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Laughing At Sea Level

Kevin Maher talks to filmmaker Will Carlough about Batman (his acclaimed short film Robin's Big Date starring Sam Rockwell and Justin Long), his plans to get sued, and the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival.

Kevin Maher talks to filmmaker Will Carlough about Batman (his acclaimed short film Robin's Big Date starring Sam Rockwell and Justin Long), his plans to get sued, and the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival.

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The Brooklyn Underground Film Festival packed the Lyceum Theater for “Oh My God!” an evening of comedy shorts. Program Director Josh Koury says the comedy show always gets a big turnout, and this year was no exception; they were turning droves of people away. Inside, the space was filled with a mix of Brooklyn Hipsters, Posers, Movie Geeks, and even a few Filmmakers.

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Screening highlights included WASHINGTON (a low-budget animated rap video that praised George Washington and his many penises); THE PITY CARD (a story of two guys who picks up girls by getting their sympathy); and ROBIN’S BIG DATE (a super-hero comedy starring Justin Long as a bashful Robin and Sam Rockwell as a cock-blocking Batman.)

Kevin Maher recently caught up with Will Carlough, the writer of ROBIN’S BIG DATE.

Kevin - Let’s start at the beginning – How did you come to make ROBIN’S BIG DATE?

I’ve never made a dime off movies, so in that respect I am underground. Yeah. I am "Ground". I’m not Over ground or Under ground, I’m sea level.

Will - Well I was going to see a movie and I had an hour to kill and I dropped by (Director) James’ place and he said Sam Rockwell and Justin Long said they’d make a movie, whatever he came up with. He had a few days, then they’d give him 3 hours to shoot something. James was working on a story about a guy who likes a girl but he can’t tell her. And I was like “that would be awesome if it was Batman and Robin.”

Kevin - What movie were you going to see?

Will - BON VOYAGE, a French movie. I ended up not seeing it, because I was working on the script.

Kevin - What did the movie cost? What was the most expensive part of the shoot?

Will - The Batman costume was 20 – 30 bucks. We made Robin’s costume out of stuff we had around and a five-dollar leotard. We borrowed everything else, from lighting to camera to everything. The place let us shoot for free. So not that much.

Kevin - You tend to write movies where you’re the star. Were you pleased with Sam Rockwell’s performance as Batman?

Will - No, he’s terrible; I woulda done 20 times better. (laughs) No, he was very good. I had been drawing these stupid BATMAN comics at work, with Batman sitting on a couch, not talking to anybody, just watching TV. So in the first draft he was just grumpy and drinking beer. But if Sam was gonna do this, we worked it where he became the Batman you see in ROBIN’S BIG DATE.

Kevin - How does Rockwell’s Batman compare to the recent portrayal by Christian Bale?

Will - I was very happy that Christian Bale shaved. I think Sam didn’t. If Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell were in a fight as Batman, Sam would win because he wouldn’t show up and he would just be drinking beer at his house and Christian Bale would be left feeling stupid at wherever they were gonna fight.

Kevin - Before your film played Brooklyn Underground it was screened at Sundance – how are those screening experiences different?

Will - Brooklyn Underground was different from Sundance because I wasn’t in the bathroom puking during the screenings. I got the flu at Sundance so I wasn’t really able to enjoy the screenings. In that way, Brooklyn Underground beat Sundance hands down. No puking factor.

Kevin - Have these festivals taught you anything special about the business?

Will - I sorta spent my entire life trying to find fun ways to get sued and I thought ROBIN’S BIG DATE would be the one, where D.C. comics would sue me out of house and home and it didn’t work. My best gettin’ sued idea flopped. But it could still work; at any time they could drop the hammer.

Kevin - Has anyone at D.C. seen the movie?

Will - I showed it to a couple of people who work there, not in any bigwig capacity. They liked it. These would not be the people in charge of suing me. I’m sure a handful have seen it there.

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Kevin - Before getting into the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival had you considered yourself an underground filmmaker?

Will - I suppose so. By underground, it depends what you mean. I think a lot of it is weird and so weird it doesn’t even make sense. But I try to make movies that make a little bit of sense. I’ve never made a dime off movies, so in that respect I am underground. Yeah. I am "ground". I’m not Over ground or Under ground, I’m sea level.

Kevin - You mean SEA level, not “C” level?

Will - Yeah like the ocean, sea. If I had to give myself a letter rating I’d give myself a B+. And an E for effort.

Kevin - What was your favorite movie in the Brooklyn Underground’s comedy showcase?

Will - The George Washington has really stuck with me and I’ve tried to find it online.

Kevin - Are you a fan of viral videos, or would you rather show them with a large audience on a big screen?

Will - Well I’ll tell you, the amount of people who’ve seen it online vastly outnumber the people who’ve seen it at festival venues, and at this point I’ve sent it to a lot of festivals and I’m glad it can be at festivals and that is the ideal thing, to have it shown with people laughing. But when it comes down to it, not many people are seeing festivals, but there are a lot of people at work sending each other stuff online. We got a shout-out in Entertainment Weekly and if people read about it, they can see it online without going to some lame festival. Or some awesome festival.

Kevin - What does the “underground” label mean to you? Is it a badge of honor or a backhanded compliment?

Will - No, it’s descriptive of a certain kind of filmmaking. It describes your process more than the quality or even anything about the film. You don’t have any money, you are working on borrowed stuff, you want to make this movie and you’re not sure how, that’s underground I guess. So neither.

Kevin - Is it weird seeing movies by HBO at an underground film festival? Do movies lose their underground cred when they go mainstream?

Will - If HBO is giving you money to make a movie, you’re not underground. If you’re making a movie in a friend’s restaurant basement, that’s underground. The most underground thing I saw at the festival was the weird thing with Jar Jar Binks at the Gates. (Editor’s note: the movie is Ben Coonley’s THE BEST GIFTS, which I kinda hated.)

Kevin - Would your script have worked as well if it had been animated?

Will - Maybe. If anyone reading this wants to make the animated version, I give you permission and we can find out. And I will only expect a moderate licensing fee.

Kevin - What’s next for Will Carlough?

Will - The guys want to make a sequel to the Batman movie.

Kevin - Can you tell us about it?

Will - All I can say is that it may or may not involve time-travel.