Mark Lester is a writer/director with signature. His style is eccentric, comedic, and decidedly fresh. His works have been seen on MTV and Vimeo’s Short of the Week, among others, and he is continually pushing the creative envelope on blending comedy, animation, and music interviews.
So how did this whole adventure start?
It all started at UCLA, where my parents conceived me sometime in the summer of 1988. Then, 9 months later, I was born. Then 16 years later, I started making movies with my friends in high school. Then, 2 years later, I went back to UCLA to make more friends and more movies. And I realized that it was the best feeling in the world to make jokes on camera with my friends. So I’ve been spending all my time watching and making movies to preserve that feeling as long as possible.
What inspires your creativity the most?
Music first, that always helps the imagination. I also have a lot of admiration for great improvisers. My friends are hilarious actors and improvisers. I think it’s outstanding that you can train yourself to be so spontaneously genius and funny. Makes for good scenes and fun on set.
What’s been your greatest challenge so far?
Besides the normal obstacles of trying to convince people to give me money to make stuff, I’d say my greatest challenge has been figuring out how to listen to myself and react calmly in the face of extreme stress. Gary Shandling said something like that, “At the point of highest stress, you must be completely calm.” I’m a neurotic, sensitive weirdo, so that’s been the biggest but most rewarding challenge to face.
What’s been your favorite project to work on?
Recently, I shot an absurd short for my friend Chris Reinacher’s Awesomeness Youtube channel. It’s a ridiculous idea we talked about making five years ago or something, and finally got around to writing and shooting it. Had no money, but had the most fun on set and (currently) in editing. After a couple years of making commercials, it’s been really refreshing.
Describe your ideal collaboration project.
John Cazale was such a good actor, like the Steve Buscemi of his time. Would have been awesome to work with him. Also, another Jon — Jon Brion. He’s still around, and his scores are amazing and weird.
What’s your worst finding a location horror story?
When I just graduated college, I was shooting a web-series called “Teenage Mountain Lion” for no money. And we wanted to do this big scene in a grand dark hall of some sort. We tried to use two places. One of them kicked us out after a few hours even though they agreed to let us shoot. Then we snuck into another, a newly painted black theater at UCLA. Within two minutes we were found and told to leave. It was awful and embarrassing, but we eventually pieced the scene together with some good ole movie-magic.
What do you like the most about Wrapal?
I like the network. It’s necessary these days. I’m not a location scout and don’t have a list of locations offhand that I can use for every shoot. It also costs a lot to film in LA, and when I don’t have the best budget, it’s so easy to go to Wrapal rather than google “mansion filming locations in Los Angeles.” I’ve never googled that, so maybe it’s a bad example. But I’m currently working on a project where I needed a retail store, had a tight budget, and didn’t know where to start. Literally took no time to find an awesome store in Santa Monica that allows filming. This is just the kind of thing filmmakers need to get value out of their projects, whatever the size.
We love your comedic style; if suddenly found yourself having to do standup, what would your opening joke be?
Firstly, I’d like to politely point out that it’s not really kosher to ask a comedian to tell a joke on the spot. That being said, a Customer Service employee told me a joke on the phone the other day: “What do you call a nosy pepper? Jalapeño business.” Barely makes sense, but made me laugh how much it made her laugh.