Sundance Speed Dating With... WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Filmmakers Taika Waititi And Jemaine Clement

Valentina I. Valentini, Contributing Writer
Writer/director/actor Taika Waititi, who's been at Sundance before with Boy (2010) and Eagle vs Shark (2007), comes back with something altogether different. Co-written and co-directed with Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords), What We Do in the Shadows is a vampire mockumentary about four vampire flat-mates "living" it up in Wellington, New Zealand. 

If chatting with these two for 15 minutes is any indication of what it might be like to be on set with them, I'm going to offer myself as an unpaid PA on their next film just to experience it. Here's more of Twitch's Sundance Speed Dating...

Twitch: At what age did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
Jemaine Clement: Is this the kind of thing you ask on a date?
Taika Waititi: The first one you should ask is, "Are you single?" Because that could end this date pretty quickly.

Ok, are you single?
TW: Nope.
JC: No.

Alright then. So when did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
TW: When I made my first film it did really well and people encouraged me to do more and so then I thought well, I've got no other job so I may as well do it.
JC: I wanted to be an animator when I was five.

If you weren't acting or directing and making films, what would you be doing?
JC: Modeling.
TW: Taking pictures of him.

Who's the person that has had the most influence on you or your work?
TW: Him (pointing to Clement).
JC: He copies a lot of my stuff.
TW: (giggling)
JC: He listens to comments I say and says them the next day. But yea, for me it was always comedy. Do you know the show Blackadder? It's a show whom you Americans know as Mr. Bean. The first time I saw that I laughed so much that I knew I had to do something like that.
TW: There were a few shows growing up that had the same effect on me. Blackadder, The Young Ones, and Faulty Towers. I used to record them and sneak down and watch them on video really late at night.

In three words or less what is it like to see your film up on the big screen?
TW: Really, really, really... aw dammit.

If you had $100 million and no restrictions, what would you make with it?
JC: A hundred films like this.
TW: Mm hmm. Yep.

Would you rather have six months of prep time and 15 days to shoot, or 15 days of prep time and six months to shoot?
TW: Fifteen days of prep, because you can still write while you're shooting.
JC: Yea we still write as we shoot it.

How do you define success in the marketplace for your film?
JC: Someone liking it. If just one person sees it and its their favorite movie, even if everyone else hates it, that's enough for me.
TW: The audience reaction. Especially with jokes. If someone else apart from us finds it funny, then we're good.

What did you do the moment you found out your film had been accepted at Sundance.
JC: We masturbated each other.
WT: (Bursts into laughter)
JC: Alright. What really happened? I texted Taika, "Woohoo."
TW: Actually, you texted, "Damn... woohoo."

What websites or magazines are the most important to read as an indie filmmaker?
JC: TwitchFilm. It's my homepage.
TW: TwtichFilm is my default.... No, really I read books. I just read Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" - the one about the Everest climb. 
JC: He's been talking about it all week, because there's snow and mountains and stuff.
TW: Yea I keep coming out with these factoids for everyone...
JC: I read our friend's book - he's actually one of our Werwolves - Duncan Sarkies "The Demolition of the Century." It was really good. 

What was the last mind-blowing film you saw?
TW: Well, it didn't blow my mind, but Gravity was a great experience. American Hustle, too, maybe. 
JC: John Dies at the End. I don't think it's a perfect movie or anything - there aren't many of those - but it was really different.

When were you most satisfied in your life?
TW: I remember when I was 12 year old and I was probably playing Dungeons and Dragons by myself, and thinking, "This is so cool." (Clement burst out laughing). "I love my life. I don't need friends. Who needs them." (Both are laughing so hard the interview stops.)
JC: That is so sad (he says in a fit of tears). (After a moment to compose) When I was 10, I had a gang called the Vampires, and I got my gang together and we all wore plastic fangs. I was just really pleased that I'd organized that, all of us riding around on our bikes in town. (Both still laughing)

If you could have a super power what would it be?
TW: Flying. I just always want to fly.
JC: Telekinesis. But I would want to be able to use it on myself so that I could move around and fly too.
TW: Yea that'd be perfect.
JC: You can't have mine.
(pause)
TW: This doesn't feel like a date.
JC: Yea, we don't know anything about you...

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  • Less Lee Moore

    HAHAHA! This is amazing. I would have probably laughed too much and fucked up the interview. Thanks for posting this.

  • Valentina Valentini

    Thank YOU for reading it. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty tough to keep the interview at any sort of pace, since we were in stitches.

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