Friday, March 27, 2015

Jizzly Bear - April Fool's Day Premiere

Theatrical release at the Main Art

Hysterical, surreal, irreverent… These words get thrown around too willy nilly.
You have to experience this film... And man... It's a weird one. And a fun one... Well... there are a lot of adjectives you could throw at it...

But the first feature film from a local production company, A Casket Full Of RoughDrafts, is a tripped-out, horrorshow of a screwball comedy. It’s a fever-dream frolic into absurdity that almost dares you to laugh, with zaney lines delivers sa serious-as-a-heart-attack with our three wide-eyed heroes, in the middle, trying to fathom the terror(s) that they've unleashed

 Now, if I tell you that this film is titled Jizzly Bear, then your imagination is going to run more rampant than a greased-up, jet-pack-fired Tasmanian devil down an icy luge track. Is there a bear in this film? Yes. Are there certain bodily emissions?  Considerable amounts, yes. But what’s it about?

“I think it’s about friendship…, but there is A LOT of other stuff happening,” said Eric Kozlowski, who plays Burt. “I think you’d have to see it to understand it.”

Jizzly Bear is a vaudevillian fumble-dance through a beautifully nightmare-ish vision of the rural woods of Michigan where a lovable loser winds up unintentionally warping the laws of both biology and zoology, to one day let loose a murderous supernatural new species onto his unsuspecting neighbors (who all thought he was kind of a weirdo, anyway…)  

“It is a truly original comedy-adventure-abstract-real life-animation,” said Allison Laakko, who plays the lead role, Sam. The multifaceted actress, singer and artist donned a collared shirt, slacks and a mustache to transform into the socially-anxious Sam.

Imagine if the Marx Brothers were raised inside the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and met up with a script that was equal parts David Lynch - John Waters with the confetti giggle of Rip Taylor... or if David Cronenberg made a more saccharine Saturday Morning Cartoon... 
That's Jizzly Bear

The film was written and directed by Norman DePlume and produced by Lee Drexel and also stars Jason Glasgow. Jizzly Bear began filming in early summer of last year, in various locations around the state, as far north as the Upper Peninsula and as close by as the end of the street where Laakko lives in metro Detroit.

“I would describe this film as an endearing, comedic, artistic masterpiece…” said Glasgow, who plays Allan, the third friend and fellow hunter of the trio at the center of the film’s escapades. “It’s very easy to fall in love with Sam and Allan and Burt. It’s like the movie Easy Money but with extra inappropriate hilarious content.”

The trio embodies your everymen-type, blue-collar-ish, beer-drinking, heavy-rock music digging dudes who recreationally camp and hunt and fish and experiment with strange new fashion trends from time to time. Sam is the black sheep of the group, geeky yet endearing, just trying not to step on anyone’s toes, let alone an angry grizzly bear’s claws. Allan’s kinda the action-man of the group, the one who might just shoot first, keeping his ear to the ground with a ready-for-anything-intensity. Burt’s a bit more laid back, a little more swagger yet sagely at the same time. I bet he’s into meditation when he’s not hunting bears, but that’s for another movie…

The center of the film is Sam and his predicament with this “Jizzly Bear…”

To be blunt, it's a bit of a trip....  

There are a lot of breathtakingly beguiling sequences in this film, strange non-sequiturs and seemingly anarchic bits exuberantly take over a scene from time to time, with explosive, bawdy and just downright trippy results… But DePlume’s script and direction always brings it back to the focal points, that being the bond between our three main characters and, particularly, the rubber-faced, theatrics of Laako’s impressionistic performance.

As Laakko describes it, back in the spring of 2014, DePlume and fellow filmmaker James Hall were discussing “that age old question…” of what was one’s weirdest masturbation location they could recall? The pair of them started snickering and shouting “Jizz Bear” to everyone within earshot (…since, the film wound up centering around a character pleasuring oneself inside a deerblind out in the woods, with a precocious grizzly bear near the proverbial splash zone). “I was immediately thrilled at the notion of making a bear suit,” Laakko recalls.

Tell us more about the initial reactions you had to this script…
Well, once Norm has his hooks in a ripe idea there's no turning back-the very next night there came all at once a whirlwind of poo and jizz where he sat at his dining room table, and no more than three hours later- when the chaos finally settled down and the crazed laughter and shouts subsided - I knew then that he had really done it this time! A truly original potty humor masterpiece. We read it over and over- we laugh- we cried- we danced tribal dances around his was a glorious sight to behold.

