by Michael McCarthy
conducted on March 23, 1998

MM: Now that Eion Bailey is on Significant Others and Dawson's Creek, perhaps Miramax will reconsider.

VP: That would be a possibility. If those shows do well. I mean, obviously, Dawson's Creek is doing well, but so far the reviews on Significant Others haven't been that hot.

MM: How did you come to cast Eion and Robert DiPatri?

VP: We took out an ad in Backstage for an open casting call. We gave a basic breakdown of the characters we were casting and the general age range and told people to come with a prepared dramatic monologue of their choice. We figured that would give us a basic idea of whether or not they were a good actor. We had about four hundred people show up. We cast Eion out of that. The second he read, it was like, "Oh my God." It was like, "This guy got the part." Rob was actually a friend of Paul Finn, who is the co-producer. Before we got into casting, Paul kept mentioning his friend Rob. He's like, "Rob used to act in high school. Maybe he'd be good in this." I was like, "Let him come in and read." He came and read and was just fantastic. It was amazing because he was better than anyone who came from New York. It was obvious Eion would be Ryan as soon as we saw him and I think it was obvious at the second callback that Rob was going to be Barret. Other supporting actors came mostly out of the Backstage ad. A couple were written specifically for people. I wrote the parts specifically for Carmen Lee and Brian Lynch.

MM: Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee appear in the film under pseudonyms. What are they?

VP: For Ethan it was Stan Dubar and for Jason it was Lionus Peacock.

MM: Were their parts written for them?

VP: Jason's was written for him. That came up later in the game. In the original script, there was no boyfriend for the aunt. During rehearsals, Molly Castello, who played the aunt, was a little perturbed by her character. Thought she came off as too unlikeable, that this woman didn't have a life. I normally wouldn't make a change like that because an actress was upset, but it sort of clicked, like, "Hey, Jason Lee's gonna be here because Carmen's in the film. He can play your boyfriend." It seemed like such a good idea. It was very easy to pop him into those sequences. I wrote a couple lines and he ran with it on his own. He did this really, really hysterical cameo. I always chuckle when I see it. As far as Ethan, he and I talked constantly on the set of Mallrats. Ethan was like, "When you make your film, I'm gonna come out, I'm gonna hang out." He said he would do anything in it. They just sort of came up with that. There was a little bit in the script where this guy comes up and insults the girl. It wasn't quite what was in the film. I trust Brian Lynch's comic timing, so I was just like, "Brian, you, Carmen, Ethan," and the smaller guy, who's a friend of Paul's, "Go work something out, show it to me and I'll let you know if I like it." We just went with it.

MM: What was Brian's involvement as an associate producer?

VP: When we started the producing process, he was off at college. He had read the script, because I would go hang out with him. As soon as he got back, he pretty much came on full time and would help Paul out with locations, scheduling stuff and calling places. Basically, he became Paul's helper. And I wrote the part of Eddie for him.

MM: Were you involved with his film, Big Helium Dog?

VP: Yeah. I was the first assistant director and I edited it with Brian. I acted in it, too.

MM: What stage is it at right now?

VP: They just finished the final cut. They just have to add the opening and ending credits and a couple title cards in between. And they're going to be shooting some animation to intro some of the bits. But beyond that, it's the final cut.

MM: How did Paul Finn come to produce A Better Place with you?

VP: I knew Paul from high school. I was working at the video store. He would come in and we would talk about film constantly. As I recall, it just came out of that. I told him I was writing this script and he read some of it and dug it.

MM: Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier are credited as executive producers. Did they have any involvement beyond financing?

VP: Basically just the financing. Kevin pretty much left me alone to do what I pleased. Scott came for the first few days of shooting to make sure everything was running. That was about it. Kevin visited the set once, but I don't think it was while we were actually shooting. I don't even think he gave me suggestions during the scripting stage. He just wanted me to be happy with it. The first draft, I wasn't too happy with, but he kind of dug it. He was like, "Well, get it to the point that you're happy with it before we finalize this." When I finished the second draft, I was really happy with it and he was like, "Fine, go with it." During editing, everyone gave suggestions. Scott, Kevin and, particularly, Bob Hawk. They weren't adamant that I had to change stuff. They just gave suggestions and if they were good suggestions I took them. If I didn't agree with them, I didn't. But most of the time they were right.

