The Movie Waffler Interview - GROUPERS Director Anderson Cowan | The Movie Waffler

Interview - GROUPERS Director Anderson Cowan

anderson cowan interview
The DJ turned filmmaker discusses his directorial debut.

Anderson Cowan’s feature film debut Groupers centres around two all-American high school jocks - Brad and Dylan (Peter Mayer-Klepchick and Cameron Duckett) - who are out for a night on the town when they are approached by the beautiful and seductive Meg (Nicole Dambro) at a local bar. Ready for what they hope will be a night to remember, the guys are subsequently kidnapped, drugged and awaken tied up face to face in an abandoned pool in the middle of nowhere. Absurdity and insanity ensue as we learn that Orin (Jesse Pudles), Meg’s overly flamboyant brother, has been the target of Brad and Dylan’s homophobic bullying and that Meg is actually a grad student who plans to perform a psychological and somewhat sadistic experiment on them as part of her thesis, which poses the question, "is homosexuality a choice?"

We spoke to Anderson, best known for his work in broadcasting, about making the transition into filmmaking.

groupers poster

Anderson, as a journalist, I’m really interested in your journey. You kicked off your career as a radio producer, I believe?

My first love has always been film, but yes, I fell into radio many years ago. Produced a number of live broadcasts including Ferrall on the Bench and Loveline. Really loved it and even miss it sometimes. The thrill that comes with a live broadcast where anything can happen is very different from a controlled movie set where everything is measured and deliberate if not frantic and stressful.

Was that always the goal? To work in radio?

Not at all, but I made it work. I was in college, working towards my film career when I became obsessed with a nationally syndicated sports radio show hosted by Scott Ferrall. I met him at a live broadcast at a bar and we hit it off. He invited me down to the studio and I took him up on the offer the next night and then went in every night after that for six months, for free, learning what everybody did on the crew. He eventually hired me and I ran his show for a few years, then fell into Loveline for many more after that. But when I wasn’t running a radio show I was writing scripts and studying movies, something I continue to do today and don’t see a time in my future where that won’t be the case.

anderson cowan interview

And just how different was it producing a radio show to producing a film?

What I loved about live radio is you do a show for two or three hours or whatever it is and you’re done. There’s no going back and fine tuning anything or trying it a different way, that show is done forever, then you’re back at it the next night. Film is so precise, so measured and deliberate, in many ways it’s the polar opposite, however, I’ve found there to be a lot of crossover as well. On a film set you have to be able to think on your feet, improvise, deal with extreme pressure and have the ability to continue to perform in those situations. My time in radio, live radio in particular, helped me hone these skills and implement them on sets for sure.

The fact that you had done so many years on radio, and getting to know filmmakers and other industry types, did that help you in getting this movie made? And in what ways?

Not at all. I may very well be the worst schmoozer in this business. If somebody in the industry was booked on a show I was producing I would never talk about my own aspirations as a filmmaker with them or ask for their advice. I felt like I was so far away from it being in radio that it would’ve come off as desperate or pathetic somehow. I got to hang out with John Waters for almost an hour before a show one night and never even let on that I knew who he was. Did the same thing with Eli Roth. I realise this is wrong and that I’ve got some hangups. That being said, what it did help was the audience that I found that I wouldn’t have without my radio career. Over a decade ago I began a podcast called The Film Vault where my co-host and I talk about new and old movies every week. I currently do three film related shows, CinemAddicts and I’ve Got a Movie to Make,  as well as an anything goes show called The After Disaster, which is where I came up with the initial idea for Groupers. Gained a lot of good will with those audiences over the years and ended up raising the bulk of the budget with their contributions to the project. So yeah, without the listeners I wouldn’t have got this movie made and without radio I wouldn’t have got my listeners.


Who saw the first cut of the film? Do you remember any suggestions they had?

Oh yeah, for sure. Once I had a rough cut I sent it to eight people, a few of them filmmakers themselves. I asked them to be brutally honest and let me know what worked, what didn’t. I still have all of those notes in a folder somewhere. I agreed with some suggestions and a few I ignored. What I was really looking for was alignment from more than one of them to have the same notes. You get so close to things you work on sometimes that you can’t see the obvious. Those were the areas that I focused on fixing and there were a few for sure, but mostly just boring technical stuff. That process was very helpful and I’ve done the same thing with a few of my screenplays. The more input you can get from the people you trust, the better ideas for improvements you’re likely to have.

The film looks like it’ll appeal to many, many segments. But who do you believe you’ve made this movie for?

The wrong answer is that I made it for myself, but I’m afraid that’s the truth. The last thing investors, distributors, studios or anyone on the business side of entertainment want to hear is that the artist made the movie for themselves. What they want to hear is that you’ve targeted a particular niche audience, a demographic they can then target with their marketing. I understand and agree with this. Lucky for me I am part of a particular niche audience, an audience that is interested in black comedies with social commentary who enjoy a movie with some good old fashioned comeuppance. Anyone who has been bullied for being different, who has wanted a taste of vengeance and felt the impulse to take matters into their own hands should get a lot of satisfaction out of Groupers.

Grouper opens in L.A. September 27th followed by a wider US release on October 1st. A UK release has yet to be announced.