"'The Truth About Average Guys.' An interview with Ken Gayton and Jason Schaver."

Recently I heard about this award winning independent movie called “The Truth About Average Guys.” The movie was made by actors and friends Ken Gayton and Jason Schaver. The movie is about an average guy trying to get a girl out of his league. It’s a romantic comedy told from the guy’s prospective…think Judd Apatow with a little bit more realistic story line. While the story by itself has somewhat been done before Jason and Ken add a scenario to their story that makes their story unique.

The budget on “Average Guys” was $5,000. While the movie looks like a low budget movie, you never find yourself bored with it. You’re in it from the beginning to the end. What makes this movie is the acting. Most low budget movies tend to have terrible acting, but not “The Truth About Average Guys.” Ken and Jason play the two lead male roles and Erika Walter is the female lead. All three are phenomenal to the point where I thought they were just being themselves in front of the camera, but as you’ll read in my interview with Jason and Ken, that is not the case.

Q - I saw your movie over the weekend and I enjoyed it. Would you guys consider yourselves actors first or directors?

Ken – Definitely actor. I only got into directing because I couldn’t pay anybody else to direct my short films. I enjoy directing, but still have so much to learn.

Jason - Same here, definitely acting. I don't really know anything about directing. I can see things in my head but it's really difficult to explain it to people without having them look at me like I'm retarded.

Q - How would you describe the film?

Ken – Surprisingly awesome. It’s the type of movie that you won’t expect much from because it’s indie, you don’t know anybody in it, and the premise sounds ridiculous. But then you’ll find yourself laughing out loud and really enjoying it.

Jason - I would say "pleasant surprise." Most indie films are either low-budget done to death slasher films or black and white student films about some turd going on a journey and finding him/herself. This is actually a mainstream film done on a shoestring budget.

Q - How did the two of you meet?

Jason - Ken and I met in August of 2006 when I was holding auditions for what was the 2nd attempt at filming this movie. The first attempt didn't even get finished because the lead actor was very difficult to work with, so I fired him. So Ken auditioned and I gave him the part. We filmed the 2nd attempt in the fall of 2006 and it was awful. The sound was horrible and the directing was horrible. Ken and I became fast friends and in 2007, unhappy with the 2nd attempt, we decided to completely rewrite the script and film it ourselves.

Q - Whose idea for the movie was it and what inspired you to make it?

Jason - Back in 2001 I was working in a factory and one of my co-workers could do a spot on impersonation of a mentally challenged person. From there the idea of having a guy have his friend pretend to be mentally challenged just grew from there.

Q - Were the other actors friends of yours or did you have to audition people for the other roles?

Ken – both. We made everyone audition but I knew a few great actors that I had in mind for certain roles. It was just up to them to show up to the auditions. I had worked with several of them on my short videos with Adjusted Gratuity.

Q - What was the budget and how did you come up with the money?

Jason - The budget was $5000. And it was all out of my and Ken’s pocket.

Q - How long did it take to make the movie?

Ken – Well this version took about a year. Started pre-production in October of 2007, auditions in December, shooting in April-May on weekends. Some pickup shots including a new ending in June/July. Finished editing in September.

Q - How much of the movie was scripted and how much of it was improvisation?

Ken – Well the whole movie was scripted, but we just used that as a base. We like to play with the dialogue in the moment and if it doesn’t work we go back to the script. Mainly the scenes with the guy friends had a lot of improvisation.

Jason - I would say about 25-30% of the film is improv. But there isn't any scene where it's 100% the script.

Q - Are there any movies/filmmakers or actors that inspired you into the filmmaking profession?

Ken – No one inspired me to become a filmmaker. I became a filmmaker because I was tired of waiting as an actor for someone to give me a chance. But there are filmmakers/actors that I admire like Tarantino and Depp. And there are filmmakers/actors that I feel I am similar to, such as Apatow and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Jason - Same here. No one was going to put me in their next blockbuster so I had to make my own movie to get noticed. I really enjoy Judd Apatow's films. Acting wise, Jack Black and Seth Rogen are among my favorites.

Q - One of the taglines of the film is “A Politically Incorrect Comedy with Heart.” I realize this is a relatively small film, but has there been any backlash due to your “political incorrectness?”

Ken – Nope. At least not to our face. They go on IMDB and give us poor ratings. Without any real explanations. This movie wouldn’t have gotten very far if we intended to be offensive. We have actually gotten compliments on how we aren’t offensive despite the premise and how we handled it in a clever, yet bold way.

Jason - While the plot is very politically incorrect, it's not for the reasons you'd think it is. We don't make fun of the mentally handicapped in this film. We make fun of the lengths guys go to impress a pretty girl. We're making fun of ourselves. Men are really stupid sometimes. It's important to take a step back and laugh at how ridiculous we can be when it comes to trying to impress someone of the opposite sex.

Q - How much of yourselves are in the characters we see in the movie?

Ken – There’s a little bit of yourself in every character you play. If you can’t find that then it is very hard to be that character. However, I am much more confident than my character in this movie. I would say that my character is most like me from high school. Shy, insecure, goofy, and a hopeless romantic.

Jason - I get asked this a lot (mainly from women I'm interested in dating). "Troy" is me if I drank a lot. He's not a bad guy, but he has no tact whatsoever. I am probably more like "Jason" than I am "Troy," but I didn't think I had the chops to play "Jason" so I decided to play "Troy" at the last minute.

Q - What’s the film festival process like?

Ken – Frustrating. Can’t understand how we win the top awards at some festivals and then don’t even get in to other festivals that are similar in size and sometimes smaller. I wish festivals would give you feedback. I know Sundance can’t do that because they get 9,000 submissions. But a festival that gets 300 should be able to. A quick review. Shouldn’t they be writing that anyways to decide on what movies get into their festival?

Jason - It was a series of highs and lows. One minute we're winning three awards at our first festival, then we're getting rejected by the next half dozen festivals, then we are winning "best feature" at another festival, then getting rejected from 10 more, then winning another award, then rejected from another 10 festivals. And films we've beat out are getting into festivals we're getting rejected from. The whole process can make your head explode.

Q - How do you get involved in film festivals?

Ken – You pay and hope they like you. We used ‘withoutabox’ to find the festivals. Definitely do your research. We did not and entered some festivals that we had no chance getting into because all they play are art house movies.

Jason - Some festivals don't even play your movie in a theater. You definitely want to research the festivals before you start writing checks. We wasted hundreds of dollars on festivals that weren't looking for our type of film. You also should see how many features they take versus how many shorts. If you made a feature and a festival only takes 10 features, odds are you won't be selected. Also need to look at what genres they like. On the festival circuit comedies are almost frowned upon.

Q - Will this film be making it to any other film festivals or are you moving on to your next project?

Jason - We've had some festivals contact us about our film, but we're undecided if we'll submit it to any other ones or not. We're starting pre-production on our next feature so we may not have time to go to any more festivals for "The Truth About Average Guys."

Q - What are your next projects?

Jason - Ken and I co-wrote an action comedy called "S.O.L." which is about a down on his luck comedian that gets caught up in a robbery/kidnapping of an up and coming Hollywood starlet. We hope to start filming in June/July of this year.

Check out www.adjustedgratuity.com to learn more about the movie; Jason and Ken and their upcoming film projects. I love true independent movies. “The Truth About Average Guys” is a true independent movie. It’s a movie with a couple of guys who love acting, making an effort on their own without any financial backing and very limited finances to make a movie. If you’re into fun little independent movies I recommend checking this one out, you’ll have a good time with it.


Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.

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