The Family Fang trailer

Actor Jason Bateman made his feature directorial debut with the 2013 comedy, Bad Words. Bateman’s sophomore effort, The Family Fang, is a slightly less aggressive film. Bateman’s adaptation of Kevin Wilson‘s novel, written by David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole), simply called for a more reserved approach than his first film –although The Family Fang isn’t without its comedic moments, like when Bateman’s character gets beamed in the head by a potato gun.

The Family Fang stars Bateman, Nicole KidmanChristopher Walken, and Maryann Plunkett. Growing up, the Fang siblings were involved — or “used,” depending on how you look at it — in their parents’ performance art. When the famous performance artists go missing, the brother and sister (Bateman and Kidman) begin to dig deeper into the past, trying to understand the exact effect their parents had on them.

Read our Jason Bateman interview below.

What lessons did you learn from Big Words that you kept in mind while making The Family Fang?

Well, there’s a lot of the film that is basically made and done before the actors ever show up for principal photography. That’s something I never really knew and a point of the process that I never really was exposed to as an actor. I really dug in on pre-production on this one, knowing that there was such a great opportunity to sync up and discover a lot of the stuff that you are going to love in the editing room later, you can think all those things up during pre-production because you’ve got the time to do that.

When you are in principal photography, you are spending all your time just trying to get the day done. You are trying to make sure that all the actors that are talking are on camera. There’s not a whole lot of time to discover some of the really unexpected stuff that will pop in the movie because you are just trying to get from A to B. But pre-production affords you that time.

Did you end up discovering anything unexpected on the set?

You know, you go into every single day with a well thought-out plan and strategy. Inevitably, as a result of weather, or time, or an actor’s idea, or a crew member’s idea, you want to pivot a little bit. So everything ends up becoming a little bit different and sometimes a lot different than how you plan to do it. But the fact that you walk in with a plan kind of, by definition, lets you really kinda understand the scene. So when you do pivot, you are still accomplishing the same goal but in a little bit of a different direction

I know you directed a bit for television throughout your career. Making films, is it a completely different experience for you or did TV prepare you for filmmaking in any way?

To be honest, I haven’t directed a ton of television, but I did just a tiny bit of it. It’s not drastically different. The equipment, for the most part, is the same. The shooting schedule, at least on a small film, is somewhat the same. I would say television, just by virtue of the medium, demands that you appeal to a larger number of people, so, therefore, the content that you are dealing with is, by design, a bit more generic. Sometimes that has a tendency to be maybe less satisfying, less fulfilling creatively. But that’s not always the case, obviously. Certainly in today’s television landscape you’ve got smaller channels, smaller arms of distribution, like Netflix and some of the other premium cable places. You can be a little bit more specific with what you are doing, and that’s great news for people that want to do more specific, more challenging, more sophisticated kinds of material. I’m looking forward to doing some of that a little bit later this year.

Obviously, movies like The Family Fang are tough to get made. As a director, do you seek out material that, maybe, is sometimes hard to come by as an actor? 

You can seek it out, but there’s not a ton of it. It’s a little bit more challenging to finance because it doesn’t scream accessibility and profitability. It doesn’t scream popcorn, and popcorn is what sells. I’m interested in developing stuff that might kind of serve both lanes. You know, something that can sell popcorn but also appeal to a more sophisticated audience. I think both of those things can exist. I mean certainly somebody like a Steven Spielberg did that for years. There’s not a ton of filmmakers today that occupy that space. I mean, J.J. Abrams is certainly doing it. David O. Russell has been doing it lately. The Coen brothers have been making great movies for a long time and some of their latest ones have been making a lot of money, too. Perhaps it’s all moving that direction. Sometimes it is that person’s job to figure out how to be both commercial and sophisticated in the same project.

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