A town infected by gay zombies. Santa Claus crashing a college party. An arm being cut off by a lightsaber. Welcome to the crazy world created by childhood buddies turned filmmakers, Vince DeGaetano and Aaron Fronk. While they may initially seem like your typical class clowns, their relentless passion for making the most outrageous movies on the web has resulted in more than thirty million views and the creation of their own company: FND Films. Never willing to compromise the integrity of their work, the two college dropouts (ironically more successful than anyone else we know in film school) talk about their first experiences in La La Land, their inspirations, and how their first feature-length will be better than Avatar.
You guys have known each other for quite a while. When did you start making films?
Aaron: I had been doing movies since 4th grade on my dadâ€™s VHS camera, and Vince tagged along. We just did it for fun, but weâ€™ve known that we wanted to be filmmakers and work together for a very long time. There was never another option.
Vince: When we went to college together at Columbia College of Chicago as film majors, we were contacted by some guys at High Valley Entertainment in 2009 who had seen our work, and who flew us to Los Angeles. We were out there having meets with Comedy Central, Spike, and FX when school was starting… so we decided to stay. We were making money off the ads of our videos to support ourselves, so why go back to school and rack up more debt when we already do what we love?
Ultimately, do you feel like film school was useful to you as filmmakers, or just a waste of time and money?
Vince: We donâ€™t regret the years weâ€™ve been in college, because that is where we met our current friends and crew. Without those awesome, talented people, we would have nothing.
Aaron: However, they can sit you down and have hundreds of hours of education, but some kids out there have never shot a movie… Filmmaking is like painting. Youâ€™re not going to paint your first picture and itâ€™s magically going to be a Picasso. You have to learn from your own mistakes. Itâ€™s more so that weâ€™ve been shooting for so long and little by little realizing what works and doesnâ€™t.
How do you come up with an idea and then turn it into a film? For instance, can you walk me through the creation process of one of your classics, Gay Zombie?
Aaron: It was born out of an imitation Vince did where, for whatever reason, he was doing a zombie moan but with a gay lisp twist on it. [laughs] That was it. We came up with the name â€œgay zombieâ€ and decided to make a short about it.
Vince: We went back home to Ohio for holidays and we shot it. We basically created chaos on a street, which was easier to do in a nice suburban setting. Eventually, we infected all of our friends with the disease and turned them into homosexual zombies.
How did it feel to win best movie and best directing at the Columbia University National Undergraduate Film Festival (CUNUFF) this year?
Vince: It was huge to win these for Action World because we had never won anything.
Aaron: Weâ€™d submitted stuff in the past, but they were mostly sketches, which people donâ€™t view as â€œmovies.â€ Not to judge some of the other entries, but… anyway! [laughs] It was a 20-minute short film and we really wanted to produce the hell out of it, a solid piece to shop around the film festival circuit. All the jokes hit perfectly.
You have this short called Letâ€™s Make a Movie, in which a big-time Hollywood producer is presented as a pompous and money-driven asshole. Was that based on experience?
Aaron: While we were out there, it became more and more evident that theyâ€™ll do anything to make a quick buck. Producers would always just want to make a bigger version of our most popular videos such as Gay Zombie or Parkour Kids. We want to do something new and donâ€™t really see the point in going back.
Vince: We want to create new stuff. As creators, we absolutely donâ€™t want to rehash the same crap.
Are you working on a feature-length right now?
Aaron: Letâ€™s just say: buddy comedy with aliens. Thatâ€™s probably all we can say. But there will be aliens in it.
You mean kind of like Men in Black?
Vince: Oh, weâ€™re not fighting aliens. We meet them. [laughs] You just have to wait and see. Itâ€™ll be better than Avatar.
How is it working together? What was a hobby has now evolved into a full-time job. Do any tensions ever arise?
Vince: Itâ€™s pretty smooth most of the time.
Aaron: The reason why it works is because no matter what, it always comes down to the fact that we want to put out a solid video. Get the highest quality and be as funny. We will do anything that it takes to achieve that goal, which is what has kept us sane.
Would you say that the film industry in general is evolving and how so?
Vince: Itâ€™s shifting tremendously. We would not be where we are without the internet, just like a lot of people. You can shoot anything for a very inexpensive cost and put it out there for the world to see. Look at Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island guys: itâ€™s all about gaining a following and getting work out of it.
Itâ€™s funny, because regular folks are the ones who choose the â€œnext big thingâ€ nowadays in the entertainment industry. Do you feel like big-shot producers are becoming less relevant?
Aaron: I feel like now more than ever, independent filmmakers have the opportunity to make movies without studios to back them up. Since the birth of cinema, it has never been easier to finance your own films. The digital age has revolutionized the way you can put out a movie. The technical part of it is not hard at all, but a movie still remains labor-intensive.
Who are some of your inspirations in comedy?
Vince:Â We look up to Dave Cross, Ivan Reitman, Matt Parker and Trey Stone, Jim Carrey, and also Ben Stiller. He writes and directs a lot of his movies, so thatâ€™s always impressive.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Vince: Lots of lots of money! [laughs]
Aaron: If you like comedy and sketches, we try our best to make people laugh, so watch our videos. But personally, I would tell readers to keep on supporting Daily BR!NK and organizations out there that are trying to support up-and-comers. It is hard to be an artist and show your work, so you guys are a huge help.