Everybody's a douche, whether they know it or not.
Interview with Writer/Director Sean McCarthy
Congratulations! Why did you make your series?
My co-creator and I made this comedy series because we love comedy, interesting characters, and great performances. This series allowed us to explore different psychologies, the comedy that comes from emotionally grounded interpersonal relationships, and character driven stories. Also it was something that was both long form yet episodic and stylistically, since each character sees the world through a different lens, it allowed us to explore different genres of film and comedic tones.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this series?
We live in a chaotic time with a lot of stress and conflict. We wanted to make something that both allowed us to explore the fun of different viewpoints and cultures that explores truth in comedy and at the same time just make something really fun, playful and entertaining. So if you weren't interested in exploring truth, you can still laugh at a dick joke or if you want to explore themes and ideas on a deeper level this has that...but still with dick jokes.
I've never separated my love of Mel Brooks and Steve Martin from my love of Welles and Bergman. Neither does my co-creator Elizabeth, nor my collaborators Kevin, Dustin, and the entire team at Guerilla Wanderers Films.
How do personal and universal themes work in your series?
To me the personal themes work from what I am writing about and exploring a commonality between myself and the characters I'm exploring. I'm trying to explore things both extremely personal yet trying to express it on a universal level because I want people to connect with the work. At the end of the day I think the combination of having comedy be a tool to really explore the light and dark universal truths is amazing. History has sometimes allowed comedy and genre filmmaking to get away with things more serious fare cannot.
For example, the T-Bag episode allows us to explore a classic douchebag. The guy who is about his looks and bedding women. He's a cliche of cinema but he's also there because there's a truth to him. There are so many guys like him. So the question is "where does this come from?" To further explore why he needs this attention, the underlying truth for his character is narcissism and the deeper truth is he just wants to be loved. I think cracking that code and exploring that human need we all have is the key to better understanding him and ourselves connecting with that character and need.
In the new episodes (3 & 4) that we are world premiering, we introduce LAURA (ep. 3) and TED (ep. 4). Laura is an upper middle class suburban soccer mom with three kids and a never ending to do list. So even though she lives better and more financially secure than a lot of the world she's on edge and always stressed. Our episode explores the stress and anxiety through her lense and we shot it with a visceral edge to experience emotionally the way she sees the world. Her episode explores the universal theme of being needed and feeling part of a family.
Whereas Ted is an analog man in a digital world. I call him our Walter Matthau of the group. He's always cranky, neurotic, he loves 9-5 structure but he's overwhelmed by technology. Technology is a great tool but a horrible master. His episode let's us explore the theme of technology and how we're at this precipice in human existence where tech is so ingrained we can't escape it. How not too long ago, you didn't have anxiety that your cell phone is dead and the chance you are not digitally tethered to the entire world. It's a personal feeling I had and I wanted to explore that feeling. Our ancestors worried about survival and I'm stressed because I can't text back my friend or check email. Yet when I turn my phone back on, I can get overwhelmed by 50 notifications from catastrophic world news to 30 text messages. Why am I stressed? Why am I stressed even if my mom accounts for 50% of those texts? I love my mom but what the hell is that feeling of just being constantly tethered wherever you are in the world.
Also, can you maybe condense 15 texts into 2 solid ones. What's the human need and contradiction of needing but hating the convenience of technology and how has that affected our lives. Before social media, casual acquaintances came and went, now you know their extreme religious, political and philosophical views. People who were meant to pass through your life in your teens you now know they're a racist who likes sushirittos. It's the domino effect of the digital world disrupting for good and bad. Forcing us to explore mental and social issues we haven't had to deal with at this level and pace. Ted has had me explore my own feelings that I didn't feel many current stories were touching on. Something as simple as your phone's dead and it had me wanting to find the universal connective tissue to the rest of the world. Plus, if the existential threat of technology is not something you want to ponder, there's still dick jokes.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The script and film had a certain criteria. Find the magical combination of great actors worth writing something special they could sink their teeth into, mixed with having a personal feeling and theme that we wanted to explore. Then cracking the code on the right pairing of story, character, and douchebag character.
