We talked to them about what they do and how they came to be and what kinds of plans they have for the future.
How did you both meet and decide to make movies?
Julian: Jamie and I were randomly selected to be roommates by the sorting hat at Georgia State University. We were both film majors and ended up taking all of the same classes together. It was a real marriage of convenience.
Jamie: Julian tends to handle writing our sketches, while I tend to direct and edit them, but we trade off on occasion to spice things up.
Tell us a little bit about the name “Bland Hack.” What does your company aspire to do with its films?
Julian: When we first started making films, we did so under the name “Black Hand Productions.” We were really obsessed with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Black Hand by which I mean I was really obsessed with the band Franz Ferdinand and one really deep cut from their first album that gently discussed the assassination of the world leader they stole their name from. Then we found out there was a rap group with that name so we flipped some letters around and voila: Bland Hack.
Jamie: We’ve always made our videos with the intent of pursuing a career in film and television, but thanks to sites like YouTube, Funny Or Die, and CollegeHumor, sketch comedy is flourishing online. It’s no longer necessary to spend money submitting short films to the festival circuit. There’s a film festival happening every day on the internet. Our goal is to build an audience online, which will hopefully turn into real-world opportunities.
Julian: We definitely push boundaries and have received the ire of people ranging from Bill O’Reilly to the functionally-illiterate dregs of the YouTube commenting pool. I guess if we’re making people angry, we’re doing something right. (Watch their rebuttal to Bill O’Reilly’s reporter’s ire here.)
Julian: Bland Hack winning an Oscar would be like Iran legalizing gay marriage. We all know that both should happen, but it’s super unlikely. Personally, I want my own tv show. Whenever we write, we constantly say “oh that’s a Simpsons joke.” We both grew up watching the Simpsons and, when it was in its heyday, it was the best writing on television. I’d love for us to get some sort of format like that.
Jamie: If something we made were to win an Oscar, I hope it would be for one of our actors for all the dumb stuff we’ve made them do. Or for our talented friends who help us create special effects and mix sound and film these silly things. Until then, my fingers are crossed that the Academy adds “Best String of Obscenties While Farting” category.
Julian: Full disclosure, we’ve yet to actually put a fart joke in a sketch. Sorry gang.
5. Are there plans for a feature-length film in your future? What kind?
Julian: We’re dying to make a feature length film! There are so many talented film people in Atlanta these days and we’ve met so many of them making these sketches. A few years ago, making a feature with Atlanta talent in front of and behind the camera would have seemed impossible. Now it seems inevitable.
Jamie: Julian and I both work in the film industry to pay the bills, and seeing firsthand the sheer volume of work and talented people that Atlanta has been attracting is thrilling. It’s an incredibly exciting time. Atlanta really has the right infrastructure to become a great hub of independent filmmakers, and you’ve got guys like David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Mike Brune, and so many others working their asses off and making it happen. The film community here is incredibly supportive of each other, and we’re lucky to be involved with and work alongside such great folks.
Julian: As for what kind, we can’t really say just yet but it would definitely continue the themes we have in our sketches. Expect lots of explosions, meaty parts for funny women, and lots of dirty jokes.
Tell us about this movie you are debuting today (Tuesday)? It has a gay theme, I understand? How did the idea come about and walk us through the process of getting it filmed and completed.
Julian: The sketch is called “HEbrew” and it’s about a mobile app for gay Jewish men, a blend of Grindr and J-Date. This is the first sketch we’ve really targeted towards the gay community. I’m Jewish and gay so I’ve been waiting a lifetime for the opportunity to make this many bad puns. The thing that’s great about Bland Hack is that we’re composed of one straight white guy and one gay white guy which basically makes us one of the Internet’s most diverse comedy groups.
Every sketch we make has a different process. For this one, we started with the concept and branched out from there. We made a list of recognizable Jewish terms and tried to make them gay. Hence, bar mitzvah becomes bear mitzvah.
Jamie: It’s a difficult art form that few can master.
As far as our “process” goes, it really depends on the sketch. For our 1980s Mad Men sketch, it was logistically complex, juggling people’s schedules and shooting things out of order, all while making sure we got the details of the 80s and the nuanced performances of Mad Men just right. There was storyboarding, rehearsals, and lots of preproduction meetings.
For “HEbrew,” it’s a commercial and the scenes are essentially all one-liners, so that gave us room to relax. I didn’t storyboard anything and just let the camera role, and we had a lot of fun working with the actors and playing around with the lines. The downside of this looser method is that there was a ton of footage and it took longer to edit. Editing dictates pacing, which dictates comedic timing, which means there’s a lot of sitting around debating over adding a frame or cutting a frame. But of course all of that tedium is absolutely worth it.
Julian: It’s always such a relief when we put a finished product up on the web. People are always surprised at how much work goes into a single sketch. It’s a process, people
Photo: Julian Modugno (back) and Jamie Hawkins-Gaar make up Bland Hack. (courtesy photo)