Sad Max: An Interview with Teague Chrystie
Last week we posted a press release announcing the release of the original musical, Sad Max, by Teague Chrystie and Jim Frommeyer. Sad Max tells the story of Max, a high-profile YouTube user, who finds himself alone in his basement post-apocalypse with not much to do other than finally write the musical he has been putting off all his life. The writer, director, editor and star of the film, Teague Chrystie, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his short.
Let’s get the ‘serious’ questions over with first. Where did this idea come from?
Well, it came from limitations, basically. I knew I wanted to do a musical, I knew I wanted to be the only person actually required for production, and I knew what I had – an apartment and a piano. From there I just started thinking about reasons for someone to never leave a particular place, and “trapped” came to mind, and the rest sort of filled itself in. I needed to be able to talk to the camera for some reason, so there was YouTube guy. About a minute later, it occurred to me there could be some fun social commentary in this, plus if the guy had been of a certain level of e-fame before the apocalypse, perhaps the e-fame was for his song tutorials and covers. If that’s the case, he can even explain how musicals work. There was a lot of fun stuff to play with.
How long did this film take (from pre-production to now)?
A month or so of writing and fiddling with it on paper, at which point I busted out my crappy Flip cam and filmed the entire thing through as written and assembled it. Shooting the whole movie before the actual shoot is not something you get to do on most projects, but since this one was designed to just be me, it really wasn’t that painful. Knocked it out in a night. This gave me the ability to move out of the abstract world of screenwriting early, and into “okay, what does this thing actually LOOK like, what are the weak points, where does it drag, what do I need to add to make it work?” After some more tweaks to the script with that in mind, and writing another song and losing a previous song, I was ready to shoot for real. I shoot for real. Then, two months and a whole beard later, I get some reshoots. Then I edit, and release. I think it was about five months start to finish.
What was the most difficult song to write? Which one took the longest?
Hm. Depends on how you look at it. The last song in the movie might win for both of those, simply because I re-wrote the song entirely twice, and went through a bunch of sub-variations between. It was hard in the sense that it was tricky to get right. The one that was the most difficult to wrap my head around was A Level Incomplete, the song he sings about never having been in love. That one was tricky just because it’s a fine line to walk between maudlin and completely relatable. Also, the most-time-spent-on-a-single-line happened with that one, I spent most of a day trying to figure out how to get into the song at all. “Ever get the feeling that your heart’s no good?” Bingo. Took forever, but I love that line.
Now to the more important questions. How is Gary doing?
Oh, you know. Hanging out. Being a fish. Like one does.
I’m kind of bummed that we never actually saw Gary. What kind of fish is/was Gary?
I was imagining – yes, imagining, Gary never existed, sorry folks – one of those orange and pearl speckled goldfish with the buggy eyes. Then again, he might have been a manta ray.
Doritos, huh? Out of all of the potential preservative-laden foods, why Doritos?
It was one of those things where I was writing at a mile a minute and when I looked up I had written some shit about Doritos and I was like “alright” and I never looked back. (This sentence written without punctuation to induce a sense of whirlwindery. LITERATURE.) I do wish I had picked a different food, though, because doing a bunch of takes where I devour Doritos on camera was not healthy, nor particularly enjoyable, after the first family-sized bag was emptied.
Do you think there might have been a Mrs. Max out there? If so, what do you think she’s up to?
I don’t think Max was the only survivor, so there’s probably someone else out there that he’d have a shot with. I don’t know what she’d be up to, though. Maybe she’s using this opportunity to make the one *puppet* she never had the chance to make before, and they’d be a match made in Muppet heaven.
Finally, obviously a sequel is out of the works, but how about a prequel?
I do like the idea of a prequel showing Max doing his thing before the world ended, but I don’t think there’s as much to say there. So. I dunno.
Any other bits of information that we should know? Perhaps where we can find Max’s sheet music?
Yeah! There’s piano tutorials, YouTube style, for every song in the show. You can find them at SadMaxMusical.com. I thought it’d be cool as a sort of overture to have YouTube piano tutorials for every song in my musical about a guy who did YouTube piano tutorials for songs in a previous life. I also just like the idea of it, as I talk about in the beginning of this first tutorial in the series, for “The Internet Song.”
Anyway. Sad Max was really difficult for me and I’m overwhelmed with the positivity surrounding its release, and hopefully the folks reading this tell me what they think of it either on Twitter (@TeagueChrystie) or in my email, which is listed in the credits. Plus every little bit of word-of-mouth helps.