Writer/director Trent Cooper admits that he – along with most everyone else who worked on the new dramedy “Father of Invention” – have their fair share of war stories about the ridiculous products they have purchased from watching late-night infomercials.
“We had a yard sale last weekend and ran across this sonic device that will enable you to get rock-hard abs without doing any work at all,” Cooper says “You just hook this belt around your waist and it sends this electric shock to your stomach all day while you do nothing. I got that while we were writing the movie because I wanted to find out what was the most far-fetched, stupid stomach device that you could possibly get sucked into buying.”
In “Father of Invention,” Kevin Spacey plays a former millionaire who, having been recently released from prison, must reinvent himself before he can rebuild his infomercial empire. And while there is certainly an element of fun in the film, Cooper’s primary reason for making the movie was to show the struggle Spacey’s character experienced trying to balance his work and his family – something the filmmaker himself admits to having wrestled with throughout his career.
“As an adult, a father and a husband, it’s your job to go chase your dream and be passionate about what you do and to fight like hell to get to the top but the more you do that the harder it is to pay attention to what really matters in life,” says Cooper, noting that he faced the battle even in the midst of making a movie with that exact theme. “Movies about finding that balance are movies that I’ve always been drawn to because I feel like it’s something really relevant to what I go through every day.”
Of course, Cooper acknowledges that “Father of Invention” was a fun movie to make – especially because the cast and crew sort of suck away for the 5-6 weeks it took to shoot the project and formed a family in the process. Moreover, all of the actors were enjoying experimenting as they were given the freedom to improvise. However, most important to the filmmaker was the opportunity to make a movie that was kind of a throw-back to another cinematic era.
“Before movies were so clearly defined as comedy or drama or whatever, you never really knew what you were watching,” Cooper explains. “The old movies I’ve studied and loved were dramatic and touching and thoughtful for 15 minutes and would suddenly hit this real comedic patch and you’d be laughing your butt off and then you’d be back to feeling emotional. You would just go on this ride and, before you knew it, you were sucked into this great little story.”
In addition to having made a movie of which he is exceptionally proud, Cooper is also honored to have had the opportunity to work with Spacey – someone the filmmaker cites as one of his top two or the favorite actors. In fact, Cooper claims that the day Spacey agrees to star in “Father of Invention” was both the most exciting and most terrifying day of his entire career. However, that only elevated his effort and encouraged him to bring his A-game to the set each and every day.
“He taught me a lot about filmmaking,” says Cooper, noting Spacey also directed a pair of projects and is a tremendous storyteller. “We really examined every character and every scene every day. He really pushed me to stretch and grow and I’m really psyched about that. I think I got better and I think I’m going to be better as a result of it. It was kind of like climbing Everest working on this film. Coming out on the other side of it, I feel really proud of the work and also like I got better at my craft.”
Next up for Cooper is an R-rated comedy set at a Catholic school titled “Holy Takedown!” The filmmaker likens the project to “Napoleon Dynamite” but set in the world of high school wrestling. The movie – which is said to satirize the sports film genre – is expected to enter production between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays for a release sometime next year.
“Father of Invention” (PG-13 – 93 minutes) is now available on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.