SXSW 2018: Paul Scheer and Andrea Savage Talk Summer ’03

Summer 03
Credit: Ben Hardwicke.

Paul Scheer and Andrea Savage sat down with Cultured Vultures following the world premiere of Summer ’03 at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival.

Thanks for joining us today and congrats on the world premiere of Summer ’03 at SXSW. How much of a thrill is it to premiere the film at SXSW?
Andrea Savage: Thank you.

Paul Scheer: For me, it’s my favorite festival. Not only is it a nice place to go but the audiences are so much better because they want to see movies. I think a mix of big-budget movies and indie movies is really cool here.

Andrea Savage: It just seems like a lot of times when you screen something, if you’re in LA or New York or wherever, it can be a group of suits or agents or whoever that don’t necessarily want to see a film. In Austin, everyone just seems psyched to be there.

Paul Scheer: It’s funny because it has the same energy of the music festival, which is like, I like music, I’m going to see music.

Andrea Savage: It’s true fans.

Paul Scheer: I feel like sometimes you go to some festivals it’s like, these are very dramatic or these are very Oscar. This is everything. It’s the end. That’s all I have to say about that.

What attracted you to the script?
Andrea Savage: It’s very important to me in the stuff that I’ve been doing in the last few years when there’s a mom character that it’s not cliché and harried  and boring and not funny. And so this character was three-dimensional and she was funny, and still real and also cares about her kid, has moments of being pissed, and this and that. I was like, this is a nuanced mom, which you just don’t you get a lot. As soon as I saw this, I wanted to do this. I think I would have a good take on it.

Paul Scheer: I actually chased this part down. I had heard about the script. I basically was like, I want to meet with this director. I thought the script was really well-written. I thought it was fun. For me, I’m always trying to find interesting voices to work with and try to do something different than I normally get to do. I really fought hard and enough people said no so I got this part.

Andrea Savage: I will say that the idea of working with a first-time female director and be able to help her get her vision, her passion, made it important to me because people help me do my stuff and that’s important. I hate to say this but Paul was also probably going to be doing it. Paul and I have been friends for a long time. Getting to work together as husband and wife I was like, oh, as soon as that was in, I was like, okay, let’s just make this happen.

Paul Scheer: It’s fun because you read so many scripts and audition for so many things that just feel kind of cliché. When you read something good, it’s exciting to — all this stuff is a labor of love. We’re not there for the paycheck. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, if it ever sees the light of day or anything. Let’s have fun while we’re there. I have to say I was so impressed by Becca and the way she jumped right in and totally did it.

Given the two of you have a background in improv, how much improv was there on the set?
Paul Scheer: I think there’s a lot of workshopping our characters.

Andrea Savage: Probably the two of us had the most of it. It wasn’t an improvised movie in general but I would say almost all my scenes had quite a bit improv and our stuff together.

Paul Scheer: I think we just wanted to build a realistic family. We wanted to be playful but we could be angry. We worked with Becca. Becca was letting us find little moments. It’s all over in the movie. It’s not like, oh, that was a great riff but it’s more like these are little–

Andrea Savage: I think in general, parents tend to be underwritten and she already had written kind of nuanced roles but then purposely cast people who do improv to kind of bring more.

Paul Scheer: I think the dinner table scene is a great scene in particular is a great example and even the death bed scene. There’s a lot of energy and fun in that scene.

With all that fighting, I just had this sense that she was going to die right there.
Paul Scheer: Right, yeah. June Squibb is just awesome. She does not look like that. That’s the best part about it. She has so much life in her and everything. When you see her on screen, wow, she really looks old!

Andrea Savage: She’s 87 and I’ve worked with her before — she’s on my TV show.  She improvises like nobody. She is so still sharp like she’s incredible. I’m a huge June Squibb fan.

Paul Scheer: Yeah, me too.

Paul, you’ve been working on the Galaxy Quest reboot.
Paul Scheer: It is a very slow process but it’s been great. A lot of times when you’re dealing with something that’s so big—there’s a lot of people you have to run through. Whenever I hand in anything, whether it’s an outline or script, I’m sitting waiting for notes sometimes up to 8-10 weeks because it’s crazy.

