Questions Answered by Daniel Cummings of Man Camp
What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?
Scott and I were on a hike, talking about how we feel like every time we get together with our families, it’s like we emotionally revert back to our childhood selves, for better or worse. We knew as actors we could play pretty convincing brothers, so we started to work out an idea for a story about how these brothers might find themselves in a situation where they’d be forced to mature together and grow beyond the familial roles they played in their youth. We decided that facing some kind of major, unavoidable change to the family dynamic would bring things to a head for them, and thus the idea was born for the setting of their mom getting engaged to this new guy who’s nothing like their dad was.
Why did you want to tell this story?
We were inspired by the sort of “Peter Pan Syndrome” that our generation has been labeled with. We had been talking about how as we were getting older, we didn’t necessarily feel like grown men, at least in the way that we looked at our own dads, and wanted to get to the root of why that was, through a humorous lens. We knew that part of it was that a lot of us have gotten stuck in our emotional maturity somewhere along the way. At the same time, we felt it was important to acknowledge that a lot of the platitudes that used to define manhood were unhealthy and largely archaic. So we were excited to tell a story that could highlight the struggles young adults have with stepping into maturity, while also debunking some of those old ideas of what it means to be a man. And we wanted to make people laugh, mostly.
How do you relate to your characters?
For Scott and myself, the characters are more or less fictional, albeit more intense, versions of ourselves. The script was born out of our own struggles with coming to terms with life as an adult.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
If you watch closely, all of the shots outside of their dad’s cabin are locked down and somewhat static. At the cabin, however, the camera begins to move and breathe with the characters- our director Nate was very specific on keeping this as a visual rule. He wanted it to feel like the camera was a character, as if when they were at the cabin their dad was in the room, watching his boys deal with this situation.
What was the most courageous decision you and your crew made during production?
When Pete Gardner told us he loved the script and wanted to do the movie, we knew he was our guy, but due to his TV schedule with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, he could only be available for 10 days, beginning two weeks earlier than we had planned to start principle photography. So it was either shrink our shooting schedule and move it up to fit with Pete’s window, or recast the role. We stuck with Pete, and he trusted us to make it happen, and while it made for an all out break neck sprint of a shoot, the movie just works because of him. The chemistry between our casts is what makes everything else go, so we wouldn’t change that decision for the world.
What advice would you go back and give yourself before making this film?
This is going to be one of the funniest few weeks of your life, stop and take a moment to appreciate it every now and then.
What is going to surprise audiences most about your film?
This sounds like a cop-out, but honestly that it’s really really funny. I think a lot of people go into indie comedies expecting a few chuckles here and there; most people who have seen Man Camp want to see it again because they missed half the dialogue from laughing so hard.
What does it mean to you for your film to be an official selection of the Austin Film Festival 2019?
It’s huge. As writer/producer/actors, this was one festival that we knew would mean so much to be a part of, because writing is really the foundation of what we want to do moving forward in our careers. We’re thrilled to get to take part in the writing conference with the added excitement of having our film represented in the festival program. To be bringing our first feature film to such an esteemed festival, for writers in particular, is a dream come true. And we get to crush some BBQ.
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