Sundance is always a place to stumble upon talented new filmmakers and Matt Spicer is one such discovery. His feature directorial debut Ingrid Goes West, co-written with David Branson Smith, is a unique take on the social media and hipster generation.
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) has a history of social media obsessions. She maces a wedding bride in the opening scene for not inviting her to the wedding, when Ingrid only knows her from a comment on social media. Once Ingrid finds a new Instagram obsession (Elizabeth Olsen), she moves to Los Angeles to meet her and fit in with her hipster friends, renting an apartment along the way from Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr.).
Spicer is also writing the screenplay to The Rocketeers, the long-awaited movie sequel to 1991’s The Rocketeer, with his other writing partner Max Winkler. cinemathread spoke with Spicer at Sundance about his directorial debut and upcoming blockbuster.
cinemathread: Was this your statement on the artificiality of L.A.?
Matt Spicer: I’m not from L.A. but it’s my home now. I’ve always kind of felt like an outsider there so I think I have an interesting perspective on the city, even though I love it but there are things about it that are still funny and weird to me even all these years later.
CT: Hipsters and social media are fairly new, aren’t they?
MS: Yeah, I guess. The Grateful Kitchen thing is kind of like a new thing. It’s definitely shaped L.A. culture specifically. I feel like everyone comes to L.A. to make their way and build their brand, so it’s become such a big part of the culture out there for sure.
CT: Is there a fine line you have to work because social media stalking is a real thing and you don’t want to make too light of it?
MS: When Aubrey and I first sat down to talk about the film, we knew that were making a comedy but we knew there was a line to cross where it would feel like we’re making fun of people with mental illness or we’re making light of stalking and serious stuff. We tried to approach it with a truthfulness that nothing came too far out of reality. We wanted the movie to feel crazy and unpredictable but we didn’t want it to spiral out into cartoon world. It’s a fine line but I think through editing and rewriting as we were going, I think we found a good balance.
CT: Had you always thought about macing a bride?
MS: No. That is horrible. I honestly can’t tell you where that came from. I’d have to ask my cowriter, Dave. Maybe he came up with that one. We knew we wanted to start the movie off with in media res. We’re seeing the end of another story that we don’t really know all the details of, and then we pick up at the beginning of the new story about Taylor.
CT: You mentioned some deleted scenes at the screening Q&A. What were some that didn’t make the cut as you found the right tone?
MS: The hardest one to drop was a scene where they’re at the house with the pool party. They do a table read of Pinto’s Batman script. It’s one of my favorite scenes but unfortunately when we put it all together and started showing it to people, it made the movie feel too long so we had to lose it. You see the tail end of it but the sad part is the reveal is that Dan is actually a great writer and everyone loves it. Ingrid is mortified. She thinks it’s going to be so embarrassing. They finish the script and everyone’s like, “That was genius, you’re incredible.” She’s written him off a little bit so I was sad to lose that side of Pinto. It seems everyone likes Pinto anyway so it’s okay.
CT: Was the Catwoman sex scene even racier?
MS: They had great chemistry. We were reacting to what the actors were doing as we were shooting so we were rewriting as we were going and really trying to live in the moment. Aubrey and him had great chemistry. Things kind of got crazier from how they were in the script but I think it came out even better than how I originally envisioned it.
CT: Why was Batman Forever Dan Pinto’s favorite?
MS: I’m a huge Batman fan also. Even though Batman Forever is not my favorite of the Batman films, it came out at a time, I think I was in fifth grade and it was such a pivotal film at the time for me. I had my first kiss. I went on my first date to Batman Forever. It was always an important film. I had the soundtrack. It was such a big deal. I’ve always had a soft spot for that film even hough it’s not a great film by any means.
CT: What made Ingrid your first script to go to direct?
MS: I think it was maybe just a combination of luck and people felt there was a timeliness to the subject matter. The movie felt like it needed to be made right now and it did come together really quickly. I’ve been trying to direct a film for a few years now with not much luck. Things would come close and then not quite get there. I think there was an urgency to this because of the social media aspect of it that I think people really latched onto and helped propel the movie forward in a way that was really great but unexpected.
CT: Actually directing your first film, what surprised you?
MS: There were a lot of surprises on this one. We lost one of our days to a wildfire in Santa Clarita. Our set burned down and we had to evacuate. I walked through a glass door one day, had to go to the hospital. It was like something out of a Wes Anderson film. I smashed through a whole window pane of glass and then froze, turned around, the whole crew was standing there, mouths open, couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Shine ‘em up real good, polish those glass windows” and then just blasted through it like the Kool-Aid man.
CT: How were you able to film in Los Angeles? Did you qualify for the tax credit?
MS: No, we didn’t qualify. It mostly goes to big TV shows and big movies which makes sense because they employ more people. It definitely is not easy. We shot a lot in Venice and Venice is really tough. You have to go around, knock on doors, get signatures to be allowed to shoot in certain areas. People try and extort money from you and make noise until you pay them off. It was intense.
CT: Did you have to pay people off?
MS: No comment. One of the houses we were shooting at, they had a doggy day care in their backyard which we didn’t realize when we scouted. So the AD had to make what he called burrito bombs. He wrapped pepperoni and cheese and he’d lob them over the fence when we were rolling. So we’d call action, he’d lob the thing, all the dogs would run after it and they wouldn’t bark while we were doing the take. Then we’d finish and the dogs would start yapping and barking. We’d call action, he’d throw another one over.
CT: Is any instance of Instagram or texting a post production effect?
MS: We did shoot some of it practically but some stuff, because we shot the movie out of order, we hadn’t shot the Instagram yet that she’s looking at so we had to do it in post.
CT: To do it live did you have to create all those accounts?
MS: Yeah, we own all those actual Instagram accounts that we use in the film.
CT: Have they been operating virally at Sundance?
MS: We’re kind of saving that. We’re hoping that we get bought by a distributor so we’re hoping that they’ll be able to use that as a sales tool when the movie gets released.
CT: Are you as passionate about The Rocketeer as you are about Batman?
MS: Rocketeer is such an important movie to me. As a kid, those were my two favorite superheroes were The Rocketeer and Batman. So I got to make my Batman movie. It was a dream come true to get The Rocketeer also because I’ve always loved that film. I think there’s definitely more to that universe that hasn’t been explored.
CT: Are you drawing a lot from the comics or inventing new stuff?
MS: It’s a new story but we’re pulling a lot of stuff from the comics. So there’ll be a lot of familiar characters and we’ll show where some of the characters have been. It takes place a little bit later, I think 10 years later.
CT: Does that put it in the ‘50s?
MS: In the ‘50s, yeah. It’s Cold War atomic age stuff.
CT: Is the female rocketeer a new character?
MS: Yes, but hopefully captures the spirit of the original rocketeer.
CT: Of course we all hope we see Cliff Secord again somehow.
MS: You’ll definitely find out where they’ve been in the last 10 years.