Tribeca: Inside the R-Rated, Animated Satire 'Nerdland' Starring Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt

Courtesy of TITMOUSE INC.

The long-gestating comedy from ‘Se7en’ screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker – kicking off the fest’s Viewpoints section – looks critically at instant fame, true crime dramas, extreme violence and L.A. desperation.

“If we were to give the celebrity-obsessed massive audiences something worth watching – I mean, really worth watching – we’d also be launching our careers,” says Paul Rudd to Patton Oswalt in Nerdland. “Wouldn’t you spend a night behind bars if that’s what it took to change your life?”

The R-rated, animated satire – kicking off the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival’s Viewpoints section with an April 14 premiere – follows aspiring actor John (Rudd) and struggling screenwriter Elliot (Oswalt) who aim to launch themselves into the zeitgeist before the end of the night. With voice cameos by Mike Judge, Molly Shannon and Hannibal Buress, the film pokes fun at Hollywood celebrity (pitching actors during a press junket is appropriate, right?) and Los Angeles’ overwhelming advertising, but largely takes a critical look at the ubiquitous plight for instant fame.

“Everything is being filmed now — a lot of times, you don't get to choose the slice of your day that suddenly catches on with other people, so there’s this ‘accidental lottery’ aspect to it,” says Oswalt. “Seeing people who aren't even trying, that's gotta drive some people crazy, especially if they're early on in their career and haven't really fully formed who they are yet. That hunger can warp a lot of people.”

The long-gestating comedy from Se7en and Sleepy Hollow screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker has been drafted as a TV show, a web series and even a live-action film with David Fincher attached. Titmouse, Inc. took on the script for its first feature, which remains relevant in its mentions of police brutality footage, true crime dramas and the consequences of extreme violence onscreen. “It’s weird how, as time went on, certain things became more offensive or more topical,” says Walker. “There’s definitely a lot more navel-gazing, but also, ‘Hey come over here and look at my navel.’”

Nerdland’s main characters are loosely based on Walker – back when working at Tower Records and eyeing a film career – and journalist Jon Silberg. “I joked that this spec script would be every reader assistant's favorite in all the mailrooms because there's a certain path when you move to Los Angeles: everybody moves into the same apartment and parks in the same tandem parking space with their roommate,” laughs Walker. “And you're never more than ten feet away from a screenplay in this town. For anybody outside the movie industry looking in, there’s a sense of ‘sweaty palms’ desperation.”

Though Nerdland is a darkly comedic, daylong adventure onscreen, Oswalt asserts its real-life applications. “I saw early on that the people who were pulling stunts, their fame lasts as long as the stunts, and those who worked on the work and built something more solid had that much longer and way more fun careers,” he says. “Figure out what you like to do – what you actually like to do – and go quietly and work on that, without any fanfare, and be willing to put in the hours and days and months and years in order to get there. If you get good at it, you won't have to chase after fame; it will come after you. Fame can give you the wiggle room to do more of the work you want to do, but fame as an end to itself is empty.”