An Interview with Brian Firenzi of 5secondfilms
(posted by t.j. peters)
When I asked founder of 5secondfilms.com Brian Firenzi if he would let me ask him some hard-hitting questions, he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I fear your journalistic prowess.” (Not a quote.) Surprisingly, he agreed to go through with the interview anyway and, as you’ll see, it turned into a veritable bullfight of a conversation.
If you’re underwhelmed by the end of this interview it’s not my fault. You clearly think too highly of bullfights.
T.J.: About how many 5sf (five-second films) are there in existence now? Will there be a celebration at a certain number?
Brian: 5sf #591 will be making its debut tomorrow, then 592 the next day, and so on and so forth. If you ask me, we should’ve done something special for #555 (“Brian Shaves an Arrow on His Chest”), but I’m pretty sure that night just involved me getting drunk and watching MST3K.
T: What are a couple of your favorite 5sf?
B: You can check out our favorites on our staff bios, which are located in the “About” link. It’s a touch out-of-date however; Jon Worley wants one of his favorites replaced with “Emo Cowboys” and that hasn’t happened yet. As for me, I’m a sucker for anything that ends in a quiet little echo chamber of sadness (“Cool Neighbor”, “Robodog”). I tend to pitch a lot of ideas that end in some big easy fix, like a gunshot or an explosion, but these days I definitely prefer to just see somebody writhe in their own private sadness. I know exactly what that says about me and I don’t care.
T: “Brian Firenzi Writhes in His Own Private Sadness” almost sounds like a 5sf in itself. Do you ever find yourself twisting everything into a potential 5sf concept?
B: I’ve learned not to try forcing everything into a 5sf idea, because the less strained ones always prove to be that much funnier. Oscar week, of course, is a challenge for that very reason, because we have to find some way to take the piss out of “Up in the Air.” My idea involved George Clooney being informed as he flies over the country that he just racked up 1,000,000 frequent flier miles, to which he cackles ominously, bellows “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE” and then turns into a plane, bursting out of the plane he was in and killing everyone else. Yeah. This is what straining to find a gag does to me.
T: What has been the most complicated 5sf to shoot?
B: In terms of pure time spent, nothing took longer than “Live Fast”, which is incidentally one of the 5sfs I’m most proud of, even if it’s not my favorite. We basically took a few days and countless costume changes to show the life of a married couple, from meeting to parting, in the span of five seconds. It’s like the first ten minutes of “Up” in Fun-Size Snickers form. However, I think the most complicated conceptually was probably “untitled”, our attempt at a halfway-creepy 5sf for Halloween. My hope is that Michel Gondry looks at that one someday and at least doesn’t spit on the ground, mumbling “amateurs” in French.
T: Hopefully he’ll be mumbling “auteurs”. You mentioned a 5sf pilot when we talked earlier. Care to divulge any information about what that might look and feel like?
B: Our pilot is going to be a sketch comedy show with a dedicated narrative arc, which is something we’ve never seen before on TV. It’s going to maintain our tone of wacky vaudeville as informed by nightmarish dream logic, and we’ve taken great care to make sure the energy never flags, as one might expect of a 22-minute TV show from a group of guys that make micro-comedy on a daily basis. However, the guys probably wouldn’t want anything more to be divulged than that.
T: Several of 5sf members live together. Do you ever wish you were in that house or is the space good for you?
B: Here’s how it works: Rousselet, say, will walk into the dining room one morning with an idea. It’ll bounce off Ben, to Erik, to Mike E. Peter, until it either dies on the floor or they’ve got something cooked up that they at least mostly agree on. I like that, and I like coming over there later on to have it bounce off of me. This dynamic works a lot better than the other way, which often involves me stopping by with a half-baked idea that comes with its own tombstone.
B: A while back, a reporter from West Bromwich East (Tom Watson’s constituency as MP) phoned us to try and get some “dirt” on Watson, as apparently he’d been embroiled in some sort of controversy that we knew nothing about. We only made a couple of 5sfs about Watson because he Tweeted about us and we wanted to show some appreciation. So, as the reporter tried to get our opinion about what was going on across the pond, we just fed him a line of bullshit about how shark people are a menace to society and Watson’s the only man with the guts to do something about it. The interview ended shortly thereafter.
T: What do you think makes a 5sf resonate most with you fans?
B: Relatability. Relatability. Relatability. My buddy Adrian Syben, an irregular contributor to the site, cooked up “Late For Work” all on his own and it is by far our most popular 5sf on YouTube. It’s been Dugg, Redd, and sought after by Italian TV shows. Why? Because everyone hates work, and everyone’s been late for it. We obviously don’t strive for a recognizable, human element in every 5sf we do, but we just-as-obviously should.
T: I now consider myself an irregular contributor to 5sf, since you guys plugged me into the background of your “Inglourius Basterds” sketch. On a scale of one to three, using only whole numbers, how would you rate my performance?
B: We nabbed you for our “Basterds” parody because you looked like a good B.J Novak, and when it comes to including people, I’d like to think we’re pretty open to that. As for acting in a 5sf, things move by so fast and the point is to deliver only a gag, that as long as you don’t mumble your words or get in the way of making people laugh, it’s kind of 3s all around. It’s our version of the Oscars, where we hand out giant golden 3s with an inscription that says “As for acting in a 5sf, things move by so fast and the point is to deliver only a gag, that as long as you don’t mumble your words or get in the way of making people laugh, it’s kind of 3s all around.”
T: We’ve already touched on a couple of the Oscar nominee parodies that 5sf has coming out soon. If 5sf had its own Oscars, what parody do you think would bring home Best Picture?
B: Oscar week last year was more for movie nerds (and ourselves, being movie nerds) than it was for the general public, who hadn’t seen “Frost/Nixon,” didn’t want to and still hasn’t. As the Oscars this year have expanded to 10 in order to accommodate “Sandra Bullock’s Feel Good Touchdown Happy Hour,” we hope to appeal to just as many folks. That said, seeing as how I gravitate towards darkness, nothing will probably top what we did for “Up.”
T: How many 5sf have you thought up during this interview?
B: I’m thinking too hard to come up with anything funny. I’m sure some joke about a guy blowing his own head off came up and sat back down in my subconscious.
T: Hopefully that’s not a reflection on how you feel about this interview.
B: Well, it was in my subconscious, if at all, so in the event I do the deed, I think the blame can fall safely on someone like Rousselet. You’re cool in my book.
T: Thanks, Brian.
My name is t.j. and Brian A’ed my Q’s.