Most people have to deliver a eulogy at one time or another in their lives, however, why do we wait until someone is gone to tell them why they matter so much to us? Comedian and first-time filmmaker Cathy Carlson started thinking about her longtime friend, actor, comedian and provocateur Andy Dick and realized that everyone seems to have an opinion on this often polarizing figure and began to film Everybody Has an Andy Dick Story.
What started as a small passion project for Carlson—that was actually intended to be a surprise for Andy Dick—grew bigger and better than she had imagined: more than 120 people volunteered to participate. Celebrities such as Ben Stiller, Kathy Griffin, Moby, Margaret Cho, Matt Sorum, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Steve-O, Dana Gould and more turned out to share their stories.
Everybody Has an Andy Dick Story premieres this week at the 21st Los Angeles Comedy Festival and Harlem International Film Festival. This film will also be shown on June 3 and 5 at the 16th San Francisco Documentary Festival.
Cathy Carlson spoke with TheCelebrityCafe.com about her background, her personal memories of Andy Dick, how the project grew, lessons learned from filming, what are her hopes for the film, how she chose which festivals to showcase her work and more.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Where are you from?
Cathy Carlson: The Chicago area.
TCC: Where do you live now?
CC: I live in LA right now.
TCC: What kind of jobs have you had?
CC: I’ve had 63 jobs in my lifetime, for the last 16 years I have worked as a personal assistant to a Hollywood screenwriter.
TCC: Which films have you been in?
CC: The only film I have ever had a speaking role in is a Russian movie that got turned into a mini-series. My neighbor was a casting director, and I fought with her because she kept leaving the security door propped open in the building that we lived in, and there were some shady things happening in the neighborhood at the time. She was close to getting evicted over it. We made up later, but one day she knocked on my door with a camera and said that I was perfect for this part as a crazy stalker.
She passed me in the hallway two weeks later and casually said, “Oh, by the way, you got the part. And I hope that you have a passport because you’re going to Russia.” She’s a great casting director and she made that happen for me. It’s the only time that I ever auditioned for her. But let’s be honest, there was every chance in the world that I would get to Russia and this was just payback, not an actual movie set.
TCC: Do you still do stand up?
CC: Yes, but I typically do one type of project at a time. I have more creative ideas when I focus.
TCC: Have you made any other films?
CC: I’m currently filming the same style of documentary about a few other people. I think it has a lot of potential to be a series, so I started filming them as soon as my edit was finished with this one.
TCC: You went to college with Andy?
CC: Yes, University of Illinois.
TCC: What was he like then?
CC: Andy never drank or did drugs at U of I. He was just the funniest person that any of us had ever met. He had a heart of gold and the artistic tenacity of the Tasmanian Devil.
TCC: What is something that is surprising and positive about Andy?
CC: He's the most honest person that I think I have ever met.
TCC: What makes Andy likable despite being a provocateur?
CC: He lives in the moment more than anybody I have ever met. And it's contagious. I always have fun around him.
TCC: How did you get the idea to do a film about Andy Dick?
CC: We both live in Los Angeles, and I would constantly hear these hilarious stories from a wide range of people. A friend of mine was a rookie cop on LAPD and he told me that Andy pick pocketed him and used the money to buy everybody drinks at the bar that night. I realized that he was the Keith Moon of my generation that day. And I knew. If people love talking about him that much, that the rest of the world deserved to be in on the fun.
TCC: Why is Keith Moon important to you?
CC: I am a huge Keith Moon fan and I know very little about him. He seemed so incredibly fun and alive, and I was bummed out that I would probably never know anybody that knew him well. And I started thinking that Andy was really kind of similar in some ways. Andy may be a comic actor, but he lives his life like a rock star. I didn't want people to miss out on Andy the way that I feel like I missed out on Keith Moon. So I decided to dig in and share what I could. Keith Moon was kind of the inspiration for it all in one way. And funnily enough, other people mentioned Keith Moon in interviews about Andy as well.
TCC: What is a story you personally have with/about him?
CC: I picked him up in LA one day when he was hitchhiking in the Hollywood Hills area. He was a little tipsy, but he is incredibly self-aware.
He got in and said, “How did you find me? Do you have time to hang out? Good, because we are going to have a great time tonight. We’re going to go to a bar and hang out all night. And the good news is that we’re going to have FUN!! The bad news is, that I’m going to get progressively drunker and drunker, get kind of aggressive and out of control and you’re going to have to pay for the whole thing, because I don’t have any money! Let’s go!”
I didn’t see any reason to say no. So that’s exactly what happened, and we had a blast.
TCC: Some of his behavior verges on sociopathic or possibly criminal, why celebrate it?
