The Vactioneers, a group of four L.A. comedy actors, have produced a number of films, TV shows and online shorts since forming in 2007. For their latest effort, It's a Disaster, the collective imagined what would happen if a terrorist attack forced a group of brunching friends to remain in a house for an indefinite period of time.
Jeff Grace, one of the members of the group who produced and stars in the film alongside Julia Stiles, David Cross and America Ferrera, caught up with the Pique to talk about creating disaster.
Pique: How would you describe the film?
Jeff Grace: I would describe it as a couple's brunch meets end-of-the-world disaster comedy. On a deeper level, it's a little bit of a comedic farce on what happens if a mumblecore movie ran into, like, Independence Day, what would be the birth child of that? At its core, it's really a relationship movie.
Pique: Why should WFF viewers see your film?
Grace: I think this film's been a real crowd pleaser. At the Napa Valley Film Festival we had people come back to see it a second and third time. I think comedies just play really well in theatres. The movie takes (you) on a wild ride. And it may not make its way to theatres in Canada, so see it now. It's a really fun time.
Pique: What was the best moment on set?
Grace: We shot the last scene of the movie on the last day. That's not always common, but all the cast was there. It was a nice end to a harmonious set. Everyone got along really well and had a lot of fun working with each other.
Pique: The biggest challenge?
Grace: A lot of things fell into place. I think the biggest challenge was we were shooting during a heat wave. It was the hottest September on record in L.A. history, so we had a lot of days where it was 103 degrees in the house. That made it tough, but it was really a pleasant shoot. One funny story was instead of getting trailers for the cast, we rented a house across the street from where we shot. The house the cast stayed at, we found out later, was the house that Marvin Gaye was murdered in. One day on set we hear (Marvin Gaye's) 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine' faintly somewhere. We were like, 'Does everyone hear that? That's really weird. Is this a haunting?' Because I was producing the movie as well, I ran across the street and the music is getting louder and louder and it's coming from the haunted Marvin Gaye house that we're staying in. There's no one in the house and I have to walk upstairs and the music is getting louder and louder coming from one of the bedrooms that's closed upstairs. It's kind of a creepy old house and, terrified, I knock on the door and it turned out to be the homeowner, cranking Marvin Gaye. And he was like, 'Oh hey, Is that too loud?' I was just glad it wasn't a ghost.
Pique: What do you hope people take away from the film?
Grace: I think we wanted to kind of say when it all goes down like that, people don't always respond (with) dramatic sensibility. Most people are a little caught up in their own stuff. This came from an insight where Todd Berger (writer and director) was in New Orleans after (hurricane)Katrina. During the hurricane even, at first people were like, 'Where are we going to get food and water?' then two hours later they're like, 'Pass me the US Weekly.' We wanted to have the 'pass me the US Weekly' moments of the disaster. But I think one of the funny lines is when Tracy says, 'I've never been in love, I never went to the ballet, I've never been to Europe, I've never seen The Wire.' It's poking a little fun at the over-dramatization of disasters.