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Thread: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

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    ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)


    Tuesday night at 11:00 pm FX will premiere "Louie," a new series from Louis C.K. And when we say "from Louis C.K.," we're not fucking around. And neither is he. On "Louie," C.K. serves as the executive producer, director, writer, editor, and star of the 13-episode first season, which recently wrapped production. With his latest stand-up special, "Hilarious" still in limbo it premiered at Sundance earlier this year but reportedly is still seeking theatrical distribution we focused solely on the new series in this interview. "Louie" mixes stand-up segments with short films of various lengths, and as you'll read, holds C.K. to no definitive format, allowing him to take each episode in whatever direction he chooses. Ricky Gervais, Todd Barry, Nick DiPaolo, Pamela Adlon and Bobby Cannavale are among the guest stars who appear in season one. Although the concept of stand-up interspliced with scripted content may evoke comparisons to Seinfeld, the two episodes I screened prior to our interview unquestionably established "Louie"'s individuality as well as its hilarity.

    Continued after the jump.




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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Having seen a couple episodes, it seems the new show combines everything you've been doing up to this point – your stand-up, your short films, plus your real passion for the camera and technical aspects of it. Is this a dream project for you?

    Oh yeah, it's the greatest thing I've ever gotten to do. It's just unbelievable I'm getting to do this this way. I'm getting to do everything that I love doing. I've taken a lot of ideas out of movies and stuff and put them into the show. I've had ideas for movies I wanted to write that I never really got to. I've cannibalized them into this show. That's how much I like this. I feel like I can do everything I really want here.


    How did the show come about, especially how did you get so much control of it? Was that something that you were actively demanding of wherever you landed next or were they just willing to turn over all that control to you?

    I knew that's the way I could do the show. It's very expensive to spread responsibility around. It takes a lot of time and it's more effort to work with a lot of different people. I know what I want with this stuff. Like I really know just how I want this stuff to look. To me, the closer you can get from having the moment live in your head to seeing that on TV, the closer you can get from that moment of inspiration to the thing existing, the clearer it's going to be. You don't have to tell a writer "Here's my idea" and need 10 people to agree how to execute it and need a director to actually execute it for you. And then put yourself in front of the camera and hope everything is the way you wanted. It's going to be good, but it's not going to be what you originally wanted. And if those people have worked on anything but your show, it's going to look like what they've worked on before.

    I love directing. I've been doing it for years. I love cinematography. I really knew how I wanted this to look. My budget is $300,000 an episode and I'm paying myself the minimum at every job. For what I'm paying myself, I wouldn't get a director that would be any good. And I've got one writer, and that's 10 times less than what it would cost me with a staff. I'm not doing it just to save money.

    I had a lot of leverage going to the meeting. Because I had other offers that were lucrative, and more importantly, I was making a ton of money on the road and having a great time. I didn't need the job. Usually when I come to Hollywood for a TV job, I really need the work. I need it financially. I need it personally. But [this time] I didn't need it. I was very fulfilled. And I thought if I'm going to do TV, I'm not coming to Hollywood with a bunch of people.

    So I didn't need the job. So I went to FX and when they said, "Can you do a show for cheap? We'll give you a lot of freedom," I told [network president] John Landgraf, "I have one way I'll do this – you send me the money and I make the show. I don't want you to see it or read it until it's done." It's not to be pretentious assholes, it's because I know we can do it that way. It's so much work to show shit to network. I knew if I can just go get Blair Breard, who was my line producer on Pootie Tang and who I've done a bunch of things with, I knew that if I gave her treasury of the show, that we would be able to do it. And I got my director of photography Paul Koestner, who I've been making films with, we've done shorts back in 1989. I knew that with all those people – Amy Silver, my production designer, can make something out of nothing – I figured if I could direct these people and I could write pieces and shoot them as we went along without knowing where it's heading, I could pull it off.

    So I said, "This is the one way I'll do the show." If he had said no, I'd go back on the road. I didn't care. And he said yes. And I can't believe it, so here we are.


    I know you love all the different aspects of what you're doing, but is it challenging to balance being behind the camera and all the technical aspects and then getting in front of the camera, or have you been doing it so long it's second nature to you?

    A lot of it is second nature but it can get overwhelming. We have a work schedule that fits into my custody schedule with my kids. So we shoot Mondays and Tuesdays full days, and Wednesdays we can only shoot until it's time for me to pick up my daughter. So I run from the set to my daughter's school. And every week on Wednesdays, when we first started shooting, the crew would say "Get a babysitter. What the fuck are you doing? We're working." It was very frustrating for them that I would toss work to go get the kids. But we had a meeting and I said, look guys, this is the show. This is why I'm doing this. It was no show or this way, so this is the only way I can do this. I have an incredible crew and they've done nothing but help me do that.

