Of the curated programs we've seen this week at Los Angeles Film Festival is a retrospective of the music video work from Eric Wareheim that also included an uncensored version of his short film with Tim Heidecker, “The Terrys.” The actor/director was on hand for the event this past Thursday, so not only did we have the chance to see his eye-popping videos projected on the big screen, but we got to hear him speak afterward about his directing process, making it on MTV and his latest endeavor, a feature film.
While Wareheim is likely most often recognized as the other half of "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" a long-running sketch comedy program on Adult Swim, he admits he didn't feel like he really made it until his music videos started popping up on MTV. "I started making music videos as a kid, I was obsessed with MTV, watched it everyday and started making music videos with my friends, joined the AV club to use their amazing technology -- their video toasters their VHS reel-to-reel editors -- my videos when I was 12 or 13 pretty much look like what I'm doing right now," he laughs. "We have a TV show ['Tim and Eric'], we have 50 episodes, but the first time that Bird and the Bee video aired on MTV was a way bigger thrill, just to see that on MTV -- for some reason it's this childhood thing that I look up to that level."
An artist with a style that doesn’t really defy convention but just kind of ignores it, after watching the 60 minute program of his own work Wareheim himself joked, “[watching that] I felt like, it’s too much, we need some commercial breaks or something, intermissions, reset yourself.” Wareheim, who combines eccentric characters with hyper-stylized settings and effects, isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what levels of sexuality, absurdism and general gross-ness we’re willing to watch on screen, often to mesmerizing results -- an aesthetic he very much fights to maintain. “The first thing I say to a band is ‘you can’t be in the video, I can’t make you look good.’” Unless of course, they’re game for being a part of the antics, as Wareheim says he often shows up with a relatively simple treatment, ready to just capture whatever happens. “The process of shooting it is all part of the experience to me. I get off just explaining it to [the actors].”
His music video for The Bird and the Bee's "Polite Dance Song" is decidedly one of his thematically tamer, but also one of our all time favorites, for the sheer sincerity and commitment with which the performers display their moves. “That’s them, ‘here’s the music, do what you need to do' and if I see something awesome I’ll just say 'try that again.’ I think it’s fun when it’s more organic, I don’t want it to be so overly manipulated. A lot of these characters, that’s how they dance in their living room.”
The video for "Pon de Floor" by Major Lazer again features dancers doing their own thing, but in this case, world class dagger dancers. “Diplo sent me a video from Jamaica in a dance hall where they were doing it and I was so obsessed. [The dancers in the video] have their own styles of daggering and all of that from the video is from their routines.” See the video below, but be warned, daggering is as suggestive as it sounds and also very NSFW.
One of the last videos of the evening was not a music video, but a short film, Wareheim and Heidecker’s first foray into the short filmmaking world, “The Terrys” which premiered at Sundance back in January. We were lucky (?) enough to see the uncensored version, which, if you don’t have the very real and urgent need to vomit during the first few scenes, you’re not watching it right. A grotesque intro however gives way to a nice little fairytale, that while absurd is also hilarious and ends with a touch of swelling music and a bit about love and hope. Said Wareheim, “It’s not like we sit down and say 'let’s write a crazy thing' it’s literally: alright we’re this meth couple and we love each other and we wanted to tell a fairytale-like story. One thing I think is really successful about it is -- some of our stuff comes off so fucking gross -- but even I feel at the end of this, ‘aw that’s a little sweet, there’s a little story there.’”
But there's still a method to their madness for sure, as Wareheim explained, the goal is to engage audiences by creating a vagueness of where the original material came from: the performer or a script? “For something like 'The Terrys' you need to explain to [the actors] what’s going on, but for more experimental bits like on the ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show’ a lot of times we’ll just roll the cameras and their first reactions and their first instinct will be the funniest thing – them trying to figure out the world they’re in, and to us that’s amazing.” But Wareheim says they’re not laughing at their off-beat actors but just letting them do their thing: “All of those eccentric characters, we try to bring their energy and craft to it rather than just making them puppets, because then it just wouldn’t be real.”
Up next for the pair is their feature length film “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” and Wareheim brought along the first trailer. In what looked to be pretty much what John C. Reilly described to us earlier this month, we saw a series of clips ranging everywhere from Will Ferrell advertising how to earn a billion dollars, to Reilly, covered in pizza slices, being attacked by a wolf. According to Wareheim the film is in the sound editing stage now, which bodes well for us to see it sometime soon, perhaps at an upcoming film festival? We’ll cross our fingers rumors come through. Until then, you can see all of the music videos showcased in Kewl Vids on Wareheim’s vimeo channel: vimeo.com/ericwareheim.