We meet two nights a week to drink --- I mean write.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
The Minor Prophets are the absolute masters of WTF comedy. They've made about three dozen films over the last decade, and each one is distinguished by a classical approach to writing and structure. They're very serious about making seriously funny films.
The troupe is made up of Brian Gillin, Dave Amadio, Gil Damon and Steve Kuzmick – some of them married, all of them lifelong friends. They have a gift for creating memorable characters, like the misty-eyed super-patriot in America's Game or the bizarre title character of The Lonely Professor.
I spoke with Brian Gillin about the history of the group, who does what on set, and the possibility of a Minor Prophets feature film.
What's the story with you guys? How did you meet?
Gil and I met in kindergarten. I don't really have many memories of him other than us both trying to convince one another that we each had "The Force." Gil eventually convinced me that he played checkers without actually touching the pieces. So our friendship is basically based on a lie, but it works for us so I have no complaints. Dave and Steve were part of Gil's younger brother's crew. They were basically a younger, better-looking version of our group of friends. Somehow, the four of us all ended up going to West Chester University together. We didn't make any films there, just roller hockey, drinking, and drugs (usually in that order). Post college everyone went their separate ways but stayed close through the invention of e-mail. There was no Facebook back then so we had to type actual e-mails the old-fashioned way.
What first ran through your mind when Steve and Dave approached you with the idea of forming a troupe?
Steve and Dave are very passionate about whatever they are talking about (hockey, kids, strip clubs, food, etc...), so it wasn't hard to take them seriously when they asked me to join their yet-to-be-formed comedy troupe. Personally, I was flattered that they had chosen me from the ranks of our many friends to be a part of this. It was like an unofficial comedy award in a way, saying that I was funnier than my other friends. Finally, my years of asinine behavior had paid off! As they laid out their plans for taking over the Philadelphia comedy scene, I remember thinking that this comedy thing wouldn't last but that I could probably use the Minor Prophets thing to hook up. I was wrong on both counts. The Minor Prophets have lasted eight years and withstood three marriages, six kids (soon to be eight), and countless ups and downs. I can say without a doubt that it never helped us get any girls, although it has definitely aided in us almost losing some.
Is comedy a good way to vent frustrations?
Making films definitely helps lighten the load of life and provides a release. This has been our creative outlet for eight years. Most of our films come from some slice of one of our lives that we exploit for comedic purposes. I think everyone has an outlet of some sorts, whether it be playing softball or knitting or fantasy football, etc... This is ours.
What was your first short about?
Keg Runners was about a group of guys that supposedly went out jogging but really just met up in the woods to drink and do drugs. At that point in our writing process I think our film synopses also functioned as the entire script. We basically improvised the entire shoot and left Steve (our director / editor / actor extraordinaire) with hours of useless footage to comb through and create something resembling a short. Not that we know what we are doing now, but we really didn't know what we were doing then. One thing was clear back then, though: we loved what we were doing and wanted to keep doing it. This was the first of many films to be shot and never seen by anyone, the first time we got chased by security guards / cops, the first time we argued over shots, etc... All in all, it was a great experience.
Talk about the writing process.
We meet two nights a week to drink --- I mean, write. Someone will bring up an idea, usually a very loose idea, and we'll try and work it into a live bit or a short film. If it doesn't have "legs," as people at work are fond of saying, then we scrap it. Dave has notebooks of ideas that have never made it too far, and if we are stuck we'll go back and read through those to see if we can come up with anything. Everything in our live shows and films is scripted for the most part. Every once in a while someone will adlib something that works, but for the most part, we spend so much time going over dialogue that adlibbing doesn't fit. The only improv that we do is on the dance floor after shows. This usually involves various props and us getting kicked out of wherever we are.
What happens behind the camera? Do you switch roles a lot in terms of crew?
Steve is the man behind the camera. He's our director, editor, and cinematographer. The rest of us all throw our two cents in probably way too often, if you ask Steve. I think Steve got the job because of his storyboards. They started out as stick figures and have progressed to something indescribable. If The Minor Prophets ever end, I think he should open a gallery and put them on display. Since there are just four of us, if you aren't in the scene then you are busy working on lighting or holding a boom microphone or running for coffee and hoagies. So, yes we do wear a lot of hats.
