It's entirely possible that you haven't yet heard of Kill Me Now, the indie horror-comedy feature that is screening tonight at 7:30p at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. But if you've spent any time on the internet the past few years, you'd probably recognize a few faces in their movie trailer. The film is written, produced and stars members of the popular online sketch comedy group Those Aren't Muskets!, and they recruited about half the internet to make the film with them.
By day, Michael Swaim and Abe Epperson are employees at Cracked.com, where they get to make internet videos for a living. Not bad, right? The pair and their friend / sketch collaborator / Kill Me Now actor / current couch-occupier Noah Byrne rode along for a late night discussion at Stout in Hollywood. Over burgers (a vegetarian patty for Noah) and a few beers, the guys discussed making it in the internet age, shooting a feature film in under a month, and one day printing your own hamburgers.
Farley: How did you guys all first come to know each other?
Abe: Michael and I met at the University of San Diego. There was a satire publication there called the MQ, sort of like The Onion. Michael and I were both editors on it; he did theater, I did visual arts and film. So after we graduated we talked about putting together a sketch group. Apparently you can become an online sketch group and get famous.
Michael: That's Those Aren't Muskets!, which we started around 2007.
Abe: We met Noah from his sketch group Horsehead Businessman, out of South Carolina.
Noah: I was just making dumb videos online and we all somehow found each other and liked each others work. They told me that I should come to California and that we would all make sweet love to each other for the rest of our lives. And I said OK.
Abe: In 2009, we actually all had a sketch summit. We went to New York with a bunch of other sketch groups: BriTANick, the Good Neighbor guys (who are also in the movie). And we spent two weeks in an apartment in Brooklyn, making sketches.
Farley: So what was the growth of Those Aren't Muskets! like?
Abe: The first things we made were all failed pilots for Channel 101.
Michael: One of them... Rob Schrab, one of the founders of Channel 101 and at the time a personal idol, he just ripped it apart and said that we shouldn't make stuff anymore. One of them is actually lost. It's the only thing we've ever shot that doesn't exist online or on a hard drive somewhere.
Abe: We've shot maybe 10,000 hours of stuff together, and the first thing we ever shot is completely gone.
Michael: Which is probably for the better, because I play Hitler in it. Which I've actually done four times now.
Abe: It was called 'Indestructible Hitler', but we won't tell you what it's about.
Farley: So how did you go about actually making a movie?
Michael: After Those Aren't Muskets! became affiliated with Cracked, we got the notice of Travis Long, who had managed to secure a budget and was a fan of ours. He basically juts emailed us and asked if we had a screenplay that could be made for under $200,000. And we had written one, because we want to make movies.
Farley: So when did you actually shoot?
Abe: October, 2010. We recently passed the two-year mark.
Michael: They say the triangle is cheap, fast and good. We wanted it to be good and it had to be cheap, so it wasn't going to be fast. We all had full time jobs, Travis (the director) had a child right before the film was shot and another right before it gets released.
Farley: That's kind of a dick move.
Michael: Exactly, it's about priorities.
Abe: Well, that's how babies are made.
Michael: Dick moves? Oh, I get it.
Farley: What were the challenges you all faced in making a feature film as opposed to a bunch of internet sketches?
Abe: We actually had a short cycle. We shot the whole thing in about 21 days. That's very quick. What was crazy is that all of the actors are from L.A., and we shot in Effingham, Illinois, so making all of the logistics work was challenging.
Michael: And of course there's the aspect of never having done it before. When we shoot a sketch, it's one day, maybe two at the most. Doing 21 days in a row is very different. There were nights where we'd be in a Walmart at 2am buying props that we were going to use the next day, and we would just have to assume that Walmart would have what we needed. Or, we would rewrite the scene on the spot to make it fit. There were a lot of things that people advised us not to do, but we have a finished movie now so HA!
Farley: What's the distribution for the film going to look like?
Michael: We're doing everything, but in order. First, we're doing our own version of a theatrical release through a service called Tugg, where you can buy advance tickets to bring a screening to a theater in your area. As of now, we've got the L.A. premiere happening on December 5th. So, we'll see how that continues to work out. That's the first leg. After that, it's going to be on a bunch of places like Netflix Instant, On Demand, those types of places. Ultimately it will be available for direct download on our website, Louis C.K.-style. I'm sure it will be easily pirateable after that.
Abe: It's what our audience wants, too. We're not movie stars, we make things for the internet, so we're treating this like an internet movie, which it really is.
The burgers arrive, with Noah ordering the vegetarian option and Michael, with an eye towards his svelte figure, does without the bun.
Michael: I'm actually drooling, that's not good.
Farley: You and Abe are both burger fans, right?
Michael: I'm a pussy vegetarian, which is not as cool as it sounds. I don't eat meat at home, and I don't buy it when I go to grocery shopping, just to cut down on my meat consumption. So, when I'm out, a burger is very special to me.
Noah: Don't become a vegetarian, because veggie burgers are just never that good.
Michael: There are some imitation meats that aren't bad. My money's on Quorn.
Abe: Mine is on scientists just figuring it out.
Michael: Yeah, when can I 3D print a burger?
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