I recently spoke with director Jay Chandrasekhar about his work as a comedian. The film follows Koy returning home to his supportive yet demanding family for Easter celebrations. As you can imagine, chaos ensues.
Chandrasekhar talked about what attracted him to the project, how he ended up playing Koys agent in the film, the importance of representation, how he shoots on set, and the status of Broken Lizards Super Troopers 3. A free app is also available that lets you share things you like or admire with friends and followers.
Check out what Chandrasekhar had to say in the player above, or read our conversation below.
COLLIDER: I'm always open to talking with you. Let me start by saying, I'm really glad the film was made. I'm always grateful when more representation comes out, and I'm sure that it'll be a huge hit for you.
JAY CHANDRASEKHAR: Thank you. I really appreciate it.
I have a lot of questions, but I have to start with, for me, [what] might be one of the most significant things, which is what is actually happening with Super Troopers 3: Winter Soldiers?
CHANDRASEKHAR: We've written draft seven, and we'll start up the machine when we get to draft twenty.
Is it really that simple to communicate with you guys?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Yeah, we wrote thirty-two drafts of Super Troopers 1, and thirty-two drafts of Super Troopers 2. It's just our process. But I will tell you this, I've made a movie called Quasi, which will be released in December on Hulu. I play the King of France, Paul Soter plays the Pope, and Steve Lemme plays a hunchback. It's a Monty Python film.
Kevin is well-versed in this.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Yes, British accents, the whole.
Number one, I'll take it. But number two, and my last comment on this, is that when you're writing, does a lot change between draft five and fifteen, or are you just tweaking scenes?
CHANDRASEKHAR: No, the five to fifteen, there will be changes. We'll throw out entire plot lines and reorganize everything and bring back plot lines, but eventually, we get there.
I've directed a lot of TV. What does it feel like for you to step into the different... Because every show has its own style and its own method of doing things. What does it feel like for you as a director when you're stepping in on, say, Resident Alien or some of the other things you've done, trying to make it your own?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Well, I've just directed a Netflix program with Rob Lowe, called UNstable, which is a new series by him and his son, John Owen Lowe. I watch their pilot and say, "Okay, I understand." He replies, "If I were working for another company, I would shoot a lot of singles here." I say, "Okay. So I'll make these two shots as though I'd have singles."
And it's about rhythm. It's about taking out the breaks. It's about pausing when you're supposed to. For me, comedy is entirely about pace, rhythm and pace, rhythm and pace. And luckily Victor Fresco, who runs the program, agrees.
What prompted me to want to be involved in this? What prompted me to ask you this question?
CHANDRASEKHAR: I'm a Jo Koy fan, and it was his first film, and he'd never acted before. And to me, it's important for Jo to succeed. Because he's so successful as a standup, I'd hate for him to get into a film that doesn't quite work out.
So I said to him, "We must make a really funny film because people will expect it to be..." They're not like, "Hey, Filipinos are in it, it's great." Then we'll also have all of these Filipinos in it, and then that part will help the cause. So we decided to just make sure we've made a full-on, funny film.
I believe that over the last few years, Hollywood has had a lot more representation, not a lot, but more. How do you describe the changes that have taken place in the last few years?
CHANDRASEKHAR: I think representation is a step-by-step process. It used to be, I mean, that immigrants were younger. And so more of the characters had their accents, and it was just the way it was. But it does not mean that it was a bad time or that it was wrong, it was just the way it was.
We're still developing. This movie, directed by me, has made a lot of progress. They'll look back on this time period in 2040 and say, "Ah, they were racist." And they'll be like, "Okay. I don't judge the past by the present's new rules."
I think we're making great progress. I mean, look at Crazy Rich Asians and how well that went. And you go, "Wow, that wasn't just Asian people going." I mean, all sorts of people were in that audience, and it worked commercially. So, if you work commercially, the reason Easter Sunday was made is because Crazy Rich Asians did so well. And if this film can do well, then more movies will be made because of the business part of show business.
I'm sitting in this room thinking, "I want more representation in Hollywood." The truth is, it'll only happen when they make money. Hollywood will insist we can do more.
CHANDRASEKHAR: As they should be. These are expensive films. You don't just get to see a film because you're of a certain race, it's just not how the system works.
"I'm losing you, the reception in the canyon," you said in the film. When did you realize you wanted to play the part, and who came up with that particular joke about the agent?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Well, the first thing I don't do is say, "Hey, I want to be in it." Because I want people to be able to think, "Ah, he's going to shove himself in it." We went to some famous people, and they're like, "I can't come up there and sit there for 14 days just to work two."
Amblin was like, "Look, if no one comes up here, you're playing the part." And then the main joke, which is that my character keeps hanging up on Jo Koy because he pretends to be over Mulholland. One of the writers, Kate Angelo, is convinced that her agent is on Mulholland.
Tiffany Haddish is a lovely character in the film. There's a wonderful scene with her at the car. How much is that scripted? How much is it of them finding it in the moment? Can you walk me through it?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Well, Tiffany would take care of Jo's baby when Jo would go and do his set, and she'd be changing his diapers when she returned, and she'd been quarantined for 14 days. She's a huge, famous, talented star, that we made sure that we wrote a lot of what I think are really high-end jokes.