MM: Kevin and Scott also have executive producer credits on Good Will Hunting, which is up for Academy Awards tonight. Do you fear some people may have unrealistic expectations for A Better Place as a result?

VP: No, because the film was so small comparatively. It's not even on the same level. With Good Will Hunting, they brought the script to Miramax. They weren't involved with the production and didn't put money into it. That's a different kind of situation.

MM: People could guess how having an affiliation with Kevin might make things easier for you. Are there any ways it makes it harder?

VP: Maybe people initially think the film is more comedic than it is when they walk in. That's the only thing I can think of--that people associate View Askew with comedy. Maybe they're a little shocked at first with this one. Actually, for the first half of the film, there's quite a bit of comedy, but it's obviously on a much darker level.

MM: At Vulgarthon, I overheard someone talking about the scene where Carmen Lee's character falsely accuses Barret of rape. He was saying, "That sounds like something Kevin would write. He must have got that from Kevin." I said, "Well, Vincent and Kevin were working together at the time Kevin wrote Clerks. How do you know some of Kevin's dialogue isn't influenced by Vincent."

VP: Yeah, it's kind of weird because I've been told I speak like Kevin writes. Kevin has often said he wishes more people spoke the way he wrote. In many ways, I think Kevin has this wonderfully stylized way of writing dialogue. I think maybe part of that is because he hangs out with people who have an eloquent way of speaking, like Brian Johnson. And myself, I guess. He also has an ear for how people talk.

MM: Were any of the conversations in Clerks reminiscent of conversations you had with Kevin while working at Quick Stop?

VP: The one thing that really reminds me of myself is the scene where Randal gets in the fight with the customer and she runs out, then he goes next door and goes, "You'll never believe what this unruly customer just said." When I first read that I laughed out loud because that happened a few times, where I'd get into an altercation with a customer and go next door like, "You won't believe what just happened." As far as actual conversations, it's hard to say. There were always these absurd conversations. Not necessarily like the Star Wars conversations and all that crazy shit in the film. But Kevin would ask the most ridiculous question. It always had some sexual bend on it. You'd have to sit there and debate it all night. I remember one time the question was like, "OK, a German scientist has discovered the cure for Aids, but he won't release it to the world unless you have sex with him. Would you have sex with him?" Based on your answer, it would lead into this absurd conversation where the stakes would consistently get higher. It was so ridiculous and funny. By the end of the night, you'd been talking about this absurd subject for an hour and it got to this level where it usually involved Brian Johnson in some very bizarre and perverted sex acts with somebody. It's hard to explain unless you were there.

MM: One can't help but wonder if Randal was modeled after you and Dante after Kevin, where you were the one hounding him to go ahead and make a movie, and prior to getting that inspiration he's said to have been content to lament.

VP: I look at the film and see a lot of all of us. But I'd say Randal's probably more me and Brian Johnson and Dante probably is more Kevin because Kevin does sort of dwell on relationships and so on and so forth. That does have more to do with him. But Dante was kind of a whiny character and comparatively I never got that from Kevin. And Kevin could be a real bastard to customers.

MM: Anything in particular come to mind?

VP: Like some of the stuff with Randal. Just being very, very, like, totally dismissive. That was kind of the attitude there. I think that place breeds it. I've been there a few times since. They've got a whole new crew and they're just bastards. It's funny because now I work at this print/copy shop and I'm very nice to customers. Everyone there likes me. It's night and day because it's the same type of thing. People come in and they want you to do stuff. For some reason, working at that video store, you just build up this bizarre contempt for people.

MM: What was your job on Mallrats and Chasing Amy?

VP: Just production assistant work. That was it.

MM: Will you be working on Dogma?

VP: I doubt it. I'm busy with the Flixtour. I'll go out there a couple times to visit the set, but that's about it. I won't actually be working on it. I was hoping to maybe be involved a little bit in the editing. I would really like to learn to use the Avid. But I haven't talked to them about it.

MM: How did you become involved with the Flixtour?

VP: Like any other festival, it was something I submitted to. That one seemed like it was a pretty novel idea. So, I submitted it and got accepted.

MM: You've already done some colleges, right?

