I saw The FP at SXSW 2011. Brothers Brandon and Jason Trost made a grindhouse style film about a future where gang wars are settled by dance video games. Their version is “Beat Beat Revelation.” JTRO (Jason Trost) left the game when his brother died in a dance off, but the old gang recruits him to come back and save Frazier Park, aka “The FP.” The film has hit DVD and Blu-ray, where you can see every detail of their elaborate costumes and post-apocalyptic locations. We got to interview Jason Trost by phone about his debut film and plans for a whole trilogy of FP movies.
CraveOnline: Was directing always the plan when you and Brandon got into camerawork?
Jason Trost: Yeah, ever since Brandon and I were little kids, we’ve always been fascinated with making movies just because our dad [Ron Trost]’s been a special effects coordinator. We basically just grew up on sets with him just being the set kids all the time so we always knew we wanted to do something. By seeing him and other crew people that worked in the not top position, it really made us feel like, “You know, we don’t really want to do physical labor for our entire life so let’s do something more creative. They always need a director. They don’t always need a special effects guy or so on and so forth.” We definitely always wanted to do something.
Is the camera and cinematography department a good path to directing?
Yeah, I think so. It seems to work out pretty well for Brandon. He’s been shooting a lot of huge movies and it opens a lot of doorways. We never would have been able to make this movie if it weren’t for the connections he had from being a cinematographer. I think people take you a little more seriously because you’re pretty much half making the movie anyway if you’re a cinematographer. All we have to do as directors is talk to actors at that point, because you’re already shooting a cinematic story version of it.
Were you on all the films that Brandon shot also?
I haven’t been on all of them. I’ll randomly dip in and do a little acting part of something or I’ve been camera assistants or I’ve been grips on things he’s done. I didn’t work on everything but I’ve worked on a lot of stuff. It was definitely my film school just being his crewmember.
How did you create a future world without effects really, using really only production design?
It really wasn’t that hard because the place we come from, The FP, Frazier Park kind of already looks like a post-apocalyptic world, just because it’s kind of downtrodden. But the main thing was since our dad’s a special effects coordinator, he has an old warehouse just full of old random stuff that looks like crazy Mad Max junk. Basically we grew up on a farm that is Mad Max Ranch. We have so many old burned out cars or things he’s blown up, random cranes and things that nobody would usually have. We knew what we had so we wrote the script according to what we had as opposed to, “Let’s write a five million dollar script and try to make it for nothing.” We were like, “Okay, we have this, this and this. Let’s write it for that and nothing else.” So we lucked out in that department.
Was The Warriors an influence?
Oh yeah, for sure, absolutely. Especially with different types of gangs, mostly in costumes I would say The Warriors was a huge, huge motivation. It’s basically a mix between The Warriors and Double Dragon and Street Fighter video games. That’s how the whole costume world is set up.
I guess you can’t make a gang or a future film without in some way thinking about The Warriors.
No, it’s virtually impossible.
As the lead actor as well as co-director, how much is riding on you in the film?
Just about all of it. If there are any problems in the film, it’s basically my fault. At least you can point the finger in some way. So that was a big undertaking and something I was always aware of but after the first day or two, you kind of just get over that and realize you can’t be worrying about screwing it up or how it’s going to be your fault. You can just do your job and hope it comes out well.
With Beat Beat Revelation, it really looks like you’re dancing to the moves on the screen. Are you playing it live?
We basically had a buddy of ours copy move sets from the Dance Dance games on CG. We would play to it there live. There’s no green screen. We’re playing the moves on the screen. That’s why we’re in unison and everything. Lee Valmassy, who plays L Dubba E, and myself would just play against each other. And we would shoot all three last rounds in one take so we’re shooting in the dead of summer in giant snowsuits and we have to do that for eight minutes. It’s basically like you’re sprinting for eight minutes straight. You have to play the game. Thank God we knew how to play, otherwise it probably would’ve been a nightmare and would’ve looked really silly, which maybe that would have helped in the end. Who knows but we were definitely playing, to answer your question.
Is that a pet peeve of yours in other movies when you can tell the actor is just jumping around and it is not the moves on the screen?
