I interviewed Tao Lin and Megan Boyle, co-creators of MDMAfilms, about movies

tao lin

megan boyle

matthew donahoo


Which Woody Allen movie do you like most?

TL: Stardust Memories or Husbands and Wives currently

MB: Stardust Memories

How many screenplays (or non-screenplays that have been made into movies) have you written? Please describe each screenplay briefly.

TL: 0 that I can remember currently 

read “Please describe each…” as “Please describe both…” & felt vaguely scared briefly I think

MB: I’ve never written a screenplay. Descriptions of three non-screenplays that have been made into movies:

MDMA: Tao and I use a MacBook to film each other taking MDMA, driving to Lifethyme, riding subway to a park where we wanted to canoe, going too far on subway, taking a cab to Times Square instead, going to Toys ‘R Us, riding the ferris wheel, interviewing each other in exaggeratedly intellectual-sounding voices. There were originally five or so hours of footage but we made one cut to make the movie just below two hours.

BEBE ZEVA: Tao and I meet Bebe Zeva at her apartment complex in Las Vegas, she gives a tour of her room using the MacBook/camera, in the car we talk about her life, at the Tropicana hotel we interview Bebe, Bebe is funny and good at knowing how many Twitter followers objects have, we take a cab to a mall and meet Travis, walk around the mall asking Bebe internet and ‘Las Vegas safari’-oriented questions, return to the Tropicana, there is some conflict, we swim in a hot tub. There were originally over five, I think, hours of footage. Tao edited most of it.

MUMBLECORE: Tao and I hang out in my apartment, then we’re in Barnes & Noble a few days later (after filming MDMA) and talking about books in exaggeratedly intellectual voices, a few days later we talk about our families/honey mustard/hating people, then we’re at Jordan Castro’s house with Mallory Whitten and we go to Walmart alone, Tao asks if I want to go with him on his book tour, I say I do and there is some tension about my job, we go to North Carolina and New Orleans and talk about relationships, we go to Las Vegas, ask each other questions about our relationship on the floor of the Luxor casino, go to Whole Foods in the morning, I quit my job, we get a marriage license, get married, get into a car. Think there were over 200 hours of footage, spanning from early to late November 2010, recorded via MacBook. I edited this one.

What percent of Werner Herzog’s filmography have you watched?

TL: estimated ~50-85%

MB: 2/58 = 1/29 = 0.0344 x 100 = 3.4%

Please describe what would be an ideal movie for you to watch after ingesting [your choice of 3-5 things].

TL: I don’t know at all

movies seem bleak currently

MB: I keep imagining being on drugs in a movie theater and feeling dread. I’m more and more uneasy in public spaces lately. The feeling is like ‘I need to be wearing more clothes’ combined with ‘I’m wanted for arrest.’ I’d like to see the version of Dune that was supposed to be 14 hours long and directed by Jordorowsky but never got made, on a gigantic private screen, taking breaks whenever I want, leisurely ingesting Adderall, watermelon, cherries, coconut water, maybe small amounts of LSD.

Have you ever watched a movie in a theater by yourself?

TL: yes

MB: Yes, I like that sometimes.

Please describe how each of the following people would make a movie about you:

a) Park Chan-wook

TL: typed “maybe something where” & couldn’t think of anything else

MB: It would be me sitting in my bedroom in my mom’s condo trying ‘with increasing difficulty’ to ‘get things done,’ imagining all the ways I could die as solutions to my problems. Most of the movie would be death/fight scenes. When I’d be at the condo it would be tense and fast-paced but not much would happen. It would end in my bedroom with five versions of me coming out of their ‘hiding places,’ kneeling next to me in a line, and committing seppuku.

b) Mark Duplass

TL: imagined me & him staring at each other with increasing discomfort that doesn’t end, we just keep staring at each other

MB: I want him to make a movie of all the arguments I’ve had with boyfriends, transcribed exactly as they happened. It would start out feeling serious but then you’d realize the absurdity/redundancy/futility of arguing. It would be funny, with a lot of quick cuts. A lot of it would be in cars or walking around. It would end in my bedroom with five versions of me coming out of their ‘hiding places,’ kneeling next to me in a line, and committing seppuku.

