Q: How did the (hilarious) concept for “Pickin’ & Grinnin'” originate?
JON GRIES: “The film was a concept that Johnny Dowers and Garrett Mathany came up with as an homage to the Polish Bros. film JACKPOT in which I played the lead character Sonny Holiday. I literally bumped into Johnny Dowers in a guitar store on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. He had just started the first draft of Pickin with Garrett. He introduced himself and immediately told me how much they loved Jackpot and that they were writing an homage.He invited me to see his and Garrett’s comedy act, along with their third character, “Two Pint”, played by David Lane. Which I did and enjoyed. We kept in touch and eventually they had their script up to about 50 pages and asked me to read it. I did and saw great potential. They told me they wanted me to play the Parson, (who was eventually played by W. Earl Brown)”
Q: How did you end up directing “Pickin’ & Grinnin'”?
Q: Did the financing come easily after that?
JON GRIES: “No… we had been working diligently on the rewrite for close to a year. And every carpet bagging huckster in the western United States, somehow, would contact us to finance or produce, or both, the film. Most of these people would be money brokers who wanted to take huge chunks of the budget as commission up front and simultaneously take a credit above the title as executive producer. Of course it got to be so bad that I could tell the moment I would see these idiots coming. Many of them had agreements with a line of other people, like a chain, of introductions that all had do not circumvent contracts. So we’d meet a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew the money. And all those idiots would essentially be in line with their hands out hoping to take a piece of the potentially forthcoming budget. Because they were somehow indirectly part of the conga line of introduction. Needless to say I walked away. I’d had great success with Napoleon Dynamite and had turned down numerous good offers because I was “directing a film”. And I had wasted a very hot iron of which I’d not struck at all during that heat. The film business doesn’t suffer fools regardless of how honorable ones intent. If you blow opportunities that, lets face it come far and few between, then you are the idiot. I ran off to play catch up on my floundering career.”
Q: How then did you finally get the project off the ground?
JON GRIES: “Some months later Johnny called and said lets just go out into the desert and shoot a couple of scenes. Make it a full circle. At least put something on film or tape, whatever. He knew that would appeal to me. As he needed to play the guy he’d invented. Needed to see his and Garrett’s story get a little but told. I agreed under the condition that we take nothing from the relatively finished script. That we create and write together a few new scenarios, episodes of the story. We did. We shot for two days in Joshua Tree. The result of which landed in the lap of Dan Riley and Pete Clark. Dan asked me to a meeting,(i’d never met him before) and said with such great enthusiasm, “we are gonna make this movie! I have no idea how, but we are. You in?” I couldn’t refuse. The next day I bought the Winnebago we used, affectionately called Gomer, on ebay for sixteen hundred dollars. Called Dan and said, I hope you’re serious because I just bought Gomer.”
The rest is history movie fans. Do yourself a favor and check out “Pickin’ & Grinnin'” when you get the chance, its releasing as we speak…