For this Creator Conversation, I’m highlighting the wild independent comedy about a Mayor’s Chief of Staff who is caught on an adultery website and loses his wife and job in the public scandal in the movie, O, Brother! I have a triple threat with answers from Lance McDaniel, Spencer Hicks, and Stephanie Peña.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your role with O, Brother!
LANCE: I was born in Alva, went to college at Stanford University, and built websites for major companies like Levi’s, Starbucks and Harley-Davidson before quitting and starting my life over to work in film. Since then, I have worked on 20 feature films in a variety of roles. O, Brother! is the fourth narrative feature I have directed and produced. And, I am the Executive Director of the deadCenter Film Festival.
SPENCER: Firstly, I’m just a guy who does stand-up comedy. Lance McDaniel and I got to know each other in a scriptwriting class at OCU and he has been one of my favorite people ever since! He approached me about wanting to write something and we started getting together on a regular basis and pitching ideas that we thought were fun and funny. Once we hit on the idea of O’Brother, we were off to the races!
STEPHANIE: O, Brother was my 3rd opportunity to serve under the direction of Dream Director; Lance McDaniel. It was such a blast, portraying Sofia, a fiery, fun female lead. She’s the tough, but tender mistress mamacita. I’m a film actress and jazz songstress, by trade. I’m also a TV Award Show Announcer and National Anthem Vocalist for the largest Latino Civil Rights organization in the nation. I’m filming my 7th film, this week, amidst recording an audiobook in 9 languages
What five words would you use to describe the film?
LANCE: Hilarious, Surprising, Raunchy, Exciting, Joyful
SPENCER: Silly. Meaningful. Quirky, Fun. Cold. (I say cold because we filmed it January and all those shots in the garage and outside were freezing.)
STEPHANIE: The. Most. Hilarious. Movie. Ever.
What is O, Brother about?
LANCE: O, Brother! is a wild comedy starring comedian Spencer Hicks as Michael, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff who is caught on an adultery website and loses his wife and job in the public scandal. His estranged gay brother Luke (Lance McDaniel) comes to the rescue and hides Michael with the drag performers Kitty Bob Aimes and Norma Jean Goldenstein at his gay bar and dinner theater, The Boom. While Luke is dealing with his boy toy employee Angel (Del Murphy), Michael is quickly whisked away by his ex-con best friend Terry (Mathew Alvin Brown). Terry leads Michael on an adventure through strip clubs, bachelor parties, cock fights and gang warehouses, where he will either die in a gun fight with a Mexican gangster (Wilson Navas) or reconcile with his brother and join his true love (Stephanie Pena).
SPENCER: A politician who is a hypocrite, coming to terms with the fact that he’s become an a-hole for his job.
STEPHANIE: O, Brother is about brotherly love and all the opportunities that present themselves to love each other beyond differences…and…well, it’s kinda like the Hangover with more Latinos and Gays!
How did the idea come to life?
“Ultimately, we decided that a raunchy comedy about a fallen conservative politician that ends up at a drag bar and a cockfight would be the most fun to make.”LANCE: Spencer Hicks and I wanted to make a movie together. We brainstormed a bunch of concepts, including wild horror films and silly comedies. Ultimately, we decided that a raunchy comedy about a fallen conservative politician that ends up at a drag bar and a cockfight would be the most fun to make. After we locked in the idea, we invited filmmaker Melissa Scaramucci to come on board and help us write the script.
SPENCER: Lance and I were pitching ideas, and the Ashley Madison hack was in the news, we both have experience in the world of Oklahoma politics and we were able to write a screenplay about a bunch of different pockets of OKC’s culture and bring them together.
STEPHANIE: Once upon a time Spencer Hicks, Lance McDaniel and Melissa Scaramucci were born (not necessarily in that order) and then one day, they decided to birth this hilarious tale!
What was the greatest challenge you overcame in this production?
