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LAist Interview: Arie Posin

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On a recent trip to a Laemmle to see Capote, we noticed a poster for The Chumscrubber, which feels semi-psychedelic and sports the tagline "Meet Generation Rx." We weren't sure quite what to make of this—haven't they already made movies about teenagers getting high?—so we asked director Arie Posin a few questions about living and working in LA, and what exactly a Chumscrubber is.

1. Age and occupation:

33 - Filmmaker

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2. How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?

10 years – Hollywood Hills

3. The Chumscrubber is your first Hollywood film, a story which you invented and directed. Why this story—what was the genesis of the story for you?

This film is very much rooted somewhere between my experiences and memories of growing up in suburbia intersected with Zac Stanford, the screenwriter, and his memories of growing up in a small town in the Pacific northwest. Both of us remember neighborhoods where every house held a secret, where there were painful and uncomfortable events going on, as there are everywhere. I think that living in a place that seems so idyllic on the outside, its sometimes hard to confront what’s really happening with all of us on the inside.

4. If it won’t give too much away, what does the title refer to?

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The title refers to a fictitious cartoon and video game character that exists inside an animated “movie-within-the-movie”. The Chumscrubber character is a teenager who’s survived the apocalypse. He’s not only survived it, but managed to retain a sense of irony and a sense of determination to keep going. The idea was that -- to the teenagers of our movie for whom this character is a hero -- if the Chumscrubber can survive his post-apocalyptic world, maybe they can survive their world. And maybe by extension, as the audience, we can survive our world too.

5. Not many first time directors get handed the reins on a film with a cast containing Jamie Bell, Glenn Close, Rory Culkin, Lauren Holly, Carrie-Ann Moss, Rita Wilson, and Ralph Fiennes. Did having such a large and well-known cast add more pressure, or was directing your first film frightening enough?

Both! It certainly is frightening enough, and this cast certainly added pressure. But the amazing thing I discovered was that the cast were intimidating only as an idea, not in reality. When I finally found myself on the set and we had started shooting, I was relieved to find that they were all there, like me, just to play. It was playtime. In a sense, we all found ourselves together in this giant sandbox, and we were all equally interested in experimenting, playing, searching, finding, and inspiring each other.

6. The Chumscrubber is about the common afflictions of life in suburbia, while you have lived all over the world--certainly in more places than all of the characters in The Chumscrubber combined. Are the issues tackled in the film metaphors for the state of modern life in general, or do you feel they are specific to the superficially idyllic situations of suburban America? Do you think that criticisms of suburban life apply especially to Los Angeles, since LA is particularly spread out?

While I've lived in a lot of different places, I did grow up, from junior-high school up until college, in a suburb of Los Angeles called Irvine. However, the issues that the movie wrestles with - school violence, prescription drug abuse, teen suicide - are issues that seem more and more common everywhere in modern life. The specific perspective that I wanted to bring to this story was the satiric tone that often comes from being at least partly an "outsider" at least some of the time, shaken together with the notion that beneath the surface perfection of suburbia are all the same difficulties that exist everywhere else, but that beneath this layer of secrets, there's also something magical and awe-inspiring there too, if only you look for it.

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7. The film is set "Anywhere," but LA is certainly a town where people deal with issues relating to prescription drug abuse, apathy and a host of other problems. Did your experiences in Los Angeles contribute to the writing of the film, or is it an amalgam of many places?

It's not so much my experience of Los Angeles as it is a look at the suburbia that I remember as a teenager, and an attempt to capture the feeling of being a teen, and to show the world the way I remember it looking and feeling to me when I was a teenager.

8. Your father was a director and an anti-Communist thinker in Communist Russia, and you grew up in a home where you were exposed to Fellini, Tarkovsky, Bunuel, Truffaut, Godard, and other directors with names most American kids can't even pronounce. How have your father's ideas about film influenced you?

The biggest influence was in the reverence for movies. In our house, movies were almost like our religion, and these great directors were like gods. We loved discussing and arguing and wrestling with the choices certain directors made, the reason a certain shot was the way it was, why a color was the color it was, why the music or the cutting or the costumes, and so many other choices filmmakers make, that contribute all those crucial little details that give a movie the texture that it needs.

9. What projects do you have coming up in the future?

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We're working on casting a new script Zac and I have written together called "The White Lion." It's a surreal look at the war in Iraq.

10. What did you dress up as for Halloween?

Unemployed Sundance director wearing everything I got for free at Sundance and wish I hadn't; that, or a dead Rock Star, depending on whom you ask.

11. When you're not busy writing or directing, where are you likely be found around town, and what are you likely to be doing?

Seeing movies at the Arclight, downing gallons of frothy coffee at every Coffee Bean in town, or haunting the aisles at Book Soup.

12. What are the three films we'd find at the top of your Netflix queue?

Sin City, The Seventh Seal, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

13. Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?