AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR OF AMERICAN RESCUE SQUAD, ELLIOT DIVINEY

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American Rescue Squad  Look out, comic book fans, because Elliot Diviney gives the superhero genre a good ribtickling with his new comedy, 'American Rescue Squad'. Luckily, we -- that's the royal 'we' -- spoke to the filmmaker about his movie ahead of it’s premiere at the NOVA Film Festival. Here. Check it out. 





1) Where’d this great idea come from?   It started as a series of emails between my brother Adam and me. He's in Chicago, and I was in Minneapolis at the time (I'm now in LA). We would send each other different "sketches" and jokes for superheroes living in a political world. We were just trying to make each other laugh. This was about a year and a half before the 2012 presidential election, so politics had taken over the media. Eventually, we compiled all of our ideas and sketches, and realized we had enough for a feature film. I had dabbled with musical numbers in my last film, "Potpourri," and had enjoyed that part of the process very much. Adam and I knew this one would have to be a musical as well. It seemed to perfectly fit the style we were going for. We met one weekend that summer and hammered out the screenplay.

American Rescue Squad Festival Ad
2) Did you have to be careful not to tread on territory that other similar-themed satires had done before – like Superhero Movie and Mystery Men?   It's always a fine line you walk, as a filmmaker, between paying homage to movies that have come before yours, and completely ripping off movies that have come before yours. We always hope for the former. With this project, we felt that even though our screenplay reminded us many other movies, the blend of genres we were going for hadn't really been done before. There have been plenty of political satires, but few that also include kung fu, animation, and a rap solo. At the end of the day, we really just wanted to make a whacky, live-action version of "Team America." We also wanted the tone of the comedy to match something like Naked Gun, where a deadpan Leslie Nielsen-style delivery could make some outrageous scenario or a sight gag that much more hilarious. We wanted everything to be tongue-in-cheek absurd, like an SNL sketch.

3) I’m guessing the research part of the film was fun? How many comic book movies did you sit down and watch before writing the movie?   Because the film had so many different flavors and ingredients, the research had to include a wide variety of films. We had a great time. We had to reference musicals, kung-fu movies, cartoons, superhero movies, satires, comedies, ensemble pieces, and more. Bryan Singer's X-Men movies were always favorites of mine. I tried to bring a sense of that to the action and fight scenes, while maintaining a tone of something closer to The Incredibles.

4) And what are the films that had the greatest influence on the script?   Adam and I are both obsessed with South Park. The way that show deals with ideas, topics, and political correctness never fails to impress. We wanted to tackle some difficult topics with humor, and with music, and nobody does that better than Trey and Matt. Adam and I are also obsessed with Big Trouble in Little China, Bill and Ted, Willow, and and Indiana Jones. I think those all influenced American Rescue Squad in one way or another. I have also enjoyed many a political rant by Adam Carolla. I love his attitude, conviction, and carefree attitude, when talking about sensitive issues. He doesn't back down. I thought this movie needed a little bit of that "grit." Most conversations about politics are censored, for fear of hurting someone's feelings. I knew this movie could not fall into that category. It had to be loud and obnoxious.

5) You were obviously a big fan of the ‘60s Batman. Is that correct in assuming?   Adam and I grew up watching the old Batman TV show. Back then, it was the coolest thing ever. By today's standards, it's a joke. What does that say about today's standards? Part of returning to that style came from working with a very limited budget. We can't afford to make a costume like something out of Dark Knight, but we can do a cheesy costume, and then a little wink to the audience that we're in on the joke. I always like to show off my limitations in budget, as opposed to trying to hide them. The movie is sometimes offensive, but we really just want to make the audience laugh and have a good time. By ramping up the camp factor, I think it helps the audience to lower their inhibitions a bit by realizing the whole thing is silly. It's a farce.




6) Did you have to be careful not to dress your character ‘too much’ like The Penguin, for legal reasons, or is there no probs there?   We had a very wonderful costume designer, Hannah Eustis. She designed all the costumes based on the script alone. We gave her a few notes, and then she got to work building them. Luckily, there's quite a bit of gray area when it comes to copyright and costumes. Generally, as long as you're not showing any logos or symbols, you're ok. Almost every character in the movie is a stereotype for some group in society. That, coupled with the fact that it's an ensemble cast, forced us to use costume design as a way to quickly visually identify every character.

American Rescue Squad7) How did you cast? Was it an open audition process?   Some actors were reprising roles from previous movies we had don. Others we knew in town but had never worked with before. Minneapolis has a very small film community, so you kind of know who everyone is after you do a movie or two there. We also had a big casting call, because we were looking for people of all ages. Everyone had to audition, even our friends. Even those that weren't cast as principle actors were invited back to be extras.

8) Did part of the audition involve the actors trying on the costumes so you could see how they look?   The casting came before the costumes were designed. Looks, however do have a lot do do with the auditions. We didn't know Roger Wayne, but when he came in and read for Common Sense, we knew he was perfect. He was tall and physically intimidating, and looked like a classic, '50s style superhero. He's like a Rock Hudson or Christopher Reeves. Once we had our cast assembled, we sent Hannah the measurements and she got to work on the costumes.



American Rescue Squad

9) What was the most challenging part of doing this movie?     The entire process of making the movie was actually a lot of fun. It was a ton of work, without very limited resources, on a very tight schedule, but we had a great time. The hardest part has been trying to get people interested in and excited about the movie. We're, for the most part, self-taught filmmakers, and the business and marketing side of the industry is something that we don't have a lot of experience doing. It's definitely not my strong suit, and we're learning the hard way, that it's the most important part of making movies. You can have the best movie ever, but it won't really matter if nobody has seen it. Luckily, the internet makes everything a lot easier.

10) 2015 prediction: What’s going to be the best comic book movie this year?   "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is my favorite, of course, as I absolutely loved the first one, and pretty much everything Marvel has done in the last 10 years. Speaking of Marvel, the new Ant-Man trailer just dropped, and I must admit, it looks pretty fucking badass!


Well, will he be right? Or will he be wrong? Stay tuned, comic book fans. Or else, just stay alive. Wink-Wink!