Yeah, it is but also even though we were actually playing the screen, I’ve read a number of reviews and comments on the internet that says we’re just jumping around and we look stupid. It’s like have you ever actually seen people play Dance Dance Revolution? It looks pretty dumb. You just kind of hop around. Even if you do it right, man, there’s always going to be someone who’s going to be upset but as long as you’re happy with it, I guess that’s all that counts.
I notice that with Guitar Hero scenes too. They’re just fiddling around and not even playing what’s on screen.
Yeah, exactly. Thank you, I’m glad you noticed.
Are you still practicing martial arts?
No, I’ve barely even done that. Not currently. I haven’t had time to do that kind of stuff. I’ve just been doing random workouts for other things. I haven’t been able to get back into the fighting unfortunately.
Isn’t that part of your bio?
It is part of my bio. I put that a long time ago when I was 16 just to see if it would fly as a joke and it definitely did. I definitely did not create a nameless martial arts form that can kill people but I like that allure. Most people are taking me serious.
What sort of doors has The FP opened?
It’s opened a lot. Especially the exposure it got, now it’s like if we want to make anything everybody’s psyched and it’s like now we can finally make FP 2 and 3. Another door opened, I just got a job acting in Hatchet III. I went down to New Orleans and I got to be in Hatchet III just because I was in The FP and the director loved The FP so it’s already starting to do things for me which is really cool. I never anticipated in a million years anything would actually happen or anyone would even like it.
You weren’t getting noticed in Crank or MacGruber?
I mean, I wasn’t even really in those movies. At least in The FP I get to say words so I think that helps.
Had you always planned a trilogy?
Oh yeah. The second one was always the one I had the first idea for. The shorts I made in high school were always supposed to be the prequel to the movie I actually wanted to make which was the sequel. Then my brother was like, “You should make those into a movie.” I was like, “Really? The Dance Dance ones?” So he forced me to write the script that was based on my prequel shorts which basically just became the movie. If you see the shorts from high school, you can see direct scenes lifted right out of them. Yeah, it’s always been a trilogy because the sequel’s always been the one I wanted to make. That’s the one where sh*t gets double serious and it goes to Asia.
Are you actually going to be able to shoot in Asia?
We’ll go shoot there for a second I’m sure and then, you know, we’ll double it in Hawaii or something.
So much of the first one is about the comeback. Will the sequel have a lot more dancing?
There will be a lot more dancing throughout because there’s a tournament and it’s also a comeback story because it takes place five years later. Originally that was going to be a joke, but it almost is five years later at this point so it worked out nicely.
Is there also a trap some filmmakers get into when they planned a trilogy and then actually make the trilogy?
Yeah, I think there’s a huge trap with that. I think the biggest trap of all is thinking about a movie forever and then finally making it. I think there’s a perfect balance. Spending too long writing something or thinking about something I think can be a problem because you overthink it and you lose whatever magic it was you initially had to begin with. Making something too quick can also be a problem so you have to get in that nice grey area.
Does keeping it small-scale help make sure it’s consistent in tone with the first one?
Yeah, that’ll definitely help because it will be small scale again. It’ll be probably twice the size of the first one but that’s still nothing. It’s still the catering budget on a real movie. I love making things that are small because it forces you to actually be creative and come up with actual filmmaking ideas. I feel like why we keep seeing sh*tty movies and we’re in such a slump is people get $200 million to make a movie and nobody ever tells them no. They can just have absolutely whatever they want and I think that’s actually a problem. I think you should have adversity because otherwise you just run rampant. I can’t even explain it. It’s just a huge mess. I love having somebody telling me no so that I can figure out a way to make it right.
How real does sh*t get in the third FP?
It gets super real in the third FP of course. It’s the finishing of the trilogy and brings everything full circle as every third one would.
What are your favorite sports comeback stories where someone’s out of the game and they have to come back and train?
I think Rocky Balboa is probably one of my favorite one of those. I thought it was going to be really hokey and then I went and watched it and I was actually very impressed. I thought it was a really neat movie. I think Rocky Balboa actually would be my favorite “Comin’ back” one. Everybody wanted to hate it and it was supposed to be so bad, and it actually worked. I love that it did.
