Our love for all things Red Letter Media is well documented on this webzone. We’ve had the good fortune of interviewing Mike Stoklasa and Jocelyn Ridgely in the past and are in the process of putting something pretty special together for NY Comic Con 2011 with the guys behind Mr. Plinkett and Feeding Frenzy. We finally got some time with the other half of Red Letter Media and the co-host of the brand new internet Move Review show; Half in the Bag, enjoy our chat with Jay Bauman already in progress . . .
I flat out freaking LOVED your performance in Feeding Frenzy. It was so laid back and at the same time literally RIDICULOUS that I actually had to rewind because I was laughing so hard. You reminded me of those old SCTV skits with Joe Flaherty. Was Martin your first choice of roles in the film? I mean if you’re going to go to all the trouble of writing and directing a movie why not cast yourself as Jessie Camp and take the lead?
Well thanks! I’m not really an actor and personally don’t think I’m that good in the movie, but I’ve gotten a lot of compliments so that’s nice. Mike and Rich and I came up with the basic story together, but at that point Martin didn’t exist. Mike went off and started writing and I read the first draft assuming I’d end up being in the movie somewhere since it would be such a small-budgeted film. Martin was the role that jumped out at me the most right away as one I could probably handle playing and still be able to focus on all the behind the scenes stuff. I don’t think it comes across in my performance, but my main frame of reference for the part was Martin Starr as Bill on “Freaks and Geeks.”
I’ve had a lot of different influences at different stages of my life. Sam Raimi was the filmmaker that made me want to make movies when I was 12, Kevin Smith was the filmmaker that made me think I could actually DO it when I was 14, and David Lynch was the filmmaker that made me realize you don’t have to play by the rules. Oh, and John Waters was the filmmaker that made me realize you could make movies that look like garbage and still work if you just have a sense of humor about it. Ugh…it’s almost embarrassing to admit that Kevin Smith had any kind of influence on me now, but he did big time when I was a teenager.
Hey brother I hear ya, Smith was a HUGE influence on me. Now – not so much. We better stop talking about him or he’ll tweet about how much we suck for a month. Did you go to school for film?
I went to UW-Milwaukee for film for about two years and then left the department. They focused entirely on experimental film and at that point I just wanted to make stupid vomit movies, so it wasn’t a very good fit.
I live in NY where we mostly have 7-11s and Dunkin Donuts (aside from freaking Starbucks- blech), what kind of coffee do you have in Milwaukee? Is it Cheese flavored?
There’s no cheese flavored coffee, but there is a wonderful establishment just outside Milwaukee called the Mars Cheese Castle that has cheese-infused fudge. We call it “chudge” and it’s actually really delicious. As for coffee, there’s several great local coffee shops around the city that make having to go to Starbucks a non-issue.
Is that the stupidest question anyone has ever asked you?
The part about cheese flavored coffee? Hm, probably not? Maybe? Nothing stupider jumps to mind right away, so that’s probably not a good sign.
How long have you known Mike Stoklasa?
I’ve known Mike for I think eleven or twelve years now. Something like that.
How did you meet?
We both used to frequent the message board of this amateur film making website and kinda bonded over the fact that we thought everyone else there was delusional about the quality of their shot-on-VHS movies. Everyone there was trying to rip off “Pulp Fiction” and make these movies with seventeen year olds playing hitmen, but Mike was making schlock where Rich Evans beats up a doll for twenty minutes and I was making schlock about dead animals and trailer trash. I lived in Rockford, IL at the time and he was in Chicago, so at some point I suggested the idea of him and Rich Evans and some of his other film friends driving up to Rockford to help out on a movie I was making at the time. We continued collaborating on stuff for years after that.
How much of casting Feeding Frenzy was “Lets have auditions and cast a real movie” and how much was “grabbing friends and asking them to play with you?”
Since we knew we’d both be playing roles in the movie, and we knew Rich would be playing Plinkett, the majority of casting was already done! But we didn’t want to just cast friends in every remaining part solely for the sake of filling the role, so we did search around a bit to find good actors for some of the other important parts, mainly Christine and Kyle. Most of the supporting cast are real actors, but all the larger roles are filled by us frauds! It’s those kinds of decisions that have kept us from going anywhere in life.
Not going anywhere in life – NONSENSE! Your new web series, Half in the Bag is my brand new favorite thing on the internet. I know a lot of Feeding Frenzy was shot in Mike’s apartment and other actual “guerrilla” locations, is this the first time you guys are working on an actual set?
Well I’ve done PA work on sets and we’ve built rinky dink sets for random projects over the years, but nothing quite this large-scale. It’s great to have a large set we can just destroy every week. Filming people breaking things is one of my favorite things.