    I don't have breaks when I'm not working. I just go right to the kids. It can be overwhelming. But I like it. I'd rather have, you know, the cup runneth over. I love directing because every second of every day there's something really stimulating that you need to be doing. I did have to learn methods to get everything done. Like, I've told my art department if you want to show me pictures – a lot of directing is seeing pictures of things they want to make for you – so I tell the art department and location department to send me pictures and give me 24 hours to approve it, and if I don't, approve it on your own authority. I'm not a bottleneck. I trust these people. I have had to let things go by that some directors wouldn't have, but that's okay. I also think it's arrogant to think you can control everything with directing. I think if you show up with talented people and a great camera and a good set of prime lenses and a basic light kit, you'll get it. You'll get the scene. I like arriving there and spending a good two hours before we shoot with the director of photography and saying, "What's our visual game here? What game are we going to play here that's different than any other episode? What can we do here that's fun?" So that's how I get in the flow.

    Also, I don't learn my lines. I write my stuff, but I never learn my lines. So when I get an actor, I say, "Listen, I don't know it. So the first couple of takes, it's going to stink, hard." And that's turned out to be a good thing, because actors always show up nervous, even the best ones. And when I don't know my lines, I think it's very disarming for them. It helps them feel like they're running the scene, because I don't even know what the fuck I'm doing.

    I don't go to casting sessions. That's very unusual. Everything is cast in a room. No actor is allowed to get the material ahead of time, either. It's sort of turned into this really cool way of doing it. They go to the casting session, they read it, they have two minutes to prepare, and then they do it. The videos get posted online for me, and usually at the end of the day I watch casting tapes online. And because of that really difficult thing we've put them through, of not having time to prepare, a good nine out of 10 actors tank the audition. It's too hard. And number 10 nails it. Yeah, there it is. I got 'em. So it makes it easy. It may not be fair to them, but it works for me.


    What did you learn during Lucky Louie that has impacted how you're approaching this show?

    I got the best version – I think ever – of the network process, writer's room process, staged comedy. I don't think it gets better than the one that I did. I did my favorite sitcom. I got to do it. But I did learn a lot about stamina. I learned a lot about getting through a season. I hadn't done that before. Getting from writing a pilot to doing a season, everything that happens during that, that's going to happen to me again and again. And every time you go down a road that's difficult, the second time you go down that road it's so much easier. Or not easier, but you're just better. You're better at it. So in the sense of just the real basics of getting through a year of television, Lucky Louie taught me a lot about that.

    But there's a lot I learned on Lucky Louie that I just leave behind with the show. I'm not doing anything like it. This show's so different. That was a one-of-a-kind thing for me.


    The two episodes I saw of "Louie," it doesn't seem like there's a lot of narrative from one short film to the next. Is that accurate throughout the series or will there be ties from one to another?

    Every episode is different really. There are a few that are like here's an act one piece with a little stand-up on each end, here's an act two piece with stand-up on each end, sometimes there's a cold open, or there's a credit sequence or some throwaway thing. That's not nearly always the case. There's a few episodes that the whole episode is one story. There's a few episodes where it's just little scenes and there's more stand-up. It's different every time. That's something that John Landgraf encouraged me to do from the beginning – to never feel like we have a format we have to fit. There are some episodes that don't end with stand-up. Some do, some don't. Some of them have it in the middle. There's one episode where there are flashbacks to my youth, and I talk on stage during the flashbacks. You go me on stage, little bit of flashback. Me on stage, little bit of flashback. And I thought, "This is different. This breaks totally the way it's been. Fuck it. Do it." So I did it. That one's gonna feel different from everything. I think every episode feels different from the others. I don't think there's going to be anything reliable about the show, which I like.


    And that must feel incredible to have that freedom to do that kind of thing.

    Absolutely. And again, it's something that they wanted. They wanted that. One thing that Landgraf said to me when we started was that he thinks that a thing that makes it hard to enjoy TV is that you know what you're getting. It's so entrenched in these rhythms. So he said, "Please, give us something that you don't know what you're getting."

