The Vacationeers were part of the most fun interview I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve done quite a few of them. The seemingly free-form, but really structured, talk (we did go over what we were going to discuss beforehand) started with an introduction of The Vacationeers: Todd Berger, Kevin Brennan, Blaise Miller, and Jeff Grace.
Kevin Brennan, Blaise Miller, and Jeff Grace met in Chicago in the famous Second City Improv organization. Then eventually moved to Hollywood, where Brennan continued a collaboration with his friend Berger that goes back to their days as students at Texas. So Brennan, and his relationships with the other three men, formed the focal point around the creation of the comedy team The Vacationeers.
The Vacationeers have made several cool videos on YouTube, including one called “The Googling” that you have to see – in fact, here it is:
They also perform at comedy shops around Los Angeles when they’re not making videos or movies, or in this case promoting one. A fun group to hang with, as I was able to do for about 24 minutes – I learned how improv works. You start talking about something, and the other person (assuming there is another person) has to add to what you’re talking about in some weird and funny way – they can’t change the subject.
It’s A Disaster: A Great Movie (But)
I’m not going to give away any more about their movie Its A Disaster, but I will say (again) that it’s an excellent work of film because of its character interplay – the relationships between all of these men in real life find their way into a feel-good-in-a-weird-way flick about a nuclear dirty bomb accident (or is it a terrorist attack?) outside their home and in America.
The movie was created based on a script penned by Berger (who said it was based on an article he read about George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead), but it really didn’t get rolling until famed actress Julia Stiles got involved. Stiles befriended the Vacationeers via a “friend of a friend” and wound up going a set of videos with them. So, when she saw the script for It’s A Disaster, she not only agreed to be in it, but give them permission to use her name, which really helped open a lot of doors for the project.
In fact The Vacationeers movie was made via relationships and connections and doors. America Ferrera (Ugly Betty on ABC) was sold on the movie because Julia Stiles signed on to to it, and in turn she brought David Cross into the mix. Cross, who’s best known for HBO’s sketch comedy series Mr. Show, plays a totally different person in It’s A Disaster.
What we talked about off-camera is something I left out of the video – deliberately. I said to the men that my only issue with It’s A Disaster was that there wasn’t a black person in it at the dinner table. This goes with a pet peeve of mine: I’m tired of seeing movies and also meeting white people who I have a lot in common with, but their friendship base is almost all white.
Humans are not complicated: you call on someone you know to help you with a project. The problem is that when that someone’s called they tend to be the same color in the movie business. The fact that the five of us got along so well is a small example of what I’m talking about. There are a lot of black folks who share much of the same values as their white or Asian or whatever colleagues in the entertainment industry, yet interracial collaborations aren’t as often as they logically should be.
What I said to the group was that folks like me like that kind of movie too. Fortunately, they all agreed with me! I left that issue out of the video because I wanted it to be strictly about promoting their work – that was it. But yeah, seeing another all-white (one Latino in America Ferrera) dinner discussion movie was a rub for me, as much as I liked it.
I’m tired of the implied idea that folks who are black don’t belong in dinner discussion movies, even as I share the same cultural habits as someone who’s white or Latino or Asian and American. Obviously it’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s an issue. With movies that are racially segregated we don’t get a view of the real America or the real World.
Of course, the best way to change that is to make your own movie.