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Arts & Culture

How To Make Movies 'Like Brothers'


Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass are brothers, filmmakers, friends and collaborators, but mostly brothers and partners who've made independent films - "The Overnight," "Baghead" - and series that include "Togetherness" for HBO and the documentary "Wild Wild Country," now on Netflix. They also both have recurring roles in "The Mindy Project."

They've written a book about growing up together, working together, being together, being and staying brothers through good times, bad times and some of the crazy times that occur in life - their book, "Like Brothers." And Mark and Jay Duplass join us now from NPR West. Thank you both very much for being with us.

MARK DUPLASS: Thanks, Scott. This is cool.

JAY DUPLASS: Thanks for having us.

SIMON: How do we tell the two of you apart on the radio?

M. DUPLASS: It's going to be a problem.

J. DUPLASS: You probably just don't.

SIMON: (Laughter).

M. DUPLASS: I'm the one who sounds slightly depressed, and Jay sounds exactly the same.


SIMON: That'll clear it up.



SIMON: You have a whole section in the book on a telling moment in "Karate Kid Part II." I wasn't expecting that from two independent filmmakers (laughter). Tell - recreate that moment for us, if you could, and tell us why it speaks so powerfully to the two of you.

J. DUPLASS: Yeah. I think...

SIMON: You know, I still don't know who the hell this is talking to us.

M. DUPLASS: It's better this way. Trust me.

SIMON: All right.

M. DUPLASS: It's better. Yeah. There's actually a third brother here.

SIMON: (Laughter).

J. DUPLASS: I think the thing about "Karate Kid II" is that it's easy to forget that movie because the truth is the movie is kind of bad. And there's just this one scene that always stuck with us, which is - it's a perfect unedited five-minute take where Mr. Miyagi has just lost his father. And Daniel sits next to him and gives a five-minute monologue - really well-told - about the time he lost his father, what it meant to him and how he shouldn't have any regrets about not expressing his love 'cause, ultimately, a father knows that his son loves him.

And I think for us, we always used to joke about - how did they make such a perfect scene inside of, essentially, a dumpster fire of a film otherwise? And it's always just very inspiring to us that, you know, even if you feel like you're slogging through it - are you making anything decent? If you stay there at the bus stop, you keep working, you wait for that bus to pick you up, you will catch the bus. And Daniel-san and Miyagi caught the bus in that scene.

SIMON: I'm intrigued. You describe that scene and how you get an exquisite scene that comes out of a not-very-promising film because one of the one of the bits of instruction that you provide in this book is, don't take meetings, just make movies.

J. DUPLASS: Yeah. When - you know, Mark and I started, we grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans. We didn't know anyone who made movies for money. We just loved them.

But once we moved to Los Angeles, we got into this realm where you're supposed to take meetings, and you're supposed to read scripts. And in particular, the taking of the meetings was so exhausting. I mean, it was just - and you started to learn about this culture where people just do meetings all day, every day for years. And sometimes they'll write a script that never gets made. And maybe they get paid a little bit to make that script.

M. DUPLASS: And they seem to like it, I think.

J. DUPLASS: I think so. There's drinks - having drinks and stuff. And Mark and I...

M. DUPLASS: We were mortified.

J. DUPLASS: We were absolutely mortified and terrified. And so we just realized after about a year of being out here that we needed to stop all of it. You know, when Mark and I set something into motion, it's very rare - it's very unusual that we won't make it on some level.

So for instance, if we make a movie or write a movie that, you know, with famous people on a bigger scale would cost $6 million, Mark and I are always prepared to make that movie at $100,000 with our friends, you know, just in our apartment.

SIMON: I'm intrigued by this, too. You - the two of you are involved in so many different projects. Yet, at one point, you felt that the more successful you were as business partners, the less you were successful as brothers and didn't like it.

M. DUPLASS: I think if we're being honest, when we first conceived of this book, we thought it would be more of a treatise or a manifesto on the powers of collaboration and why it has been so helpful. But during the writing of the book, we had our show "Togetherness" cancelled and started to reckon with the fact that as much as we love being up in each other's business, as it were, there was also a desire to get some space and to figure out our own individuality.

And I think now, you know, we're coming around to a place where we realize that we desperately needed each other to climb that mountain from the suburbs of New Orleans with no connections. And we had to lean on each other. And no matter what, it was worth it.

And as we started to ascend to the top of that mountain and become married to other people, our wives, we had to figure out how to be soul mates with space. And that is an ever-changing, ongoing process for us.

SIMON: Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass - in whatever combination they've been speaking. Their book is "Like Brothers." Thanks so much for being with us.

M. DUPLASS: Thanks for having us.

J. DUPLASS: Thanks so much, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.