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Drake Doremus' 'Douchebag' at Sundance

OC stage prodigy-turned-filmmaker Drake Doremus brings his 'very personal' movie to Park City, Utah

They discovered they had much in common, including tastes in movies—the sillier the better.

“We decided we should make a movie,” Jones says. “We decided to base the film on one of the characters from the play.”

The Bum was about a clueless filmmaker named P.J. Chomps (played by Jones), who tries to make a documentary about a homeless man.

Andrew Dickler (left) and Jones make their feature-film debuts 
playing brothers in Douchebag
Andrew Dickler (left) and Jones make their feature-film debuts playing brothers in Douchebag

“We had ridiculous expectations,” Jones says. “We thought we were going to make a 90-minute feature film. . . . We pieced it together into an hour version, and then a 13-minute version. We showed it to people for fun. It was our first foray into filmmaking together. It’s the first time we made something together and realized people liked it.”

Jones went off to Chapman University in Orange about the time Doremus enrolled at AFI. Jones worked on his own films and those of his friends at Chapman and also helped form a comedy troupe that performed on campus and in LA. He barely kept in touch with Doremus.

“We were so involved in our own things,” Jones explains. “Then, once we’d both graduated, we started talking about working together again.”

But, for the next two years, Jones co-directed music videos in LA with fellow Chapman alum Joseph Armario under the pseudonym Jurassic Technology. Jones did perform a small walk-on part in Spooner, and while that film was being edited, Doremus called to say there was a guy he had to meet: Spooner’s editor, Dickler.

“He said I’d either love him or hate him,” Jones recalls Doremus saying of Dickler, whose editing résumé is peppered with such titles as Pulp Fiction, Best In Show, The Green Mile, Anvil! The Story of Anvil and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

“Drake had built him up so much,” Jones said. “We just met, talked a little bit. We have a lot in common. We share the same tastes in music and movies. I like him. He’s cool.”

But Doremus had more in mind than a simple meet-and-greet.

   

BROWER HOME. CORONA DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA. FRIDAY, JAN. 15, 1 P.M.
Trudging up the spiral staircase leading into the family room, with clothing draped over each shoulder, Doremus mentions these final days leading up to Sundance have been “a whirlwind.”

In addition to the demands of submitting a completely finished film and doing three media interviews per day, he continues to play with his Burbank-based East Valley YMCA league ice-hockey team, Agent Orange.

Doremus recalls that 10 years ago, in this very same room, he and Jones hosted a screening of The Bum. “We projected it onto a big screen, and we had 70 folding chairs set up,” Doremus says. Once the lights came up at the end, the teens solicited donations from friends and family members for the Just for Laughs Film Festival entry fees.

While editing Spooner, Doremus had told Dickler he was too funny not to be in a movie. To the amazement of Doremus, Dickler went for it. Somewhere along the way, the director got the idea of playing the strong-willed editor off his mellower friend Jones. A 30-page outline for what would become Douchebag was shot with the newbie actors. Jones and Dickler supplied all the dialogue as it came to them.

“It was entirely improvised with Drake’s direction,” Jones says. “It was a very free-form, comedic improvisation.” He also stressed that Dickler’s Douchebag character “was a wacky caricature of his personality, as was mine.”

Based on the early footage, Lindsay Stidham, who attended AFI and co-wrote Spooner with Doremus, banged out an actual script.

There was just one problem: After about half the film had been shot, Jones suffered what he called a “mini midlife crisis” and retreated to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The official reason was to learn carpentry from his father, but the more he talks about it, the more it is obvious he needed to find himself after he discovered he hated directing music videos.

Doremus let the Douchebag project marinate while he made the festival rounds with Spooner last year.

Then came Kerr’s phone call, which inspired Jones to recommit to Douchebag. So did e-mails from Stidham, who is credited as a writer along with Doremus, Dickler and producer Jonathan Schwartz—although she was the only one who put anything on paper. As the line producer, Stidham also scouted all the filming locations.

“Lindsay would end her e-mails with, ‘P.S. This is my passion project. Let’s not let it fall through the cracks,’” Jones says. “It’s been my passion ever since.”

   

POOLSIDE AT THE BROWER HOME. CORONA DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA. FRIDAY, JAN. 15, 7 P.M.
After a long photo shoot, Jones and Doremus pour themselves into lounge chairs, share warm Newcastle Browns and trade funny stories about their fathers.

“Both our dads are going to be there in Sundance opening night,” Doremus says. “They are huge fans and supporters. My dad has always been supportive of me.”

The Shirt, the first short film Doremus made after AFI, was about a guy who can’t find the perfect shirt, so he ultimately goes without one. “At the premiere, my dad took off his shirt,” Doremus says.

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