Interview with Filmmaker Kyle Smith

Turkey Bowl is about a football game, but it’s also about the relationships among the characters and how their lives are going off the field.






Missouri native Kyle Smith has a film, Turkey Bowl, in the “Emerging Visions” section of South by Southwest, which features (according to the official program) “audacious, risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape.” I had a chance to chat via email with Kyle and pick his brain about the film, getting into the game (pun intended) and more.

SB: For readers who haven’t seen Turkey Bowl, could you give us a quick summary of the film?

KS: Turkey Bowl is a real-time comedy about a group of eight college friends (and two strangers) who gather to play an annual football game in Los Angeles. There is no real plot; it’s more just the ten of them interacting and tracking how their relationships change over the game.

SB: I must admit I’ve never seen a film quite like this one before. Why did you choose to shape your film around a touch football game?

KS: I like to think that there are stories in every occasion, and that things don’t have to necessarily be dramatic to justify a story being told about it. For a long time I’ve liked the idea of telling a story around a game, either basketball or football, based on a lifetime of exciting and volatile pick-up games. I went with touch football because of the stop-and-go nature of the game—a play is executed, and then there’s time for chatter as they reset for the next play.

SB: Turkey Bowl is about a football game, but it’s also about the relationships among the characters and how their lives are going off the field. Did you have any precedents in mind, like That Championship Season [former players on a championship basketball team examining their life choices]?

KS: To be honest, not really. I knew that Turkey Bowl was a very original idea, and the closest influence would likely be a Robert Altman ensemble film, where you have a ton of characters who you meet through a single event. I hoped that the characters in the movie would be interesting, likable and funny enough to hang out with this for this hour.

SB: Come to think of it, most sports movies seem to take themselves seriously. You touch on serious issues, but the film is really more of a comedy. Did you have any models in mind in that regard?

KS: Again, not really. I wanted this to exist as an original movie, and feel like it was one whole piece. The closest direct influence would probably be Altman.

SB: Did you write a full script, was the action improvised, or was it somewhere between those two poles?

KS: A full script exists of the movie, and we did follow the action of it pretty closely—the actual events of the plays, the scoring, that sort of thing. The dialogue is probably 50-60% improvised. I am not as strong a writer as my actors.

SB: I notice the characters have the same first name as their actors—are they playing versions of themselves?

KS: The backstory that exists for each character is invented, but each actor is definitely bringing a strong sense of their real self to the character. A good example is Morgan Beck. I wrote his character exclusively for him, and he tells certain stories and things that relate to his actual life, but the backstory for “Morgan” is entirely invented.

SB: Since you’re from St. Louis I have to ask: where did you go to high school?

KS: I’m actually not from St. Louis. I grew up in Columbia, but to still answer your question, Rock Bridge. However, Turkey Bowl’s editor Brian Wessel is a De Smet graduate.

SB: How did you get into the film business and what are your goals for the future?

KS: I did the basic film school thing, although I did less production work in college and more film criticism and exhibition, which might have led me down a delayed path to actually making films. I have some other low-budget ensembles movies I’d like to get made as soon as Turkey Bowl runs its course.

SB: Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers who wish they had a feature film showing at South by Southwest (or just a completed feature film showing somewhere)?

KS: I made Turkey Bowl because I felt like I needed to execute this idea, and I had never considered it being decent enough to play at a festival. I think that attitude has helped the movie; it should exist first for the filmmaker, and if it fulfills that then everything else is gravy. | Sarah Boslaugh

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