We were recently able to sit down with Craig Zobel, the director of The Great World of Sound and one of the co-founders of the popular website www.homestarrunner.com.
Craig told us a little about the movie, the filming and casting process, and how he made the transition from working on Homestar to directing a film. Be sure to check out our movie profile page for The Great World of Sound here.
Now you started writing “The Great World of Sound” in 2001, was there something that inspired you to write it?
Craig: My dad actually worked for one of these companies in the 70’s for a short period of time and explained to me what it was and how the scam worked. I always thought that would be an interesting place to start a movie, to be a talent scout but not be legit at all. So that was the initial inspiration.
Now your film premiered at Sundance this year, did you originally intend to do the festivals in the beginning stages?
Craig: Yeah, definitely. We made the movie for a very low budget. I’m not sure how much you know about how it was made, but we made it for $82,000. So we wouldn’t have really had a chance if we hadn’t gone the festival route. We had great actors, but they weren’t the actors that were going to sell a movie on just that.
I applied early for the first deadline for Sundance, so I had to wait with everyone else. But that was definitely my dream.
Since you were on such a tight budget, was there anything specifically you looked for in casting?
Craig: It’s funny you should ask that. I’ve actually had conversations with other people that have made very low budget movies, and I actually had this person call me out on that. He said he didn’t have access to those kinds of actors, and I said you probably didn’t ask. That was all that I did, I just kept asking until I found the people that I thought were right. I did audition here in New York for some of the roles.
I really wanted to have Pat Healy, who plays Martin in the film. I had him working backstage on a different film, and I knew he was a good improviser and that was something that I had to have. I thought he had a really great face and was just the guy for the role.
Originally, I didn’t have anyone to play Clarence (Kene Holliday’s role). I actually asked a casting director if she would help me. I said, “Hey, Susan, I know you don’t want to have spend the energy explaining why you have to turn me down when I ask you to do this free movie, but I think it’s going to be good. Would your assistant be able to help out maybe after work?” And she said yes, and I met Kene that way and some of the other actors that way. For the secondary roles, I casted those out of a casting agency in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they did it pro bono too, because they thought it was a cool project.
How long did it take you to shoot the film?
Craig: We did two shoots. We did a two week shoot, and then we stopped for a month. We shot all of the audition scenes first. Then there was the money thing, I could get these people to come down and shoot for two weeks, but I couldn’t get my friends to help me for a month, because I would have to pay them. So we stopped and then I asked the friends that didn’t help out with the first part to come down for the second part. And then we shot for another 11 days, so it was 23 days all together.
Now you were of the original founders of Homestarrunner.com, correct?
Craig: Yeah, me and Mike made it up initially, and when it became a cartoon Matt was responsible for bringing everyone to life. But yeah, me and my friends did that down in Atlanta.
We all went to high school together in Dunwoody, Georgia, so I’ve known them for awhile. And they also helped out with the film, and actually Matt, who does all the voices for Homestar, is in the movie for a second. He is this guy that auditions early on in the movie, and he’s wearing a obvious, very noticeable sweater. When you see the movie you’ll know that has to be him. And the producer of the film was actually Melissa Palmer, who is the voice of Marzipan. So they were very involved in the movie.
How did you transition from doing Homestarrunner to directing a film?
Craig: Well Homestar started as just a joke between me and Mike. We made a children’s book one day for all our friends, because we had gone to the bookstore at the mall. We ended up in the children’s section, and we were like “man these books suck!”
So we ended up making a children’s book. It was just a friend thing for awhile. Matt and I recorded a theme song before there was even a show, and we did that as a present for Mike for his birthday. For my 21st birthday they made me a cake with Homestar on it. And it was just this little thing was in our life for awhile.
Then later on, we were all trying to learn graphic design and learn illustrator. Matt and Mike started messing around with Flash, and it just seemed like the obvious thing to do at that point. So initially it was just something to amuse us.
I had gone to film school, and I don’t know if you know who David Gordon Green is, but he is a good friend of mine and I was working on his movies. And at some point, I decided I was going to keep working on movies, because I really wanted to make a feature.
But back to Homestar, I talked to Matt yesterday for a hour, so I’m still involved in a certain way, but not necessary as a creator anymore, and for awhile it’s been like that. I’ve been doing production and backstage stuff for a number of years.
So are you just checking in on the Homestar guys or to what degree are you still involved?
Craig: Yeah, I mean I still talk to them and they run things by me occasionally. The last thing I did was I made the poster that has all the characters from the website on it, so I do things like that when I have time. But Matt and I are actually working on a new feature length animated movie that is not Homestar related, so we’re writing that right now for me to produce and the two of them to direct.
Do you have any idea as far as dates for that?
Craig: No, we just finished the script, so we have to show it to people. We’re just trying to figure out how to do everything now. There’s some cool new stuff that’s about to happen with Homestar with some new games and another thing. So we’re trying to figure out how to make this movie and not stop doing Homestarrunner.
Do you have any other projects that you’re working on besides that project with Matt and Mike?
Craig: In addition to that I’m starting another film that would be broader than The Great World of Sound, more of a comedy than the The Great World of Sound, and it would also take place in the south. I’d really like to shoot in a town called Darlington, South Carolina.
You need to come shoot in Atlanta!
Craig: I know, I know! I fully intend to at some point!
What advice would you offer to those that have dreams of one day becoming a director?
Craig: Don’t wait. Don’t assume that it’s going to happen… I’m trying to think of something to say that doesn’t sound silly. There was a long time I sat around with my friends… This isn’t a piece of advice, but I feel like it may be useful. I sat around for a really long time with my friends, and we worked in jobs on movies. We all wanted to and intended to one day direct a movie. We’d either be working really hard on someone else’s movie, or we’d be going out and relaxing. It just took saying I’m going to stop what I’m doing, move to a new place, and do this. It was a real scary thing to do. But that’s what it took. You gotta quit saying you’re going to do it and just do it.
Interview By: Emma Loggins
– The Great World of Sound Official Site
– The Great World Of Sound Gallery