I'm like, "If you only make these jokes, I can pretty much guarantee that this will happen." It's more about the relationship and what the jokes are, but they all riffed within the scene. And then she'd say, "Yes, of course."
So we just would improvise with a cap on it. It was just like, she did it once, and I'm like, "Go with that thing." She also made a lot of great jokes.
What was it like for you in the editing room, when you have comedians that are delivering potentially excellent alts, what was your experience picking and choosing what you want to use?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Yeah, I like it because I get to choose, and so I just pick my favorites. And sometimes I'll edit something that I wasn't so sure about. I wasn't sure about Jo kissing Lou Diamond Phillips' fingers; but somebody was like, "We really want to do that?" And they're like, "Yeah," we're like, "Oh."
So, on to my next point, talk a bit about what you learned from friends and family screenings and test screenings that influenced the final product.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Well, first of all, it seemed like everyone was interested in the story. That was fantastic, since everyone was able to relate to it. And second of all, people were able to see that this is a fairly universal dynamic, which is a big one of having a weird uncle and ball-breaking mother. And then you see the audience respond and you go, "See." And I know that's cocky and whatever, but we're just showing off the idea we had.
What were your toughest challenges and the things you were most hesitant about being able to accomplish with the time and budget you had?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Well, the big family scenes require everybody to know their lines. And luckily everybody did, because if they do, you can really get good stuff. Otherwise, you're just desperately trying to catch up and going behind on time, so that's where it all began.
Then the car chase... I knew how to shoot these... We had much less time and many fewer cars... So it was a much more of a high-wire act just to get what we got, which I'm extremely thankful for... It might have gone wrong if it rained.
Do you typically look for... Three takes, four takes, five takes on a scene when you are directing? How are you meditating or how do you like to work on set?
CHANDRASEKHAR: I shoot one take of the master and then a second take. Because these are the only scenes that appear on screen, which is the beginning and when someone walks across a room. Then I try to really focus on the two shots, because these are the places where the actors can establish their comedic rhythm. And if they keep the pace up enough, I like to use two shots, because there are a lot of Jo/Eugene Cordero two shots that I'll just shoot
When you're doing a comedy, do you prefer to have one camera or two? Are you ever shooting multiple cameras?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Most of the time, I'll shoot two cameras. I'm like, "Forget it." Three cameras is difficult, because you have to look at three images on the monitor, and you can't change them. In the picnic scene, I'll put a third camera because the lighting is easier to manipulate.
You've directed a wide variety of projects. Is there a genre or a type of project that you've always wanted to do?
CHANDRASEKHAR: I have the answer.
I know it's a bit generic and you've probably heard it before, but I want to know it.
CHANDRASEKHAR: I want to make a modern, '80s-style cop buddy film that is funny but also violent, and the stakes are real. I want to do something in the world of 48 Hours, but I want to do it transnationally between New York and India.
I like this concept a lot. You've obviously thought about it for a while. Do you have a script in mind? Or is it just-a-text?
CHANDRASEKHAR: I've written about 35 pages of a script. I've just been unable to concentrate due to Super Troopers 3 and other things.
As a fan of the Super Troopers 3, I really want them to be there.
CHANDRASEKHAR: It's going to happen.
I look forward to working with you on the next Broken Lizard event later this year.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Thank you. I will also tell you, I've built a new app, Vouch Vault, that's meant to be the Instagram of recommendations, and it's--
For movies and television, or for-
Okay, I understand.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Okay. The origin of it was my rage against Rotten Tomatoes for the 36% Fresh rating we got from 90 critics. When in fact, 250,000 civilians gave it a 90% Fresh rating. I'm like, "Who are these..." Critics are just strangers. I'm like, "When did you last see a film?"
Now I'll say this about critics: they have seen excellent films, and they enjoy movies. And so I want to know what they love. If you go to Vouch Vault and follow me, you'll see that I love this book about New York City, The Epic of New York City. You'll notice that I love this Italian place in Hollywood. You'll notice that I love the Tesla car, the golf clubs, and this podcast. It's all of the stuff you want to know.
If you're following me and see something you've never heard of but which sounds intriguing, you press a button, and it goes into your Try Vault. So on a Friday, when you're like, "What should I watch?" you have a whole bunch of things in your Try Vault, like The Offer or-
If you don't mind me asking, does it correlate? Is it possible to combine a lot of ideas together as well as picking from individuals?
CHANDRASEKHAR: First, it's individual. The greatest way for you to join is to join with two or three friends and be like, "This sushi restaurant is fantastic." Or you're going to Paris. Well, I've included this bike trip to Paris. Or if you follow celebrities or influencers or whatever, you'll recognize their tastes. Maria Menounos recommended a bag that's on wheels.
It's really that, but later on, as we get the numbers up, we'll tell you, "Hey, you know you pair... There's an Australian in Sydney, and you have 80% agreement on these things. So you might want to look at the other 20%, you might find some things you like."
On that note, I really hope this video will be a huge hit for you guys.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Thank you.