I hadn't originally planned on playing the main character- just peripherals, the bear, the role of prop-maker-art-department-extraordinaire, but after more than a month had gone by and they still hadn't found the main character, I was asked and happily took on the challenge to play Sam.

Glasgow: I’ve never read a book or story the first time and thought it was as funny as Jizzly Bear. Early on, I had no idea I’d be playing Allan and when Norm asked me if I would play him he said to me, “You’ll be playing Allan, the guy who wears the…….”   You’ll have to see the movie because I can’t give out the secret.   After that day, I read the script countless time trying to be the best Allan I could be.
Kozlowski: The script only took (DePlume) a few days to write. It started as a joke. I read it in one night and couldn’t stop laughing. I was blown away that (DePlume) took one drunken joke and turned it into an entire movie.

Tell us about the experience of making your own movie, your first movie? How DIY was it, actually?
Kozlowski: Shooting was insane! None of us had ever shot a movie before but that didn’t stop us; we were going to make a feature one way or another. Our good friend Scott West, who films events for a living, helped us a lot. He shot the first scene, which was the biggest help because we got to see him work. It was very DIY and (Laakko) was fantastic in that department. Nobody working on this movie only had one job.
Laakko: I was very excited at the challenge of making a bear suit, and a half-man half-bear-suit right from the start, but had absolutely no experience in the field of elaborate animal costume making.
[After some Googling, Laako was able to learn integral aspects from the works of “Furies,” passionate folk who create elaborate homemade animal costumes for quirky, communal conventions].

I was able to find a couple of tutorials that I loosely followed to make my suit, along with trial and error and a continuous viewing of the documentary, "Bears". I first figured out how to make a plaster cast of my head, to ensure the costume fit perfectly, (which took a whole month and a room covered with plaster to get right) and loosely formed the body around a mannequin we conveniently picked up on a whim many months back. All in all it took the duration of the summer to make the suit; using fake fur, upholstery foam, miles of hot glue, and various types of paint. After that I made another man-bear head with a latex cast of my face surrounded by fur…

I don't think there's a single work of art that I've put more time into and I fully intend to make more suits soon - strictly for movie making, not Furry conventions.

I also happily took on the roll of mad scientist in the kitchen until I had the perfect formulas for all of the prop bodily excretions (all vegan of course: mostly cocoa powder, flour and some other fun grains and such for texture). I made Allan's hairpiece with this chocolately dough- and painted Burt's portrait with brownie mix.

I had a lot of help making the cave in our basement. It's amazing how many unorthodox art supplies you can find at the hardware store

Glasgow: As far as the sets and the costumes and all of the accessories, we have to give a big thank you to Allison Lakko.  She made the bear, by hand!  The last scene of the movie, the cave- yea Allison did that too.  We helped obviously, but she did 90% of it- which when you see the movie, you would have no idea where it was shot.  A truly amazing experience, not only to do this, but it was all made by hand.  Check out the Psychic scene, all done by Allison as well.

Allison, can you talk about playing a boy?
It's extremely liberating playing a boy- to only think about being funny, not worrying at all about looking "Good" in front of a camera the way someone might when the character is more of a representation of their true self. I'm very comfortable in my own skin and virtually unaffected by the idea of "making a fool of myself" in daily life, but putting on the man-suit made it even easier to be utterly ridiculous in any scenario.

I've always been a character, I suppose you could say- head in clouds- recorded my own language on a cassette recorder when I was 7 and ran around singing pretend opera all day long, dress-up was a regular routine and the Lawrence Welk Show and Nick at Night were big influences on my childhood. (DePlume) likes to compare my antics to Lucile Ball, which is only fitting considering that she was an idol of mine growing up.

What was the strangest or funniest experience from making this film?
Kozlowski: Everything! …I have heard these jokes a thousand times and still laugh. One scene sticks out: we were in the forest. Our friends Theresa and Kristi came out to help. I never thought I would see my friends throwing fake poo at me while someone filmed it.

In the woods, we were approached by a park ranger asking what we were actually doing and luckily he happened to pop up on us before we were all covered in a …messy situation. The most fun scenes to film were the deerblind and then in the cave…

Have you been out in the woods with a group of your closest friends and all of a sudden, in broad daylight, decided to completely soak three of them in buckets and buckets of brown stuff? How about getting a huge bowl of white stuff dumped all over your body while donning balloons for boobs in a black, fog-filled room streaked with rainbow strobe-lights, while a life-sized penguin looked on from one corner of the room and an old man with a long white beard gazed from the other corner? Some would call that their worst nightmare, some the best dream they ever had and others, still, would compare it to their worst acid trip. For us, it was just another day on the set of Jizzly Bear!

