SxSW 2020 Interview – COOPER’S BAR director Nick Morton

“COOPER’S BAR is about a failing Hollywood actor, Cooper Marino (played by Lou Mustillo), who has built an elaborate tiki bar in his backyard where he hides out from Hollywood and harbors a fantasy of giving it all up and becoming a bar man for real. Then one night a TV executive (played by Rhea Seehorn) wanders into the place thinking it is an actual bar and starts to make Cooper’s dreams come true.” Director Nick Morton on COOPER’S BAR which screens in the shorts section of SxSW Film 2020. 

Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW

You are back! Tell me about your previous experience here at the festival and what you showed.

I was a producer on Matthew Lillard’s directorial debut FAT KID RULES THE WORLD. We brought a big posse of producers, writers and cast and we all had so much fun. The film won the Audience Award in its category.

What is it about Austin, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?

For the festival it is the wide range of talents from so many industries and disciplines all converging in one place with so much positive energy.  Politicians, musicians, filmmakers, philosophers, comedians, inventors, tech entrepreneurs. It’s a wild meeting of the minds and so many interesting perspectives to explore and encounter. For the city: the food and the music. BBQ. Queso. Food trucks. Tacos. 

How did you first hear about the SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?

I remember years and years ago people talking about it as the cool fest. The films that come out of SXSW always feel like they have such distinct voices.  Who wouldn’t want to be associated with that? It’s also got a great comedy fest and our movie is funny!

Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!

Well, Lou Mustillo really does have a backyard bar that he has painstakingly created over the  past fifteen years. It’s where we actually shot the pilot. David Conolly wanted to make a show about Lou’s bar – the crazy cast of characters always lurking around and Lou at its heart – warm, welcoming, and down to earth – everything that Hollywood is not!  David introduced me to Lou and showed me the bar and together we all worked out the idea for the show. David and Lou and Hannah Davis Law and Rhea Seehorn were all friends, and we did a reading where Rhea brought a bunch of great ideas to the table and then suddenly we had a script we all agreed on.  Alfredo De Villa agreed to direct it, and we made it for nothing in Lou’s backyard!

Who are some of your main creative inspirations?

Robert Carlock, Armando Iannucci, Paddy Chayefsky and Joseph Heller!

How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?

Sony FS7 with Zeiss Superspeed Lenses. 

After SxSW, where is it going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?

Would love to go back to SeriesFest. They showed my last pilot Halfway There and it’s a neat festival. 

What would you suggest to theatres or even film festivals as a way to show more short films theatrically or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

I think thematic programming always helps – pairing shorts with feature length films or in thematic groupings or pairing with other media – music.  Comedy shorts feel like an easier sell than dramatic shorts.

If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker/creator, what would you suggest to get their start?

Make stuff. Keep making stuff. Make more stuff. Find people who excite you and challenge you and whose talent you believe in – people who you are excited to empower to be their best unique selves who don’t just serve your vision but challenge and enrich it.  Filmmaking is collaborative. Finding an exciting group of collaborators makes it fun and makes your work better.

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

PIG by Francine McDougall.

For more information on this film and to follow its progress into the festival world, point your browser to!

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