We know you for your excellent short film, Whateverest. In what ways is Drib similar/different to Whateverest?
I guess a key commonality with Whateverest and DRIB is that I appropriate the personality and life of a person close to me, and turn them into my film characters, only changing certain things. DRIB is totally different in the way it is mixing genres more, and for the most part, is told in a traditional narrative structure.
What was your opinion on Amir’s viral videos prior to making Drib? For us non-Norwegians, how known is his work in Norway?
The fight videos were catered to a specific demographic thirsting for violent content; not a Norwegian thing at all. I guess he’s an unknown known. Or a known unknown. He has popped up in things since graduating art school, either as a victim of harassment in the middle east, as a guy who makes violent videos, or as an offbeat comedian. Most people don’t know him, and those who do have different impressions, and they’re most likely always wrong, as he has just invented stories all the time.
What about Amir’s story made you want to make it into a film?
The story was just so insane and comedic that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The fact that we couldn’t make it because of his NDA got me even more excited about it. I’ve been interested in marketing and media manipulation for a long time, as I’ve looked behind the curtains. It’s a topic I discuss a lot with my friends, and this story seemed to capture so much of the anxiety and painfully comedic things about that industry.
Did you want Amir to play himself in the film? Why/why not?
I was very reluctant to the idea, but it was one of his demands for making his story into a film. I was praying the shoot would go smooth and with no surprises, but as you can see in the film, the opposite is true.
Throughout the documentary, we cut to scenes of you and Amir discussing the recreation of events, often with Amir disagreeing on your creative choices. Why do you think it was important to add that element to the documentary?
This was never the intention, it wasn’t in the script – but since filming just what was on the page became difficult because of Amir, I wanted to include the viewer into the discussion; what was supposed to happen and what really happened, and why Amir and I saw things differently. The film deals with the process of turning something unique and true into a sellable product, both in the script and the process of making the film.
There is a scene in the film where Amir is slapped across the face dozens of times for an ad, just like he was in his real-life experience. Why did you stay so true to what happened to him, and what was the message of the scene?
For one it was a ridiculous and cringe-worthy thing to happen that had uncomfortable and comedic elements to it. It was very filmable. At the same time, it felt so metaphorical and almost out of an old fable.
Brett’s character has been praised in all reviews of the film. How close is he to the real-life advertising executive?
We decided to just create our own character out of the same mindset. I wanted Brett to do his version of it, which I think ended up being a sort of an LA advertising version of Jack Torrence from the Shining. Brett really gave that character a more cinematic, intense and memorable performance.
Looking at the finished product of Drib, how close do you think it is to Amir’s experience? In what ways did you change the story to fit your film?
The film invites you to question this, and I don’t want to rob the viewers the experience of having this debate by giving the answers.
Your work tends to be around the culture of internet celebrity. What about this culture interests you?
My interest is trying to pinpoint the anxiety experienced by everyone being closer to ‘success’, but with a less sustainable or integrity-based formula. The empire has fallen, but who really want’s the throne now?
More than internet celebrity, Drib is heavily critical of the advertising world. What was the message you wanted to convey about the advertising world in Drib?
It’s not about delivering a specific message, but take an audience to a place very few have access. Amir and I have both seen the insides of this industry, and I wanted to give the audience a peek behind because I’m so interested in this world.
In a way, I saw this film as a staged re-telling of Amir’s advertising experience, which he had because of his staged viral videos, making Drib rather meta. Is this intentional?
Yes, that’s exactly what it is; a staged re-telling of Amir’s advertising experience. It could have been the title!