The Endless Trailer

Had you ever wanted to act before?

Moorhead: Yeah, we had acted a little bit here and there, never of course leading a feature. Since our high school drama days, that kind of stuff. We have a lot of respect for that art and craft. It always felt like something that was a little too awesome for us. We’d see all of our friends and they just work their butts off every single day, all day. We hadn’t really allowed ourselves to think that we could give it a shot. The reason that we did do it is because we wanted to make a movie and be truly self-reliant. Nobody could stop us from making it. It was going to be our money. We do the cinematography, the editing, produce it. We’re going to do as much as we possibly could, and that’s not meant to say we didn’t have an amazing crew and eventually get financing. But the idea of it was that everything we can do ourselves, we will. Even before we had the idea of let’s make this movie about two brothers who are UFO death cult members. Even before that idea came across, the idea of let’s be the leads in the movie came across.

Making Justin and Aaron Smith brothers, does making movies together essentially make you brothers anyway?

Benson: I mean, we work together on a daily basis every single day for seven years. So there is a fraternal relationship there that’s similar to having siblings for sure. That said, very very sincerely, the dynamic that you see between the two characters in the film is wildly different than our actual dynamic. The characters themselves are in many ways the opposite of what we’re actually like in real life. We created this dynamic and these characters to create dramatic tension. They were kind of based on these two brothers that I knew growing up, and then also just in general observing sibling relationships, particularly siblings that are closer in age. It just seemed like there was something really heartwarming about when you watch those types of dynamics between those siblings. It’s so rare that they express their love for each other in a really conspicuous way, but you see that they really do. Beyond the sh*t talking, people love each other. There was something really interesting about taking a dynamic like that and then in the structure of a movie that should be crescendoing in a third act and you should be hitting this emotional peak in the third act, you would see all these emotions come out in a conspicuous way expressing love to each other. That was the idea.

And these guys don’t.

Benson: I think you can see in their actions that they care about each other. Yes, we do find out that Justin pulled out Aaron for dishonest reasons, but he was well-intentioned still and it still came from a place of protection. I think there’s something really heartwarming about that. In the third act, I think what they’re saying to each other while they’re pushing that car, I do think it’s very sincere. I think that whatever is said while they’re pushing that car, it’s always there in the undercurrent of their relationship. It just took that event to bring it out.

Does having the directors star as the leads in the movie add a level of meta commentary if you’re looking for it? 

Moorhead: There wasn’t ever meant to be. I would be so scared of somebody thinking about how up our own ass we would be if we’re making a movie that is a commentary on our own pretty nice, warm lives. We have lives that we can’t even write an autobiography. It’s too uninteresting and normal. That said, after thinking about it for a while, after the movie’s been out and being asked that question, because we’ve run away from it. We’d say, “No, no, there’s no commentary.” And there isn’t but we did realize our movie, if you wanted to give one word to what the movie is about, it is about anti-conformity, about rebellion, about taking action, otherwise you’re going to keep repeating yourself over and over. That action may be really uncomfortable and potentially violent, but you have to do it or you’re going to get stuck in a rut. Again, this thought only came out after we made the movie. We were channeling what we were feeling at the time about the fact that we were just taking a bunch of meetings and we were spinning our wheels so to speak, and we weren’t making films anymore. We had to go do this thing where nobody wanted or expected us to make a DIY movie where we starred in it, we have to do it in order to break our cycle. So there was a bit of rebelliousness or anti-conformity aspect to what we were doing. We realized that that emotion is why we wanted to make this movie. Our antagonist is somebody who makes you conform or die. A cult is a very literal version of conformity. Even in our brotherly relationship in the movie, it’s about rejecting people that you view as an authority.

Did The Endless come out of frustrations trying to get the Aleister Crowley movie made?

Moorhead: Not just that movie. It was a lot of things. I would never want to point to one of our projects. It wasn’t even frustration. It was just the fact that the big things take a long time. We had to give ourselves permission to do something that wasn’t big. It turned into something big.

Benson: A much closer thing, in the screenwriting process of oh, the point where I’m locked up writing the script. We developed all these ideas and all these things. If I’m going to point to one thing that’s personal in the three films, actually personal, it’s not our professional lives at all. It’s that when I was writing Resolution, my mom had substance abuse problems. So it was like oh, how could we get her clean? We have to lock her up in a cabin. That’s insane. Of course I’m not going to do that, but that’s where the spark of the concept came from. That’s where the emotions of it came from. What Chris and Mike are dealing with, that was very much the dynamic between me and my mom. Spring had a similar thing in which she was struggling with mental illness and all these things. I thought oh, what would I do if I were in her position? I’d just take off to western Europe. Again, spark of a story. With this, I remember being alone with it. She had gotten sober, her mental health was good for like two weeks when I was home from college 10 years ago. She told me, “I know I messed up. I know I made mistakes but I hope I taught you about forgiveness.” So when I was writing about family within Camp Arcadia, I made a theme of it forgiveness. Does Hal forgive us? Do we forgive Hal? Do Aaron and Justin forgive each other? That was the personal stuff in it, if there was something pulled from my life. She took her own life while we were making the film.

Oh God, I’m sorry.

Benson: So in the performances, that also became oh yeah, there’s a personal thing in the performance. We were going through grief. That’s there. That is so much more prominent than the idea of it being personally about our careers.

Are you going to try to develop something big next?

Moorhead: Actually, we’ve realized that what’s next, is it going to be big or not is just kind of way down the totem pole on our list of questions when it comes to what’s next. First is, can’ we get something made? What’s this film going to do? How’s that going to work out for us? All of the things we were working on before we made The Endless, we’re still working on. They still exist. So if one of those goes, those are much bigger. But, if enough time passes, we’re just going to go greenlight ourselves to make something else again. Now we’ve realized and we’ve given permission to ourselves to do that, to be those people rather than the jump from Safety Not Guaranteed has to be followed by Jurassic World. I think Colin Trevorrow would have gone and made something else small and personal. We feel okay doing that if, for whatever reason, things end up taking long again. But that said, we have five or six things still in development, all of them much larger. If they go, we’re going to be happy guys, because they’re still personal to us. None of them are just a job.

I know about Aleister Crowley. What other projects were you developing?

Benson: We sold two TV shows last year. That just means we’re getting paid to write the pilots. Who knows if they go to series so neither are worth talking about yet. Luckily, we’re dealing with grown-ups and writing pilots so that’s a good thing. Then we had a movie that’s sort of a sci-fi western that’s been in development for a few years. There was a movie about a time travel pill that’s awesome but that’s been in development forever.

Moorhead: We’ve got a Stephen King adaptation.

Can you say which Stephen King?

Moorhead: I don’t know, to be honest. We haven’t been given the go ahead.

One that hasn’t been done before?

Moorhead: Yeah, yeah.

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