, “Well, we would do something more like this.” And they said, “We love that, why don’t you do that?”

And really from that moment on there was a lot of creative freedom of “What do you guys want to do?”, “OK, let’s try that.” So then what happened is not printable because it’s just a convoluted boring story but what happened was the movie was already set up at another studio. We went and pitched the idea for it and the deal kind of fell apart and the producers asked us if we would be willing to go pitch it around town to other studios. So we did. We took it around town, we pitched it and it didn’t appear that it was going to sell. Everyone told us the same thing. They said, “It’s very, very funny but there are no big stars we can put in this.” So, that was sort of the end of it.

So then John and I went on to make a pilot for Fox and while we were making that pilot, which was so crazy and so much work, we got the call from Summit Pictures that they wanted us to write the script. We were so swamped and so freaked out working on this pilot that we almost said no. And instead of saying no, we really came out to Hollywood to do was not be writers but writers/directors/producers. So we told our agent that tell them we’d write it if we could be directors and producers.

That’ll make ‘em go away.

They called back and said, “Yeah, OK.”

(Laughs)

But they called back and said, “Let’s have a meeting and talk about it.” I think the thing that won me the job – there were two things that won me the job - in that meeting and one is that they asked me what my philosophy, my approach to comedy was and I said it was all the in the casting. Put funny people in a funny script and you’ll get a funny movie. And then the other thing I said that resonate with Erik Feig was I think in general, comedies are over-lit. And he was like, “Yeah.” So that’s where we started. On the same page. Comedies are over-lit and anybody who would read that would say, duh. But that’s always been a pet peeve of mine. So, they said, “OK. You can direct this if we greenlight it.” So we finished the pilot. Went off and wrote the first draft and they greenlighted it off the first draft. It was great.

Because once they got the first draft and said they wanted to make this movie and hired a line producer, then we were shittin’ bricks because I was worried our pilot might get picked up. It’s very unlikely that any pilot is going to get picked up But we were like, “Please don’t let this pilot get picked up.” We were finished with the pilot at that point and we were so glad when we heard it wasn’t going to get picked up. Again, what we came out to Hollywood to do was to write and direct movies. I loved that pilot and would love to do some television down the line but that was job one. So we got the opportunity to do it that way. Sorry that was the really long version.

CS: You are probably sick of telling variations of that …

ANDERS: Again, I don’t know how useful that is because it would take forever to write all that but it was this weird sort of thing that didn’t look like it was going to happen but then when it did, it was first draft, line producers, scouting locations, casting. I m that thing – from the day that we turned in the first draft – a year from then we were already showing the movie to test audiences.

CS: Really?

ANDERS: Yeah, that’s how quick this thing got done.

CS: You said that it’s all about casting and there are no big stars in this. However, they were all excellent choices. You’ve got Josh Zuckerman, Clark Duke and Amanda Crew, who I thought was a brilliantly cast because she doesn’t look like one of those vapid women we see in many comedies – I’m thinking specifically of AMERICAN PIE as all these kids look like they are straight off the runway but this one seems a little more natural, if I can say it that way.

ANDERS: And I think that makes her so much more gorgeous.

CS: Yes.

ANDERS: Because she looks real and looks like that girl in high school that you would just be terrified to talk to, even though you know she would be very nice to you because she’s a real nice girl but she’s just beautiful and has this sort of inner glow to her.

She’s actually one of my favorite stories because the studio had been pushing for more of a named actress for that part. The studio was always very good to us and at the end of the day they would always err on the side of making a good film, and they did in that case too but we were auditioning a lot of girls in LA and they would come in the room and we thought we had 4 or 5 very good choices for Felicia. Then we get this video from Canada and any actor will tell you it’s almost impossible to get a job on video because when the actor comes in the room you give them a little direction and kind of help them to let them know what you’re looking for and they adjust and we say, “OK, that’s good.” But when you see a video, you see what it is and then you’re done with it. So we see this video and we are gathered around this QuickTime of this video of Amanda Crew that was sent in from Canada and we all said, “That’s her. That’s Felicia.”

