Interview with Avery & Pete: Superseeds’ director Kholi Hicks & producer Teresa Decher

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I love Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and I love it even more when a cool project meets its funding goal. Avery & Pete: Superseeds is such a project. It’s a crowd-funded movie about Avery and Pete who get superpowers after taking a mysterious glowing drug. The problem? They also sold the pills to others, and now everybody else has superpowers too. Now they have to prevent the others from using their powers recklessly. We had the chance to chat with director Kholi Hicks and producer Teresa Decher about the project.

Nerd Reactor: It’s pretty awesome. You met the goal and now the movie’s done. I guess the next step is looking for distribution?

Kholi Hicks: Right.

Teresa Decher: Yeah.

Kholi: We’re actually in the distribution phase, we just finished the poster. Of course, when you don’t have a lot of money, then you have to sort of figure things out for yourself. Posters are a really key tool to finding good distributors – somebody who will get it out there for you for people to see.

NR: Yeah, and I checked out the trailer. At first, when I heard about the movie, I was like, “Stoners getting super powers. Yeah, whatever.” But then I watched the trailer and I changed my tune. I thought, “Okay this looks like it’s going to be an entertaining movie.” So I’m looking forward to it now.

Teresa: Oh, thanks.

Kholi: Thank you very much.

NR: So how did the idea for the movie come about?

Kholi: The idea was conceived during a time when I actually had very little money in my bank account. That period of time lasted for a very long time – a few years as a matter of fact. When you are a filmmaker and are just getting started anywhere, it’s really hard to balance work and then “work” which is writing, getting concept things, different ideas that you want to shoot, doing short films and stuff like that. At some point, you have to sacrifice the money for the dream, so to speak. That was part of a conversation between my friends and I at the time, maybe like five years ago – we were a bit younger – and it was about what we would do if we had to find money, or what we would do if we couldn’t get money. And one of the weirdest ideas to pop up was that we should get pills and weed somewhere and sell drugs.

NR: (laughter)

Kholi: None of us know anything about drugs, clearly. It’s not something that I do. It was this very sophomoric idea, “Oh, we would just sell it to our friends, and that we wouldn’t get in trouble. That would be awesome, wouldn’t it?” But that’s not really how that stuff works, I believe. So that’s how the whole superpowers thing and what if we sold the wrong stuff to friends and they all got different powers – then what you had to do to get them back, and stop them from doing stupid things. I think most guys have friends that would do a lot of stupid things if they had superpowers.

NR: Yeah, because we do a lot of stupid things already.

Kholi: Yeah. (laughter) I think a lot of people are like, “You and your friends get something that no one else has, one of you is gonna go rogue. The other one’s gonna be the person who’s going to be like, ‘No, you guys shouldn’t do anything.’ and the rest of us are going to go have fun.”

NR: So you really don’t do drugs? (laughs)

Kholi: Yeah. I actually have a strange fascination with things I haven’t done before. If that makes sense. I was a really late bloomer as far as parties and stuff like that. And now it’s fascinating. I haven’t experienced any of that, so it’s a very fantastic idea, of what it might be like to do something like that for a little while. I know it doesn’t jive with what actually happens.

NR: How was casting the two main leads?

Teresa: Yeah, well I think it was very interesting. Almost, three, three and a half years ago, I was called in for the original rounds of casting. Kholi and I were both on this film forum called DVXUser. He had seen some of my work on there so he called me in to cast, and I didn’t hear anything for about a year, and then a year later, Kholi said, “I wanna shoot this for real.” Finances are always hard for the first movie, because you haven’t done anything, so how are people going to support you? When he said “I’m gonna do this for real”, I was like, “Well let me help you produce it.” I think I was actually out of town during that round of casting. I remember Kholi sending me tapes of both Keye Chen and Ricky Faust, who are Pete and Avery, and I thought they were perfect.

Kholi: There was the version of them I had in my head, then the version that walked in the room, and that changed who we cast from then on. These two guys really seemed like friends from the get go when we did our group spot where we bring people together to read. They really seemed like genuine friends, and that influenced the rest of the casting process as well, down to the crazy doctors and the boss guy. The idea I had in my head was completely different than what it became through the casting process.

NR: Is this your first directing gig?

Kholi: This is technically not my first directing gig, it is my first full effort. I did a short film several years ago when I first started. It was a disaster that never got finished. It’s funny because the main characters in that resemble the main characters in Superseeds as well. It’s a very strange trip, a circular story about suicide, which is part of the reason amateurs always gravitate toward the main two reasons people are being tied to chairs – suicide or drugs. Clearly I’m an amateur, so…

Teresa: He’s not being modest when he says it was a disaster, because it was.

Kholi: Yeah, it was a disaster.

NR: So what made you decide you wanted to take another shot at directing?

Kholi: You know, it sounds negative to say this, but I think it was stupidity. I think any sort of trade – or any kind of endeavor is really difficult thing. Filmmaking is definitely painful. But you sort of have to be stupid or a masochist to want to go out and do another film, as a director, as a writer, no matter what budget you have. It doesn’t matter what budget level it’s on, it’s very, very hard. A lot of my industry buddies think sort of like I’m a masochist or I’m stupid because I know it’s going to be very difficult, I know I’m going to get angry during the process. But I love the feeling of completing something or getting this out of my head so I can move on to the next thing. So even though I hadn’t finished the first short – thankfully I can hide that away. I hid that pretty well – I did want to go out and experience the full-length feature process, and get my hands dirty in that respect. That way, I could comment as a filmmaker, not someone who talks about doing it, but somebody who does it.

