HISCOX FILMMAKER Q&A: FUNNIEST
What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Why did you want to tell this story?
I have been the primary videographer for the Funniest Person In Austin contest since 2012 and witnessed first hand the drama, heartache, and excitement that accompanies this annual event. Around my third year taping the contest, I made the decision to make a documentary around the 30th annual FPIA, mainly because I like big round numbers like THIRTY but also because a contest running for three decades is fairly significant.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
Being in the creative arts it’s incredibly difficult not relating to all of these characters for us- we’ve all wanted to quit because we just don’t think it will work out; we’ve all felt rejected by our intended audience; we’ve all experienced the triumph of being successful; we’ve found a way to truly express ourselves through art; and we’ve had the thrilling experience of loving our art and needing to share it with the world.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
The most major change was that we made the difficult decision to excise two of our subjects from the final edit. While their story was compelling, we knew that we needed to focus on the other six and the runtime could not really afford to go longer than 90 minutes.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
Making a documentary based on your friends and employers where you intend to show the good and not shy away from the bad is about as courageous as it gets and we do not recommend it!
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
We never knew whether any of the comics we followed would make it passed the first round. We had contingencies in place were that to happen, but it would have been very difficult. In the end, we even had half of the original eight comics we followed eliminated before Semi-Finals and were fortunate that three of our subjects made it through to The Finals. But it was harrowing wondering whether all the interviews and follow footage we had shot prior to then would even make a difference (or ever be seen).
What influenced the visual style of the film?
I studied documentary a lot while attending The University of Texas at Austin and very much enjoy interactive and humorous documentaries such as Winnebago Man. We needed similar energy, so having our camera operator or interviewer’s voice be heard at times allows the audience an informal perspective throughout. This is especially evident towards the end where Lashonda asks to the camera whether her friend can be in the documentary.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
As I mentioned prior, making an honest documentary about a comedy club that pays a substantial part of your yearly income is about as risky as it gets. But to Cap City’s credit, they have been very supportive and in the end, are proud to be a part of the story.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
You’re going to fail and learn from a lot of mistakes. When I talk to people just getting started in producing, I tend to hear a lot of, “well my cinematographer friend says I have to use this camera” or “someone told me I should hold auditions but I think I know the right person for the role anyways.” These, to me, are excuses for delaying your project rather than actually taking the risk and making it. Find an idea, find your passion, involve your friends and people you trust, and just make the damn thing.