And it became me going to the studio saying this is the girl – this is Felicia. And they were like, “Take it easy. Let’s see what else we got.” But of course they are thrilled it worked out that way because they love her and she’s great in the movie. She and I talked about what her job was in the movie and I told her you’re job is to make us fall in love with you. As an audience if we fall in love with you and we get why Ian is in love with you, we’re there with you.

I think that’s it. What really separates this from the pack and why I’m a convert after seeing this movie Monday night and I need to see this movie again she felt like the kind of person that this could really occur among all the zany shit that happens around them – it just felt natural.

[Sean asks whether I would be around to see an additional screening with Clark Duke and Amanda Crew in attendance. I ask about the marketing plan for the film and how high profile the film seems to be for a relatively unknown comedy]

ANDERS: Well, what happened was the movie turned out so well that the studio wanted to have word of mouth screenings all over the country because they know this movie is a hard sell.

The problem with selling the movie is that it doesn’t have the big cast members in it and we knew that any rated R teen comedy coming out a year after SUPERBAD was going to get, “Oh, they are trying to be SUPERBAD.” Of course, this was written before that. So we knew that the movie would have to speak for itself. So they have been having these word of mouth screenings all over the country because whenever we get people in front of the movie they tend to like it and hopefully will walk out and talk about it. So anyway, we were doing this one and I lived here for about 8 years so this is sort of my second hometown. I know a guy from Harkins [a local theater chain in Arizona] real well because he helped us with NBT, the first movie we made, and getting that going. So he asked me if I would come out and do some Q&A and I thought that would be fun. They set up this party for it and everything and we were talking yesterday he said that maybe we should get some cast out for this. So I said I would call them and see if they’re around and talked to Amanda and Josh and they said they weren’t doing anything so they said, “Yeah.” It’s totally a last minute thing that they are coming out.

CS: And I have to mention before we go any further – Seth Green who I think absolutely steals….

ANDERS: How about him, huh?

CS: You obviously approached him to do it but the performance he gave – that dry, sarcastic, sharp manner – it just works very well.

ANDERS: We had written the character to be this dry, sarcastic, but hopefully loveable Amish guy. And a guy who just really enjoys being around non-Amish people and then when the name of Seth Green came up, it was absolutely perfect. He’s just great with sarcasm, he’s really funny, and he’s just great on so many levels. But even then, none of us knew how great he was going to be until he got there. We just knew it was going to be so funny. That scene with the buggy with Clark where he says the line about butt fucking that was in the script but every time we shot it – everything we shot we just let it keep rolling and let people go past the scene and try different things and every time Clark and Seth got to that line they would just rip on butt fucking for the longest time. We cut some of that together for the extended DVD. It’s hilarious. It’s so over the top, disgusting and funny and really sharp, sharp stuff.

CS: His delivery is just wicked.

ANDERS: Well, the thing is about Seth Green is he is so funny all the time. He could be just sitting there and he’s not one of those guys who’s bouncing off the walls and trying to be the center of attention trying to be endearing to everyone, he’s just fucking funny. The way he turns a phrase, he gets his point across. He’s just funny. He’s always on. It’s a little bit intimidating.

CS: That part at the end when he talks to Fall Out Boy in front of the bus, was that all him? Did you know that line about [redacted for not wanting to spoil it] was coming at the end?

ANDERS: No. We had follow up boy for such a short time. We wanted to do a bit like that but just didn’t have time. That’s why it’s jump cut the way it is. It was basically, “OK, we have an hour before we have to go inside, let’s set up a camera and put Seth and Fall Out Boy in front of the camera and just roll and see what Seth does to f with those guys. And they were great sports and he was really funny and we shot like 20 minutes of stuff and cut it down to a minute for that little extra piece.

CS: It was a nice sort of kick at the end. How did that all come about when you are doing all these gags? It’s a thin line between obnoxious – in my advanced age, I’m 33 – I’m no foggie but when I see it – I get it, it’s supposed to be funny but you can have humor that just tries way too hard. But a massive majorirty of the gags here work very well and I don’t have any reason why they do – from your standpoint…

ANDERS: Well, I think, and you work for Kevin Smith, and I think you know what he’s so good at, of the many things he’s so good at, you can have a character say really raunchy – my friends and I, all of our conversations are raunchy, even when we are being serious. So you can have characters that behave that way and talk that way as long as the characters have heart and care about each other and they have real flaws and issues – as long as they have that sort of warmth it feels kind of real, where you were aspiring to on this – it gives people license to just relax and laugh.

