Gavin McInnes is often referred to as “The Godfather of Hipsterdom”, having co-founded the seminal international publication VICE in 1994. But as bold as that moniker may be, it doesn’t tell the whole story, as it was but one chapter in his bizarre legacy of a life. He’s been a cartoonist, played in punk bands, taught English to kindergarteners in China—and since leaving VICE in 2008, this modern day renaissance man has carved a niche as an essayist, an actor, a comedian, a musician, a pundit, and recently, a feature-length filmmaker. His docu-dramedy road movie, The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants, received a glowing review from yours truly a few weeks ago. His next film, How To Be A Man, is already in the can, and he is currently shooting a third. All this, while juggling a job as the creative director of ad agency Rooster New York. Not to mention, he’s also a husband, and a father of three kids. To say his days are full is an understatement, and I’m honored he found the time to chat with us here at Smug Film.
What was the genesis of the The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants, and how long before the standup tour had you planned to film your trip?
I had to do a book tour for The Death of Cool but when you’re not Stephen King, those things are super embarrassing. You’re sitting behind a desk at a bookstore signing one, maybe two books.
So, I decided to try stand-up comedy and set up a five-city tour around the Northeast. I brought a guy to document it and my old best pal from high school so it wouldn’t just be me on stage. That ended up developing into a whole subplot that takes over the movie.
How’d the gigs on the tour go?
I’m funny so I find it pretty easy to make people laugh. I do well in Canada because I’m from there. I don’t do a set, which means I can make the jokes about that particular town. This works well when the place is really unique like Montreal where we call the French “Peppers” because they drink so much Pepsi.
Albany however was a complete flop. I had just lost my best friend a few hours before and I was feeling suicidal.
Were there any funny moments along the trip that you wish you’d caught, but the cameras weren’t rolling? And how often were the cameras rolling along the way?
The cameras were rolling pretty much every waking moment. We had a 7D on the dash (why do people settle for GoPros?) the entire time. Steve got so wasted in Toronto he was projectile vomiting and I wish we had caught that. There’s something about your friend puking that is just the funniest thing in the world.
In my review, I mentioned that parts of the film recalled The Trip, and when you reblogged my review, you confirmed that it was a major influence. Tell me about the impact that film had on you, and on your film.
The trouble with documentaries is there’s no third act. They just chug along in a line until the end and unless someone turns out to be a pedophile (Capturing the Friedmans) or goes broke (The Queen of Versailles) or dies (Crumb), you have no story.
The Trip recognizes that and adds a story underneath the reality to make it worth people’s time. We did that too but I can’t get into it without ruining it.
What are some other films, and filmmakers, that have had a big impact on you creatively, or that inspire you?
Nothing explains the importance of the third act like Adaptation but my favorite films are the ones that can do something totally new without totally abandoning basic story telling. Husbands and Wives is a brilliant way to do comedy and of course Windy City Heat is the greatest movie ever made. It’s in my will that I’ll be buried with that DVD.
I noticed the film has three directors listed: you, Bryan Gaynor, and Steve Durand. How are the duties as director split between the group? It’s an unusual thing for a film to have three directors, but clearly it works well for you guys.
It’s really two movies: A documentary and a drama. Lacing those two together got so complicated, it took three brains to figure it out. We rarely disagreed on what would work best though and when we did, there was a kind of invisible meritocracy that worked it out.
Gaynor is listed on a bunch of your short films, such as Sophie Can Walk, Are Women As Horny As Men?, and Asshole. And he and Chadd Harbold have co-directed a lot of stuff with you. What’s the relationship like?
They’re way younger than me and we don’t have much in common but I don’t know; we just click. They get comedy and the importance of timing, especially in the edit. We got into Sundance with Asshole and How to Be a Man, and Brotherhood got into Slamdance. It’s really hard to find people you can do comedy with where it works. I’d say it’s about ten times harder than getting laid.
At 68 minutes, the runtime is pretty short, which I actually think is great. Most films don’t justify their runtime, and contain at least a few scenes that could’ve easily been scrapped. Was the shorter-than-typical runtime part of a conscious effort to keep the film as solid and streamlined as possible?
Of course. Every time we go to a festival, we notice the movies from countries where they get grants are about twice as long as they should be. You’ll see the kid’s foot on his bike pedal, then he pushes down, then the wheel begins to turn. You’re like, “I get it. He’s riding his bike. Let’s fucking go!” A filmmaker should be grateful people paid to see his movie and that means he shouldn’t insult them by wasting their time. Our attitude is, if it can possibly be cut, cut it.
How long did the film take to edit, and what was the editing process like? I noticed Bryan is the only one listed as editor—were you and Steve involved in the process at all, or was Bryan given autonomy?
Bryan handled editing about 90%. He’s one of the very few editors out there who can do comedy. It’s fucking hard and it can make or break a movie. As Bob Odenkirk said of Run Ronnie Run after the editor ruined it, “Let me re-edit Casablanca for you and turn it into a big fat piece of shit.”
Can you tell us a bit about your next film, How To Be A Man? When we can expect to see it?
We’re still trying to get distribution but if we don’t, it will be on Netflix in 2014. It’s basically everything I’ve wanted to say about everything crammed into one movie. The trailer speaks for itself.
What’s the last movie you saw that you loved?
I saw an early screening of David Cross’ new movie Hits. It’s a brilliant lampoon of both libertarians and hipsters that I thoroughly enjoyed even though I love both those groups.
How about the last one that you absolutely hated?
I’ve made it very clear I believe This is 40 is a form of torture.
What are you thoughts on the state of independent film at the moment?
It is being slaughtered by political correctness. If you are an American Indian woman and you do a movie about a black lesbian in a wheelchair who finds her voice through flamenco dancing, you are going to basically clean up at every festival there is. Conversely, if independent filmmakers tried to do Animal House today, it wouldn’t make it past script.
How about mainstream film?
There is so much money involved, nobody wants to take any risks so the concepts for the films are incredibly derivative. That being said, I love going to a theater and getting my mind blown by a giant fucking monster destroying a bunch of buildings.
You recently wrote a great article for Taki’s Magazine called “How To Get Rich in America in 30 Easy Steps.” A lot of our readers here at Smug Film are budding filmmakers—do you have any specific advice for them?
Call yourself Amanda Whitefeather and write a story about a black lesbian in a wheelchair who finds her voice through flamenco dancing.