Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass Discuss Their Directing Style

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Photo Source: Dan Busta
Jay and Mark Duplass are huge fans of those other filmmaking brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen. “I still cry like a baby at the end of ‘Raising Arizona,’ every single time,” Mark Duplass says. But by all accounts, the styles of the pairs differ greatly. “As far as I can tell, we’re diametrically opposed,” Mark says. “I’ve been told they can see the movie in their head, and I believe that. Jay and I are not there to exact; we are there to discover. So much of our films are shaped in the editing. It’s a lot like a documentary, trying to find the most inspired stuff.”

Because they work with a loose, improvisational style, the Duplass brothers are consistently described as part of the mumblecore movement, a designation that doesn’t thrill them. “Our goal is not to make a movement; we just want to make a movie that doesn’t suck,” says Jay Duplass. “That was our goal in making ‘The Puffy Chair,’ which supposedly was part of kicking off this movement. We also feel it can be a little bit limiting because we’re trying to reach a lot of people with our audience, and we feel like a lot of the mumblecore ethics don’t really apply to our films. For instance, no one really mumbles in our movies. And Mark and I are obsessed with plot—we’re very plot heavy. And there’s no malaise with our characters; they’re some of the most desperate, hyperactive people in the world. So it’s an odd thing to be considered part of the movement.”

Asked about their directing style, Mark talks of something called “the Duplass Sandwich.” He explains, “We’re very complimentary. Jay will be on one side, I’ll be on the other, and we give people lots of love and compliments. I believe in positivity.” At the same time, they’re not pushovers. “We’re also ruthless when it comes to getting good stuff and will never leave set until we get it,” Mark says. “Sometimes that really pisses off the studio and our producers because they’ll be like, ‘Guys, we gotta make the day, we gotta make the day.’ Everybody’s fucking obsessed with making the day. It’s like, Great, we make the day and make a shitty movie, or maybe we won’t make the day and we’ll actually make a good scene. We’re nice, good Catholic boys until we’re not. And we’re very protective of the art, and we can be pretty ruthless when that gets threatened.”

Mark Duplass will be on the cover of the June 21 issue of Back Stage, on newsstands on Thursday!