Do you shoot a couple of episodes at a time or is it a “whenever we feel like it” kind of thing?
Some of the sketch bits with Plinkett we’ll shoot a few episodes at a time since Rich doesn’t live in Milwaukee and we have to get him up here every time we want to shoot with him. But the actual review sections are filmed one episode per week. We’re trying to do the show weekly, or at least every other week. It depends on how busy we get with other projects.
Anybody recognizing you on the street yet?
A clerk recognized Mike at the Public Market in downtown Milwaukee and I scored a free soda out of the deal! That’s about it though. Before Half in the Bag, I was mainly the behind the scenes guy at Red Letter Media, so most people aren’t even aware I exist. I’m fine with that though…it means I don’t have to deal with an email box constantly filled with pizza roll requests.
I am so very tempted to make the words “Pizza Roll Requests” link directly to Mike’s email… How do you feel about sites like Funny or Die trying to actually almost take Internet content and make a network around it? Do you think it’s better to be on your own site or in a portal?
I’ve always had a “fuck it, let’s just do it ourselves” attitude, so I definitely prefer having everything we make being housed on our own site. And since we’ve been doing this for so long, we’ve got a TON of content at this point, from shorts to features to music videos, so having that control over what goes up on the site is nice. If the right opportunity came along to do videos for another site, I wouldn’t immediately write it off, but I’d have to have a really good reason to justify doing it.
Do you ever get tired of people on the internet asking for the next “Plinkett Review”?
Well, it means a lot of people care about what we’re doing, so I can’t really complain much about that. Some people can be really demanding about what they want and when they want it and that can get a little tiresome, but we just try to stay focused on doing the best work we can do.
You guys have a HUGE amount of content out there on the interwebs – most of it, very funny but very low budget stuff. If you had unlimited resources to do just ONE of your earlier shorts over which one would you go with?
I don’t know if there’s any of those shorts that would benefit from a bigger budget. Most of them exist simply BECAUSE there was no budget to make something else.
What the hell do you do all day anyway?
I spend half my week in my pajamas editing videos, and the other half filming stuff. Not all those projects are personal projects that I have some sort of emotional investment in, but it sure beats working in a toll booth.
Your phone rings tomorrow and your offered the dream job of a lifetime . . . what is it. Specifically.
I like what I do a lot. My dream job would be to keep making features with the very small creative team and the total control that we have now, but have unlimited funds to make them with. I don’t think I’d ever be able to work in the studio system, but I would also like to someday direct just one big studio film. I would make only one and then walk away. It’d be “Weekend at Bernie’s Part III.” I’d get all the original cast back, and it would start out as a genuine sequel (since reboots and belated sequels are all the rage these days) but slowly devolve into the most bizarre, experimental studio film ever released. It’d be the low brow equivalent of Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s “The Holy Mountain.”
I love the fact that the two of you do not seem remotely impressed with ANYTHING having to do with Hollywood. Anybody you are wary of calling an untalented hack?
I’m genuinely impressed with a Hollywood film every now and then. In general though, I don’t like films that are made for everyone. I tend to lean more towards smaller, more personal movies but I’m willing to give anything a chance. So far, worrying about who we’re speaking negatively of hasn’t really come up, so I guess it’s not an issue. I’d feel dishonest and weird holding back my thoughts on something I thought was terrible.
You’re starting to tour the “Geek Mecca” circuit I know you went to Wizard World Toronto and are planning to hook up with us at NY Comic Con – how are you enjoying my crowd? How are they enjoying you guys so far?
We had a great time in Toronto! The people that came up to our booth knowing exactly who we were were all really nice and the people that walked past our booth having no clue who we were would look at the random assortment of Plinkett props sitting on the table and just have the most confused looks on their faces. I don’t know which reaction I enjoyed more.
Tim and Eric are making HUGE strides for themselves on Adult Swim. I told Mike that you guys need to develop something for that audience and he all but laughed at me – so how are you going to wake him up and get yourselves moving toward the cable tvs?
You know Plinkett wants his MTV.
It is pretty incredible to see a show that bizarre go over so well in a mainstream environment, so who knows? Like I said earlier, stepping into that kind of environment would depend on a lot of factors. The Red Letter Media site has been great because we have a decent sized following and we can make whatever the hell we feel like and we’ve got that audience already there that will be at least willing to give it a shot. Making stupid videos for the internet has been a really great way to reach people and I’d love to see that continue to grow.
Jay and Mike Stoklasa are bringing Red Letter Media to the No Brand Con in Eau Claire, WI April 15-17.
Stop by and ask for Pizza Rolls.
They love that.