The SXSW festival of music, film, and interactivityism invaded Austin last week. On the film front, one flick emerged as the clear leader in nationwide buzz: Mario, a two-minute "bumper" film directed by Joe Nicolosi.
Styled as a trailer for a feature-length film, Mario smartly recasts the 8-bit Super Mario Bros. narrative as a hypothetical indie film about lost love, drug use, and the triumph of blue collar good guys over yuppie pricks. It's Generation Y's lazy, NES-addicted childhood cleverly painted on the canvas of our disillusioned, drug-infused young adulthood. Imagine the Urban Outfitters t-shirt rack brought to stunning life on the silver screen, but with nimble self-satire in place of retrospective self-indulgence.
Check out the awesomeness for yourself. It's well worth a few minutes of your day:
Although he may not know it, Mario's star, Texas Ex and Austin-based freelance art director Clay Crenshaw has more connections to the FanTake Network than SizzleChest's array of proxy servers. Or a Rundberg Lane massage parlor.
We recently sat down with Clay for a short interview. To be honest, we sat down at our computer and conducted the interview via an e-mail exchange. Nevertheless, we were starstruck.
Pop Vulture: You're the star of the bumper film sensation "Mario." Is this your first film?
Clay Crenshaw: I've been dabbling in short film making for a few years, but always on the other side of the camera. This is my first time to do one as an actor.
PV: How'd you get involved in the project?
CC: I met Joe Nicolosi, the director, while I was doing improv comedy shows at Coldtowne Theater in Austin. I guess he thought I could grow a mustache worthy of Mario, so he asked me to participate in the short.
(editor's note: the subject of clay's improv skit that night was "bedroom decor")
PV: How many hours did you spend tirelessly researching the plumbing trade in preparation for your role?
CC: I feel like I've been studying plumbing my whole life without realizing why. Now I know.
PV: Did you at least read a Draino label beforehand?
CC: Of course. It's always important to understand your competition.
PV: One scene in the film shows you driving a go-kart while presumably high on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Do you regret the negative influence that scene might have on impressionable young children in the audience?
CC: Interesting interpretation. Actually my character was high on bananas in that scene. So no, I have no regrets.
PV: Do people recognize you out in public now?
CC: The bumper played before about one out of every five film screenings at SXSW, so yeah, I've been getting stopped by a lot of festival-goers who all have very nice things to say about the short. Also, I spotted Rainn Wilson at a party last week for his new film Hesher. I got up the guts to approach him, just to tell him how much I love him in The Office. He caught me off guard when he said, "You're the guy from that Mario thing! That was hilarious!" It was definitely the highlight of the festival for me.
PV: Are you already exhausted and disillusioned by fame?
CC: Mostly it's all the cash rolling in that has me exhausted.
PV: Given the positive buzz about the bumper, is there any talk of a full-length feature?
CC: There are a lot of people calling for it in the YouTube comments, and I think it would be a dream come true if someone decided to support such a project. But getting a full-length movie made is not easy.
PV: I'm not going to beg. But please, please, please, pretty-pretty-please make this into a full-length movie. Okay?
CC: I know that Joe has been taking some meetings with studio executives this week based on his awesome work with the festival bumpers. So go beg him.
PV: You graduated from the University of Texas with a Plan II degree. I've always heard the rumor that Pol Pot dropped out of Plan II to found the Khmer Rouge. Why he didn't finish his degree?
CC: The administrators at Plan II really don't want us talking about that. Next question.
PV: Do you and Donkey Kong get along well off-camera?
CC: Kong stopped returning my calls 10 years ago. Kind of a sore point.
PV: Are you planning to donate the mustache to the SXSW historical archive, or just keep it for your own selfish purposes?
CC: I think I'm just going to sell it on eBay.
Many thanks to Clay for graciously donating his time and bandwidth to answering our ridiculous questions. Count us among the fans hoping that a feature-length version of Mario is on the horizon.