“Mark and I were just making movies,” said Jay. “Like, we were just coming out of a cave and making movies. It was nice in 2005 when you’re making a $15,000 movie and The New York Times writes it up and you’re the creator of a movement—but we didn’t create anything other than a movie.”
The quest for happiness continues, then, as the Duplasses seek to define who they are with more movies rather than by digging into genre. “There’s never going to be one ideal set,” said Mark. “It’s going to be looking at a group of years and a group of movies and making sure we do lots of things, because the grass-is-greener mentality always sets in. When we were doing The Puffy Chair, we were like, ‘God, we need more resources,’ and then when we were making Jeff Who Lives at Home and we were like, ‘God, we wish we were doing what we did on The Puffy Chair.’” These days the brothers are developing two projects, Mark said, “one of which is me and Jay and a huge movie star and a crew of about four people. And one of which is a 100-person crew and a bigger-budget movie.”
Ry Russo-Young, a filmmaker who acted with Mark in 2007 in director Joe Swanberg’s seminal mumblecore film Hannah Takes the Stairs, has faith in the Duplasses’ abilities. “Mark is really funny as a dude and he has a confidence that makes you at ease in a sense and a playfulness that makes the world seem like a jungle gym and you want to play on it. He’s so relaxed!” She recalled getting ice cream with Mark and the rest of the cast, who lived together in a Chicago house during filming. Was it possible, we asked her, for a so-called mumblecore director simply to make the films he or she wanted to make, without getting stigmatized by genre? “I want to think it’s possible!” she said.
In dismissing the mumblecore label, Mark said he and Jay are just making movies they’d want to watch. “We’re trying to make something that gets us off—makes us giggle, makes us laugh, makes us cry.”
After stints in Austin and Brooklyn, Los Angeles is a big change. “For me, it is hard to be in a town where you’re constantly—when you go to your kid’s friend’s birthday party, it’s an industry event,” said Mark. “I’m gardening, right now, when I’m talking to you guys. If you just let L.A. have its way with you but you cultivate your experience, it can be amazing.”
Said Jay: “We realize we have it made and we get to do what we love to do, but it never ends. We wake up in the morning and ask, ‘Are we doing what we’re supposed to do?’ It’s the same as it always was. It’s a little less angsty because we have some money now, so that takes a little pressure off.”