TCF: This is the first feature film that you’ve directed. Have you directed any shorts or anything else prior to this?
Demetri: No. I – what I had was a sketch show on Comedy Central years ago. And I was the Executive Producer, so I didn’t get a Director credit on that. But I was on camera, and my agents and people were like, “Don’t try to direct, just make sure you get your show to work. Bring in Directors.” It’s, “Okay.” But I was able to ask for shots sometimes, and I was in – I could kind of steer the edit.
In TV, it’s kind of different. If you run your show, you can kind of have that creative control. So I had a little bit of experience, but not really like this.
How was filming a feature as a first-time director?
It was really hard. My wife tells me, “Don’t say it was hard and stuff, act like it wasn’t!” I was somewhere between complaining and confessing, and acting like I had it under control.
I think the truth was it was kind of a balance, where I was pleasantly surprised about the actual directing work, that I wasn’t as in the dark as I thought I was going to be. I knew what I was looking for, because it was driven by certain emotional goals. To tell the story this way, to have this moment be big, and to have – “see the guys whole body here, and that might be funnier.” Thins like that were fun. It was like solving a puzzle. The logistics just destroyed me. It was just a freaking nightmare.
What made the logistics such a nightmare?
It was stuff like, “We lost tomorrows location.” And now shooting today’s scene, and I’m not a good enough actor to not look worried in the eyes. I can look at my own eyes in the edit, and be like, “Oh I know what that face is. That’s we don’t have a location tomorrow.” Stuff like that was just so hard and so humbling.
I didn’t really know anybody beforehand on the crew or anything. But I met people I want to work with again. Certain people, like Director of Photography, I loved. My Art Director..most of the actors, really. So that made it easier. I wish it was like laugh a minute, and there were outtakes of me, but every outtake would just be me worrying. Like, “Did I get it, is that okay? Is it – is that believable?” But I’m just grateful, legitimately, I’m just grateful that I got to this point. It’s so cool that it’s in film festivals, and that I got distribution. ‘Cause it’s an independent.
And then you won the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca?
Tribeca, yeah. Such a nice surprise, it’s great.
On your first film!
I mean that was such a surprise, and I love that festival. I had accepted a stand-up date in San Diego. So they screened my movie, did the thing, and then I left. Afterward, I got a call that it got a prize, but I’d already left. So I had to film myself on my driveway saying “thank you. It was a great surprise, but I was like, “Oh if I’d known I had a chance, I would’ve – got to shake DeNiro’s hand, and done all that stuff!”
In directing this, you made some interesting – I’ll call them, “Director Choices.” One of them was the use of a split screen. I’ve seen that in a lot of films, where it just fails…
Yeah. Dangerous game to play.
When I saw that I went, “Wow, that’s brave.” But it worked. What influenced that choice to go, “I’m going to throw a few split screens in here.”
That was an interesting– it was definitely a puzzle. I knew I wanted to feature the drawings. And I wanted to show myself drawing because I do draw. And to show, “Hey, I’m drawing these things. Like this is the character he draws.”
But I also knew that I wouldn’t have the time. You can’t do it all like that. And plus some of the stuff I figured out in the edit – was like, “I want to figure out a way to show this, so the audience can get the kind of emotional impact, and we can track a little bit what he’s going through.” But full screen the whole time seemed so jarring. So it became, “Oh let’s see if this works. We I can split, and you can kind of see me drawing, and then you see what he’s drawing,” in a sense.
At first, I had them just pop up, but then with my Editor, we figured out this nice thing where they kinda slide on. And to me, there was a personality. There was a language to it that felt right. Then when that worked, I felt free to them use the split screen in some other places. Because I’d established the language, I didn’t want it to be a sore thumb. So I kinda backed into it in a sense. But I agree with you, I’ve seen