‘Extract’-ing information from Mike Judge
by Michael J. Nicholas
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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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Answer: Yes, pretty much. I take full responsibility.
Answer: I mostly like the writing and the editing, and I like when it’s over.
Michael J. Nicholas - a.k.a. Nicky The Note - reviews, opinions & life lessons.
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