Director Caytha Jentis pulled a Tyler Perry move, transferring her play, It’s All About the Kids, onto the big screen. For her new film, Bad Parents, starring the always awesomely funny Janeane Garofalo, Jentis channeled her inner angry sports parent cliché. She did not rip out my hair during any moment discussing this interview.
Does your story have a very strong East Coast, NYC/Jersey connection similar to anything you remember from growing up? How did you modernize that feel? When you worked on this film, what small elements create the East Coast family context that wouldn’t be part of a film like say, if i were to make a film I would understand about kids from Chicago? Every part of the country has its own blend of day to day “real life coffee.”
Bad Parents, while shot in NJ and inspired by my experiences when my daughter played club soccer is a universal story. When writing the script I found there was a lot written on the topic of sports parents behaving badly, and know that this type behavior happens all over the country.
Really, what is the big deal about people being obsessed with their kids in so many extracurricular activities? What does the idea stem from? Do you think these people have any realization of how wacky they can be?
I don’t think all parents are obsessed with their children’s extra curricular activities but do believe it is a sign of our times. While I believe many parents are aware of how wacky they can be and are able to make fun of themselves, I do believe it’s hard to stop at times. Synically I believe our kids’ activities become sort of a drug and we become addicts.
How much of this film is actually based on “bad” parents, whether in the traditional meaning or our modern social nitpicking on other people’s parenting skills?
My characters are composites and the movie is satire. I don’t believe they are truly ‘bad’, the title is tongue and cheek, but do believe that, at times, parents do behave inappropriately in the name of ‘parenting.’ The movie is meant to make the audience laugh but also think. It’s dark, at times.
Did you study any real life people without saying a word? What did you have to do to make this funny, but funny in a way that makes sense if we saw it really happening?
I studied people through experience and believed that in order to explore my friend’s behavior I had to look at myself and why the sports mattered so much to me. It’s a very personal film. I channeled a lot of existential philosophers and the theater of the absurd when writing and found humor in the situations. People do laugh a lot during the film.
When you wrote the characters, which your website describes as “over-zealous, hyper-competitive, youth sports-obsessed parents,” you really did have to go out of your way to enhance the satirical notion of the script. But what did you do so these people, at least one character, would have some heart to the story as the standout, non-hatable character? Or did you bring something of that inner goodness and secret morals to each character?
I tried to give all the characters pathos. While they are flawed, in their hearts they are doing what they believe is best for their kids. They care and love their children in the end.
People don’t like straying from the familiar. If you could compare this to a mainstream comedienne or comedian’s work, who would it be? Why might people want to watch your film?
It is similar to work of Christopher Guest. I think people would enjoy the film as they can relate to it, and it’s quite funny and disturbing at the same time. It leaves you thinking a little bit and the performances are quite good.
Why do you think your film will hold up well in 2013…or 2033?
It’s very topical, but I can’t speak to 2033.