VP: I've done two. The first one wasn't really a college. It was a small movie theatre in San Francisco. Then I did Lehigh University.

MM: How did those two go?

VP: San Francisco was very sparsely attended, but the people who did go seemed to like the film. The first night there were only about a dozen people but my Q&A went for a good hour and a half anyway. The Lehigh one was really good. There were about fifty or sixty people, which made me happy.

MM: Have you gotten acquainted with the other filmmakers?

VP: We were out in Park City. They attempted to have a press conference, like some sort of a kick off publicity thing for it. It didn't quite work out that way, but all the filmmakers were there. I met them, but that was about it.

MM: Are there any cities you're most looking forward to visiting?

VP: Probably the one I've already gone to, which was San Francisco. I really dug the city even though the screenings weren't that great. Most of the places are very local. The screening I'm most looking forward to has been rescheduled. It was originally going to be March 27th. Now it's April 13th. It's at The Cafe Cinema in Wilksbury, Pennsylvania. I've been told it's this enormous converted movie theatre. This ornate, old movie palace type of place with 1800 seats and a huge screen.

MM: I wonder if some people who want to see the films might not go because they have reservations about the colleges where the screenings are held. For example, they have the Harvard Film Achieve at Harvard, which is a nice little one screen theatre, but a lot of people in Boston wouldn't go there because they don't like Harvard.

VP: I suppose. A few of the schools are only open to students, but a lot of them are open to everybody. You can just show up and see it. It would be cool if they were able to make a deal and get it at an art house in Los Angeles or New York. I don't see why that would be a major problem, but I don't know if they've looked into it yet.

MM: How are you traveling? Are they putting all of the filmmakers on a tour bus?

VP: It's all separate. It's a little . . . It reminds me of the way I made my film. Everything's kind of left in the air for you to figure out. When I went to San Francisco, I had a plane ticket. They set that up and everything. For everything else, I'm supposed to rent a car and drive everywhere. It's being paid for by the Flixtour, but it's left in my hands. I get the dates and information sent to me, as far as how to get to these places, then I just sort of have to go there.

MM: Once you get there, does somebody meet you?

VP: There's no one from the Flixtour. It's always a contact from the college. I'll meet up with that person. They're supposed to feed me, so they take me out to eat or whatever then I show the film.

MM: Which film festivals have you screened at?

VP: I showed it at the IFFM last September. I was in competition at The Hamptons. That was a lot of fun. And it's not a festival, but I showed it at Independents Night in New York. That was a fantastic screening. They put us in a really nice theatre and it sold out, so there were like 300 people in the audience.

MM: Your bio says you're working on a script now called Autograph. How far along is that?

VP: I'm about a third of the way into the script and I have a treatment written out. It's kind of a sloppy treatment, but my treatments always are. But they're very detailed. It's just me sitting down and spelling out the entire film scene by scene in shorthand.

MM: How do you intend to make Autograph? Do you plan to sell it to a company with yourself attached as director or make it independent or . . . ?

VP: There's no way I could do it independent. There's no way I could do it on the level I did this. It's a lot more commercial and visual. I really, really dig visual filmmaking and this is my horror movie. Actually, it's the first one, because I'd like to do a few, but not entirely in that genre. It's kind of a murder mystery. It's inspired by the early films of Dario Argento and, to a lesser degree, Brian DePalma. It would have to be sold to a company with me attached as director, where I could do it for a couple million. It couldn't be done for less.

MM: Argento's films are famous for having that big surprise twist at the end. Is that something you're shooting for?

VP: Oh yeah. Big time. Big time. I came up with the gist for the film and the killer's motivation and I just thought it was a really cool motivation. I remember telling Kevin and he was like, "That's sweet. That's a great idea." That really, really jazzed me.

MM: Is there anything about the plot you can tell us without ruining the surprises?

