2006_08_arts_puffy.gifJust after their premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Gothamist interviewed local filmmakers and brothers, Jay and Mark Duplass. Now their hilarious, sweet little indie movie, about a road trip to deliver a purple barcalounger, The Puffy Chair is finally getting a theatrical release in New York at the Angelika. Gothamist sat down to chat again with director and co-writer Jay about DIY movie marketing, getting the perfect indie soundtrack and how to do a superb New York night out on a struggling filmmaker's budget. Jay and Mark will also be in town this weekend for Q&As following the 8 pm screenings on Friday and Saturday and to introduce the 10:15 pm showings.

There’s a real New Yorkiness to the characters in your movie, with references to Brooklyn and North Six.
Yeah, all of the apartments the characters live in are in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Mark’s apartment, his character Josh’s, is where my brother lived in Greenpoint. And where Katie’s character, Emily lives, that was shot in her apartment which is in Williamsburg. Available materials method of filmmaking.

That’s so key when you’re making a small film.
When you’re making a movie for $15,000 bucks, you pretty much use everything you have.

Wow, was that the budget? That's nothing for a movie.
That was to get it in the can. Since we started going to festivals and doing all the promotion and stuff, it’s at least doubled, maybe tripled. We got it in the can for just $15,000 and that was with almost all of the money being spent on gas and food.

The website, thepuffychair.com, is really great. There's a ton of content on there, from the streaming soundtrack to your short films. Also, you guys have a MySpace page. What do you think about that, in terms of marketing indie films with the web these days?
Part of getting our distribution deal was that Roadside and Netflix were various cautious about distributing a film that’s shot on DV, has no stars and isn’t really a bankable genre. It sort of seems like it’s a romantic comedy, but there's no jokes and no cutesiness, just this couple dukeing it out, trying to see if they can make it work. So we said, Look, we basically have to market it like an indie rock band. We have all these little stickers stuck up everywhere with the chair on it that say nothing. Just to raise awareness and appeal to people who don’t want to be advertised to and want more a mystery. We cut the trailer and we did the website ourselves. We got good at it really quickly and I think it’s made all the difference because it is without a doubt a word of mouth movie. We will live or die on the word of mouth. The fact that my brother and I have done a lot of the promotion ourselves has gone a long way in terms of connecting with people, and getting as many people out as we can.

Your movie's all of these things at once—a romantic comedy but also a road movie and a sibling drama. Is that something you set out do from the beginning or did that evolve as you were doing the script and shooting the film?
It evolved. Originally when we knew we wanted to make a relationship movie, we wanted it to be really simple, to consist of about 12 to 15 really solid scenes. But every idea we came up with for a relationship became really melodramatic. We needed some kind of spine to hang all of these great scenes on and the sillier or the dumber it is, the better it’s going to be. We needed a plot but it wasn't not really going to be about the plot. But that’s really only in retrospect that we knew what we’re doing. Everything I came up with was kinda serious and boring, then Mark came up with giant purple Lazy Boy and when he said that we said, Okay we have a movie.

What influences would you say you had making the film?
Mark and I are huge movie fans. We were hooked up to the IV of HBO since we were kids in the early ‘80s. We had a ton of influences subconsciously but I don’t want to seem cocky or pretentious about it. In our 20s we would constantly try to make movies that came from other movies or concepts. But we were depressed because none of the kind of movies we were making were working. We had my parent’s little home movie camera and we came up with the idea of a guy who tries to perfect the greeting of his answering machine in sales. The movie became This Is John, it’s seven minutes long. We improvised it, shot it in twenty minutes, it cost $3. It went to Sundance, got us an agent and did more for our careers than the previous ten years. That is what influenced what we’re doing now, that moment making that movie was influenced by nothing but our sheer of terror of being failures in life, desperately not wanting to be failures.

The thing that I really responded to in the film is that it’s about—well not me perse, but about my friends, about our generation. This type of person that the character of Josh represents, this creative guy who's flailing. He has these dreams but he can’t quite get there. He can’t quite commit. He can’t make it happen. I feel like that’s a very common experience for people in their late 20s and there's not enough filmmakers who are capturing that experience.
I agree with what you said. Everyone always asks if this is autobiographical and yes, some of the lines of the movie are definitely something that Mark and I have been through. But everyone we know is doing this. They’re all doing passive aggressive things in their relationships and trying really hard to get what they want to achieve. Everyone has been in that relationship where you’ve dated for a long time, and you either need to get married or break up. One day you’ll be like, we’re definitely getting married and the next day you’ll be like, who is this stranger who I let live in my house and how can I get them out of here? It’s so sick. Mark and I constantly talk about our generation, how we have so many options. You don’t want to get locked into anything that’s not going to be good for you. You get afraid to commit.

The soundtrack rocks, all of my favorite bands and songs are on there. How was that getting the rights for those songs [like Death Cab For Cutie's "Transatlanticism" and Spoon's "That's The Way We Get By"]? Was it difficult?
Four of the bands are on this label Polyvinyl, Decibully and bunch of those bands. My brother used to be in Volcano I’m Still Excited, which was on that label. Mark was able to strike a deal with a lot of these bands, that was sort of our in. That part was easy, the tough part was getting Death Cab and Spoon, because when we were editing two and a half years ago, those songs seemed within the grasp of an indie film. But as you know, Death Cab is enormous and that Spoon song is on Jaguar commercials now. So what that involved was an enormous amount of supplication and begging. We had a fraction of what they usually get, but luckily they loved the movie and they wanted that song to be in it. We knew Britt Daniel of Spoon from Austin, because we lived there for about 10 years, and he’s just an awesome guy who knows painfully well what it means to be indie.

Do you have an ideal night out in New York?
When I made the film, it would be a very different night out than what I would want now. We were so broke when we were living in New York. I used to live on Stuyvesant in an illegal sublet. I became very neighborhood centric. I would walk across the street to Around the Clock, which is a NYU, 24-hour food place where everything is under $7, that being the key element of acquiring food. We would start there. You can get a full chicken picata for like $7.50, with potatoes and vegetables, actually making my Mom proud that I was eating well. First, actually would start with some liquor at home because you don’t want to be buying drinks out. So you start with liquor at home and then you bring a flask and then you get your friends and you go to personal karaoke on Ave B. You pick one of the random Asian karaoke places, you go in to the room, making sure there are no bodily fluids in the room, then you spend about 2 hours getting drunk and singing Lionel Ritchie tunes. Then we would probably get Australian ice cream, get a two scooper and split it between three people. Everything centers around saving money. Then, walk around Thompson Square Park eating ice cream then end it with a movie at Cinema Village East.

What projects are next for you guys?
Where going to make another small movie like the Puffy Chair. It’ll be a feature but we’re going to keep doing it. We live in LA now and we’ve struck a few deals in Hollywood. But regardless, we’re actually going to make another tiny, little movie this fall because a lot of our friends have gotten caught in development, paid to write things that never get made. We decided a long time ago that we’re in this to make movies. It’s going to be a small movie about desperate LA actors, which is something we know a lot about now. We’re going to shoot it this fall and it probably won’t come out for another year.

Picture of (from left) Mark and Jay Duplass courtesy of the filmmakers.