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article imageJeffrey Scott Collins talks 'Poor Greg Drowning,' Graham Sibley Special

By Markos Papadatos     Jul 30, 2020 in Entertainment
Director and writer Jeffrey Scott Collins chatted with Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos about his new comedy "Poor Greg Drowning," which comes out August 11 on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Dish, DirecTV, and Spectrum.
On his inspiration to write and direct Poor Greg Drowning, he said, "There was a collection of inspirations. In June of 2015, while I was working with writer/director, John Hamburg, I saw Mark Duplass' inspirational speech at SXSW where he told the audience that there is no reason why you shouldn’t be shooting something every weekend on your iPhone. That hit me hard."
"Thanks to Duplass' inspiration, I quickly got an idea for a short film that day, and wrote the script that night. When I thought of the character, I immediately thought of my good friend and incredible actor, Graham Sibley, who I had met a year prior when we worked together on the comedy feature, Grow House, for the role. I sent the script to Graham and he was game," he said.
So that Saturday, we shot the five minute short film in about three hours. The film was accepted to several great festivals, but I knew there was so much more of Greg's story to tell. In a long weekend (I'm not kidding, nor do I recommend) I wrote the first draft of the feature script for Poor Greg Drowning. We ended up using the short film as the first scene of the feature version (roughly three minutes of the five minute short). We shot on the weekends for about a year whenever we could, and then we received financing to finish the film in a six day shoot," he elaborated.
"If Graham and I had a baby together, it would be Greg, but the exaggerated version," he said. "And the characters in the film were all inspired by people in my real life, for instance, Greg's mom in the movie, Patricia, is inspired by my mom in real life, Patricia Collins. By the way, I'll shamelessly use this rare opportunity for a published platform to shout out my mom's incredible pottery, her Instagram is @patcollinsclayart — she will kill me for this, but she is too modest to promote her work herself, so there you have it."
"In terms of Greg’s heartbreak, I drew from a very difficult period in my life right around when I graduated from college," he said. "I dealt with a number tragedies in a short period of time, and my high school sweetheart and I broke up after a five year relationship, and, maybe most tragically, I was about to embark on the exhilarating career as an assurance auditor at a big four firm (God help me), so I experienced what it’s like to suffer from heartbreak, depression, and feeling lost — or drowning, if you will — like Greg does in the film. Given all of that, writing the actual script was a fairly easy and very enjoyable process."
On working with Emmy nominee Graham Sibley in the lead role as Greg, he said, "It was an absolute dream come true. Working with Graham as your lead actor is like getting the No. 1 pick in the NBA lottery. Not only is he beyond talented and the nicest, funniest guy in the world, but he is fearless when it comes to trying different things (he is brilliant at improv which we did a lot of in this film, and game for any and all."
Collins continued, "There is a scene in the film where Greg pukes all over his trainer’s feet following a shameful amount of far-too labored push-ups. When we were shooting that scene, we had zero crew and no props, so we moseyed on over to my kitchen and asked: what looks like puke? Our answer — grab whatever the hell you can and throw it on a big-ass bowl and stir it up! I will let you see for yourself what the result was in the film, but Graham didn’t hesitate for one second and threw that stuff in his mouth."
When asked about his favorite part of the movie-making experience, he responded, "My favorite part, oddly enough, was the way we shot the film and how long the entire process took. We really became a family and it was truly as indie as indie could get. Most of the days, it was literally my DP (either Phil Sebal or Ray Wongchinda), one sound person, the talent, and myself. That’s it. And we shot that first scene in June of 2015, and the film is now coming out over five years later in August of 2020."
"I believe we finished principal photography in September of 2016, edited the film for a couple of years, did a year and a half on the festival circuit with a rough cut, and then finished the film completely in March of 2020. I know that sounds crazy and I wouldn’t wish that process upon my worst enemy… but at the same time, I would."
"There is something magical in shooting that way and it reminds me of when I was little a kid begging my family, friends, whoever to be in my silly little short films that I would make with my mom's 75-pound VHS camcorder from the '80s. Come to think of it, I should have kept that bad boy to use as a dumbbell during quarantine," he added.
On being a writer and a director in the digital age, he said, "I love it because if it wasn't the digital age, this film wouldn't exist. Plain and simple. Now, don't get me wrong, I would cherish the opportunity to shoot a feature on film. 100 percent. And I am truly envious of the filmmakers that are still able to do that, especially on the studio level, and I am so glad that they can and deservedly so. But I also love the opportunity that the digital age gives filmmakers to just go out and create. It reduces the barriers to entry (thank you Boston College business degree), much like Duplass said during his SXSW speech."
For young and aspiring filmmakers, he said, "Just shoot and create wherever and whenever you can. Don't wait for anybody's permission. Don't be afraid of it sucking. Don't be afraid of what people will think. Just get out there and create. Learn, experiment, have fun. And most certainly, under no circumstances what so ever, don't be afraid of using the word don’t six times within one short paragraph that will be published on the Internet for eternity for all to see. Just, don't."
On his plans for the future, he said, "I have a few projects in the works, a couple TV shows and features that I am taking out — and one feature that I am about to start writing — and I'm actually partnering with someone pretty darn special. I can't say who just yet) on my first book that I am very excited about, and I have begun casting for my next feature, so it's looking like a pretty busy second half of 2020 which I am extremely grateful for. Maybe I can take a vacation after we finish Poor Greg Drowning 2 in 2030?"
Collins defined the word success as "happiness" and he used the classic John Lennon quote to back his answer up. "When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life," John Lennon once said.
He concluded about Poor Greg Drowning, "Honestly, I feel like the timing for the release of Poor Greg Drowning couldn’t be better. It's the perfect film to watch during times like these. It focuses on tough subjects — heartbreak, depression, love addiction — but it is filtered through a grounded comedic angle and hopefully delivers a spark of hope and inspiration. The characters and topics within the film are very relatable and will hopefully allow the audience a rare opportunity to escape and laugh during pretty heavy times."
"I also think it is a very unique film. It's an edgy grounded R-rated romantic comedy, which is pretty rare in and of itself (always wanted to use that term - bucket list item checked), but it also delivers some unexpected twists and turns that aren't usually seen in films within this genre. In short, Poor Greg Drowning is the greatest film ever created and we look forward to seeing you post-victory at the virtual 2021 Oscars," he said, jokingly.
Poor Greg Drowning is available for pre-order on Apple.
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