Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brandon and Mary talk The History of Future Folk with Jeremy Kipp Walker and John Mitchell (re-post from

This is re-post from from 8/19/2013. 

This week NUFEC e-board members Brandon Isaacson and Mary Tobin had a conversation with Jeremy Kipp Walker and John Mitchell, who directed the 2013 release The History of Future Folk. Walker and Mitchell have worked on two short films together, Goodnight Bill and Super Powers. Walker co-directs and produces, while Mitchell co-directs and writes. In addition to working with Mitchell, Walker has co-produced Academy Award nominated film Half Nelson, and produced Sundance Film Festival selections Sugar and Cold Souls.

After premiering at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival, The History of Future Folk played the festival circuit where it won Best Screenplay for a Comedy Feature at Fantastic Fest Film Festival 2012, and the Audience Award at the Philadelphia Film Festival 2012.

You can learn more about the film from our recent review, their website, and their Facebook and Twitter pages.


Jeremy Kipp Walker (left) and John Mitchell (right) at the 2013 Film Independent Filmmaker Grant And Spirit Award Nominees Brunch at BOA Steakhouse on January 12, 2013 in West Hollywood, California

Source: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images North America

NUFEC: It has now been over a year since you documented two brave Hondonians saving the earth. Still, President Obama has not mentioned it in a speech. STILL, there has been no parade. I am deeply sorry for my country’s ignorance. Can you forgive us?

JKW: That’s a great question, and probably best answered by our Future Folk heroes themselves. General Trius…  Mighty Kevin…  What do you say?

General Trius: Hondo.

The Mighty Kevin: Hondo!

General Trius: While we’re very excited to be receiving public recognition for our movie (which recounts our roll in saving Earth and its people) a year and a half does seem like a long time to wait for a parade. 

The Mighty Kevin: We can imagine that those giant keys take a while to cut, though.

General Trius: Yes, and we look forward to receiving the accolades appropriate for a celebration of this magnitude soon. Also, quick FYI, The Mighty Kevin is allergic to confetti.

NUFEC: Future Folk’s stage show is more filled with jokes and less rooted in human narrative and drama. How did you transform their act to be more relatable and adept for a film? What was the biggest challenge in that regard?

JKW: We’ve been big fans of the stage act since they first started in 2004. There is this incredibly charming combination of ridiculous, low-fi space costumes juxtaposed with beautiful and sincere bluegrass music. And the whole thing is interspersed with this funny, sprawling backstory.

JM: That was part of the challenge on the screenwriting side. What worked on stage wouldn’t necessarily always translate to screen so we had to really treat this as an adaptation. The first thing I did was simplify the backstory – partly for storytelling reasons and partly due to budgetary constraints.

JKW: And the other big challenge with the movie was tone. We wanted it to be a comedy and we wanted to preserve the spirit of the stage act for sure, but we knew the movie could devolve pretty quickly if we didn’t try to imbue the film with somewhat grounded characters and emotional stakes. Balancing the absurdity of the movie was something we were very conscious of throughout making it.

NUFEC: You’ve said in previous interviews that there was a real family atmosphere when making this film. How do you think that impacted the decisions you made regarding the screenwriting process? Were you more willing to go crazy because you trusted those you worked with or less willing because you felt an obligation to have the film look a certain way?

JKW: The whole thing was very much a family affair. We didn’t have a lot of money to make it but we did have a lot of goodwill and friends who were willing to help out. We shot it the neighborhood where we live, we used our apartments, the local bar and coffee shop as sets and our friends as extras. We basically took stock of what we had and shaped the story around that. 

JM: And at the end of the day, we’re making a movie about a couple of bucket helmet wearing aliens playing space bluegrass music, so keeping things light and playful on set was important to set the tone. So long as we could get the work done…

NUFEC: This was Nils’ first acting project. Was there any concern there that his inexperience might show on camera?

JKW: Yes, that was a huge leap of faith on everyone’s part. But he trusted us and was willing to do whatever he needed to and he did an amazing job.

JM: And it was also something we worked with on the screenwriting side. Knowing these guys for years, we were able to write the film to their strengths. We knew what each of them could do very well and shaped the movie around it.

NUFEC: Jeremy, how did your experience working on successful indie films such as Half Nelson, Sugar and Cold Souls inform this film? Did you ever reach out to Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck or Sophia Barthes for help with Future Folk?

JKW: Yes, I definitely pulled from all of my experiences and relationships working as an indie-producer all these years in NYC. John and I had directed several short films together that did well on the festival circuit, but taking on a feature film of my own was a daunting task. And while there is often some creative overlap between directing and producing on indies – at the end of the day it’s sort of the difference between being an Uncle or a Father. And this was my first-born feature film, so to speak. But it was really all of the time on my other producing projects that gave me the confidence and experience to know how to co-direct this one.

NUFEC: Evan Saathof at Bad Ass Digest said, “…The History of Future Folk is a film better suited to packed theaters than on lonely, chocolate fingerprinted computer screens. This is a crowd pleaser, so seeing it alone might not be the best idea.”

Do you agree with this sentiment? Why did you put the film on VOD and iTunes almost immediately after releasing it theatrically?

JKW: You bring up a really great point. The movie played around two dozen film festivals for a year before it was released and we got to tour around and watch it at a lot of packed houses across the country and abroad. And seeing it with a large audience is definitely the best experience. It’s a comedy with live music and you feed off the energy better when you see it in a group setting.

JM: But then there’s the reality of getting people to see your movie in a theater when it comes out…

JKW: Exactly. With film festivals they have their own advertising and built in audiences but with our commercial release we had no advertising money so we’re relying on reviews and word-of-mouth to spread awareness. We decided we could reach more people if we released on iTunes and in theaters at the same time so we could take advantage of timing of our reviews. This is the way it’s going for most lower budget indies these days. Although I think it’s definitely better to see the movie in a theater it’s harder to get people out of the house for something without movie stars and huge marketing dollars. At the end of the day way more people have seen our movie on iTunes. Although I wish more people could see it in the theater as it was intended to be seen, we’re so lucky as filmmakers to have these alternative methods of getting the movie in front of audiences.

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