And, one of the things that blew me away on the movie that I never would have predicted in a million years and almost the thing I’m proudest of the whole thing is – you do the test screenings for the test audiences and for a movie like this the studio cares far and away men 25 and under and then men 25 and older because this a movie that is going to be driven by guys and then the quadrant of girls 25 and under so females 25 and under but the women 25 and older, they don’t give a shit about. They know they are not going to go see it. Nobody’s mom is going to see SEX DRIVE. Nobody cares. So we go and we do our test screening and we get our numbers back and our number on women 25 and older were 98%.

That’s insane.

I’m sure those are numbers – like NIGHTS IN RODANTHE probably didn’t get 98%. For women 25 and older. It’s crazy. It almost seems like there has to be a mistake. And my mom saw the movie.

(Laughs)

And loved it – I don’t know – even though we are showing old man’s balls, I don’t know. All those things and despite that we can have a scene where we have a girl that almost shits on somebody.

(Laughs)

Or maybe does, depending on how you watch that scene, and that we still have women coming away loving the movie is such a huge compliment to us. We didn’t go into the movie trying to alienate any group.but you just know that when you walk a certain line people are going to be turned off by it.

CS: Why do you think women are responding so well to it?

ANDERS: Dude, I don’t know. I think the romance in the movie really works – that’s a part of it – but I don’t know. It’s mind boggling to me.

CS: I do have to ask about Andy and Randy.

ANDERS: If the movie does well enough to warrant a sequel, I already told the studio I will only do it if it’s a movie about Andy and Randy.

(Laughs)

Because I would love to do a whole movie about Andy and Randy.

CS: How did these characters materialize themselves?  If the book isn’t like this at all and it’s openly exaggerated…When you were coming up with the ideas to incorporate Brian Posehn and Seth Green to fill out these characters, how did their names come up as probables?

ANDERS: I don’t know. The way John and I write is we just sit around and bullshit all day and we’ll be talking about a certain topic and say, oh, this one time a friend of mine went to a carnival and then oh, there was this guy, this or that, and then it becomes an idea or a character. When we look back on all the characters we almost wrote and thought it was funny and look back and say thank god we didn’t try and put that in the movie. I don’t know man. I don’t know where that stuff comes from. You just sit around and talk about the idea and the characters until something funny comes up. And then there’s the arduous process of writing that first draft where you just write a whole bunch of unfunny shit and try to get to the end. And then go back through and try and find out why that stuff is not as funny was it needs to be and keep working on it. But I think a big moment in the movie was the moment when we wrote the line, “You love me, you love me too. OK.” Because we wanted to have that at the end because we knew it was going to be cheesy romantic we had written all this schlocky shit that was nauseating in the beginning. And then we just said “Fuck it. We don’t need big speeches. Let’s just simplify it and just let Ian be a man and step up and admit that he loves this girl” and when that line came up at that point in the script it was like I think we have a movie here. Because despite all the wacky raunchy stuff and at that moment writing that scene I really felt good. So, it’s weird. I’m new at this and I’m so proud of the movie. I realize it is what it is and is just one of those things that all I can do is hope that people like it as much as we do and they have a good time with it and hopefully 20 years from now that people would still be quoting it the way my friends and I quote 16 CANDLES and WERID SCIENCE and those great movies we grew up with.

CS: And the last question – I will make it brief – It’s no secret that you don’t have a whole lot on your resume behind you. You’ve managed to go from independent moviemaker to studio filmmaker – what’s the biggest lesson you learned in that transition?

ANDERS: I think the biggest lesson – man, there were so many, it was a lesson a minute all the way through that stuff. But, I think the one I’m going to apply the most is to just really try to enjoy it and have a good time and that seems to translate to a higher quality and that’s what we tried really hard to do all the way through it just not to get caught up in all the stress of the process but of course we did, and the next one even more so we will be able to because we know now that’s a formula that really works – to try and create an environment that’s really fun and laid back and have a good time and take that good time and put it on the screen and that’s something we learned from the Farrelly Brothers. They always sound like they are having a good time.

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