If you’ve had your summer fill of superheroes, action flicks and sequels, there’s an alternative in theaters that's definitely classified as counterprogramming — it’s called “Brigsby Bear.”
It's hard to explain the premise, especially if you want to avoid spoilers. But director Dave McCary describes it this way: "I could say Hal Ashby's 'Being There,' mixed with '[The] Truman Show,' mixed with 'Room,' mixed with 'Elf'.'"
If you can picture that, great. If not, check out the trailer below:
It’s a fish out of water tale about a young man named James (Kyle Mooney) who has lived... what we’ll call a sheltered life. His only connection to the outside world is an educational sci-fi kids show called “Brigsby Bear.” James is so obsessed with the show that when he has a chance, he convinces his friends to make a “Brigsby Bear” movie.
Making the movie within the movie came easy to Mooney, who also co-wrote the script, and to "Brigsby Bear" director Dave McCary. The two have been friends since childhood, growing up in San Diego. They made popular Youtube videos with their comedy group Good Neighbor. Those led them, and their buddy Beck Bennett, to jobs on Saturday Night Live.
When The Frame's John Horn spoke with McCary and Mooney, they discussed their trajectory from childhood friends to YouTubers, on to "SNL" and their first feature film. Below are some highlights of the conversation.
On the origin of the bizarre "Brigsby Bear" idea:
Kyle Mooney: At some point I just became obsessed with the notion of a guy who watches a TV show that's just produced for him. At some point, it expanded into more than that, and the story became more about the world he experiences outside of this show and outside of his own world that we see at the beginning of the film. Dave was living with me, and we would always talk about it. Eventually I pitched it to our buddy Kevin Costello, my co-writer, and we started working on it about... spring of 2013 is when we first started writing it.
On recapturing the feeling of creating their YouTube videos:
Mooney: I loved shooting all of those scenes of James and his friends making their movie. It certainly is a section of the film where it mirrors our experience. We came up together, we made internet videos, eventually got hired by 'Saturday Night Live' and produced this movie. What I like specifically about a lot of those scenes in that section of the film is that a lot of that stuff was improvised. I feel like that part right there was in the script written as 'Aubry and James share a moment while they're shooting the 'Brigsby Bear' movie with friends.'
McCary: We also tried to capture, as we were doing most every scene, the feeling that we had when we were making our skeleton-crew, smaller internet videos for YouTube. It is important to us to have fun and stay loose and not feel the pressure of, 'this has to be accessible to the entire world and this has to make money.' We've never wanted a cent. No, that's not true, but we have definitely always embraced the idea that we want to make each other laugh first and our friends laugh as well.
On how they went from YouTube to SNL:
Mooney: It is all very fortuitous. I went to USC and I met very funny people and I started doing comedy with them. We continued to work with those guys. We eventually started to make videos. Also, YouTube started right as we were getting out of college, and it became this tool for people to showcase themselves. People like the Lonely Island, Human Giant, Tim and Eric, they had videos on the internet and got TV shows out of them. The Workaholics also. So there was this template.
McCary: I would also add, just as people, we're generally pretty meticulous and precious with our work. Not that anything we've ever done is perfect, but I am a perfectionist to a fault, and I'm stubborn, and this is the one avenue of my life where I wouldn't give up just out of knowing that this is the thing — there's nothing else that makes me more fulfilled.
On working on "Saturday Night Live" together:
McCary: We were very fortunate to be hired together [at 'Saturday Night Live'], to Lorne's credit — he saw the value in our relationship and that we both could contribute to the show, along with Beck Bennett, who is another cast member that is a part of our comedy group... So the three of us come in and that show is such a challenge. You can have such high highs and such low lows. If you go into that show alone, without a best bud — which most everyone who goes into that show has that experience — when you have a rough week, it's dismal. You don't have that close friend to go out and have a beer with, who will truly understand what that week felt like... I don't take it for granted. I'm extremely grateful that people have embraced us as collaborators and want us to continue to collaborate.
On the fear that people won't go see their movie:
McCary: It's a constant internal struggle where you see people's reception as so warm and you know that there's something to this film that is connecting with people of all ages... But then you also have this stark realization of it's hard to convince people to come to movie theaters in general. We are trying to crack the code of hoping people will respond to it so emphatically that they have to share with their friends and family. But we're truly nervous.