We think of it like Black Mirror or Twilight Zone but for Douchebags. Where each episode is its own theme and character to explore yet at the same time we are building a revolving door of characters who in essence are a family. We have found similarities in the format of building a novella type comedy series where most episode are contained and can be enjoyed on their own. Yet since each episode is a different style that's dictated by the characters we're focusing on and they relate to the larger long form storytelling and universe building. So we have to be conscious of making an episode work on its own but also stay aware of the language we've built for the show, the larger framework of the world, and the consequences one episode has on another. Basically Marvel and Star Wars but for Douchebags. I'm just gonna keep making comparisons to popular film and TV with our show. All joking aside, the thought process and world building is similar just without, you know, large studio budgets.
Essentially, our approach to the material has evolved over time but the criteria has never changed.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It's been great to hear it at film festivals with audiences. It's gotten a great reception and picked up some awards along the way. We are very grateful to see things we put a lot of thought into over the course of a year, play to a crowd and get that laugh. It's fun to see how different audiences laugh at different things. The timing, performances, and story haven't changed but the laughs can come in different areas. That's something we enjoy because I've personally enjoyed the "Something About Mary" big laugh and broad comedy, as well as the pop culture references, subtextual moments, and really deadpan stuff that might not play to the whole crowd. You feel like that joke was meant just for you or a smaller crowd. I remember watching "The Royal Tennenbaums", "Beetlejuice" and "In the Loop" with people and sometimes I was the only one laughing in the audience at that one throwaway line or glance. I've always greatly admired and looked up to Judd Apatow, Ricky Gervais, Steve Martin, and other comedy writer/directors who feel like they layer the comedy. Or like when you watched a Disney or Pixar movie as a kid you appreciated certain things, then as an adult you got that joke your parents laughed at. So like Disney but for Douchebags.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Definitely. I don't believe in test screenings dictating if something works or not or that it has to be fixed. Though I used to work for a test screening company and I found interesting things to help deconstruct if something is working or could be better. So curating your creative team to have a respectful open candor and getting feedback from people who are not emotionally tethered to the shooting day or the people involved. If you can curate candor and solid feedback, you have constructive criticism that you can use to squeeze all the creative juice out of the piece. I want to walk away knowing we worked hard to make sure this was the best it could be because you can't apologize for your work once it's out there.
Also for a comedy and screening it to different audiences you see the response you get from different people. This show has different people identifying with different characters, as well as relating and laughing to different moments. So having a way to truthfully assess what's working and not is key, it's being patient to properly get that information and feedback.
What are you looking to achieve by having your series more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I think www.wearemovingstories.com is doing amazing work and I really enjoyed our last interview. I love that as the show has evolved and we have evolved as filmmakers, this is like a way to check in and articulate what we're doing. Not just in a sound bite way but a more honest and articulate manner. I think it's important to have people like Carmela and www.wearemovingstories.com to spread the word, promote and have a healthy discussion on a project. No matter if the project is good or bad, filmmakers put a lot of time and energy into the work and I think respecting, discussing, and promoting creative works from artists is extremely important.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We are launching all of season 1 later this year. It will be available on various platforms and we just love having people watch and enjoy it. The more journalists and reviews to spread the word is great. If there are producers, film festival directors, buyers, distributors, and financiers who want to help get involved and spread the word of Doucheaholics, that's welcome, as we just enjoy having people connect to the show. So good people who love the show and want to help continue to get it out there, well great. Happy to discuss. Especially on something that's felt like our little secret for the last 3 years and we're on the verge of sharing it with the world. In the words of James Comey "Lordy."
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this series to have?
I would love to see people connect with the different characters and themes. We keep it emotionally grounded and try to find universal truths, so we hope people relate and recognize to the material in their own personal way. By seeing themselves in a character or someone they know in that character. There's elements of satire, broad, absurd and the whole bag of comedy. So we just hope people appreciate and take something away, whether it's just entertainment or something on a deeper level.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this series?
