When I spoke over the phone with Mark Little, writer and lead actor of the upcoming feature comedy Roller Town , we discussed what led he and co-writers Andrew Bush and Scott Vrooman to decide to make a feature-length film. “I think my approach to comedy has always been “˜just try everything,'” says Little. It was when B.C.-born Little moved to Halifax that he and his peers founded the incredibly popular YouTube sketch group Picnicface, famous for its viral Powerthirst videos. From there, Little tells me, “the natural extension of that was to try and move into areas where people could actually see what you were doing on a broader scale.” This meant developing a Picnicface series for the Comedy Network, a book, and now a movie. “I guess the way that could backfire is that you’re putting out three different things that you’re totally new to at the same time, and you burn up everyone’s good will in a six-month period. But that’s what it is; we didn’t know how to make movies so we wanted to try and figure that out, and then in the meantime, see if we enjoyed it.”
It was a departure not only for Little, but for fellow Picnicface comrades Bush and Vrooman as well. “Throughout the process, Scott was ordering screenplay writing books for beginners, and loaning them to me when he was done with them, so that’s something we never did with sketches. We never felt like there was some secret to writing sketches that we had to crack.”
Little, Vrooman and Bush were inspired to write Roller Town when their friend Jason Eisener (director of Hobo with a Shotgun ) introduced them to a subgenre of campy disco-rollerskating movies such as Skatetown, USA , and Xanadu , which came out in the late “˜70s and early “˜80s when disco was on its deathbed. “And not, I think, coincidentally,” says Little. “These movies are garbage. They’re so clearly a somewhat cynical appeal to a youth market from non-youths; they’re not made by people who love this stuff…I think most of these movies were sensational failures, and that’s what makes them so ripe for parody…they’re practically caricatures of themselves.” Little explains that Roller Town is a kind of homage to these films, and a way of poking fun at them, while “layering our own silly sensibility on top to make more jokes.”
I asked him how he was feeling leading up to the film’s release. “Oh. Nervous….inevitably whatever you make, a lot of people will dislike, and in the age of the internet it is very easy to come into contact with the people who dislike your work. And I think…maybe it takes a while to grow a thick skin? I don’t think I’m there yet.”
Little’s approach is to try everything. The result? A well-deserved mass following for Picnicface, a book, and now a feature film. Don’t be too nervous, Mark. Thick skin or not, the approach is paying off.
Roller Town opens in theatres on Friday, September 21.Visit the film’s official website for more details.
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