Actor, filmmaker and burgeoning indie film kingpin Mark Duplass is getting quite a platform this year at SXSW as one of the keynote speakers for the film conference — and he's not going to waste the opportunity. A longtime SXSW veteran, Duplass — who also has four films in the fest he produced with "Manson Family Vacation," "The Overnight," "6 Years" and "Adult Beginners" — has some concrete advice for young filmmakers. But the most important thing? Be nice.
You're no stranger to SXSW. How is this year different?
This is the first year where I'll be staying at a hotel and not sleeping on some weird Airbnb couch three miles away from downtown, because I'm the keynote speaker and they're going to fly me in and put me up. That's a huge difference! And we have four movies going to the festival, two of which already have distribution and two of which are for sale. First and foremost, SXSW is and always has been about f---ing fantastic audiences appreciating movies, but it is a little bit more of a market than it has been traditionally. To be perfectly honest, in 2008 when I finished a movie that was too late for Sundance, I didn't really consider SXSW, but you can sell a movie out of SXSW now.
Do you have an idea of how your keynote will go?
I'm working it out in my head, but I've realized that I enjoy proselytizing about the way I've made things. I find that my career trajectory just happens to be the one that most closely approximates a practical path to success for someone who is coming from nowhere — no connections, nothing — and most of the people you're speaking to who need help are nowhere. I feel like in order to give a 45-minute speech, you f---ing better have something to offer and not just talk about yourself, you know? So I'm going to get up there and give some extremely specific tools for the filmmaker who wants to figure out how to make it. The last thing you need to hear right now is, "Anybody can make a movie, just pick up a camera and go." We've been saying this for 20 years. Let's get more specific.
What was your secret?
I didn't know how to break into this industry other than just to keep making stuff from the outside and hope to make some sort of lateral move in, and that ended up happening through Sundance. As I've been looking back over the last 12 years, I've realized something really cool has happened that I didn't plan on. All false modesty aside, I work in this town because I am a nice and supportive person to everyone around me and people constantly want to give me jobs because they want to be around that kind of energy. I'm finding myself in this weird place where I have more opportunities than I ever dreamed of. The s--- I've had to turn down this year, you would not believe. I still have to go to therapy to get over it.
How do you go about finding young filmmakers to foster?
A lot of it is pretty gut-oriented, to be honest. There's a little bit of a profile of that person between the age of 25 and 32 who's made a short or two, or maybe hasn't made a movie but has written a book or their Twitter account shows me that their storytelling acumen or something in them makes them unique. You would think by the success rate that I've had that it's a more vetted process than it is, but usually it's a meeting or two and "I love this person," or it's someone that I've known intimately for a long time.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick