Sep. 19, 2012 - Issue #883: Best of Edmonton 2012
Disco-fueled irreverency finds a home in Roller Town
Directed by Andrew Bush
It's the 1970s. Disco crackles in its heat of its flash-in-the-pan inferno. A band called the Boogaloos rules the airwaves. In Roller Town, cars have record players, and youth culture is happily wheel-bound, taking place under the spinning silver balls at the disco-rink, where the film's pair of skate-crossed lovers meet, fall in love, fall apart and attempt to keep their skating dreams alive as drugs and arcade games threaten the future for the scene.
Canadian film rarely attempts to rise to such irreverent heights, but Roller Town's pedigree is one to bet on: written by a trio from Canadian flagship sketch troupe Picnicface (known best for internet hit "Powerthirst"), and padded out with a cast of comedians from across the continent, the film transmutes their modern comic knack to a new time and genre.
In the week leading up to Roller Town's release, director Andrew Bush took a call with Vue to talk about the idea's origins, common tropes of roller films, and the switch from short sketches to a full-length production.
VUE WEEKLY: Perhaps this is a bit self-evident, but what was it about the '70s roller-disco scene that appealed to you as the setting for a comedy?
ANDREW BUSH: It's interesting. We really like bad films, or at least I do. Big fan of them. I was looking for some bad films to watch, and just joke around with. And a friend of mine, Jesse Eisener sent me a link to this movie called Roller Boogie, the trailer for it. And I watched it, it starred Linda Blair, and I was blown away by it. Then I found out there's a whole rash of these, from '79 to like '80, basically, so half a year there was this roller skating fad in movies: Roller Boogie, Skatetown, USA, Xanadu. All these movies came out; me and my co-writers, Mark Little and Scott Vrooman, watched them and were blown away by them. And we said, we have to. This is a great setting for a comedy. So we basically watched those films, set a bunch of ideas for scenes; we didn't have a plot at first, we had a bunch of scenes, and then we wrote a plot around what we thought was funny. We also used that paradigm, that roller-disco, boy-meets-girl kind of story. We took that and made a film out of it.
VW: Is that the common trope of roller disco movies?
AB: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. The end. [laugh] yeah. All of those movies are about that: a guy from the streets meets like a high-society girl, it's all love—except for Xanadu. In Xanadu, he literally meets a greek goddess, like an actual muse from a wall-painting that he drew. That's weird. We didn't put that in there. I think people would go, 'That's actually too crazy.'
We wanted the jokes to work in any time period. We didn't want a huge amount of '70s-reference jokes. We were hoping most of the comedy would work in any time period.
VW: How did you find directing a full-length comedy differed from sketch?
AB: It's so different. It's so different because you have to keep an audience's attention for an hour and a half as opposed to two minutes. So where in a sketch you can have a premise be set-up and gone in the time it takes to eat half a sandwich, that's it. But when you have something like a film, you have to establish character, you have to establish plot, you have to establish so many things on top of making stuff funny. I think you can have a series of funny moments, then you don't really have a film. You have a revue, a sketch revue. If a scene is great, that's awesome: you can cut that up and put it on YouTube and get a bunch of hits. But if you want to make a full-length feature that has heart to it, and a story, and gets people sitting interested, that's a whole different thing. It was a real process for me, as a director and as a comedian, to really understand how that works.
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