Flight of vampires takes off
Amy Jackman talks to Jemaine Clement about vampires, signing with HBO and dreaming of inventions.
opens next week. How did you and Taika Waititi come up with the concept of a vampire mockumentary?
We had played these vampire characters twice, once live on stage and once at a dress-up party in Newtown. We found it funny being vampires and talking about these long histories we had, rivalries that had gone on for hundreds of years. We also wanted to document something that you can’t actually document.
Did the fact that vampires became popular help the movie?
When we were first pitching it, it was good for funding, because people would go, ‘‘Yeah vampires are hot’’. I was like, ‘‘Mmm, not our ones!’’
How did you feel when it got good international reviews?
It was a relief. We spent a lot of time on it so it would be a shame for people not to like it.
What are the differences between directing and acting?
Directing is like acting, but you are using other people to do the moves. Then they add things you don’t think of. Especially in What We Do In The Shadows, because it was improvised around a minimal script. We would tell them what they were doing in the scene, but get them to come up with how they were doing it and what they were saying.
What about acting in animated films such as
For that you get in the studio, by yourself, and the director plays all the other parts and you do your bit. He does that for everyone. It’s such a lot of work. They change the script a lot so you end up working on it over a year, but it’s only about a week’s work. For the first Rio, I had to try out the voice of bad cockatoo Nigel and for the second one I had to remember it.
How did you get the part of Nigel?
The director had seen Flight of the Conchords and wanted a lot of musicians in the film. I turned up at this cinema and they showed me animated clips of Nigel speaking with my voice and songs from Flight of the Conchords. It was weird. I was a bit like, ‘How dare you?’ But also it was cool.
Has your 5-year-old son seen the movies?
Yeah. When I had to go and record some of the second film he asked me, ‘Why’re you going to America?’ I told him, ‘You know the movie Rio? Well, I play Nigel and we are making Rio 2.’ He said to me, ‘No Dad. You’re not Nigel. Believe me. Your voice is a little bit like Nigel, but he’s more like this.’ And then he did his version of it.
Where is your favourite place overseas?
New York. It’s where we filmed Conchords, so it will always be special. It’s really colourful and international. It’s nothing like Wellington, but just as easy to get around. It’s an exciting place. What was it like when
was picked up by HBO?
With me it’s always nerves. It was beyond anything we had hoped for. We were noticed at Edinburgh Festival and HBO had a lot of really great shows, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, which was one of my favourite shows.
How did you and Bret come up with the style?
Probably our limitations prescribed the style. First, there’s only two of us and I’m shy. The first time we played a gig was at San Francisco Bathhouse, which used to be called The Indigo. I was so nervous I couldn’t move my hands, so Bret had to play. I had performed for years, but had never played music somewhere where people were actually listening to me.
What was it like growing up in Masterton?
It’s good, until you’re a teenager. When you are a kid it’s awesome. You’re floating down rivers and things like that.
What was it like moving to Wellington?
I was so excited. I remember sitting in Manners Mall thinking I was in London or New York already. It was huge. I came here a lot in the school holidays. It’s one of my favourite places.
Is that why you still live here, rather than overseas?
I settled here when I was 18 or 19. This is home for me. All my family and a lot of friends are here. It’s such an easy lifestyle and everything feels achievable, no matter what you set out to do.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An inventor, cartoonist or an animator. But I never thought of something to invent. I’ve done a bit of animation, but it’s pretty laborious work. Do you have any idols? Lots of them – Bill Murray, the Monty Python guys, Billy Connolly. When we played here a couple of years ago there was a Hobbit night when most of the cast came. We could all see Billy, because he’s so tall and has all the white hair. It freaked us all out. At one point I couldn’t remember the words because all I could think was, ‘‘Billy Connolly’s here’’.
What do you think of the Wellington film industry?
It brings a lot of money to the city. It was really important for our movie as well. Our film was like a parasite on the back of The Hobbit. We feed off the scraps – our crew was The Hobbit second unit crew. We borrowed lots of equipment from them.
Jemaine Clement: ‘‘I always think of coming back here no matter where I am.’’