Story by Samantha Reichstein
Photos by Dahlia Dandashi
Joining a high school film club sparked radio-television-film senior Chris Gilman’s love for movies and directing. “Doing [film with my] friends and having fun with it definitely inspired me to actually make this into something I want to do as a career,” Gilman says.
Gilman is one of three directors of the upcoming Valentine’s Day release “Wet Brownies.” After finding each other through a Google Doc during the spring semester of their freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin, Gilman, along with co-directors Will Kempner and Jeff Marks, began brainstorming ideas based on their own experiences and exaggerated adventures. “We collaborated a ton of weird ideas that we eventually met up during the summer and stitched together into some sort of cohesive plot,” Gilman says.
Gilman’s film focuses on high school kids who take one prank a little too far. After forcing the Kenny, the pothead of the town, to snort kidney stones for his buddy Brock’s birthday, their plan goes awry. Kenny starts bleeding, passes out and spends 10 minutes in Hell’s limbo. When he meets the devil, he learns that Hell isn’t what it used to be. Filled with crude jokes, a crazed “Boo Radley”-type neighbor and an interesting police duo, “Wet Brownies” is so out there, it works.
Gilman plays ringleader bully Brock, who for better or worse can be described as a mix between Joffrey Baratheon from “Game of Thrones” and Kenny Powers from “Eastbound & Down.” His mission throughout the movie is to inform everyone that yes, the world actually does revolve around him. Though this character is the complete opposite of Gilman’s , he admits playing an alter-ego was an entertaining experience. “Being around friends and being able to be really mean, it was really fun,” he says. “Those are all my very good friends, so we were all just having a good time.”
The film takes place in Gilman’s hometown of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, and is cast with an ensemble of his closest friends from home. Influenced by the people they grew up with, though exaggerated at times, the movie showcases creativity and a homemade process. “There is definitely a good portion that was improvised,” Gilman says. Although this made editing a trickier process, it brings laugh-out-loud humor and dynamic personalities to the film.
Born and raised in New Jersey, landing in Austin wasn’t always Gilman’s plan. “I had never been this far west before. All I knew was that [UT] was in Texas,” Gilman says. Now editor-in-chief of the “Texas Travesty,” UT’s satirical newspaper, Gilman says he can’t imagine releasing his first feature-film to any other community. “[In my] experimental film class, we had to make a movie each week,” Gilman says. “I saw some weird stuff, and I think that allowed me to be more open to smaller scale productions.”
The film’s official public release date is Saturday, Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, but “Wet Brownies” defies the cliché of romantic-comedies. “We thought it was funny because this movie is the total opposite of what you think of when you think of Valentine’s Day,” Gilman says. Between the binge drinking, vomit and snorting kidney stones, “Wet Brownies” is in its own category of Valentine’s releases.
Though the movie revolves around the humor of teenagers and twenty-somethings, Gilman says he hopes that all audiences can acknowledge the hard work and creativity that went into the process. “A bunch of 19 to 21 year olds are doing this for the first time,” Gilman says. “The fact that we were able to make something of this length and scale — I hope people can appreciate that.” And if you’re still unconvinced, Gilman adds, Steve Guttenberg endorses this film — it says so right on their poster.
You can watch “Wet Brownies” this Valentine’s Day weekend at wetbrownies.com.