Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your film, NoHo, first released 25 years ago. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the film, and what inspired you to tell this story?
David Schrader: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say almost 99.9% of your readers may be unfamiliar with NoHo. It’s an older indie film that received a very limited release and hasn’t been available anywhere for a long time-- but if they’re fans of Clerks, Swingers, Seinfeld, Broad City, stoner, slacker, or offbeat, esoteric comedies in general, it might be up their alley.
NoHo is the story of Quinn Whiteman and Harvey Davenport, two down-and-out roommates barely existing in the L.A. suburban hellscape of mid-1990s North Hollywood. Quinn is looking for love (and another menial job to replace the one he just lost), while Harvey deals with two big concerns -- expiring unemployment insurance and an inexplicable personal problem. Hope rises as Quinn begins a new romance with the quirky and optimistic Tamara, while Harvey fakes a malady for paid testing at the California Depression Institute. It’s a dark comedy filled with small, surreal moments of absurdity, broad slapstick, and the meandering nature of people caught between arrested adolescence and planned obsolescence.
I was a quite young when I made the film, but many of the themes are the same ones I explore even in recent projects, including such seemingly divergent things as Baby Badass; the meaning and significance we attach to work, the questioning of authority, of the way things are, and the absurdity of everyday life. I was just really searching at that time, as most people do in their early 20s-- you’re an adult, sure, but let’s face it, just barely. I had a string of lousy jobs, but big dreams and a desire to find love, meaning, and my place in the world.
BD: As the writer and director of the film, what can you share about your experience in working with the cast and crew on the production?
DS: My friend, Tony Summers, came on board as producer. He had some experience, which was more than most of us at the time. We had my credit card-funded budget of $9,978, a script that had over fifty roles, twenty locations, and a ten-day shooting schedule. It was ridiculous. Plus, I was so sick (I’d lost a ton of weight and was throwing up every morning during pre-production from nerves and stress.) that we had to postpone filming after the first day. And yes, back then, it was on actual film—we had a Panavision Elaine 16mm camera, had to change mags, plus all the usual obstacles to making an ultra-low budget movie. There was a company that sold 400-ft. rolls of “re-canned” film ends to students at a big discount. There were a lot of “students” that went down there for us, and it’s why we could only do shorter, and fewer, minimal takes during filming.
But we had a totally game cast and crew that were amazing. One thing we made sure of was to feed everyone well -- that always goes a long way. I also knew a lot of gifted actors, and many of us were caught in this spinning-of-wheels type of existence. I wanted not just to collaborate and showcase their talent, but capture that specific time and place on film. The L.A. '90s really were something else, and a lot of the people who worked on NoHo recall the experience with great fondness. We just recently did a reunion/commentary, and it was fun catching up with Tony, Steve, Elisa, Lee, and Paul -- all wonderful people.
BD: Likewise, what were some of your influences?
DS: Specifically at that time, I was motivated by the do-it-yourself ethos that drove that short-lived indie film boom; Linklater, Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith, who had just shown Clerks at the IFFM in New York the year before us. (Side note: After our extended trailer ran at the 1995 IFFM, we were heralded as “the next Clerks.” That, uh, obviously didn’t happen.) But, my comedy inspiration ranges from classic Bugs Bunny to Brooks, both Mel and Albert, Flip Wilson, early Woody Allen, Elaine May, Wes Anderson, Coen Brothers, Christopher Guest, Odenkirk and Cross, Ben Stiller, Dan Harmon, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chapelle, Ricky Gervais, Tim & Eric, Noah Baumbach, and Larry David. Yeah, I think that almost covers everyone.
BD: This year, you are releasing a remastered, black-and-white special edition of the film called NoHo Silver. Ahead of its Prime Video launch, what do you hope that viewers will take away from comparing the original and its remastered edition?
DS: “Remastered” is a bit of a stretch. I cannot afford an actual remaster from the negative, and besides, the original color was so washed out that I think it took away from the content of the film in a distracting way. My brother suggested the black and white, which, coupled with the 16mm aspect ratio, kind of makes it look like some kind of art house experiment from the early '60s. I think shedding expectations that it’s going to look normal or polished in any way, strips it down to the dialogue and performances and accentuates the eccentricity of the film.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that NoHo’s story will connect with and impact viewers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
DS: First of all, Fanbase Press is awesome, and that’s a great initiative. So, besides being a bit of a '90s time capsule and an absurdist comedy that hopefully provides some laughs, I think younger viewers can relate to some of the slacker, early 20s struggle -- the search for a decent job and deeper meaning. Generation X was the first generation to truly see that it’s pretty much all bullshit -- that the hustle for the American Dream is mostly a dead end with a rigged outcome. NoHo fits somewhere between the existential dread of this realization and the fledgling hope that things can still get better, and that if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DS: Yes, comics-wise, I was fortunate enough to work with Peter Murrieta on a book from SBI Press called Rafael Garcia: Henchman that’s coming out soon. Peter’s a brilliant television writer and creator (Mr. Iglesias, Wizards of Waverly Place), but this will be his first comic. There’s a book called Cannibals on Mars with artist Tony Donley, a horror anthology being put together with Clay Adams (of Fried Comics) called Nightmare Theater, and Baby Badass Returns should be out from Action Lab in early 2021. In other mediums, the final episode of our Bigfoot-hunting spoof, Squatchtrackers, is almost complete, but I’m most excited about the film and deconstructed web series that’s still in post-production -- Mary Tyler, Millennial. I see it somewhat as a bookend to NoHo, exploring some similar themes but with a digital New Age twist. It’s an unsettling, experimental, comedy-horror with an amazing, female-centric cast. Shot on a shoestring over the course of one weekend, it features Mary Ryan and Lucy Blehar, two incredibly talented writer/performers who are on the cusp of some pretty big things.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about NoHo Silver and your other work?
DS: I would tell them a sincere thank you, that if you like the Three Stooges AND David Sedaris, love unloved films like Joe Versus the Volcano and Ishtar, then you’re not alone, and “honest and popular don’t go hand in hand.” Then, I’d direct them to our Hybräu YouTube channel.
This is where pretty much all of my short subjects and odd experiments live. They can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter @schraderopolis and @thebabybadass.