CC: I understand why you are asking this question…I read the same things in the paper as everybody else does, and believe me, Andy orchestrates those stories brilliantly. He has the ability to make a publicist feel like a storm chaser. But it’s a mistake to write him off as a sociopath. People can think whatever they want to think about others, and it is easier and less time consuming to dismiss people that don’t interest us. But it doesn’t mean that what they are saying is an absolute truth. If you are doing your homework and want to have an opinion about Andy Dick, you will get a passing grade if you just read the gossip. But you’ve got to do the extra credit questions and hang out with him to get the A. He is a world class provocateur, he has addiction issues, but he will make you feel more alive by hanging out with him than you can imagine. Dana Gould says in the documentary, “The same machine that makes the good stuff, makes the bad stuff.”
TCC: What is something that people would be surprised to know about Andy?
CC: Ha ha…. That depends on who is asking.
TCC: Is this your first film?
CC: Yes. I bought a camera and started shooting. And it shows in many ways. But I like that aspect of it. I didn't try to do more than I knew how to do, and all the wires show. Literally.... in one shot with Grant Show, there's a wire in the corner of the frame. You can see all of my mistakes everywhere. Even when I hired a professional crew to film Ben Stiller, a moth makes his way through the shot. There were so many f##k ups on my part, but the story is solid.
TCC: Who are some of the people in the movie?
CC: Deon Cole from Blackish, Matt Sorum (The Cult, Velvet Revolver, Guns N’ Roses), Kathy Griffin, Ben Stiller, Nick Swardson, Joel Gallen, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Steve – O, Margaret Cho, Moby, Sherri Shepherd, Dan Mathews (PETA), Pauly Shore, Bobby Lee, Maz Jobrani, Greg Fitzsimmons, Benjy Bronk, Jimmy Pardo, Kate Flannery, (The Office), Byron Bowers, Dana Gould, (The Simpsons), Vicki Lewis, (NewsRadio), Kira Soltanovich (Girls Behaving Badly)
TCC: How did you solicit people to be in your film?
TCC: Did your current boss (the screenwriter) help you with the project at all?
CC: I definitely kept this separate from my job for the most part. However, I did ask her to put me in touch with a Joel Gallen, as I wanted him to direct it. She did it right away, and he took my call because of her. He also was incredibly instrumental in guiding me in this project. He told me that I needed to direct it and that I had to have Ben Stiller in it. Ben gave Andy his start in Hollywood. I have so much respect for Joel, that I didn't want to look like an idiot in front of him. So I casually said, okay, I can do that. And then proceeded to freak out a little bit every day trying to figure out how to get Ben in this. For the most part, agents and managers blew me off for requests for their clients. So I really did get everybody through friends. Joel also had several films that he made with Andy and he just gave them to me to use. I had to clear them, but I never had to wait around to get the footage because Joel gave it to me right away. There's a lot of people that were crucial in this project, and Joel was one of them. And if it weren't for my boss, I don't think that he would have been easy to reach.
TCC: Who else helped you make the film?
CC: There are so many people that I want to mention, but mostly, I couldn't have done it without the editor and consulting producer, Randy Redroad and the other consulting producers: Rob Cohen, Kira Soltanovich, Ralph Garman and Joel Gallen. They were all consulting producers on the project and each one of them gave me advice that I couldn't have lived without. I had a vision, and their input pushed me to make the most of that vision.
TCC: How did Andy react to the film?
CC: At first, he was in shock. And I both understood that, and knew that would happen. I gave him a lot of breathing room to get used to the idea. Ultimately, I've honored him, but without his approval, this could be seen as an invasion of his life. I wanted him to receive it the way that I intended it and as all of the artists intended it. We saw each other a lot after I showed it to him and I just didn't bring it up. I kept filming people waiting for Andy to sign off. Finally, a year and a half later, in a sober living house in Malibu, he sat on the couch and watched the first 15 minutes on my phone and signed off on it. I took the paper and ran like hell to my editor's place.
This was the missing link. Editing in his reactions to the documentary. Randy Redroad edited it, but he's an artist. He's a genius. He completely understood what I wanted to do and he raised it to the next level for me.
TCC: What was the process of applying for film festivals?
CC: I went on Film Freeway and Without A Box and picked the ones that appealed to me.
TCC: Will you be at both Harlem Film Festival and LA comedy Festival?
TCC: Where can people see your film?
CC: For now, at film festivals. I will post the screenings on the website: www.EverybodyHasAnAndyDickStory.com
TCC: What are your hopes for the film?
CC: I see this as a series that goes international. It is a different take on documentaries. It involves a lot of raw truth and humanity. There are people in this world who are extraordinary, and have the courage to live out loud. And I plan on celebrating them, mistakes and all. I’ve already started filming three others because I learned along the way that it could be beneficial to film multiple projects at the same time.
TCC: How would you like people to connect with you?
CC: There is a link on the website where people can email me.
TCC: Where can people learn more about the film?
CC: I will post updates on the website and on social media.
TCC: What's next for you?
CC: I'm interested in doing more comedy directing.
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