‘Breakup at a Wedding’ is the breakout comedy of the year

The history of film is well-worn with platitudes about cold feet—runaway brides and no-show grooms. But “Breakup at a Wedding,” the new film from director Victor Quinaz, asks a more interesting question: What happens when the couple breaks up the night before the wedding, but is too chicken to actually call it off and send everyone home?

What happens is a viciously hilarious comedy—peppered, as you might expect, with its fair share of tragedy (or at least pathos). But what makes “Breakup at a Wedding” especially exciting is that it represents a fresh voice in the movie landscape. At a time when fewer films are getting made and more of them resemble the next “Transformers” installment, “Breakup at a Wedding” introduces a new stable of writing, directing and acting talent that feels poised to make its mark. Watching “Breakup at a Wedding” is kind of like watching “Superbad” or “Wet Hot American Summer” in that it feels like a career starting gun.

I spoke with Quinaz about what it was like getting his first feature off the ground—which, incidentally, you can watch at iTunes. Watch a clip and read below.

What made you want to make a movie about weddings? Was there any real-life experience that inspired it?
To be honest I don’t think anyone on our PERIODS. films team ever thought they’d make a wedding movie. Certainly not me. But when we started thinking about us doing something long form we needed a genre that was broad, had mass appeal, and that could mitigate the risk of using a cast that was as talented as they are unknown. It was either a horror movie or a wedding movie. Our team doing a wedding movie felt more perverse and funnier.

But of course the mass appeal of wedding movies is that everyone has some kind of experience with them. You either hate them, love them, attend them, got married, or were the ring bearer/flower girl before you had memories. Everyone on our team is at an age where we’re attending two to three weddings a summer on average. You add that to the fact that Anna Martemucci and I were planning our own wedding at the time and Philip happens to be one of the top Wedding DJ’s in NYC; we had stories for days.

Considering the material, I thought it was sort of funny that you wrote it with your romantic partner Anna. Do you guys share a personal philosophy on weddings and marriage in general?
I think we share a comedy philosophy which is exploit our neurosis and fears for laughs any chance we have. So a lot of those nerves of getting married, throwing a wedding, marriage in general wound up in the movie. The plot itself came from a suggestion I made to Anna after she started getting cold feet. I said “let’s just pretend were getting married and throw a kick ass party.” Marriage itself is a larger topic. And trying to find true equality within a relationship, creatively as well as in terms of family, is something I think our generation might be the first one’s to be dealing with. I guess we’ll have to wait for the divorce statistics in a couple years to find out! (sequel!)

Your brother Phil stars in the film – what was it like directing your brother through some of these more painful scenes?
Phil is perhaps the most easy going actor/comedian on the planet. I think part of that is he’s super humble about the whole thing (being a wedding DJ on the weekends probably helps that). And to be honest I’ve been putting him in weird costumes our whole lives (we never went to camp, what can I say?) The cake cutting scene is perhaps one of my most favorite things I’ve ever directed and I was a lil Von Trier making him stand there for like 15 minutes before I let him cut the cake. He’s a trooper. The wind beneath our wings.

I’m interested to know about how this came together – you’ve been making a lot of shorts, correct? How did the full-length come together and how did you connect with Oscilliscope?
It was all very much based off of the fun and success we were having with the shorts. At one point we were flirting with a small show or web-series with MTV or Adult Swim (I have since directed a show for them coming out at the end of summer called DOG C.E.O.) but we really wanted to be able to cast everyone we’re fans of and do a longer story. We came up with the idea or something that had spectacle but could still be done inexpensively and quickly, wrote the script, joined forces with Zachary Quinto’s company Before The Door Pictures (Margin Call) who had also been in two of our shorts, went to market, got the money, shot the film in 11 days, and then edited for almost 8 months (ugh).

In the end we went straight to market. At one point the two companies interested in releasing the film were Paramount and Oscilloscope. We couldn’t believe someone as awesome and hip as Oscope would get behind the movie. But they did and we did and it’s been fantastic. (Paramount was whole mini-nightmare I can’t go into).

What’s next for “Breakup” – do you guys plan to do the festival circuit?
Well, next we hope audiences find it. We’re well aware that the word cult has been thrown around. Which is both an honor and a curse. Cult movies take decades to find their audience. We’re hoping we can shrink that down to a month (eh). Hopefully people won’t wait till it’s on Netflix and realize that it’s a movie for everyone. We really did try to make a movie that fit our perverse comic sensibilities but also something with honest emotions that audiences of every age can relate to.

As for festivals, that is also a longer conversation that I’ll have to wait and see what kind of success befalls the film. Festivals are great and wish they were more friendly to traditional comedies. But hey everyone has to sell pork fat popcorn to the audience they know.

Some of the comedic flavor is so unique – there’s a moment in particular where you let a kid dance in front of the camera for a bit while some other vital story material plays out offscreen – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that type of joke anywhere. Who else out there is influencing you – who are you paying attention to?
That genius moment was written by Anna. We needed a way to get through so much exposition setting up the conflict between Alison and her parents and her constant people pleasing. It didn’t hurt that the kid is a dead ringer for a young Tina Fey. I think for BREAKUP we were really into David O’Russell and Arrested Development. Flirting With Disaster was the probably the biggest influence as we wanted a movie that was living and breathing, kinetic and real. We also looked at pretty much every romantic comedy under the sun and picked them apart to figure out how you go about pulling off the same fireworks but in a more realistic setting.

For our PERIODS. shorts our influence could be almost anything depending on the day. For awhile we were parodying mumblecore and oddly reality TV which turned out to be almost the same thing. As fans we watch a lot of British stuff from the classic Monty Python to The Thick of It (and now Veep), Brass Eye and Fresh Meat (it’s great). We’re huge 30 Rock and Arrested fans. We pretty much watch and love it all. We’re not comedy haters. There’s always something to laugh at no matter what the taste. Even Big Bang Theory (well, maybe not so much).

Seeing that you and Phil and Anna have made tons of stuff together and seem to have great creative chemistry, I was reminded of the way John Cassavetes always worked with the same crew of thew way the Apatow crew tends to stick together. What’s next for you guys – do you have more projects in mind?
Cassavetes AND Apatow!! That’s amazing. I also think Death of Chinese Bookie would make for a great PERIODS. remake. We are currently working on getting a feature length version of our FOREFATHERS short up by next spring. We have a slew of TV projects as well (though everyone seems to be doing TV these days). We’re definitely keeping the web shorts going, I think they’ll always be a kind of sketch book for us (and pretty much the best times of my life).

We’ll have to see how BREAKUP does before we can be certain what the future holds. But f*ck it! We love making people laugh, I guess we’ll go where people we’ll have us.