LANCE: Time. We made the film in five days, shooting 20 pages a day. We were very limited in both the lighting set ups and the number of takes we could allow actors.
SPENCER: Personally, it was acting. I’ve done bit parts in stuff, but have never had a part as big as this. We shot this entire film in 5 days. Granted, Lance probably certainly had bigger challenges than I faced having to do EVERYTHING to make this come to life.
STEPHANIE: The cold – It was freezing! Seriously though, anytime you play a role with an accent, you just gotta keep that ish up! Being consistent, whether with dialect or just commitment to character – is a challenge. But, super-fun!
What did you enjoy about making the movie?
LANCE: O, Brother! is the most enjoyable movie I have ever made. We had a small but awesome crew and super talented actors that understood the production restraints and kept the pace fast and the environment really fun.
SPENCER: Seeing Lance and Melissa everyday! Working with friends like Stephanie, Matt Brown, Joel Decker; and making new friends. It was also great to see how much work it takes to make a small independent movie.
STEPHANIE: I couldn’t have asked for a better filming experience: the creative environment, rock-star cast, talented crew, brilliant writers. One of the highlights for me, personally, included: acting alongside Lance McDaniel. I’ve had a relationship with Lance ever since we filmed “Crazy Enough” with Christ Kattan in 2010. He obviously shines as Director.
But, he is just such a brilliant on-screen talent, as well! Being witness to that, actor-to-actor, this time around – was SUCH a treat!
The other aspect I enjoyed most was just really getting in on all the action! I did some minor stunt work and got to slap and push people around. I loved that even this big girl, got some lovin’
Our free and fabulous filmmakers illustrated that the actor’s aesthetic didn’t have to be confined to the traditional expectation to execute the role.
Where in Oklahoma was it filmed?
LANCE: We filmed O, Brother! in as many fun locations around Oklahoma City as we could fit in five days.
SPENCER: All over OKC! We had shots in South OKC, North OKC, Downtown, The Boom. We were all over the city!
STEPHANIE: My scenes were filmed at a residence in South OKC as well as the Myriad Gardens. Other scenes were filmed at Night Trips, the Boom.
What advice do you have for other filmmakers?
LANCE: Stop dreaming about making your movie and just do it. Surround yourself with talented people that take their work seriously, but not themselves. And, provide your team with enough direction to keep everyone moving together and enough freedom to expand on your ideas to make them better.
SPENCER: If you have an idea you believe in, you can make it work! There will be a lot of hurdles, but just take them one at a time. The end product is worth all the hard work.
“Don’t let your uniqueness hinder you!”STEPHANIE: Just go out there and bring your stories to life! Be kind, be professional. Be resourceful. Don’t wait. Go for it!
And for actors: submit for EVERYTHING – even if you think you don’t fit the mold! That’s how I got my start! My first part was originally written for more of a Jenny McCarthy, but, then “Mexican McCarthy came in, gave it my best audition and voila – the part was reconceptualized for me! Don’t let your uniqueness hinder you!
Why should one see it?
LANCE: O, Brother! is a really funny, 80-minute comedy about family, politics, race, and sex that stars tons of great Oklahoma actors.
SPENCER: Because it’s funny and silly! If you live in Oklahoma, you probably know someone who worked on it. Support you friends :)!
STEPHANIE: Only see this if you wish to smile all over your fancy face! And belly laugh!
Anything else you want people to know?
LANCE: Please download our movie on Vimeo On Demand now so we can get started on the next one. Thank you!
STEPHANIE: Support local film, local filmmakers, film programs… Attend screenings. Volunteer for the deadCENTER film festival. Buy a ticket to the Glitterball, which raises funds for deadCENTER Education! Cultivate future filmmakers with your funds and social support! I’m the Dean of deadCENTER Education and we appreciate your support! DeadCENTER is just 1 of many opportunities for Oklahoma filmmakers to showcase their art!
For more question and answer sessions with creative people in Oklahoma from the Creator Conversation series, click here.