Andrea Savage: Oh, my G-d!

Paul Scheer: On a creative level, it’s been incredible fulfilling. We’ve also had a little bit of an issue at Amazon, too. There’s been a reorganization of their executives. It is moving forward in good place. It’s just slow. It’s so slow. I’m blown away by it. I’ve never worked on anything that’s moved this slow, which sucks because I’m excited about it but I’ve also been living with this pilot script for a long time.

Should we expect to see any more NTSF: SD: SUV::?
Paul Scheer: Oh my gosh! It’s so funny. I was just talking about that the other day. I would like to get everybody back together for a special or something like that. We’ve talked about at one point doing where now they’re in the White House—it’s almost like that Kiefer Sutherland show. The truth is the reason we stopped doing it is because the cast started getting too big to wrangle. Karen was going to shoot Guardians. Kate lived in New York. Martin got Silicon. It was getting harder and harder. In the last season, the choice was do we do another and take chances that we won’t have anybody or do we just call it. When we ended in London, I think that’s good and we’ll just do specials. Mike Lazzo has been like, whenever you want to do one, we’ll do one. Then it will be coordinating eight people’s crazy schedules.

I can imagine!
Paul Scheer: It’s crazy but I love all those people and it’s super fun. I’m also a big believer in do it and then move away. That’s what we did that with Human Giant and we did that with NTSF:SD:SUV::. It’s nice to leave to feel like it’s a good time.

Andrea Savage: But not that you’re trying to orchestrate and come up with new stuff to put these people in.

Paul Scheer: When we left The League, they wanted us back. We said, we were like okay, no, we did it. As much as it’s hard because I love those people and it’s so fun to play, I’m always am happy that we made that decision. We were like, it’s good, we’re done.

As far as TV versus movies, when you’re doing TV, how do you decide which films to take on?
Paul Scheer: Andrea and I both come from this background where we’re very hands on in what we create. We’re creators. I think a lot of times, things are offered to us. We audition for things. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to be able to engage in a conversation. For me, the only thing I learned after a very terrible movie experience was not to work with people that I don’t respect on some level, whether that’s a script or a meeting with them. Would it be cool to do but I don’t necessarily know if like this or that? I don’t do it. That’s my new rule. Since that one movie that I’ve had a bad experience on, I’ve been very happy to work with people.

Andrea Savage: In TV, both of us have gone more into the creator/performer world but that’s a whole thing.  For movies, first of all, there’s not a ton of movies. When you’re in TV, you don’t have a lot of window. I’ve been working nonstop. I had four weeks off. I went and did this movie and then I went back to work. I haven’t stopped working. Really, if it fits in but really in that part, you’re time’s valuable. For this, it was a cool role. It’s a female director. I was like, let’s just do it. It’s sort of an instinctive feeling. If it’s a mom character that’s sort of cliché, I just across-the-board pass.

Paul Scheer: I think one of the cool things is being confident enough to pass on something even if it’s a higher profile thing. It stings for a second but then you’re like I think it’s good because you at least make something interesting. The relationships that I made here is better –by the way, I had an opportunity and this movie– a very, very big movie and this–and I could have done that one and killed this one but I chose to do this one.

Both of you had a background in improv, who was the most meaningful instructor for your career?
Paul Scheer: We both came up in different things. You came up with The Groundlings — who were your teachers there?

Andrea Savage: My first teacher was Mindy Sterling, who was amazing. I had Tony Sepulveda, Karen Maruyama, and Jim Rash.

Paul Scheer: Is Tony Sepulveda an executive?

Andrea Savage: A casting director at Warner Brothers, yeah—but he was a Groundling. Groundlings was an interesting experience for me because I went all the way through.  I was in the Sunday Company but that was mostly sketch with  little improv. I wish in retrospective, now that I’ve done a lot of stuff at UCB and know so many people, that would have been a little more natural fit for me — big characters and all that. I like the improv part of it and the more grounded improv part of it. I don’t know if any improv instructor really made a huge impact on me, actually.