I think each episode delves into our own quirks and humanity. Really the show says everyone can be a douchebag because no one is perfect and we're all flawed people. So it's playfully and truthfully exploring the human experience and various contradictions that come with it.
Would you like to add anything else?
I would just say check out: www.doucheaholics.com to sign up for updates in the mailing list and follow us on instagram and facebook @doucheaholics
We'll be announcing where we screen and what platforms we'll be premiering on.
Also check out these other links to see more of our work:
What are the key creatives also developing or working on now?
A lot of the talent we continue to work with and have also gone on to work on other great projects. It's fun to see how many people we've had the pleasure of collaborating with and they go off to develop their own projects, or work for Disney, or continue to delve deeper into our collaborations together. There's a compounding creative interest in growing together as a creative family too.
Also, at this festival, one of my key creative collaborators, Kevin Lee Loader has a music video called "How2Kill" that we produced at Guerilla Wanderers and he directed, it brings me a lot of joy for him to showcase his various talents as a filmmaker. My sister Syra McCarthy is the yoga douche and is also directing projects, my co-creator Elizabeth Mitchell is the love of my life and produces and acts in a variety of projects. Anthony who plays T-Bag acts in TV shows like "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and has created a VR company. Dustin my lead editor, who started as my intern and is now a creative partner; our collaborations have grown deeper over time and every single episode he's had his magical hands on.
As well I'd like to mention collaborators like Justin Tran and Alex Geraniol - to name two - who started out in small PA roles and became key creative collaborators in helping get this to the big screen. There was a kid named George whose first time on set was as a production assistant on Ted's episode and now is a production coordinator for BMW commercials over the course of one year. "From green on set to silver in hair" I say cause this is a long tiring ass process.
The lead actress - Jenn Tripp who plays Laura - is amazing and we worked together on a Dell commercial I directed, she was someone Elizabeth and I saw such raw talent in and wanted to help shine a spotlight on with her lead role as Laura. She continues to work and actually worked with George on those BMW commercials. I think people are going to see her in a new light too because she's amazing to collaborate with as actor and director. I'm looking forward to growing with her and other collaborators.
There are so many people, I could go on from our talented cast, 2 cinematographers, to our entire post production team at Digital Wanderers. Every single person involved in front and behind the camera had something special burning inside them and for a brief moment we come together to try to make something beautiful.
The overlapping element from the show and behind the scenes is it's a family that's rotating. Just like family you fight but you love each other. Just like family you are together, then you are somewhere across the globe and maybe never see each other again but you both touched each other's lives for that one moment and you have the DNA of the show to prove it. Or maybe you see them the following year like clockwork on the next project that's the right fit.
That's part of the reason the production and vfx company are called Guerilla Wanderers Films (www.guerillawanderers.com) and Digital Wanderers VFX + Animation (www.digitalwanderers.com) because life is a journey and we look for wanderers who have that zest for life, who have found a passion for the arts and are trying to discover things about the world and themselves through their passion.
If that sounds pretentious then I would just say the similarity between behind the scenes reality and the fictitious show is both are about loving each other with all our flaws. Like life...but with douchebags.
Interview: June 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Doucheaholics (episodes LAURA & TED)
Everybody's a douche, whether they know it or not.
Length: 10 mins. each episode
Director: Sean McCarthy
Created by: Sean McCarthy & Elizabeth Mitchell
Developed by: Elizabeth Mitchell, Dustin Strocchia, and Sean McCarthy
Producer: Elizabeth Mitchell, Sean McCarthy, Kevin Loader
Writer: Sean McCarthy
About the writer, director and producer: www.theseanmccarthy.com
Key cast: Jenn Tripp, Mitch Costanza, Elizabeth Mitchell, Ashley Sullivan, Sean McCarthy, Syra McCarthy, Kate Manbert, Mark Sho, Jared Forman
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): all of the above
Social media handles: @doucheaholics
Funders: Guerilla Wanderers Films
Where can I see it in the next month? www.doucheaholics.com and possibly other platforms. Dances With Films today!
Watch trailer here: