The Seattle International Film Festival wrapped up this past weekend, capping 25 days that brought more than 400 features, shorts, and documentaries from over 80 countries.
The final weekend also meant it was time to hand out the hardware for the top films.
Among the features receiving honors was “Middle Man,” which won the New American Cinema Competition. The part-dark comedy, part-thriller stars Jim O’Heir — best known for his role as Jerry Gergich on “Parks and Recreation,” — as a wannabe comedian without the penchant for telling jokes, who picks up a mysterious hitchhiker (Andrew J. West) and gets caught up in a desert-town killing spree.
But as the death toll rises, so does his comedic prospects.
Before the film’s world premiere at SIFF Cinema Uptown on Friday night, actors O’Heir, West, and Anne Dudek, and writer/director Ned Crowley sat down with the Queen Anne & Magnolia News to discuss the production, and their hopes for the production moving forward.
Here’s what Dudek, perhaps best known for her recurring role as Dr. Amber Volakis on “House,” had to say.
Q: What drew you to this role?
Anne Dudek: I’ve played a lot of weird, bitchy, crazy people. Quirky, I’m not unfamiliar with, but I liked that she was such a golden shining star, at least off the page. I don’t know what I brought to it, but I read someone who was really sweet. And I loved that it was like, where she was, her circumstances, nobody could see that, it just wasn’t appreciated at all, so I just fell in love with that sad sweetness, and was really excited to get the opportunity to do it.
Q: And for all the roles you’ve played in the past, how did some of those help you as you approached this one, which was a little different?
Dudek: Well, it’s interesting, we all want to think of ourselves as like, sweet and kind, and so I really have gotten to exercise that kind of evil, cantankerous, ambitious kind of thing. It was just so much not like reacting against that kind of thing, but just being able to look at myself differently and not see myself that way, because it’s hard to play that kind of character all the time and you’re like, “Wait, god I’m just a bitch,” and so to prepare to do this, it was like really a very pleasant experience of thinking about vulnerability and kindness and gentleness, which is just a lot more fun.
Q: What was the biggest challenge of this production for you?
Dudek: I would want to say that biggest challenge was the budget, because that seems just like the biggest thing that’s different from how like in a studio movie, you just have everything easily handed to you, but that’s actually not accurate. Because, Ned, the script was so good and he had such great people involved, everyone gave of themselves in a fantastic way to make this happen. I guess the biggest — I don’t know, that’s the thing — it wasn’t a very challenging process, it was made in such a loving, and fun way with such a really kind group of people, it was really enjoyable to work on, so yeah, I can’t think of a single thing I would change.
Q: How does it feel to be part of the production, and get to the point of the world premiere?
Dudek: You know, it’s so weird as an actor, because we filmed this movie like a year ago, so there is this incubation period, where you finish it and you put your heart in it and your work as an actor is done, and you get nervous. Did I give them the right things to make the movie that they want to tell? What’s it going to look like? Are all the elements going to come together? So there’s so much anticipation and nervousness, to put that in front of an audience and hope they react with at least part of the level of excitement that I reacted to when I read the script. So to see that year long process, from the script that I got to read, to now watching it on the big screen is filled with so much anxiety and anticipation, and it’s really cool.
Q: From when you first read the script, to this point, was there any film that you worked on or have seen that it reminded you of?
Dudek: No, I have nothing accurate. Anything I would say, I just can’t think as just a really good parallel. It is very unique, because it is a very dark comedy, very dark, like, really dark. And I’m really drawn toward dark films, but this one has such a lightness of comedy in it that it is a kind of rare, genre, and has a unique kind of tambour, I think. Or I’m hoping.
Q: Is there any takeaway you would want audiences to get out of seeing this movie?
Dudek: It sounds pretentious to say, “Well I hope you see that this is like this.” There’s so much that I got out of the script, personally. The things that I enjoyed about it was such a clear, articulate voice about that relationship between the light and the dark comedy and tragedy and how they both inform each other, and how that’s kind of an amazing view point on life, to see that. But the funniest things often come from truth that’s really dark, to remember that, and that darkness also has a really good hilariousness to it if you can remember that, I think that’s actually a really important thing about life.
Q: You have 30 seconds, someone’s walking down the street and you pull them aside. What’s your elevator pitch for them and this movie?
Dudek: Jim O’Heir like you would never expect. That’s it.
"Middle Man" screens Friday, June 17 at 9:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown as part of the Best of SIFF 2016 lineup.