c) Matthew Donahoo

TL: imagined an incredibly scary horror movie (via horrifyingly strange camera angles & extreme mundanity) that’s just about my normal life (based on videos I’ve seen that you’ve made where you seem to be just filming another table in a library)

MB: I’d want you to covertly film me for my entire life, maybe. It would be like, ‘deleted scenes,’ like things that didn’t make it into my real life. Like, yesterday I read the actor from Beyond the Black Rainbow’s Twitter and tried to discern the likelihood of us ever interacting. Things like that. You would have access to my inner monologue. A lot of it would be filmed like Being John Malkovich, with you/the camera looking out my eyes. I’d like to die at the end of this movie too, any way would be good, use your discretion.

What is the movie for which you would most like to write a novelization?

TL: thought something like “th[ought]—I don’t know”

MB: Doing novelizations of documentaries seems fun and funny. I remember snickering a lot while writing ‘Novelization of Cave of Forgotten Dreams: in 3-D.’ So maybe a Werner Herzog documentary I haven’t seen. A really deadpan novelization of Braveheart would be sweet but it would take a long time to write. When I was little there was a novelization of Grease 2 in my basement. I’d like someone to make a movie of Grease 2 from that novelization, and then I’d write a novelization of the movie-novelization of Grease 2. That seems healthy. Novelization of the movie version of the novelization of Grease 2: a healthy thing to do, for a better tomorrow.

Considering all possible activities you are capable of doing, where would you rank “watching a movie”? How much do you enjoy watching movies?

TL: currently it ranks as one of the least likely things I would want to do or enjoy doing

currently not as much as other doing other things maybe

MB: (See attached ’spectrum of things.jpg’)

Do you enjoy watching horror movies?

TL: currently feel afraid of watching horror movies in a non-enjoyable manner

MB: Not ones that are just about people getting tortured uncreatively. I don’t usually like self-aware/tongue-in-cheek-y ones either. Hm. Feel like reviews/descriptions of the kinds of horror movies I like often feature these words: sci-fi, conceptual, surreal, visuals, images. The plot is less important than the little moments that stick in my head.

Which drug do you think seems “best” to use before watching a horror movie?

TL: thought something incomprehensible like “th…c…a..”

MB: Maybe a little Xanax, but I think I’d rather see horror movies without drugs. Horror images seem druggy enough to me. Recently I smoked pot before watching Beyond the Black Rainbow for the first time and felt insane. I felt like I was perceiving time as the same ‘flicker-y’ second looping eternally, but the movie was weirdly exempt from this second because the screen kept changing, which seemed ‘sinister.’ Since the movie images were evocative of mind control and like nothing I’ve imagined, I felt like the movie was an alien trying to hijack my body and control me. Seemed really scary. I like that movie a lot, though.

What is the longest movie you have watched?

TL: I don’t know

MB: Gone with the Wind 

What is the shortest movie you have watched?

TL: I don’t know

MB: Seems really hard to tell. I remember seeing that Dumbo was like, 80something minutes long, on the back of a VHS tape as a child and not believing it was that short.

How do you feel re: the “discontinuation” of MDMAfilms?

TL: it hasn’t been discontinued, people are encouraged to keep buying the movies that are out & to look forward to the 4th movie at some point

some notes/discussion about the 4th movie have happened

MB: In November I tweeted something about wanting to go on a road trip to Vancouver so I could interview Nardwuar in the style of Nardwuar and Tao said ‘4th MDMAfilms movie’ or something and I got excited thinking about that. I feel good about not making a movie now or any other time when it would’ve felt forced or stressful, or like I was making something just to fill a productivity quota. I felt zero interest in MDMAfilms for some period of time, but everything I feel is temporary. Like even when I felt zero interest in it, I wasn’t thinking ‘MDMAfilms is discontinued, this is final, I’m never making movies again.’ I feel open to whatever.

