How Rough House Pictures is reshaping American comedy

The trio’s Rough House Productions help spotlight small films like “Donald Cried”. Here’s how they see their unlikely role in the industry.

Audiences might not realize it, but Rough House Pictures has been a vital force in American cinema for the past decade.

People know Danny McBride as the sarcastic, self-glorifying star of HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” and “Vice Principals” shows, which he created with North Carolina School of the School alumni Jody Hill and David Gordon Green. Arts. But while McBride is the most public face, the three have grown into influential figures in the film industry.

Green and McBride write Blumhouse’s “Halloween” reboot, while Hill wraps up his third film, a comedy starring Josh Brolin. Green has oscillated between the calm southern gothic tales of “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls” to loud comedies like “Pineapple Express”. Hill’s first film, “Foot Fist Way,” caught the attention of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who launched Hill’s television career and gave him the impetus to make his first studio film, “Observe and Report “. Many of their films have become cult hits and even big business hits, but the Rough Team does not aim for infallible betting.

“I don’t want to see movies with the same people,” McBride said. “We have always been willing to find unique and blind people. The stories we tell reflect this. We don’t want to give people what they get elsewhere.

But Rough House’s work goes beyond Hill, McBride and Green. Over the past few years, the company has supported a number of quirky and independent films, such as “The Catechism Cataclysm” and “The Comedy”. This year, they’ve invested resources in Dean Fleisher-Camp’s near-documentary “Fraud”, a questionable and real portrayal of a family swindling their path to success, and “Donald Cried,” the creaky comedy that marks the directorial debut of Kris Avedisian which opens this weekend.

In “Donald Cried,” Avedisian stars as an obnoxious Rhode Island resident who still lives with his family and annoys an old buttoned-up high school pal (Jesse Wakeman). Using crass humor to mask his insecurities, Donald isn’t far removed from McBride’s arrogant and emotionally fragile characters, and the film’s unorthodox mix of humor and melancholy is quite Rough House style. Other recent Rough House projects include “Dayveon”, an opening night selection at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and the Independent Spirit Award nominee “Hunter Gatherer”.

“Donald cried”

You wouldn’t guess all this productivity when visiting their Hollywood offices, a set of cozy rooms in a creaky house that looks more like a college fraternity. Helped by President of Production and Development Brandon James, the founders use their space to develop all of their projects and even maintain an editing studio at a nearby facility.

The relaxed atmosphere is a testament to the autonomy they enjoy when playing in studio and network sandboxes. When I visited them last week, we settled on a couch in McBride’s office, where the actor-writer kicked a coffee table and leaned back in his chair. Hill strummed a few chords on an electric guitar. Green, clad in a hoodie and baggy jeans, made the reunion a part of his schedule before setting out to find a new TV pilot.

We discussed their unlikely trip to the center of the commercial industry on their own terms.

A cohesive team

DAVID GORDON GREEN: Honestly, I can’t say that our dynamic has changed a lot since we were in college. Since then, we’ve been doing this shit together. Over the experiences on the productions that we have had and the people we have collaborated with, we now have such a network of people. Amman Abbasi, who directed “Dayveon”, was my assistant for two years. Josh Locy, who directed “Hunter Gatherer”, was my assistant on “Pineapple Express”. So you start to see how the people who are creatively valuable to us have been empowered. You see how everyone works together in this social way. It’s not often that you see this in the competitive landscape of a Hollywood industry.

Danny McBride, by Daniel Bergeron.  Indiewire.  2015. No PR / No publication on file

Danny mcbride

Daniel Bergeron

DANNY MCBRIDE: In film school, we weren’t in an exciting city like Los Angeles or New York. We were in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and there wasn’t much to do. So during those four years, we just ate, breathed, and experienced movies. Our relationship started with that. In a way, the company was a way for us to keep this discussion going, so we always had the option to sit down and share a cool movie that we saw or a script that we read. I don’t think we ever said it had to be a huge success. It was just about having an office, where we could edit and write our shit so that it was a clubhouse where we could keep this lo-fi approach under one roof.

We’re guys who started taking breaks earlier than some of our friends, but if you were to go to one of the sets, that dynamic of all the people we started dating just got into different departments, whether it’s Richard Wright, the production designer we went to school with, or our editor Jeff Seibenick or our cinematographer Tim Orr. Everyone has diversified so that we can always work together. Going to film school in North Carolina kind of made everyone cheer and help each other out. There was a camaraderie in this group effort that we have always wanted to maintain. On this one you might be playing the part, but on the next one you might be pulling some fucking cables. It was just the idea of ​​working as a unit.

DGG: We concoct a modest way of life. Jody and I are doing commercials on the side. I am doing a TV network driver now. We keep it lo-fi. This is what keeps our ambition honest so that we can do what we want and not spend too much to get there.

Get help doing weird stuff

JODY HILL: Nobody really bothers us at HBO. It’s not that I had a bad studio experience with “Observe and Report”, but I think it just took a while for people to understand what we’re doing. We couldn’t just start and say, “Hey, we’re that big comedy bunch.” These films had to be released for people to pay attention. Now that’s cool because I think no one else does weird and funny things like us.

DGG: If you’re our agents, that’s probably a little tricky. As much as we love the name Rough House and our community to mean anything, our tastes are quite diverse. You can’t say the same about “Eastbound and Down” and “Dayveon”. There is a world where people with similar tastes can enjoy both of these things, but it’s not like Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison stamp that says, “That kind of comedy is what you’ll get.” It’s more that the parts that seem random start to make sense. There is one common thread that people can begin to see subtly.

David Gordon Green

David Gordon Green

Daniel Bergeron

To pass the baton

DGG: As we expand our network with things like “Donald Cried” you see the alien mentality starting to bond with the guys making their first movies that fit our vocabulary. The guys from “Donald Cried” are from Rhode Island and are not part of a traditional industrial structure. Their personalities and their voices work with ours. It becomes a much larger universe. It’s a quieter world, but it’s really fulfilling. We all got on “Donald Cried” after the end because we all loved it. It has repeated viewing value. It’s just a matter of getting people in an arthouse to check it out.

DM: Sometimes the support we provide is just financial, like putting money out of our pocket to help do these things. We could suggest someone come here and edit for free. We just want to be a tool for young filmmakers or for anyone just trying to get their voice heard, even if it’s not an easy sell. At the end of the day, it’s our career. We’re looking for other voices who might have had that struggle to get them through the hoops.

DGG: We are covering the cost of distributing “Hunter Gatherer” in theaters. It is a difficult climate. It’s just a movie that needs it. In my opinion, Andre Royo’s performance and Josh’s directing deserve it. Why not share it in a theatrical context whatever its commercial prospects? It is so easy to find other ways of distributing the films. We think this film should be in theaters.

Andre Royo in Hunter Gatherer


JH: We try to help them in the way we would like to be helped. We have seen what success looks like. It’s just doing something.

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