PJ Novak is making his directorial debut with a movie about Texas

Ask fans of the desk About their favorite episodes of the series, and you’ll get “Diversity Day” as a popular answer. The hilarious breakdown of workplace training exercises was written by one of the show’s beloved cast members, BJ Novak. Novak was a principal writer on the desk He has written for many sitcoms and specials. This year, he’s heading to Texas with his first feature film to direct.RevengeWritten, directed, and stars by Novak, it’s making its way to theaters this week. Novak says his experience writing for television helped him prepare him for this dark, offbeat comedy about Texas.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer/director,” he says. “In TV, writing is a lot like directing. The presenter in TV production is really the author as much as the director is in film. I have really been feeling a great deal of satisfaction with directing from TV writing.”

While TV writing gave Novak the opportunity to tell stories like “Diversity Day,” directing a movie was an entirely different experience, he says.

“In the movie, it’s really the director’s way,” Novak says. “The director has to make all the decisions that were already made when you first direct TV. I’ve always wanted to do this, and this was just my first chance.”

Revenge It is the story of Ben Manalowitz (performed by Novak), a podcast fan who receives a shocking phone call telling him that one of the women he hooked up with has been found dead. Ben receives the news from the woman’s eccentric brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook). Ty believes that Ben has had a serious, long-term relationship with his sister and invites Ben to join his family for the funeral in West Texas.

It’s a culture shock for Ben. Living in New York, he is a complete stranger to Texas and struggles to connect with Tay’s single family. However, when Ty suggested to Ben that his sister was actually murdered (although there was no evidence), Ben decided to retold his investigation in a true crime podcast. On his journey, Ben notes the vast cultural differences between New York and Texas, and learns that some of his assumptions are not fully established.

Revenge It debuted to positive reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival in June. It is set to hit local theaters on July 27. Novak was excited about the opportunity to tell a story from Texas, even if he wasn’t able to film in the Lone Star State itself.

“I really struggled to film it in Texas because I thought that would be so much fun plus it’s so authentic,” he says. How tax exemptions work [production company] Blumhouse was only able to shoot the script as written if we shot it in New Mexico.”

Novak says he made sure he did a thorough amount of research to be as original as possible.

“I did all my research in Texas, and made sure we filmed it in Artesia, which is part of the same Pecos Valley as West Texas, so it looked the same,” he says. “I took everyone on field trips across the border to show them what I was doing. Filming that scene was absolutely important. You can’t do that on an audio platform.”

There was someone from Texas, by the way, who encouraged Novak to get into directing in the first place. Novak worked with John Lee Hancock of Longview Saving Mr. Banks And the Founder And learn some ideas about his acting style.

I asked, ‘How do I work with BJ Novak? “He just encouraged me to be very natural, to be at different levels of functioning,” Novak says of directing himself.

Novak also sought the wisdom of famous film producer Reddy, who helped bring classic films like The Godfather And the Million dollar baby to life. Novak said the advice he got from Rudy was the best he’s ever gotten.

“You only have to know two things to direct it: what you want and how to get it,” Novak recalls, “and he said to me, in his charismatic voice, “Wow, that’s so inspiring,” because few of us know what we want, but if you know what you want and you can know How to get it, you can really get anything done. When I thought of it this way, I had a lot of confidence.”

To prepare for his debut, Novak also spoke to Leigh Whannell, a debut writer/director. Raising the level of It premiered in Texas at the Southwest by Southwest Film Festival in 2018. Novak says Whannell advised him to “watch the movie in your head every chance you get.”

As advice to any aspiring North Texas filmmaker, Novak says, “Just walk in and watch the whole movie in your head.” “That way, when anyone asks you a question, because everyone is going to be from a department who knows their field better than you do, the stylist can say ‘What do you imagine? And you say, “I’m imagining this kind of thing.”

“In film, that’s really the director’s medium… All the decisions that were actually made when you’re directing TV have to be made for the first time by the director. I’ve always wanted to do that, and this was just my first chance.” – BJ Novak

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Novak says seeing Pulp Fiction As a young man it inspired him to get into the film industry. He cites Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers as major influences on the mix of comedy and crime he was trying to achieve through Revenge.

“The Coen brothers can make Fargobut they can also make it There is no country for old men, “He said.” I thought this was kind of a combination of these two tones. ”

Those elements of the crime meant that Novak had to cut out something he was familiar with: improvisation. He says that while improvisation was popular on the set the deskHe had to tell his team to stick to the script while filming Revenge.

“I encouraged them Not To improvise,” he says with a laugh. “This text is very finely calibrated due to the mix of tones. Anyone can improvise a really funny joke, but it throws off the balance of the movie. I think if I wrote a pure comedy, which I hope to do someday, I’ll allow for more improvement.”

While he has had to pay close attention to his team’s performance, Novak says working with the actors has been one of the most enjoyable experiences directing.

“It’s probably the most intuitive thing to me about the whole process,” he says. “I really love getting the actor’s point of view. I really feel like I can explain any idea inside the actor’s head and his ambition, for being an actor myself. This is the part I really like – consulting with an actor: “What if I tried to do this with dialogue, what if You try to accomplish this with the scene, or what if you use this opposite strategy to do it in the scene? “I love working like this with actors.”

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