A young man looking for vengeance and a young woman looking for a new start cross paths in New York City and become outcast avengers in the new movie Funny Face. Written and directed by Tim Sutton, Funny Face is now available on Digital platforms via Gravitas Ventures, and as part of our Indie Horror Month celebration on Daily Dead, we caught up with Sutton in a new Q&A feature to discuss making his "DIY superhero origin story," including tackling the timely issue of gentrification in Brooklyn, being influenced by New York City movies such as Taxi Driver, and working with a cast that includes Cheers alums Dan Hedaya and Rhea Perlman.
Thanks for taking the time to answer questions for us, Tim, and congratulations on your new movie, Funny Face! How and when did you first come up with the idea for this film?
Tim Sutton: I’ve lived in New York for almost 25 years and had yet to make a movie here. So when I made the decision to do it, I had to find a vehicle or vehicles that would take shape as a real New York movie—something that fit in the genre of iconic films like Taxi Driver, Requiem for a Dream, and Stranger Than Paradise, to name a few. That meant making something extremely personal, something meaningful, and something as gritty as it was sublime. The gentrification of Brooklyn is an issue I take seriously and I thought, "Why not use the very recognizable Coney Island mask as a way into a DIY superhero origin story?" That’s how it started. The place, the issue, and the mask.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the screenplay, and how many drafts did you go through before it was time to film?
Tim Sutton: I write very quickly, so maybe a few weeks for the first draft… then underwent several rewrites, mainly to figure out the ending—how "successful" Saul and Zama’s revenge plot should be.
You work with a fantastic cast on this film, including Dela Meskienyar, Cosmo Jarvis, Victor Garber, Dan Hedaya, Rhea Perlman, and Jeremy Bobb. What was it like collaborating with them to tell this story?
Tim Sutton: They’re all very different actors with different assets, so I feel absolutely lucky to have had such an interesting cast. Cosmo led the way, his preparation and dedication were almost animalistic, his intuition and his ability to push things a step further was really exciting. Dela brought a very personal approach and filled her character with an authenticity that would have been impossible for me to write on my own. Johnny went all in, creating a villain that was both impervious and weak simultaneously. Jeremy Bobb and Victor Garber came in and hit home runs with no prep whatsoever, total pros, and Dan and Rhea (Cheers reunions) are both living legends. I’m smiling just thinking about each performance.
With Indie Horror Month on Daily Dead, we’re celebrating the perseverance, problem-solving, and ingenuity of independent creators. Were there any obstacles—when it came to budget, shooting schedule, filming locations, technical specs, etc.—that you had to overcome while making Funny Face?
Tim Sutton: My producers and crew made a lot of the typical issues disappear, which I am grateful for. It’s a cliché, but the hardest part of making this film was getting to the starting line—getting the funding to make something that isn’t concerned with the algorithm, something that is trying to tell a story that defies the expected rather than is a slave to it. Most financiers want guarantees, not risks. Again, I was very lucky with how the film was set up, but it took a long time to get there.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
Tim Sutton: The “Nirvana” scene. It was just pure pleasure, pure mystery, and everyone on set was feeling it.
While making Funny Face, were you influenced or inspired by any other movies, TV shows, or books?
Tim Sutton: Certainly the iconic New York genre—Taxi Driver, Bad Lieutenant, even When Harry Met Sally; the music of the Ramones, Velvet Underground, and Blondie; and the origin story of Spider-Man and other original superhero comics.
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from this film?
Tim Sutton: No matter how ugly a place can feel, tilt your head a tiny bit and that same place can be filled with beauty. No matter now angry or frustrated or isolated you may feel, there is probably someone who feels a lot like you do and just sharing a meal can make you feel a hell of a lot better.
With Funny Face now available digitally from Gravitas Ventures, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about, and where can our readers go online to keep up to date on your films?
Tim Sutton: I have multiple projects cooking at various temperatures. I shot a crazy Western this past fall that is in post production and have a script about the last days of a musician ready to go into production this summer. As far as updates go, I pretty much live on Instagram and my handle is @vanriperarchives
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[Image Credit: Above image courtesy of Lucas Gath.]