Once a week, we’ll pick out one of Fancast’s many full-length free feature films to spotlight. Sure, you’ll check out the big stuff like Robocop 3, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot and What’s The Worst That Could Happen?, but the smaller movies need shout-outs, too.
The movie of the week is Suits, a 1999 film featuring comedy great Robert Klein as the head of an advertising agency charged with coming up with a campaign for a sanitary napkin in order to save one of their biggest accounts. Director Eric Weber is a former advertising director responsible for ad campaigns for both Dr. Pepper and Molson, and he felt compelled to take a satirical look at his former profession. Watch Suits below (and be sure to watch out for a small part from a pre-fame Steve Carell), and then check out the interview with Weber to find out more.
Q&A with DIRECTOR ERIC WEBER
Q. What would you say to someone sitting down to watch this film for the first time, knowing nothing about it?
Eric Weber: It’s a comedy about the war between the Suits and the Creatives in an advertising agency. Could be the war between sales and research, or legal and marketing in another kind of business. It’s sort of the eternal war between the rebels and those in control.
Q. What was the inspiration for writing the story for this film? Is it autobiographical at all?
Eric Weber: Very autobiographical. I was a chief creative officer for many years in a large New York ad agency.
Q. How did the project come together? Was it difficult to get this film off the ground and into production? What were the major challenges?
Eric Weber: The film was easy to put together. It just took courage — that was the hard part — to actually go ahead and start shooting. I’d made hundreds of commercials in my life — little 30 second movies. All the disciplines are the same: location hunting, wardrobe, make up, casting, blocking, etc. I simply had to begin. Once we started shooting it was fine. Editing a 90 minute movie, of course, was vastly harder than cutting a 30 second spot. We had 180 times more film.
Q. How was the casting process? Any surprises in the cast you finally got together?
Eric Weber: The casting was great fun because it was a comedy. We got Robert Klein because someone in the cast was his friend and gave him the script to read. He liked it and said he’d do it — for a very modest fee. The one problem we had was in casting the lead. We kept on looking at actors and not feeling it. Then we switched to comedians and it was much better. That’s how we came to choose the lead — Randy Pearlstein had come in to read for a smaller, funnier part. He was so funny we decided to go with him as the lead. Worked out great.
Q. How different is the final project from the original script?
Eric Weber: Like almost all movies, about 15% different. The project was such an undertaking for our budget that we wound up cutting scenes as we went along to concentrate on making sure that what we were shooting we were shooting right.
Q. Are there any particular scenes you like the best, or that you’d like audiences to really take note of?
Eric Weber: I like the focus groups with the teenaged girls, and the Creatives sitting around thinking up ads — because I was actually in the business viewers will get a sense of how it’s really done. In some advertising movies, the depiction of the creative process is often quite inauthentic.
Q. How about any scenes that were particularly challenging to shoot?
Eric Weber: The large scenes in which the agency is presenting to the clients were challenging because there are so many people in one room — you want to make sure the viewer understands who everyone is and why they’re there. You need to give the participants in the meeting a firm sense of place.
Q. What would you say is the overall message you’d like people to take away from the film?
Eric Weber: The creative process is a magical, delightful process — and often the Suits who control it think it’s easy, mechanical, can be done on time on demand — and they act as if they think that if they tried their hand at it they could do a better job than the artists. This simply isn’t true. Great creative work in music, art, writing is usually the sudden and magical inspiration of one mind. It happens when it’s ready. And when Suits start to meddle with it, it’s bound to get worse.