VP: It's about an actor who's just had his first breakout success in this action film that was a huge hit over the summer. It opens with a little news report from Entertainment Tonight or something talking about how this actor has shocked Hollywood by turning down millions to do the sequel because it would conflict with his schedule where he's going back to his hometown to do a benefit play to raise money to restore this old theatre. The play is being directed by his best friend. In the opening, he's driving home from rehearsal one night and it's intercutting with this young woman being attacked. This guy's trying to kill her and she ends up getting away. She's gets chased through this old, abandoned part of town and ends up running in front of my lead character's car. As he's driving down the street, he hits her and kills her. This sets into motion the whole series of events where the guy who was stalking the girl turns his rage on the actor and starts killing people around him. Setting it up so he finds the bodies. Basically tries to fuck with his head and drive him crazy. Rather than trying to kill him, he does this for the bulk of the film. And there's a mystery about the identity of the girl and how she figures into it. The whole opening set piece is heavily Argento inspired. His films always open with this major set piece. The opening of Suspiria is a prime example. The first twenty minutes of Autograph is this enormous set piece in which three people get murdered, including the girl who gets hit by the car. Basically, all the evidence is swept from the scene and the actor is left wondering what the hell happened because he gets knocked out. He's unconscious for the bulk of it.

MM: The music contributes a significant portion of the eeriness to Argento's films. Do you intend to try and capture that with Autograph?

VP: Yeah. I tried to do that with A Better Place. It was funny because the guy who did the score had never seen an Argento film. Paul had seen a couple, so Paul explained to him what I wanted. This guy just went off and made this really moody soundtrack. In a lot of ways, an Argento-esque soundtrack. Monica Hampton, who was the production manager on Chasing Amy, made that comment after she first watched the film. She was like, "The score is very Argento." I definitely intend to go that route with Autograph. As a matter of fact, I just got the import soundtrack to Tenebrae and I have that in mind as I'm writing a lot of the murder sequences.

MM: When do you hope to finish the script and when would you like to shoot?

VP: I hope to finish it by summer. I've had the story in mind for so long. I just haven't had a chance to sit down and write it. When I wrote A Better Place, I quit my job and locked myself in my room and wrote for six months. Hopefully after the Flixtour I'll have a little bit of money saved up and be able to do much the same thing. I'd really like to shoot a year from now at the latest. Probably next spring would be ideal.

MM: Do you have an agent pursuing a deal for you?

VP: No, I don't have an agent. Scott and Kevin have said they'll send it out through View Askew and try to get financing that way. I have to call a couple people. One of the guys involved with the Flixtour is a sales rep and said he wanted to take a look at A Better Place. I haven't talked to him yet.

MM: Which have you enjoyed most thus far, writing or directing?

VP: Directing. Writing is an interesting process, but it's tough. I have a hard time writing dialogue. I'd like to have a full time collaborator. I'm not like Kevin where it's all about his written word, which is understandable because it's so good. With me, it's about the final film. While we were making A Better Place, if the actors had a better way of saying something that made it sound more natural, I let them do it. I wasn't married to the dialogue in the script. My favorite scene in A Better Place is when they're on the beach and he reveals that he has the gun. That was a four and a half page dialogue scene I wrote in an hour. I remember reading it afterwards and I was shocked. I was like, "How the hell did I come up with this?" I keep waiting for that to happen with this script. It's a lot harder because it's more plot oriented. The dialogue is more expository in nature and that in and of itself drives me up a wall. I was just conditioned not to like exposition or something.

MM: How serious are you about acting?

VP: Not really serious about it. It's fun. I like doing it. I have the small part in A Better Place and the one line in Clerks that everyone always asks me to repeat. "Oh, you were in Clerks? Say your line." The Big Helium Dog bit is the biggest I've done, which was a lot of fun and very freaky, too. I wouldn't pursue acting as a career, but I would like to do it if a friend asked me to. I love to do little scenes in films.

MM: Final question. Your nickname is "the cleanest cat in the entire operation." What's the story there?

VP: One time on the board someone asked Kevin about the guy who shot Dante in the original cut of Clerks. I think the question had to do with [whether that was] just a random character. I answered because I knew the story. It was, "No, it wasn't a random character. There was originally a long sequence involving that character earlier in the film where he tries to buy drugs from Jay and doesn't have the money, which explains why he has to rob the store. I was originally supposed to play that part but Kevin eventually recast it because he said I looked too clean. He said, "You look too clean cut to do this." And Kevin responded to my post. He said, "Well, you did look too clean. In fact, you're the cleanest cat in this entire operation." I liked that, so I stuck with it.

Back to Part 1 of the Vincent Pereira Interview