What would you like to be the soundtrack of a documentary about you?

TL: feel a wall/typhoon of “I don’t know” blocking me from thinking anything specific

MB: Original soundtrack by Young Family.

What are your thoughts re: Wes Anderson?

TL: feel like it would be horrifying to be his spouse, based on his mannerisms/appearance/voice, if I were in a mood where I was afraid of everything & depressed & on LSD

MB: I’m glad you asked. Just pictured myself as like, a 1930’s travelling salesman, patting you on the back and saying ‘I’m glad you asked, my son–I’m glad you asked,’ guiding you towards my sweet product I’m about to sell you.

I feel consistently baffled and sometimes alienated by Wes Anderson’s tone. ‘Tone’ isn’t the right word. I feel like a lot of people like his movies but are often unable to say what it is they like, specifically. Like people express equally strong degrees of praise and vagueness about his movies. When I think ‘Wes Anderson’ I think of the color yellow and it smells a little like antiques in the back of my nose. Feel like that’s what he wants people to think. I don’t like or dislike his movies but I like watching any/all movies so I guess I like Wes Anderson’s movies more than I dislike them. In high school I re-watched the Royal Tenenbaums a bunch of times so I could figure out what my parents liked so much about it. Also it was just on HBO a lot. At parties I’ll be like ‘oh yeah, like the Royal Tenenbaums’ sometimes. Then someone will be like ‘no, Bottle Rocket, it’s all about Bottle Rocket, so underrated’ and someone else will be like ‘love Wes Anderson, love him!’



watch ‘MUMBLECORE,’ a movie i made with tao lin in 2011, for free

I watched “BEBE ZEVA” today and I really liked it.

I thought it was interesting as its own movie; it didn’t only appeal to me because it was filled with a bunch of people I follow and admire on the internet.

I found myself laughing really hard at the dynamic of the ~4 characters: Bebe’s forward and confident improvisation and cuteness in front of the camera, charming everyone and calling for all the attention; Lin’s voice from behind the camera, provoking Bebe while also seeming impressed by her wit/worldview, eager to keep up with her; Boyle’s ‘call-and-response’ to Lin’s characteristic diction, her reaffirming “yeah"s in response to whatever Bebe is doing; and Travis McFarland’s nervous remarks and awkward walking off screen.

I think McFarland’s presence in the film made me slightly nervous. He seems unnoticeable (aside from a few funny side-comments he makes in a quiet monotone,) until the end, when the vague fight between Bebe and Travis happens. The 'fight’ between them seems revealing (maybe) of how Bebe’s confident carefree attitude can clash with people who feel more reserved or uncomfortable ("I don’t care about the things that you care about,” says Bebe, maybe in reference to Travis’ discomfort and awareness of his awkward presence in the film.) His character is vague and therefore intriguing, even Lin and Boyle don’t seem sure of what to make of his relationship with Bebe. Head-on shots of Bebe affectionately touching Travis’ face or something (with muffled audio and hushed mumbling from Lin or Boyle) seem to add an intriguing haziness to the film.

The most entrancing character-dynamic of the film, of course, would be the one between Bebe Zeva and Tao Lin. Bebe is so charismatic and witty due to her astute, 'outside-looking-in’, observational knowledge/perspective of hipster culture, internet culture, and suburban teen culture. Tao Lin is a master of creating hilarious and surreal scenarios and he really gets a response from Bebe by (along with Boyle) asking weird 'would-you-rather’ questions to her, among making her do other things. Lin provokes her into a funny situation, forces her to do something, or asks a 'zany’ question and Bebe really knows how to run with it, to Lin’s (and the viewers’) delight.

Maybe what is most appealing about “BEBE ZEVA” is Bebe’s statement, which seems to fascinate Tao Lin and also be an overriding theme of the entire movie. “I think I just- I understand that life is bleak, and you can either kill yourself, or you can donate your existence to, like, social commentary.”

[you can buy “BEBE ZEVA” from MDMAfilms, here.]