The Los Angeles United Film Festival -- part of a series of United film festivals that also takes place in San Francisco, Tulsa, Chicago, New York, and London -- calls itself "a film festival for everyone, a place where art and community converge." After founding the Tulsa United Film Festival seven years ago, filmmaker Jason Connell began the Los Angeles festival in 2007, and this year promises to bring a diverse collection of feature-length narratives and documentaries (many of them Los Angeles premieres) to audiences.
Opening up the festival at the historic Vista Theatre on April 30th is Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong, which covers the fascinating and fast-growing underground sport of beer pong. The Shark is Still Working, a captivating documentary about one of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters of all time, Jaws, just added a third screening on Sunday, May 3rd after the first two screenings sold out. Other films screening at the festival are The Perfect Cappuccino, Super High Me, Secrets to Love, Abraham Obama, Rock-a-fire Explosion, and Faded Glory.
Closing out the festival on May 7th is a screening of Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser, a Canadian mockumentary which brings to life the world's quickly-growing obsession with Rock, Paper, Scissors. Last year, filmmakers Tim Doirion and April Mullen embarked on their "Tosser Tour", bringing their unique, fresh, and quirky film to students on Canadian college campasses across the country. When their tour made it to Vancouver, our own Mark McLeod met up with the "tossers" for an interview, calling them "two of the most passionate film people I've ever met." Below are highlights from that interview.
Mark McLeod: First off, how did you come up with the idea for the movie?
Tim Doirion: We were going to school in Toronto at the time and we found out there was a real Rock Paper Scissors World Championship that is held every year in downtown Toronto, and we thought what if we made a film about a guy that takes playing RPS way too seriously? But then we started looking into it and found out there's a massive sub-culture of people who play RPS. Then a light bulb went off.
April Mullen: It's basically the perfect subject for a film. It's a universal theme. It's known all over the world, it's ageless, and there are no language barriers. Every culture plays it, so why not make an international film about it. Plus, as filmmakers, it also gave us a really great hook to get us out there and help with international sales.
MM: So up until that point you weren't really aware of the sub-culture thing?
AM: We were aware of the game. I played it as a kid.
TD: We'd play around with it and stuff. I think that was the moment we realized it was more than just a game and that an entire world exists around it.
MM: It's something that you wouldn't outwardly think there'd be a huge world around, but then once you hear about it, it makes perfect sense.
AM: Before the film, we went and entered some competitions to research the characters and see what it was all like. We were just BLOWN away. I remember going to the championships and both of us were so nervous. Everyone was dressed up and we really decided that this was such great material for building a feature film.
TD: The cool thing about RPS is that it's sort of bubbling under the mainstream. Remember a couple years back when poker took off? RPS is going to be that way.
AM: It's been in Grey's Anatomy... it really is getting ready to explode. And we're going to be first! Soon we'll have a Celebrity Rock Paper Scissors show with Al Pacino and Gwyneth Paltrow doing a toss off.
MM: You had the world premiere of the film in England before debuting it back over here. How has the audience reaction differed between overseas and North America?
AM: There are so many different layers and types of humour in the film. The UK loved the film -- the dry humour and the wit and the really intelligent script writing.
TD: Then, of course, there's the innuendo with the word "Tosser" that really flies well with them. But it is a totally different reaction with an English audience and a North American audience. Over here, audiences seem to respond to the slapstick a lot more, with the falling down.
AM: We're ecstatic though. We won the Best Feature at the Cambridge Film Festival. We won the Audience Top Pick, which is the same award Broken Flowers and Volver won, and we couldn't believe we were put in a category like that with our first feature. They really loved Tosser. We sold out all the screenings and got a bonus screening as well.
MM: The humour in the film does seem to go both ways, as I find myself reacting to more of the dry wit type humour than the more sort of juvenile slapstick stuff.
