Jason Ancona is the brains behind the wonderful new comedy Dr Cheapskate. Ahead of the film’s screening on Memorial Day, we caught up with Ancona to get the lowdown on the film, whether it’s hard to write laughs, and whether he enjoys producing or directing more.
Q:How would you sum up Dr Cheapskate?
It’s about a lonely, frugal guy hurt by a divorce and not ready to start dating again. He runs into an old classmate, who becomes a friend, and who challenges him to try to meet women, often against his wishes.
Q:Was it a film dictated by the resources and budget available to you or was it simply what you were interested in doing?
I’d say both. Definitely a lot of constraints in terms of what we could do with the budget we were working with. That being said, Dr. Cheapskate is a movie I really wanted to make. And I knew that I could keep the cast small and use a lot of locations I had access to, which helped stay within budget.
Q:Is it tough to write a comedy? Tough to find laughs?
I think writing comedy is tough because there are a lot of different types of humour: satire, silly, witty, dark, over-the-top. Some people like clever banter and others prefer fart jokes. Whereas drama is more straight forward. Yeah, it can be challenging to find laughs sometimes. I really enjoy situational comedy more than one-line jokes. Tried to create scenes in Dr. Cheapskate that were funny.
Q:What makes a good comedy, in your opinion?
Making people laugh or smile. Everyone has their fair share of real-life drama, and sometimes heavy, difficult things to deal with. To make someone laugh or smile is to give someone a moment of happiness.
As to my preference in humour, I enjoy the full spectrum of comedy. Everything from A Fish Called Wanda to Animal House to Dumb and Dumber. I cried laughing at the bathroom scene in Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd poisons Jeff Daniel’s character Harry with a laxative.
Q:Does a lot of it rely on your actors too? Does it take a certain type of actor to spur laughs?
Yes, it relies on good actors. Has to be believable. Think any good actor can do comedy well in a movie or TV show. But live comedy requires a gifted comedian: delivering jokes onstage, there are no second takes, and comic timing is key because there’s not an editing room to help with that. Look at the show Seinfeld, all the characters and actors are funny. All of them are great actors. Only one of them is great at stand-up comedy. Jerry Seinfeld has worked and honed that craft for decades.
Q:You’ve produced films before but this is the first one you’ve also directed. How different an experience was it?
It was different being able to direct. Loved the experience. You get to play in the world you create. Being able to tell the story in the way you envisioned it, is really cool. When you’re a writer or producer, it feels like you’re on the sidelines once shooting starts. When you’re directing, it feels like you’re the coach, getting to call the plays. Really liked being a coach.
Q:Can you tell us when we’ll be able to see the film and where?
We’re starting our film festival run. We’ll be playing at the Beverly Hills Music Hall on Memorial Day, Monday May 30th at 12:30pm as part of the Independent Film Showcase in Los Angeles.
At the Phoenix Comicon on Friday, June 3rd at 11:30am in the West Hall, room 102B. Will also be playing at the Laugh or Die Comedy Fest at the Landmark Cinema in Peoria, IL, at 12:15pm. Over the 4th of July weekend we’ll be playing in Miami at the Super Geek Film Festival, which is part of the Florida Comicon. We don’t have the exact date or time for that festival yet.