By: Shannon Grant
With over-the-top characters, such as a litigator who can get you money for being unfriended on Facebook, Local Commercial is a film about a local commercial shoot gone awry. The film will be screened at the Manhattan Film Festival on June 24. I spoke with actress/co-writer Didi Dobbs and Director Richard Dobbs who shed light on their original comedy.
MFF: Can you explain the premise of the film?
Richard: The film was inspired by our fascination with local commercials. We thought it’d be interesting to do a film about the making a local commercial through the perspective of the director. Our director is a guy who has enjoyed a long, successful career and he’s showing up to do this local commercial gig expecting it to be the easiest time of his life and it turns into his worst nightmare.
Didi: It’s just one landmine after another. He finds out things are going wrong on the set and things are almost immediately out of his control.
MFF: How would you describe the chemistry on set?
D: There are two things. First, we knew that we had to do this really fast so the chemistry on the set was kind of professional like “lets get this done because we know we don’t have an unlimited amount of takes” But when we have John Ratzenberger and Frank Converse on a set you can’t help but have fun.
R: The cast is terrific. We did help ourselves by having a table read with all the cast members so everyone got to say the words out loud to each other about a month before we shot. When shooting comedy you have to be spontaneous. That’s where Didi, Frank and John’s experience with improvisation comes in. You’ve got actors who can wing it. When their doing something that works, you leave them alone.
MFF: What’s the hardest part of writing a comedy?
D: The hardest part is that I’m always right. (laughs) You have to know how to have a sense of play if you’re writing a comedy. The premise of the film was so solid that it wasn’t real easy to write but it wasn’t that hard. It was really organic.
R: For me the hardest part is resisting the urge to try to be funny. When you’re trying to be funny you’re on dangerous ground. It’s got to be organic and honest. If you’re true to human nature and you’ve got funny actors and actors that understand how to relate to each other, it’s pretty magical how it comes together at the end.
MFF: Could you say that some of what occurred in the film is based on actual experiences?
D: Yes but we also sat here with each other and said “Let’s take this up a notch. What if we take up 5 notches?” But basically, characters in my head are people I grew up with or have read about or loved. They’re people we know plus imagination. I still believe in imagination. I don’t think everything has to be reality based. I love that great writers imagine the characters out of their own head.
MFF: How do you hope audiences will feel when they leave the film?
D: I just want them to feel they had a good couple of laughs. This is not just for people in the business. Anybody who’s been dumped for somebody younger or anybody who has lost a job because some kid came in; anybody can relate to that. We just want the audience to feel maybe better and in this case happy.
R: You hope that your sensibility and sense of humor somehow resonates. A lot of this is from real experience in one way or another. A good friend saw it and said it was hysterical and that the scary thing about was it’s so true. And you don’t want to feel alone in the world. You just want to know that other people have had same the experiences as you.
D: I actually wouldn’t mind making them feel just a little anxious.
R: We will say that maybe they should have a drink.