The sexually opportunistic and charmingly amoral scoundrel—think Paul Newman in Hud, Jack Nicholson in Carnal Knowledge or Warren Beatty in Shampoo—has long been a movie archetype. At this point in our evolution, when the lout with the one-track-mind is considered hopelessly offensive and immature, Adam Goldstein’s brazen turn as a wanton womanizer in The Snake is admirable for its gutsiness. The feature debut of Goldstein and co-writer and co-director Eric Kutner, The Snake is an unapologetically impertinent, made-in-S.F. comedy that marks its creators as resourceful wiseguys. They smartly matched Goldstein’s shamelessly aggressive slimeball with a parade of women wise to his shtick, turning him into a persistent, lie-spewing loser who’s pretty much always the butt of the joke. The Snake, which premiered at South by Southwest and has its S.F. premiere Friday, July 10, at the Roxie as part of the Frozen Film Festival, is genuinely funny and, ultimately, unexpectedly mature. I emailed a batch of questions to Kutner and Goldstein, and here’s what I got back.
SF360: Tell me about yourselves—how you got into film, how you know each other, why you’re drawn to comedy.
Eric Kutner: We met as romantic rivals in college but neither of us got the girl.
Adam Goldstein: The Happening’s Zooey Deschanel.
Kutner: So we ended up collaborators. Pretty weak consolation prize, actually.
Goldstein: What about that special feeling you used to get during the first couple years of her fame? You know, when you’d look at the poster for Mumford or whatever, and it would feel like getting punched in the stomach? Oh, the way you could almost taste the envy and regret. That was awesome. Anyway—comedy. We’re drawn to it because we’re miserable, angry people.
SF360: OK, how autobiographical is The Snake? Whose story is it, Adam or Eric’s?
Kutner: Why does everyone assume the story is autobiographical?! Yes, Adam did work as a cameraman on home makeover shows. Yes, I did stalk a woman I saw in a café, finagle my way into her body image support group and enable her eating disorder in exchange for sex. But neither of us has a mustache.
Goldstein: So obviously The Snake is a fiction. Events are entirely fabricated. And the lead character is an even split of our shittiest qualities.
SF360: How did you achieve this great balance: You’ve made an un-PC film—in San Francisco, no less—that nonetheless doesn’t turn the audience into a lynch mob howling for the filmmakers’ heads?
Kutner: It really speaks to apathetic audiences. There’s just not much lynching these days.
Goldstein: I feel like it’s passive aggressiveness more than apathy. I think I’ve been mind-lynched a few times.
SF360: Pick your favorite rule from the list you originally created (no crying, for example) and tell me what you hate—and maybe love—about most independent films.
Kutner: When we started writing the script we weren’t sure what movie we wanted to make, but we did know tropes we wanted to avoid. So we made a list. Ultimately, the one that caused the most difficulty was "no finding true love." It’s such a central part of any cad film—he meets the woman of his dreams and is inspired to reform his ways—that we’d painted ourselves into a corner. We had to find some other reason for him to develop empathy and commit himself to behaving decently…luckily, we hit on the idea of a ghost that only he can see. The rest was, as they say, cinema history.
Goldstein: My favorite rule forbade a climactic chase through an airport, train station, city street or what have you. Not that we were ever in danger of including one, but seriously, how many effing rom-coms end in an airport?
SF360: How is your approach different? What vows have you made to each other? How do you keep yourselves honest?
Kutner: Just the basic vows, standard to all film partnerships: to have and to hold, in sickness and health, ‘til death do us part. We renew them annually in Sausalito.
Goldstein: I don’t know that our approach is that different; I think we’re just abnormal, you know, as people. With regard to keeping ourselves honest, our highly developed self-loathing takes care of that.
SF360: What’s your favorite anecdote about shooting in S.F.? What are the pluses and minuses of shooting here. And of being an independent filmmaker here?
Kutner: This was a no-budget project and we were only able to pull it off due to the support of the community. Artist’s Alley was our gallery, Andalu provided our "romantic" dinner, Anu pulled double duty as a bar location, Little Piglet Café not only allowed us to shoot there but fed us as well, and Hotel Utah gave us access to their singular bathroom. There are other notable locations including FINN, Buffalo Exchange, and The Institute of Noetic Sciences. None of these businesses knew us, they weren’t friends or family connections, yet they still opened their doors to us… for free. Try that in New York or L.A.!
Goldstein: Favorite S.F. anecdote…I guess it’s probably the night we shot the Margaret Cho scene, and that towering, angry, Nordic-looking transvestite wandered onto set, called us all faggots and left. The consensus opinion was that she was projecting.
SF360: What is your distribution plan for The Snake? What’s your next project togther? Or is Adam going to New York to pursue an acting career as the next Jon Lovitz?
Kutner: God willing, our next project will involve Adam, Jon Lovitz, and a steel cage. Two men enter, one man leaves.
Goldstein: We’re still working on distribution. We’re also working on another script—similar vein but hopefully a little more sophisticated and with a slightly bigger budget. Mmm…budget.
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