‘Extract’-ing information from Mike Judge

| December 10, 2009

Recently, I took part in a roundtable discussion with writer/producer/director Mike Judge(Beavis and Butt-Head, King Of The Hill, Office Space, Idiocracy), regarding the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release of his film ‘Extract’. The movie stars Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig and Ben Affleck, with supporting actors J.K. Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr. and Dustin Milligan.
Bateman plays Joel, a vanilla-extract plant owner banking on early retirement with the sale of his factory until an inopportune workplace accident sets off a series of misfortunes, which ultimately place his business and personal life in turmoil.
Special Features include the following:
– Mike Judge’s Secret Recipe-What are the ingredients of a classic Mike Judge film? Go straight to the factory floor to uncover the writer and director’s secrets. From shooting in a real working factory to the unique cast of characters and situations, Mike Judge always seems to have the right recipe.
– Extended Scenes – 5 scenes featuring extended portions with Joel, Dean and Brad that didn’t make the final cut of the film. (Blu-ray only)
– Deleted Scene-Straight from the factory floor, watch this exclusive deleted scene where Dean explains his rather abrupt departure from Willie’s party the night before and finds out Joel got punched in the face. (Blu-ray only)
-The Vocabulariast Exclusive Edition includes all of the above and the following:
Cheating: Mike Judge Says It’s O.K. – A Thematical Analysis of Extract by The Vocabulariast
Mila Kunis – An Examination of how a girl who was merely average on her TV show turned hot in movies
Here are some of the questions I had for Mr. Judge…
Question: Is any part of the film based off prior experiences you might of had working in a factory environment, such as employees, situations, or even relationships?
Answer: There were some similarities from when I worked in a factory(building bass and guitar amplifiers), but I probably got more inspiration from working on Beavis and Butt-Head where I felt like I was running a factory and having to deal with all it’s employees. It was a Butt-Head factory basically.
Question: Have you worked at all in the past with veteran actors Jason Bateman and Ben Affleck? And did you have any of them in mind when writing the script?
Answer: I started writing this a long time ago — I think it was shortly after Office Space came out. I originally wasn’t thinking of any actor in particular, just writing it. Jason had done King of the Hill and I always liked him, but when I saw him in Arrested Development, I thought he would be perfect for this, and when I rewrote it and finished it, I was imagining him as the lead. It’s a similar character to what he did in AD, but I think Joel is a little less slick or something. Jason was the first actor I gave the script to and he said he liked it and wanted to do it, so it was him from the get go.
I had never met him(Ben Affleck) before this and when I heard he wanted to do it, I was surprised at first — pleasantly so — and then when I met with him, he started telling me about a guy he knew growing up in Boston and he started imitating him and I just thought it was great. We did a read through of the script early on and I just loved watching him and Jason do these scenes and play off each other.
Question: Do you allow any of the actors to improv or run with a scene, especially when it’s obvious the spontaneity has made it stronger? Or do you put more faith in the written word and not deviate from the script?
Answer: I like to let the actors feel like they can be loose with the script up to a point because I want them to feel comfortable and when they really get the character and what’s happening in the scene, then the improv wouldn’t drift too far anyway. I’m not really precise about my writing, but I usually find that in the editing room we end up pretty close to what was on the page. I think if you write good dialogue, it sounds like people spontaneously talking, so audiences think it’s improvised, which is a good thing I think. I would say in this movie, the most improv that would end up in the movie came from Ben Affleck. He threw some stuff in there that I just loved and it wasn’t in the script.
Question: Was it your idea to cast rocker Gene Simmons(KISS) as bench lawyer Joe Adler?
Answer: Yeah, I had originally described the character as looking like Gene Simmons with a pony tail and a suit and tie. I was kind of naive though, in that I thought no one would recognize him without the Kiss makeup on. I didn’t realize how huge the reality show was. The only time I had ever seen him without the makeup was on Politically Incorrect about 9 years ago and thought he would be great playing an agent or high-powered attorney.
Question: What were the challenges of filming in a fully functional working factory?
Answer: Because we were on a tight budget, we had to shoot a lot of stuff while they were still working — they were really bottling. A lot of the background that you see in the movie is actually real people working — not extras. It was loud enough in there that they couldn’t hear us yelling “action” and “cut” and they just kind of got used to us being there, so I got some pretty natural acting in the background because they weren’t acting like they were working; they were really working.
Question: Do you prefer working on animated or live-action productions?
Answer: I think they’re more similar than you might think from the the point of a writer/director. I liked animation when I was just doing short films myself — doing everything myself. That was really satisfying work — making a film one frame at a time, getting it back from the lab and watching it for the first time. That was about as good as it gets I think. I would definitely like to do a live action TV series. I don’t know that I would do another feature-length animated film any time soon. Unless maybe it was a CG project.
Question: Did you choose the bonus features that are going to be on the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release, since you are the director and have creative control?
Answer: Yes, pretty much. I take full responsibility.
Question: In your previous films you’ve had a hand in directing, writing and producing. Which is your so-called labor of love out of the three?
Answer: I mostly like the writing and the editing, and I like when it’s over.
Extract, available on Blu-ray™ Hi-Def and DVD on December 22, 2009 from Miramax Films and Buena Vista Home Entertainment

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