David Cross was off coffee because of a stomach ailment when I talked to him on February 5, 2015 just before his film, HITS, kicked of SFIndieFest. Opting for tea, and overcoming his distaste for the bergamot in his Earl Gray, he was a lively conversationalist as we discussed his maiden effort writing and directing a feature film. From the delights of working out of his upstate New York home, to the advantages of having a good-looking film crew, to the limitations of a low-budget, he revealed himself to be a meticulous filmmaker who values staying true to the spirit of the story over any other consideration, including his own ego. Cross shared tales of making a crowd out of a few extras, his delight in bringing his dog to work, and what happens to an actor who has to scream at the top of his lungs for six hours straight. He also kindly indulged my penchant for getting philosophical with a question about how we perceive media by musing on the generational differences in attitudes towards the bombardment with which modern live is gifted/cursed.
To distribute his film, Cross has partnered with BitTorrent, in a new distribution model, about which I was very curious, and he was very forthcoming. We started, though, with one of the things I loved best about the film, which is that he chose to people his satire with characters that were real people, not hyperbolic caricatures.
HITS, his sharp satire about fame whores, small-town boredom, and the poignancy of turkey tacos for one. Set in the upstate New York village of Liberty, HITS charts the ripple effect of Kaitlyn Steuben’s dreams of stardom without talent, and what happens when a video of her father, disgruntled citizen Dave Steuben of 16 Boylston Street, reciting a litany of complaints to the city council goes viral. As Kaitlyn is horrified, and a nascent protest group gloms onto Dave, the film considers issues of free speech, opportunism, situational power dynamics, and what it means to be linked-in globally but not personally. The film stars Matt Walsh as Dave, and Meredith Hagner as Kaitlyn, with Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera, Wyatt Cenac, David Koechner, Amy Carlson, Erinn Hayes, James Adomian, Russ Tamblyn, Jason Ritter, Jake Cherry, and Julia Stiles as the woman with the electric kettle. Cross directed from his own script, and this is his directorial debut.
In addition to a lively stand-up comedy career, Cross’s many achievements include having won an Emmy Award for his work on the Ben Stiller Show, and blazed both comedy and cult status trails with MR. SHOW, and as anal-rapist turned actor Tobias Funke on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.