The Arcade brings you a bit of fun on a Tuesday afternoon, homegrown in the beautiful borough of Brooklyn by one of our most talented contributors, Taylor Toole. When Mr. Toole is not shooting the likes of Natalia Kills, Theophilus London and Fidlar with your friendly Arcade Players, he creates his own original features. As a writer/director who cut his teeth among such industry heavyweights as David Milch and Matt Damon, Toole’s approach is innovative and unflinching. Here, he shares some of the secrets of realizing his latest short film, You Need to Know Something, a project that is utterly meta and straight-up scary. Look out now, Arcaders—this is one to watch.
Tell us about how you started your filmmaking career.
Growing up my best friend’s parents had a VHS camera and an endless supply of fireworks. We spent most of our grade school years running around in the woods shooting action films with lo-fi pyrotechnics. Later, I went to Emerson College in Boston and did my final semester in Los Angeles where I got an internship on the HBO show Project Greenlight. It was documentary series about a guy making a movie for Miramax. By the time he was premiering his film at Sundance, the show had started to air and he didn’t like how he was being portrayed. He became very uncooperative with the TV producers and began eluding them in Park City. They needed to get footage for their final episode so they sent me in alone with a small handheld camera, and for whatever reason they guy allowed me to shoot him. That was my start.
How did ‘You Need to Know Something’ come to life?
Since owning a flip camera and a Canon 7D I’ve gotten a reputation for shooting everything. When I’m not shooting profile videos for you guys, I shoot profiles on my friends. I liked the idea of starting a video like that and then having a series of events unfold that I couldn’t resist shooting even though it was inappropriate.
What was it like to shoot on location in Brooklyn?
Everywhere you look in Brooklyn something interesting is happening. Because it was just me and the actors out there, we got completely natural backgrounds. There’s a guy doing pull-ups on a crosswalk sign in one shot. There are the train dancers. I like that stuff. In other places people would see a camera and things would come to a screeching halt. Not in Brooklyn.
Was it challenging to work with your friends and girlfriend?
Mike Keller I know because he acted in my 2009 feature film Mow Crew. He’s one of my favorite actors and also a good friend. People might recognize him as the Meineke man from the last couple years (go look at their home page), he’s also going to be in the upcoming Kristin Wiig movie Imogene. He commits in such a way that he makes everyone around him better, so I knew this thing was going to be good when he agreed to do it. Working with my girlfriend was, um…. No, she was awesome. She is not an actress but gives a killer performance. She told me her trick was to stay distracted during the scenes: cooking, having a drink, watching footage, etc. That kept her from over-thinking it. It was my first time working with Julia Hirsch (my girlfriend’s cousin), Joe Bellino (Julia’s friend), and Sat Charn Fox (Mike’s friend) and I hope I get the chance to again soon. They’re all highly creative.
How would you describe your experience of American independent cinema of the moment? Do you see some positive energy in the NYC film scene?
In 2008 I raised a couple hundred thousand dollars, put a crew together, and spent the next two years making Mow Crew. I love that movie, it got good reviews, it won awards, but it made no money. I can’t do that again. What I can do is make videos with people who love this stuff and we can post it online for an audience of a couple hundred or a couple thousand people. I really want to tell my stories so I have to adapt to the resources that I have available. I am fortunate because I get to do cool work for sites like Arcade44, which allows me to keep a roof over my head.
What’s next for YNTKS?
I entered YNTKS in YouTube’s “Your Film Festival” which is a contest cosponsored by Ridley Scott’s company. Getting noticed there would be sweet. I also have some projectionist friends who are willing to slip my shorts in front of whatever feature they’re screening, so I might be knocking on their doors in the near future.