TD: I think that's one of the best things about it. It has that dry witty humour, but then it goes all the way to the other side with the sort of toilet humour as well. Something for everybody. I'm personally a fan of the sort of more intelligent humour, though getting to fall on screen was a lot of fun.
MM: There's a recurring joke in the film about the fact that both your characters share the same last name, but aren't related. Can you give me a bit of the background behind that joke?
TD: That goes back to the fact that I'm from the east coast (of Canada) originally, back in New Brunswick, which is hilarious because everyone there has the last name Brewer or Moorhouse. You can literally go down a road and the mailboxes are labelled Brewer, Brewer, Brewer, Moorhouse, Brewer...
MM: I take it there's a lot of inbreeding going on there?
TD: I think so.
AM: Very funny, but true.
MM: I've had a lot of run-ins with various people in the business through my work with the website and other interests, and I must say I've never had a stranger first meeting than the other day when I arrived in the student union building and there Tim is tossing in front of a couple kids and their parents. Are you guys having a blast playing the characters on the road?
TD: It's pretty special. We're actors first and that's where we started. It's really nice when you get to go out and get dressed up and host a tournament.
AM: People just have such great respect when they see a poster come to life. We are the filmmakers and they can ask us any questions and it's really made the tour very successful so far. The alternative, zany distribution we decided to do -- which is going coast to coast -- has been really successful in bringing the movie to the people instead of just sending the film out there blindly. It's been a really great adventure and we're pleased with the results thus far. The tournaments have gone off better then we could have expected, and people are ready and they know the film. It's this huge culture that's really taking off -- they come up with their own tossing.
TD: It's cool too because when we do dress up, people can sort of let loose a bit.
MM: Obviously I write for the internet, and you guys are all over the web. How important is the internet for you guys?
TD: It's changing the face of how things are done for independent artists. It's pretty much a necessity nowadays. It's an easy way to get yourself out there to a lot of people.
AM: Especially on a tight budget. Most of the stuff we've done on the web hasn't cost us nearly as much as what it's costing us to travel and arrive with the movie in person. We've benefited greatly. Word of mouth sort of just happens, too. Our trailer is up to 45,000 hits and we're not even sure how it happened. Word spreads like fire and it just keeps going up. It's also so easy for me to access information -- people just send a link and it gets sent to other friends, and more friends, and then it just builds. It's really helped us a lot. We just bit the bullet and got a Facebook group, and it's scary how much people use that website. But it's been a good thing for us because now we have a huge following on the Facebook group, although thank God I'm using an alias and not my real name.
MM: Now I got sort of a Christopher Guest vibe from the movie. Who were some of your influences when making the film?
TD: Well, a lot of people have been picking up on that, and definitely we're thankful for that. Aside from that, I'm a big fan of PT Anderson.
AM: Woody Allen and his very natural dialogue, and he's really focused on the characters and they have strong arcs. It was important for me to have strong characters we totally believed, and at no times do we make fun of the sport of Rock Paper Scissors. We broke into the world of the tosser and that's where the whole film is at.
MM: Now you've mentioned characters a lot, and one question I do like to ask everyone is that if you had to describe your character in one word, what would it be and why?
TD: My character, Gary Brewer, one word... hmmm... "determined" or "tunnelvision". I think Gary tries so hard and he has these ideas and he really has a big heart.
AM: I can't really think of a word for Holly, but it would be like a sound effect like "MEEEP". She really lives in the moment and loves life and whatever is happening, she'll support Gary.
MM: Any final thoughts for our readers?
AM: We love the film. It's our first feature and we're really proud of it and hope that audiences will give it a chance.
The third annual Los Angeles United Film Festival, held at the historic Los Feliz 3 Cinemas, runs April 30 - May 7, and closes with a screening of Rock Paper Scissors: The Way of the Tosser on Thursday, May 7th @ 9:30pm. You can get tickets to the screening, as well as more information on other films playing the festival, at www.theunitedfest.com/losangeles.
Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)