UT grad, screenwriter, actor, documentary filmmaker and New Orleans native. Read Toddy Burton’s interview for more on the cultural impact of Katrina, the comedy of Mardi Gras, and where to find queso in Los Angeles.
Also check out the trailers throughout the festival made by The Vacationeers, a sketch comedy group in which Todd is a member!
You’re a native of
The first time I went back after Katrina in December of ’05, it was like being in post-war
When my crew and I first went down to shoot, I planned to make the documentary very personal. As we shot more and more and talked to more and more people, though, I realized this film shouldn’t be about me, it should be about the city – because
Your credits encompass primarily comedy, including writing, acting and directing for both shorts and features. How did you transition from straight comedy to an emotionally and politically charged documentary which so successfully traverses between comedy and tragedy.?
In a weird way, I’ve always thought of the documentary as a comedy. The laissez–faire attitude that New Orleanians have towards life in general is unlike anywhere else in
Don’t Eat the Baby has a real sense of community involvement, as the filmmaking crew seems to be a part of the Mardi Gras proceedings. What was production like?
It’s hard for anyone not to get swept up in it all, but I wish we had been able to be MORE a part in the proceedings. Going to
Everyone we approached – from people on the street to respected historians – was really open to talk to us; especially when they learned I was a local boy who would try and represent the city right. People were becoming more and more disillusioned with the national media’s sudden ignorance of the whole aftermath situation – Katrina was big news when it happened, but by six months later the national news had moved on to other things and nobody really cared anymore about the whole recovery aspect. I would be in
You’ve left Austin Texas and have been living in
It was definitely a huge adjustment coming from
With over forty hours of footage, I’m sure your editing process was quite an adventure. What was your post-production experience on Don’t Eat the Baby?
We actually ended up with over forty hours of Carnvial footage and 30 more of just interviews. Luckily the writer in me had come out before we even started shooting, so I had a detailed outline of what I wanted to discuss and how I wanted to thematically present it. We used this outline as a guide while shooting and interviewing, and then used it to coherently organize all of the footage. Of course once editing started there were massive deviations from this outline – the original cut of the movie was almost 3 hours and now it’s 90 minutes – but all-in-all it worked out pretty well. We then had to do test screenings specifically for people who had never been to
It seems obvious that shooting in
Well at one point we got permission from Pat O’Brien’s – home of the Hurricane – to go into the establishment when it was crowded and just get some B-roll. I guess we looked very official, because a lot of the tipsy clientele were under the impression that A.) we were official Pat O’Brien’s photographers and B.) we were holding a still camera. So if you watch the footage from that night, you see all these groups call us over to their table and then pose – waiting frozen for a flash that never comes.
What’s next for you?
On the writing front, I’m currently working on a project for Dreamworks Animation and recently optioned a script to the Jim Henson Company that’s sort of a crazy puppet film noir. I also have a voodoo-centric supernatural thriller set up at John Woo’s company that’ set in