Sundance Features

January 21, 2008

Dan Beers, FCU: Fact Checkers Unit

"Bill Murray looked at the script and said: 'Eight pages. It took three guys to write eight pages? That's impressive.' "

(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)

THE REELER: I checked the film out online, but maybe take a second to explain in your own words what FCU is about.

DAN BEERS: It's about two overzealous fact checkers at a men's magazine who have to check a fact about Bill Murray. They go to great ends to do it. How's that?

R: Perfect. But what inspired a film about fact checkers?

DB: The guys in the movie (and the co-writers), Pete Karinen and Brian Sacca, are friends of mine, and we'd been trying to come up with an idea to do something together. We'd been bouncing around ideas of a cop spoof, and then a fact checker thing, and then we decided, "Hmm. Maybe it'd be a good idea to turn those two ideas into one -- something about two fact checkers who treat their jobs like cops."

R: So what were your own experiences, if any, with fact checking? Was there something personal about romanticizing it this way?

DB: I've never done it before, but I have a few friends who do it. So it's something I know of. I've also done some articles before, and people always call me afterward just to go over the facts in the article. I was always thinking, "Man, that's an intense job: to have to call the writer and go through every little thing that people say. 'I'm sorry, I know it's true, but this my job: I have to go over everything.' "

R: And then of course there's the Bill Murray factor. How did he show up in your film?

DB: I worked for Wes Anderson for four years, so I got to know Bill through that job. We were trying to think up ideas to get the movie watched, and we thought, "Maybe we could ask Bill" -- which everyone knew was a really hard thing, but Bill's a really nice guy and very generous. So we faxed him asking him if he would be in it. He's busy, so a couple of months passed, and by chance I actually saw him at a friend's bar. I was like, "Oh, man, I have to ask him. I have to ask him." But I didn't have the guts; I didn't want to be that guy who's always trying to track him down and ask all these questions. I was just talking to him about whatever, and he said, "I have to go." I said, "OK." And as he was leaving, I said, "Man, that stinks that I didn't get a chance to ask him." And then as he's walking away, he turns around and says, "Hey, Dan." "Yeah, Bill?" "That fax you sent me?" "Oh, yeah, don't worry--" "No, it's cute. I'll do it." So that was that. We got him to do it for a day, which was very nice and very generous of him. He's a great guy.

R: That was a while ago; the film has since found a pretty sizeable audience online. What do you make of Sundance picking it up for its shorts programs?

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DB: I didn't know if it would get in or not because it's been online first. But [Sundance senior programmer] Trevor Groth said to me that earlier on they had a policy where they didn't allow films online to play there. But then they realized that there are films out there that are really good, and maybe they should do this. It's great to have things online because it gets played everywhere; 500,000 people are watching your short. But it's also great to show it in a theater, and getting that chance. I feel like I'm very lucky to get both.

R: But having been online -- and popular online -- are you apprehensive about screening it in this kind of forum and for this kind of tough crowd?

DB: Not at all. I'm totally amped. It's a comedy, and I'm excited just to get it there and watch the audience laugh. I'm curious to see if the audience there has watched the movie online -- if it's the same audience or not, or if they've been exposed to it or not.

R: Any good Bill Murray stories you're planning to share that you want to practice here?

DB: There is something kind of funny: When Bill came to the set, he looked at the script and said: "Eight pages. It took three guys to write eight pages? That's impressive." We also wanted Bill to wear a shirt of himself. We had one made; I asked him, and he said, "Whatever." That day Bill came there and said, "I'm not going to wear that shirt." I said, "OK, that's fine. What do you want to wear?" And Bill had this duffel bag with him. He said, "How about this?" And he pulls out this shirt of the Blues Brothers. And that was so obviously better than any idea I could have thought of. He's great -- to do something as a pure favor and then come up with something better than the director did.

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