The back-story on nobody

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September 28, 2009
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
An interview with Minneapolis director Rob Perez about his new film

Lindeman — the main character in the new film “nobody” — faces a dilemma common among creative types. He’s short on inspiration, but needs to finish his final art project to graduate from art school. His nemesis is a massive block of granite waiting to be turned into a sculpture.

The film, which has its world premiere at the State Theatre on Oct. 1 and debuts at Block E’s Kerasotes Theatres on Oct. 2, follows Lindeman on his quirky journey of self discovery. In his pursuit of creative powers, he checks out all kinds of things — the gay nightclub scene, the goth community and a vegan protest at Porky’s in St. Paul.

The film was shot in the Twin Cites and features many scenes from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Rob Perez (writer of “40 Days and 40 Nights”) directed the movie and co-wrote it with Ryan Miller, the front man of Guster. Twin Cities native Josh Hartnett was the film’s executive producer.

Perez recently spoke with the Downtown Journal about “nobody.” Here are highlights of the interview.

DTJ: Where did the idea come from for the movie?

Perez: Ryan [Miller], my co-writer is a musician — he’s the lead singer of the band Guster. … We both have tons of friends that are artists, whether it’s painters, musicians, writers or filmmakers. One of the things we saw over and over again with our friends is the struggle with the blank page — the blank sheet of music. My guy in the movie is a sculptor. One of the things we loved and haven’t seen on film is a real story about where inspiration comes from. It’s sort of came from there.

Another thing that interested me is that artists are a group that take themselves way too seriously. Anybody who takes themselves way too seriously — and I include myself in that category — deserves to be made fun of. Now serious artists are going to be wearing vegetable costumes; you’re going to be wearing a cape; you’re going to be wearing a gay nightclub outfit. One because it’s fun, one because it might be a place you actually look [for inspiration].

What does it mean to be a nobody?

Well, I think if I answered that question we’d give away the film. It’s answered in the film. It’s probably people’s favorite scene in the film because it ties everything up in a way you didn’t expect. In a way that was kind of there the whole time.

The film is about identity as much as it is about inspiration. Being a nobody is how we all see ourselves at one point in our life.

This film helps you look at it in a different way.

What was it like to shoot at MCAD?

MCAD is gorgeous and they were super friendly to let us get in there. We shot in between semesters. Our schedule was based around them; we can’t displace an entire student body. In between semesters we had our run of the place. There is creative stuff everywhere — the welding room; my favorite is the print room; my second favorite is the wood shop. I like the long white corridors; you just feel the energy.

What do you hope people get out of the movie?

It’s a comedy. I hope they laugh. It’s about something. I hope they pick up on that theme. I’m not going to tell you what that theme is because if I have to tell you I didn’t do my job. A comedy you go in — you forget your life for two hours (it’s an hour and half). You laugh at someone else; at the end you leave the theater a little bit lighter. In this town they will have the added benefit of seeing their own backyard.

Can you talk about your creative process, too? Where do you look for inspiration?

I look anywhere and everywhere. I steal right and left. I see a character putting nasal spray in at the counter ordering a coffee, and I’m like, ‘yeah, that’s funny.’ I hear a name of a character, or just a person, and say that would be great for a character. I’m just constantly watching; I’m like this little guy scribbling my ideas because real life is plenty interesting. So to steal these little germs that are out there and then add to it my — some would say unfortunate imagination — to it then you’d have that ‘what if that character was here.’ Every once in a while once you do that what if, you have a story.

What was a typical day like making the movie?

Think of me as a one-man band — I’m playing 20 instruments out there. The fact that it doesn’t sound like a mess. The fact that it’s some kind of cohesive message and a story that’s also cohesive and hopefully funny. It’s tough. Independent film you have to have stamina and you have to believe in yourself. It’s incredibly challenging.