The new comedy film Kabluey was inspired by the real-life experiences of writer-director Scott Prendergast. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the filmmaker, who also stars in "Kabluey," has graduated from low-budget short films to a full-length feature, with help from some major stars who agreed to perform in the movie.
Kabluey is an offbeat story about a character loosely modeled on Prendergast, whom he plays in the film opposite established Hollywood stars, including Lisa Kudrow.
The writer-director says the story is partly true, inspired by a time in his life when his brother, who lives in Portland, Oregon, was deployed to Iraq with the Oregon National Guard.
"And while he was gone, I went to stay with his wife, Jennifer, my sister-in-law, for two months," said Prendergast. "It was supposed to be a few weeks, and ended up being two months. And it was horrible. It was horrible. My nephews were horrible. My sister-in-law was very depressed. I was a horrible baby sitter, and pretty much had the worst time of my entire life."
The movie is a fictionalized account of that time, and Prendergast, anxious to maintain good relations with his family, points out that some of it was completely fabricated.
The protagonist of the film, a hapless character named Salman, is an exaggerated version of Prendergast. He has trouble holding a job and finds one wearing a big blue costume as an advertising mascot for a failed high-tech company.
(Woman Supervisor): "Get your feet in here. The head's really heavy, so we will start with the body."
(Prendergast character): "Wait, I am going to wear this?"
(Woman Supervisor): "Well, I am sure as hell not going to wear it."
In writing the part, Prendergast drew on his own work experiences, wearing a superhero costume and explaining exhibits in a science museum to children. He says that like the character in the film, he has been fired from many jobs himself.
For the writer-director, the release of the film marks the home stretch of a long journey. He had performed improvisational comedy and made successful short films. But he wanted to make a movie. His mother, among others, was skeptical.
"She had said to me," he said. "'You are crazy.' 'You are never going to get a deal. You are never going to get this movie made with you as the writer, director and actor. That is crazy. Stop being a fool. Stop getting fired from temp jobs and get some work and get some health insurance.'"
But he persisted, making the rounds in Hollywood, and he finally found financial backers.
"I had my whole pitch worked out, which was, it is a true story," said Scott Prendergast. "Here is the story of my brother. Here are the short films I have made. I have had a lot of success with them. Here is my first feature. We are going to make it for very little money, and we will get big stars in all these parts. And that is the package."
He sent the script to Lisa Kudrow, the Emmy award-winning actress best known for role on the television series Friends. She liked it and agreed to star in the film. From there, other established actors and actresses, including Teri Garr, Christine Taylor and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, came on board with the project. The film was shot two years ago in Austin, Texas.
The first-time feature director had a steep learning curve, as he moved from videos made with a small digital camera to a full-scale film production.
That realization hit him as he appeared in his first scene as both director and actor, playing opposite Kudrow.
"The last movie I made, [it was] me and my friends in my apartment for $5,000," he said. "And then, suddenly, Lisa Kudrow opens the door and I am making a movie for millions of dollars acting with Lisa Kudrow. So in that scene, my character is really nervous. And that nervousness is all real. There is no acting going on there."
"Hi. Hi, come in…."
Kudrow was far more experienced than Prendergast with motion-picture production, and shared what she knew. He was pleasantly surprised that filming went relatively smoothly.
"Because I had heard about independent films being taken over by crazy stars and them rewriting the movie. And we did not have that at all," he said. "Everyone on the film was so friendly. And Lisa specifically. I think she know that I was nervous to work with her and to meet, her, and she put me at ease right away."
Many critics have praised the film, one calling it "bittersweet and funny" and another "lighthearted and utterly charming."
Prendergast calls the movie a melancholy comedy, and admits it is not for everyone.
But he is living his dream in Hollywood. He has written a television pilot and is working on his next film, which is also based on a real-life family story. He will not give the plot away, but says it involves a mystery that he helped his mother solve when he was working on Kabluey.