This being everyone’s first film, what, then was the most fulfilling or rewarding moment for you? When did you realize that this was actually going to come together?
Kozlowski: I think some of our friends that knew we were doing this just thought it wasn’t going to happen. Just, something we were going to joke around with and not complete. (DePlume), Allison, Jay and myself knew from the beginning this was going to be made.

I never had any doubt that we would finish the thing, but Norm’s decision to do the editing himself was a wonderful surprise to us all that really quickened the pace and made it all the more exciting, surprising, and fulfilling to see what we had done, an actual movie we made together. Finishing an actual full length real, great, hilarious movie together. There has been nothing more rewarding and nothing more motivating for me than that. Finishing a real work of art as a team and having the time of our lives doing it.

I routinely examined and practiced every scene and every line at home in order to be ready for shooting.  I was super concerned with just not screwing up my lines, but I took this very seriously. 

The circumstances of the plot, the action, the dialogue, are crazy funny, yet everyone delivers their lines with such sincerity…
Laakko: First of all, when you take something like this at face value- I mean really believe and understand where Norm was going with the script - it becomes less of a challenge and more of an attempt to make the pages come to life-  it was all right there in this masterfully written script. It's really what fueled the whole project in my opinion. 

Secondly, I don't have years of theater experience under my belt, but the acting classes that I took at OCC were perhaps the most valuable, enlightening, and useful classes that I've ever taken. I would recommend that EVERYBODY take acting classes at some point in there lives whether or not they ever have a desire to act; not because you'll learned some technique on how to project your voice to a crowd, but because you will learn techniques that may help you to FEARLESSLY EMBRACE your voice, to be ok with it being heard in the first place.

Theater, acting, this type of make-believe, this type of "playing" - it's such a release: it is the most incredible therapy for anyone involved because it forces you to confront vulnerability, to express yourself in deeply emotional ways, big and small, to be the center of attention- all in front of a group of peers doing to same thing right after you.

The number one fear of all people is presenting in front of a group, and I overcame that in a huge way because of acting classes.  Also! Laughter is maybe the best reward of it all-I'll never forget a specific moment when I was acting out a made up scene in front of class. I was a (male) art teacher doing some exaggerated character work and my teacher laughed out loud at some faces I made. I'll never forget the feeling that gave me. Being the cause of laughter, creating that sound because you meant to-it's such a joyful feeling! I don't know if I ever said it, but (thank you Diane Hill! Your gift teaching theater has been invaluable to my life.)I hope she can make it to the movie!

I never once thought during the entire process of the movie that I was an actor or acted like an actor. I wanted to portray the vision in my head as I saw it from reading the script. Looking back on it now I equate it to a form of tunnel vision, such as your favorite guitarist taking you on a journey or a pitcher throwing a no hitter- autopilot to say. That's how ALLAN felt to me, a person with lines to deliver- put them all together and it tells a story. That story was written by Norm. I'm excited for what's next, and even if I only have 4 lines in the next one-  guaranteed it will deliver an awesome story. For the love of art.

Kozlowski: I think us being good friends in real life really helped the sincerity of these characters come across on screen.  I am very happy with the way the casting happened.

Laakko: I feel that if a person is passionate, committed, and serious about what they're creating, there's no way to fail at it short of giving up. BUT! the outcome may not always be what you expected. It's a natural progression for the artist- you have the idea: what you picture it looking like in the end, the execution of said Idea: actually making the damn thing, and the final outcome: the finished product.

The more time, effort, and attempts made towards that idea, A: the closer the finished product may mirror the initial idea, and B: the more that initial idea will morph into something greater than you ever expected it could become. I feel that that is exactly what happened with this movie for everyone involved- the final outcome could have never been predicted and was greater than any of us could have imagined. We had no idea what to expect, yet we pushed forward with progress fueled momentum until the last scene was filmed.

Norm taught us all about the importance of self propulsion through setting phantom deadlines. I don't think we would have ever finished without him making sure we stuck to timeline we originally planned on for the most part.

Then after we celebrated filming the final scene, Norm surprised us and saved the day once again by making the decision to blindly tackle editing the movie himself with nothing to go on but a natural knack for creating an amazing  rhythm with sound and vision; and a detail oriented precision that only years of creating in other fields could have taught him.

Laakko: None of us could have imagined the end result - funnier than we had even realized, yet also carrying with it an austerity and an earnestness that couldn't have been written in, even though the script was very precisely followed.

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