NR: As for the subject matter of the movie – young kids getting powers, I think the last enjoyable movie I saw with that premise would be Chronicle. I was wondering if that, or any other movies inspired you to create this one.

Kholi: Actually, I started writing six years ago. Chronicle hadn’t even been around at that point. What did have a subtle influence on it, was my history growing up as a gamer. So it was heavily influenced by the 8-bit era and 16-bit era of video games, and a lot of the cartoony factor of watching Saturday morning cartoons. It’s like when you watch the movie, you really get that idea that whoever wrote this is really into the Saturday morning cartoon era, and they spent a lot of time watching cartoons, especially a lot of anime. A lot of my influences do come from video game creators, and as far as movies go, a lot of the guys in the ’80s like Ivan Reitman, the guy who directed Ghostbusters, which is my favorite movie. I’ve seen it at least 223 times or so.

Teresa: (laughter)

NR: (laughter)

Kholi: Those are all my influences and I think you can see a lot of that in within the feature. It really does feel like a Saturday morning cartoon. Anybody my age will get it and think, “Oh man, I remember how this felt. Waking up watching cartoons.”

NR: And the Power Glove. Like, “Oh my God. They got the Power Glove!”

Kholi: We get a lot of responses when the Power Glove shows up. That was one thing I wanted to feature on the poster because, you see it, you get it. It’s like, “Oh, cool. These guys knew about the Power Glove. Like they featured the Power Glove. That’s a big thing.” They comment on it a few times in the actual movie – twice I think. It’s not just a prop in the movie. It’s like, “Hey guys, we’re in the era of 8-bit gamers too.”

NR: Yeah. Speaking of the different video game references, it kind of reminds me of Wreck-It Ralph – that movie has a lot of video game references. I know that the younger generation probably won’t know what those are, and they’ll be like, “What is that?”

Kholi: (laughter) Wreck-It Ralph was an amazing movie. I really loved it. The cool thing is that they don’t hang on video game references, which I was really happy to see. It tells its own story, even though it’s for like meta-nerds or meta-geeks. We do the same thing here. There are references and some in-jokes. But you never hang on them or hid them in the meat – what’s going on in the story. We’ll still tell a story that is its own entity, but my goal was to convey a feeling of what it was like to grow up in the ’80s and still be an ’80s kid now, living in the early 2000s and still having those influences and memories as technology gets better. And now we’ve moved on to like PlayStation 3, so we’ve experienced that entire gamut of the shift in technology. Both what came before and those that come after it.

NR: Since we’re still talking about video games, I was wondering if you still have enough time to play video games as a hobby?

Kholi: Oh, okay. I don’t necessarily force myself to play. I think I might play too many video games still. I dropped them for a little while to do as much work as possible, and then I picked them back up when a friend came in town. So now I’m back into video games and I play a lot of fighting games these days.

NR: So, like Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom, Mortal Kombat –

Kholi: Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Yeah, unfortunately I’m making up for lost time. I think I’ve logged 465 hours on Ultimate Mortal Kombat, but mostly Marvel vs Capcom 3, in less than a year. About 80 of those hours are just in training mode by myself, trying to get combos. So I think I play too many video games right now.

NR: (laughter) But definitely when it comes to fighting games, you still have it in you.

Kholi: Yeah, fighting games, definitely. It’s been a really long time since I’ve thrown a controller. Back in the SNES days. I just threw a controller recently and broke it. Yeah, it’s great.

NR: Wow.

Kholi: Way too many video games, again.

NR: We definitely have to battle each other in fighting games.

Kholi: Oh yeah! If you own PlayStation 3, we should jump on that. I love Marvel vs. Capcom and Street Fighter IV.

NR: Yeah, my game is Street Fighter IV.

Kholi: Oh, who do you main?

NR: I main with C. Viper.

Kholi: Oh no! C. Viper!

NR: (laughter)

Kholi: I play Sakura. I love Sakura.

NR: Sakura, yeah.

Kholi: Really annoying, Sakura.

NR: What’s the most challenging part of the production process?

Kholi: I think we both have a vision when we think of the most challenging part.

Teresa: The most challenging? I feel like we learned so much on this one that any future challenges would probably be different. But for Superseeds, I think the most challenging thing was maybe the factor of making it on such a small budget. We had to schedule it around actors’ schedules and schedule it around our Visual FX guy and our sound guy because we’re not paying them full rates. We’re getting favors and stuff. I think that doing it that way makes the process go a lot slower than it would otherwise. On the flip side, the most fun part is getting to see this script actually come to life, and actually get to see it fully finished, which has been really exciting.

Kholi: Yeah, I agree. For me I think it would be actually getting into the process of doing something. I think a lot of people in different careers or professions have a hard time ramping up anything that they want to do. Getting started is always the hardest part for me. Once you get started, you iron out the kinks, and plot holes you have to get over, but getting started is really the hardest thing to do, no matter what amount of money you do or don’t have.

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