I love any movie where a character can die in a dance accident. What are your favorite legitimate movies where that’s the motivation for someone getting out?
The movie is based on Kickboxer as well. The first 15 minutes where Van Damme’s brother dies and then he has to come back for vengeance. The vengeance and somebody dies thing is always great. I think it’s hilarious and the whole thing in Kickboxer where the brothers don’t look anything alike we definitely carried over for The FP which I thought was funny. I don't know if everybody got that joke but that was for us.
You know the brother didn’t die in Kickboxer. He was just paralyzed.
Yeah, but you know… Are you sure he didn’t…? I can’t remember.
He was in his corner in the wheelchair.
Yeah, you’re right. I’m getting confused in my Van Damme movies. Almost every single one he has a brother that dies or there’s one where he’s twins. There’s too many Van Damme movies to keep up with.
It’s a lot of Van Dammage.
Where do things stand with mounting up the sequels?
Well, with the sequels, we’ve always had the ideas and everything but I actually start writing the sequel, which will be called F2P in about two or three weeks. We will see where it goes from there and the tag line will be: This time it’s for realz. Like the Aliens tag line: This time it’s war.
Just to make sure I spell it right, is that R-E-A-L-Z?
Yeah, that would be correct.
Since Drafthouse picked up The FP to distribute, are they involved with the sequels?
We haven’t really talked about that yet but I would love for them to be if they’re interested. If they’re reading this, please contact me because I’ve got some dets?
Do you have more costumes and props you’ve saved that can be used, or do you have to start building new stuff now?
We’ll have to start building new stuff. I’m sure you’ll see hints of the old stuff, kinda like when you have the superhero movie and they look back on their old costume. I’m sure the boots will come back, probably revamped of course. But no, we’ll probably have to start from scratch because at this point it’s five years later in the story. Things have moved on. We’re making fun of a different time period where the first one was all about making fun of the ‘80s, this one’s going to be a lot more the early ‘90s. You’re gonna see a lot of 10-10-220 jokes and things like that, and beepers.
It is time for ‘90s nostalgia, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s about that time. It’s been long enough. God, it was 20 years ago at this point which was crazy.
What were your favorite things in the ‘90s?
My favorite things in the ‘90s, let’s see. Terminator 2 which is my favorite movie of all time was definitely early ‘90s. I actually love the ‘90s music. I know most people hate it. I think the fashion in the ‘90s was terrible. We’ll definitely work that in. I like the ‘90s because there was no internet and it seemed like people would still go out and do things, and people still had imaginations, kids would still go outside and play. I love how simple things were. You and your buddies playing video games on the couch, instead of we’re all sitting disassociated from each other playing over the internet now. It’s just not the same thing. There’s no community anymore it seems like and I love that the ‘90s is all about hanging out with your buddies. That doesn’t really happen anymore.
That’s true but I was still calling up local bulletin boards on my modem.
Really. I lived in The FP. We had dial-up until like five years ago so it was hard. I think in eighth grade I finally got dial-up internet but I could only be on the internet for 30 hours a month because it was NetZero. I would go on MSN Messenger for like an hour and talk to friends and that was it. That was my internet for years. Then when I got to high school and everyone was like, “I’m on Facebook” and I’m like, “What the hell is this?”
Do people in Frazier Park really call it The FP?
Oh yeah. They’ve been calling it that for years. I call it The FP in the movie too because originally the shorts were like TV episodes and they would make fun of “The O.C.” It’s that same kind of thing. Back when “The O.C.” was hot, people started calling Frazier Park The FP. It was weird but it’s what happened.
Now that you’re a successful filmmaker, do you have to adapt to the social media and modern world?
I wouldn’t say I’m successful but thank you for saying that.
You made a movie.
I made a movie. It happened which is awesome but yeah, I definitely had to adapt to it. I have to do the Twitter and the Facebook and all that stuff now. I’m pretty proficient at it but it was crazy. It was definitely a learning curve being like, “Oh my God, what is this stuff?” Everyone told me I had to self-promote and have to have all these pages and if you don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it. The whole thing is wild.