    The whole thing is terrifying, too. Because this kind of freedom – it's a lot of pressure. When you do the show the way the network wants, then you just do what they tell you to do, and life is kinda simple. When you have a network regimen, first you write an outline, you send it to them. They give you notes. You re-work the outline, send it to them again. They say go ahead and write it. Then you write a script, send it to them, they give you notes, you re-write it, send it to them, you re-write it again, send it to them, and then you do a table read for them. They give you notes. You spend a whole day sometimes rehearsing for a table read. And the rehearsals are not for the show to be better. The rehearsals are so that you can do proper run-through for the network for them to weigh in on. And then you do a run-through for the studio, then you do a run-through for the network. And then you block and shoot. But first you rehearse and block everything for the writers to take a look at. They're kinda like the Congress of the show. They watch and they re-write and then you learn their re-writes, and then you end up shooting a show you don't really know very well because of how much perfection has gone into the process. All of that is to make a show as good as possible, but of what I've just described, like 80 percent of the workload is showing things to other people and getting their approval. Whereas, when you make a show this way, 100 percent of the process is just making stuff. Just writing and making, writing and making. And there can be failure down that road. Sometimes I feel a little lost.


    Yeah, I wondered about that. Is there anybody who you seek out for feedback or do you just say this is my show and this is how I'm going to do it?

    I have Pamela Adlon, who is my consulting producer. She's my "bounce-off of" person. I learned her skill for that on Lucky Louie. She was sitting next to me throughout that. We wrote all those scripts together and went through them together. So she's someone who I trust her instincts. And that to me is a lot more valuable than a person with a heavy resume or a Harvard education.

    But it is a huge amount of pressure. The fact that the network does this – when you do things on their schedule, what happens is when you're done doing your network notes, you go home. You go, "I'm done working today. I did what they told me to do." When they say do it all yourself, I'm up nights with this show. I never feel like it's good enough. Because I'm terrified. It's all me.


    Right. The network takes away some of that responsibility. You can just say, "Well, they're telling me to do it this way."

    Exactly. And to me, what it is is pressure versus scrutiny. I think that scrutiny is belittling and atrophying and exhausting. Pressure compels you and it's invigorating and pressure makes you work harder. And there's a lot of pressure here for this stuff to be good.

    Also, none of the freedom I have is contractual. My contract with FX says they have a right to approve everything.


    Really.

    Absolutely. And that they could hire a director and make me work with him. They could make me do anything they want. They also get to approve every person I cast, but they don't because it's working. I know if I give them two bad episodes in a row, they're gonna come and become my partners. That's their prerogative to do that. So I have to earn this freedom with every episode. Except now I'm wrapped, so they're kinda fucked if they don't like what's coming.


    I wanted to ask about the cinematography and the filmmaking process of it. To me, the episodes I saw reminded me of your short films DVD, and I don't know if this is accurate – I'm no film student – to me, there's a simplicity in the way you shoot things. What would you say inspired that?

    Well I do like the cinematography part of it a lot. It's something I've loved for most of my life. We shoot this show on a RED camera. We use Master Prime lenses, which are the best lenses you can get. They're 35 millimeter lenses they shoot movies with. So I really get into apertures and focal length. Most shows shoot with zoom lenses. I don't believe in that. We shoot with fixed focal length lenses. We do a lot to make the show look a certain way. It's all very deliberate. If it comes out looking really simple, that's to me a positive. You shouldn't really be aware of this stuff. It has an effect without your knowing why.

    But no, I'm definitely getting off on myself as a director with this thing. It's really fun. There's a lot of stuff I've learned on it, too. I like technology and photography so I like how a certain piece of equipment can lead the charge creatively when you want to do things differently. We have something called a Seven Jib. We don't have a lot of money, so we just find cheap toys, you know. My director of photography Paul Koestner is really good at that. He has a guy in Long Island who makes weird shit for him. And he makes something called a Seven Jib, which is really just a tripod but it has this weird arm on it that goes up and down. So it's really nice. It just has weights – barbell weights that say like "Athletic Club" on them – and they're used as a counterweight so you get this floaty thing. I never really move the camera much. I'm usually a stationary camera guy. But with this Seven Jib you can float in really nicely. However, because it's on a tripod and the arm is like a compass, the kind of compass you draw circles with, if you float towards somebody, you don't float in a straight line. You're floating in a curve. So you kinda come at them and you pass them and you start floating away. And we started getting into this idea that the show is circular. There's not any straight lines in it. We do have some tracks we can lay down, so we can do a straight float into people. But more often, we start on one end of the room and draw like a crescent movement – a little away, a little towards, run past the person and go the other way. It's kinda cool. I like the idea that this season, we were on the Seven Jib, we made a lot of spirals, we made a lot of circles.


    Who would you say inspired you before you started making films yourself? Who you do point to?