Talk about working with Derek Frey, who's another one of our contributors.
Gil and I met Derek in Drexel Hill Middle School. Gil and Derek used to act like the Martin Short SNL character Ed Grimley in sixth grade in hopes of becoming popular. For the most part it just got them beat up by "Hammers" (guys that listened to heavy metal and wore denim jackets). Derek and I used to trade baseball cards, and if you ask him, he'll tell you that I stole his Don Mattingly rookie card. That is not totally true; it was my neighbor Kenny. He was the neighborhood tough who is no doubt enjoying a prison cell right now. Man, I hated Kenny. He made me watch A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was way too young to watch it. I still have trouble sleeping because of that prick. Anyway, Derek found our website a few years back and said he would love to do something with us. So we filmed 4th and 99 together, which we ended up taking to Cannes in a gonzo-style attack on the French. It didn't get us a movie deal or anything, but it was one of the best times we've ever had. We filmed America's Game with Derek shortly after that, and we have a few more in the works.
You play Favre in 4th and 99. What's up with that guy? And what's he doing walking out of the women's restroom? (Great character, by the way.)
Thanks. Favre was originally Elway, but the jerseys were too expensive since Elway is retired and in the Hall of Fame, so we went with Favre. Even if he retires, it doesn't seem to last too long. And it's a female dog; hence, the women's bathroom.
I love the songs in The Golden Pants. Who did those for you?
We did the songs for The Golden Pants; I'm really glad you noticed them. Our first attempt at a creative outlet was through music. Gil and I were in a band called Lanny's Clam Box and Dave and Steve were founding members of the Dick Richardsons. By everyone's standards these bands were not good, but it was something to do other than study, so we kept at it for a bit. We were forced to come out of our un-voluntary music retirement when we found out that bands apparently frown upon you illegally using their copy-written music in films. Who knew? We have a bunch of films that we did early on that we can't show because of that fact. Who knows, maybe David Bowie, Sha Na Na, and Queen will someday grant us the rights and we can post the films on FilmNet.
Where did you shoot In Vino Veritas?
Dave brought us over to his uncle's house to show us the basement saying that we needed to film something down there. The house was vacant and was being foreclosed by the bank, so we didn't have much time. Immediately upon seeing it, we all agreed we had to do something to honor the place where Dave's uncle used to make wine for years. We threw around a bunch of ideas and came up with Setemio's character. Steve and I wanted to have Gil chained up as a shirtless servant to Setemio in the basement at first, but that didn't work. Having Gil shirtless is something we try to do as much as possible. His hairy torso has generated a sizable gay following in Minnesota. Before that, we thought a bear was just an animal in the woods.
You guys perform live. What can audiences expect when they come to see The Minor Prophets perform?
Our shows consist of live scripted sketches that lead into our short films displayed on a screen on stage. The live format gives us a chance to do shorter bits, snapshots of awkward situations as opposed to 9 to 15 minute storylines. It gives us a chance to mix it up. There is a great satisfaction gained from hearing actual human beings laughing at your work, something you can't get from counting web hits or reading posted comments. It's a whole mess of fun.
You've got a dream project in the works. Tell us about that.
We took some time off from performing to write a screenplay entitled Straight On Till Morning. It took us about 9 months and 35 cases of Pale Ale. It's actually an expansion of one of our shorts, We Were Boys. It's about four men in their early- to mid-thirties with varying degrees of Peter Pan Syndrome. They make a pact to address this sickness, and the film explores the consequences the men and their families incur on their journey. If I were a shrink, I'd tell you that it's a metaphor for four men in their early- to mid-thirties, who form a comedy troupe to escape from their adult lives from time to time. It may be the best thing we've ever written, but trying to find a way to get it made has been beyond frustrating. Hey, you wouldn't happen to know anyone who could help, would you? Huh? Please?