Interview with Josh Shelov

Josh Shelov is the director of the recently released film, “The Best and the Brightest”.  The film is currently in theaters now and will be on DVD later in August.  MovieMikes had a chance to chat with Josh about working on his second feature and also what is planned next.

Mike Smith: “The Best and The Brightest” is your second feature film, How did your experiences as a filmmaker differ from the your first film?
Josh Shelov: I was only the writer on “Green Street Hooligans” so as the director of “The Best and The Brightest” there was a world of difference. It was obviously very exciting to see “Green Street Hooligans” get made but to actually direct and take the film all the way home is incomparable. It was the greatest creative experience I’ve ever had.

MS: As the director do you think you had more creative input as to what showed up on screen? Maybe there was something you wanted to fight for on “Green Street Hooligans” that was left out because of the director’s decision?
JS: Significantly, yes. When you’re directing you can really ruin the whole thing! (laughs)

MS: You also co-wrote the film with Michael Jaeger. How did this story come about?
JS: We were living it. Both Michael and I have young kids and we were dealing with how to get them into private school. It’s a huge and competitive pain in the ass! We were really stressing it. The pressure was on. And there are lots of, shall we say, anxieties of just how far reaching the consequences would be if we didn’t get out kids into a good school. You wouldn’t be able to stay in the same neighborhood…your child will never amount to anything…they’ll become meth dealers. So we were sitting there sweating. And you hear about the “favors” and political weaseling that people go through and we thought it was a really, really good and fertile ground for a farce…making fun of the big city folks.

MS: You assembled a great cast, including Neil Patrick Harris, Amy Sedaris & Christopher McDonald. How did that come about? Were they easy to attract to the project?
JS: I wouldn’t say easy. The key is to get a little bit of money behind you and for that I have to credit our (2) first producers, Rob and Patty Weiser, who put up our start up cash. When we had that initial start up cash, it enabled us to go into Hollywood and make what is known as “pay or play” offers. They certainly weren’t offers of a lot of money by any stretch of the imagination. And the key was that we got Amy Sedaris. Amy loved the script and I had a meeting with her and she agreed to do it. And then the other actors started to come like wild fire. Neil really wanted to work with Amy. We got Chris McDonald after that. Kate Mulgrew and on and on. Amy was really the tipping point.

MS: We actually just featured an interview with Christopher McDonald and he had great things to say about the project.
JS: Michael and I wrote the part FOR Chris. He’s amazing in the film. There is a certain voice to the film and it’s uniquely Chris. We’re just so thrilled that, after writing a part for him, he would agree to do it. It was one of the highlights of the whole project.

MS: What would you say was the most difficult park of working on the film?
Was it wearing the two hats of both director and writer?
JS: The shooting itself was a really joyful experience. I would say that raising the money and getting the film distributed…that was the most difficult. The actual filming itself was like eating dessert. It was wonderful. We had an exceptionally good crew. We had an extraordinary producer named Declan Baldwin, who kept all of the trains running on time. We never had a calamity. None of the actors were divas. It was pretty remarkable.

MS: When can we expect to see this film in theaters and DVD?
JS: It was theatrically released, literally, right now. We’re playing in New York and Los Angeles and Coral Gables, Florida. We have two distributors who are working on the picture. Our home video distributor is a company called New Video and they’re terrific. And they have partnered with another company called Emerging Pictures, which is run by a guy named Ira Deutchman. And he has started supplementing a release all over the country. We’re opening up in Michigan. We’re opening up in Delaware. And there’s a third company, owned by one of our producers, Declan Baldwin, called Big Indie. He’s organized over 200 sneak previews of the film this past film. So the film has really got a lot of theatre exposure even though we don’t have a big studio behind us.

MS: What are you working on next?
JS: There’s a drama that I hope to do called “The Inheritance.” Darren Aronofsky likes it…he’s really helping to shepard it along. Ideally I would love to start casting it this year or next.

MS: What is the story?
JS: It’s about three generations of Irish-American writers who find out that they have a deadly disease in their bloodline. I’ve worked on it a long time. I actually wrote it before we wrote “The Best and The Brightest.” It’s very near and dear to my heart.

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