On April 16, byteclay.com was on the red carpet for the Tribeca Film Festival world premiere of “Folk Hero & Funny Guy” at SVA Theater. The film stars Alex Karpovsky, Wyatt Russell, Meredith Hagner, Michael Ian Black, Hannah Simone, Heather Morris, Melanie Lynskey and David Cross. It features original music by Adam Ezra, who was also in attendance. The film was directed by Jeff Grace who previously appeared on shows like “Mad Men” and “How I Met Your Mother.” “Folk Hero & Funny Guy” is his feature directorial debut. After the screening guests headed to 1 Oak for an intimate after-party. Wyatt and Adam performed, while attendees enjoyed beverages provided by Bira 91. Read our exclusive red carpet interviews below:
Shaina Moskowitz: Speak about co-writing, directing, and producing this film.
Jeff Grace: Yes, I wrote and directed the film. It was about some personal experiences I had as a stand up comedian. A very good friend of mine, Adam Ezra, is a real life rock n’ roll musician. It was sort of about my time as a stand up comedian touring in front of bands, it going terribly, and then sort of based the story on Adam Ezra’s song called, “Desperately from the Heart of a Sh-head.” The film is an amalgamation of all these personal stories and wanted to make a heartfelt comedy.
SM: Speak about the casting. You have some really awesome people in this film.
JG: Yes. We have great, great people. Our main cast, Alex Karpovsky, Wyatt Russell … they are the funny guy and folk hero of the film. Meredith Hagner is a folk musician in the film, as well. Then we have some great guest appearances by Melanie Lynskey, David Cross, Michael Ian Black, Heather Morris from “Greed,” and I think I’m probably missing somebody there. Hannah Simone is in the film. We just got a great cast from a lot of people who were willing to jump in and do this film well below their normal rate.
SM: Speak about a highlight or a favorite scene.
JG: Probably my favorite scenes are the music scenes because Meredith and Wyatt worked so hard on them and they created a lot of original music for the film. We didn’t have much time to shoot it so when those music performances came out great, because we shot all the music in the film live, we didn’t pre-record it, that was our tightrope walk of hoping those performances would turn out great, and they did, I think.
SM: Speak about juggling all of those roles.
JG: It’s ultimately as a director your story. You’ve been with it for so long. It wasn’t too hard to juggle. With casting, if you cast the right people, you don’t have to do much as the director. In every case I got the actor I wanted and so it was really just letting them do what they do best, and collaborating with them a little bit here and there, and then letting them do what they do.
SM: Speak about what attracted you to this project.
Wyatt Russell: For me, it was meeting Jeff and knowing Alex Karpovsky was attached to it. Usually, when you meet someone who understands the material that they wrote, it’s not all the time that happens. Within fifteen minutes of talking to Jeff, it was like, oh yeah, you totally get it. There is a musical element to it that I really loved and wanted to be able to try and showcase and the story is great.
SM: Speak about diving into playing live music and what that was like for you.
WR: It was great. It was so fun, and it was all live. We didn’t do the back intro. We didn’t really have time for that probably. We were kind of thrown to the fire and had to make sure all the songs were pretty nailed down and rehearsed. Adam Ezra did all the music for us. He is a really talented guy. Being able to sing his songs is really great. Overall, being able to play music live is a pretty cool affordance. It’s not usual that you get to do that so I’m pretty excited about it. Hopefully, it translates.
SM: There are a lot of great comedians who appear in this film. Can you speak about what you love about comedy and some comedians you admire?
WR: Steve Martin is my favorite comedian of all time. I can repeat “Let’s Get Small,” that album, start to finish. I think there is something cool about comedians when they go into dramatic roles. There is a timing and effortlessness that I think comedians have to have for you to become accustomed and acquainted with on screen so that you’re laughing with them. It is kind of a talent. Seeing David Cross, I didn’t work with Michael Ian Black but I know that Alex did. They work with a lot of ease and that can really translate into drama too. So, you learn a lot from really great comedians like that. It was an honor to be able to work with them.
SM: Speak a little bit about diving into this role.
Meredith Hagner: I play a singer/songwriter, but I grew up playing music, and playing folk music, kind of secretly in my room. It was really fun to get to actually play music.
SM: Speak about working with Wyatt.
MH: He’s a great actor and a really good dude, and I’m really happy that I know him.
SM: Speak about working with Jeff.
MH: Jeff is such a wonderful guy. He’s so generous. I’m just so grateful that he gave me an opportunity to do this.
SM: Was it challenging for you to do the singing takes live?
MH: You know, it was such a supportive environment so it ended up being something that we all felt really comfortable messing up and doing it a million times, and yeah, it was really fun.
SM: On the comedy side, what do you love about comedy?
MH: It’s really fun, especially when you’re working with such great comedic actors. You get to play off each other, and improv, and collaborate. That’s, in my mind, the best spirit of independent film is being able to be in a mellow environment where you’re able to actually collaborate. That was really strong on this film.
SM: You’re a producer and a star in the film. Speak about from a production standpoint, what attracted you to be involved?
Mike C. Manning: From a production standpoint, the cast is just amazing. Wyatt, and Meredith, and Alex, and everyone and the story was just fantastic. The story, it’s funny, but it’s also full of heart and soul. It’s essentially a classic road trip story about two people finding themselves in different points in their lives. As an artist I felt really connected to the story and I felt like others would, too. It was very marketable from a business standpoint.
SM: What is the role you play?
MM: I play a young, smart aleck comedian that thinks that he knows more than he does. I’m quickly shot down by the lead, Alex.
SM: Speak about your roots in acting, and why you’re passionate about it, and how you got started.
MM: I grew up doing theater in Colorado. I moved to Los Angeles many years ago and I’ve been doing film and television ever since. Some of my favorite roles have been, I was in a movie called “Cloud 9” on the Disney Channel. I’ve done guest stars on TV shows, and been really fortunate to be working a bunch. This is another milestone.
SM: Tell me about your role.
Vinny Chhibber: I play Fielder. I’m an up and coming comic. We work with Meredith, and Ryan, and Alex, and it’s great.
SM: Tell us a little bit about the project.
VC: The project is about two best friends who go on a road trip to reconnect and high jinks ensue.
SM: What was a highlight from set?
VC: The amount of laughing we did in between takes was great. Everybody in the film is funny, and endearing, and it was a wonderful experience.
SM: How did you get your start in acting?
VC: I actually started right here in New York at NYU.
SM: What else do you have in the works?
VC: I’m doing a film with Arjun Gupta here in the summer. He was also at NYU.
Later in the evening, Demetri Martin, Kevin Kline, Gillian Jacobs, and Reid Scott celebrated the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of “Dean” at the official after-party. The party was held at Liberty Hall at Ace Hotel and guests enjoyed specialty cocktails provide by Effen Vodka. Nearby, Christina Applegate, Joel David Moore, Mary Kay Place, Keenan Jolliff, Josh Lucas, Stefan Nowicki and Joey Carey celebrated the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of “Youth in Oregon” at Up & Down. Beverages were provided by Freixenet. Also that night, Richard Gere, Malik Akerman, Olivier Platt, Skylar Gaertner and Carla Gugino celebrated the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of “The Ticket” sponsored by AKA Hotel Residences at Hotel Americano. The last TFF party of the evening was for Jason Bateman’s directorial debut “The Family Fang.” It was presented by Hendricks Gin and held at White Street.