    Millions of people. Jim Jarmusch I used to love when I was a kid. The simple, turn on the bleak black and white and just kind of frame up a cool shot and watch the scene in it, all in masters. I love Stanley Kubrick. He's one of my favorites. Every film he's made is amazing. I also love how eclectic his stuff is, from Dr. Strangelove to Barry Lyndon. I mean, Jesus. Scorsese. Great, great director. He's a guy I think about a lot. Coppola. Shit. There's just so many. Bergman. Weird, fucking strange angles and high contrast and using strings...

    I'm really into music in this show, too. We make all original music. I'm in the studio with musicians a lot. I make a library with them, like we'll throw in a violin player with a piano player and I ask them for a bunch of different moves, and I give them some sort of direction and they make music and then I cut with it.


    And Reggie Watts is involved in some capacity, isn't he?

    Reggie was making music for us, and we got about halfway through with Reggie, but the process was kind of expensive and he was going off to do a tour or something. So we finished the season with other people. But yeah, Reggie did some great work for us.


    The show was supposed to premiere in April. What caused the delay? Was that just to pair it with "Rescue Me" or did you make any changes in that time?

    We were ready to go, but I honesty was really happy we did it. Because this was a lot of work. As April was looming, I was getting a little scared because I didn't have enough episodes cut together yet. I could have done it, but it would have been uncomfortable. And I was starting to tap-out. We were shooting in a mad streak.

    Right now I'm promoting the show, and it's a full-time job. And if I'd had to do this in April while I was shooting, I don't know how I was going to do that. There's nobody to go to for this thing. So when they called and said, "Do you want to push it?" I said YES! Because I took a month off of shooting and I wrote for a month. Which I would do the same thing if I did another season. Shoot half the episodes, stop. Write for a month, shoot more thinking about what I learned from the first half.

    The main reason they did it was they wanted to pair it with something. I think it was a good thing. It happened right after they saw the first couple episodes, which they loved. And they said, "Let's give this a proper place." It was a bit of a gambit or whatever you call it because they moved it to a later time slot. But, time slots don't mean a lot anymore. And on FX, if you're just sort of floating in the ether, you're going to be following a movie every week. And they learned from Archer and a few other things they've launched recently that if the movie stinks, you get a bad number and that hurts the show in an unnecessary way. Also, once they saw the show, I think they realized this is not an "Always Sunny" type show. It's not a kids show. It's for grown ups. Although I think young people will like it. I don't think people have to watch people their age. I think that's stupid. But Denis [Leary] is a fuckin' Bostonian comedian doing a gritty show sorta filmy looking on New York City, and that's me right now. So I think it makes sense. I'm glad they're doing it. Also, our season finale follows Sons of Anarchy, their season premiere. It will be the biggest number that FX will get all year, will be that night, and we'll be following it. That's motivating. I made sort of a season-ending episode for that purpose. So I think it's good.

    Photo by Eric Leibowitz



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    crlygrl's Avatar
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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    SO awesome! Thank you for doing this ILIS!

    (Louie too, I guess.)
    many tine tanies



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Great stuff, as usual.



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Amazing interview, thanks ILIS! Can't wait for Louie.



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Thanks, waiting for the show, and the special



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    I've always really enjoyed CK's interviews. Honesty being the key to his responses, his real thoughts on things. Thanks ILIS.



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Thank you!



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Great stuff, thanks ILIS!



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    great interview!



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    I can't WAIT for this show!!

    Anyone catch him on The Tonight Show last week? Hilarious, and even more awesome that he didn't allow Leno to talk at all!



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Will there still be music by Reggie in the series?



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig B View Post
    Will there still be music by Reggie in the series?

    And Reggie Watts is involved in some capacity, isn't he?

    Reggie was making music for us, and we got about halfway through with Reggie, but the process was kind of expensive and he was going off to do a tour or something. So we finished the season with other people. But yeah, Reggie did some great work for us.



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    I read the interview. My questions is will the stuff he did do be in the show?



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    If Louis thinks it's "great work," we can assume he used it, I think.



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    I'M SO EXCITED







    FOR THIS SHOW



    And that was a terrific interview, thanks!



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    It's on Time's Best Of this week and here's a mini-review, I cannot wait for this eve.
    http://tunedin.blogs.time.com/2010/0...ughs-on-louie/



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    The first episode was so great, that I turned down sex from my wife to watch the second episode.

    I'm glad I did, because I laughed harder than I would have during intercourse with my wife.

    Thanks Louis!

    BTW - Great interview ILIS



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    I totally loved it. I can't even articulate how great I thought it was. Great job. Looking forward to the rest of the season.



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    Re: ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. (June 2010)

    great interview ILIS... really great. good behind the scenes nuggets on the show.

    watched the show last night. holy shit. it's pretty amazing.



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