Paul Scheer: I was very lucky and got involved with UCB when they were on a 5th floor walk-up on 17th Street. I took classes from the original UCB 4, which was Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, and Matt Besser. Each one of them were so drastically different and that was really interesting. While I love their classes and I loved all that, I think the things where I learned the most was watching the shows. Watching their improv shows, watching my friend’s shows, watching what people were doing –you are throwing down a gauntlet in a way– oh, wow, that’s cool, how did they do that? I think the magic of watching it is good. I think UCB in general opened my mind from a short form background of every time this bell rings, you’ll change a thing to one suggestion and go and having the freedom to not rest on games like Whose Line Is It Anyway.

Andrea Savage: The Groundlings was all games.

Paul Scheer: There’s nothing wrong with games. My mind was blown when it was, we’re just going to improvise.

Andrea Savage: It’s interesting because I didn’t have that sort of background in it so improv was games so I just kind of did it myself and pushed in my career. That’s how I got my first couple of shows. Before we started the first season of I’m Sorry, Tom Everett Scott, who plays my husband, doesn’t do improv. I was like, hey, do you want to do an improv thing? We got Will Hines for an afternoon. He just sort of was just explaining improv to Tom. I have legitimately never heard improv explained because they just didn’t do that, especially longform improv. I’ve been doing this for G-d knows how many years of my life because that’s how I made most of my career. I’ve never heard it explained out loud. It kind of blew my mind!

Paul Scheer: There’s something interesting, too. You can be a great cook without studying at the finest places. So it’s like I think when you’re a writer, you’re improvising as you’re writing. It’s fun. You get it in all different ways.

Andrea Savage: Yeah.

I studied acting, improv, and Writing for TV and Film at Second City. I’m still trying to find the time to work on that screenplay!
Paul Scheer: I took a class to write a script. I was like, I want to write and I took this class online that Franklin Leonard of The Black List recommended to me. It was a ten week class and you had to hand in pages every week. I wrote a script in ten weeks. It was good because it was a one-on-one class…I’ve been toiling away…I wanted to write a script for a movie…TV always seems more easy and short; that movie script always really avoided me. I think that my only advice on that, when I was forced to hand this in and I’m at gymnastics trying to get these pages done, I made it. I don’t regret it. Just get over that hump, know that someone’s waiting, and you have to answer to somebody.

Andrea Savage: Nothing is more than the depth of despair when you’re at page 60 of your screenplay. You’re just in it and you’re just like, I’m still so far from the end but I’m this far in it—I hate everyone. I hate every character. Everything about this, I’m annoyed at and I’m bored with. It’s that extra push to finish it.

Paul Scheer: Then you have to live with it as you rewrite it. The thing I keep on learning more and more. Galaxy Quest is a great example of it. I had written a script that I really liked. I was away in Montreal with my wife, who was shooting a movie. There was this one thing I want to play with. Let me see if I like it. Nobody was telling me to do it and I worked on it. That one thing basically broke the script. I rebuilt the script from that one thing. I was so happy to do it. Oh, wow, if I didn’t have that time to play. Not getting connected to everything you have there and knowing that it’s an evolving process and it’s hard though because it’s hard.

Andrea Savage: There’s a million people that start a screenplay. There’s a handful that finish it.

Paul Scheer: I think what Jordan Peele said at the Oscar was a beautiful thing: I stopped writing the script so many times. That’s what we all are but we keep going.

There are days when I’ll have no problem writing and then days where I’m blocked.
Andrea Savage: That’s normal. Completely normal.

Paul Scheer: Someone gave me good advice, too: If you’re blocked, don’t worry about trying to overcome it. Just wait until you get inspired again. There’s something nice about that, it’s like, okay, great. You’ll come back to it but when you put that pressure on it, you’ll make it a thing — easier said than done

Congrats on the film. Thank you again for your time.
Andrea Savage: Lovely. Nice to meet you.

Paul Scheer: Nice meeting you in person. I’ll see you online!

Summer ’03 held its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and is currently awaiting distribution.

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