Crazy Poets

by Walter Pierce

Lafayette natives stake out turf in filmmaking from their base in Austin. Lafayette natives stake out turf in filmmaking from their base in Austin. By IND Monthly Staff

Friday, Aug. 2, 2013

Nick, left, and Josh Holden

Brothers/filmmakers Josh Holden, 29, and Nick Holden, 30, split their childhood between growing up in Lafayette and hanging out backstage with the likes of Willie Nelson's band - friends of their mother, Lana Holden - followed by film school at UT Austin and eventually a venture with the owners of a male sex toy company, which they turned into a popular web-series, The Flesh Life. (Think The Office, but a lower-budget version with the artificial vagina industry as its backdrop.)

Several years ago the brothers - both graduates of St. Thomas More - founded Mishnoon, an Austin-based production company that specializes in music documentaries. But it's their irreverent Web series for client FleshLight (to understand the product you'll have to go online and see the series; it's just too graphic to explain) - an example of successful viral marketing if there ever were one - that has distinguished them. The series, which follows a pair of hapless marketing hacks as they come up with ways of reaching a decidedly niche market, stars actor/producer Bill Wise, who is probably better known for his voice-over work in anime, along with Joel Watts and Jimmy Gonzales. You can watch the series on YouTube and at www.TheFleshLife.com.

IND Monthly caught up with Josh Holden, who fielded a few questions about Mishnoon's R-rated Web series.

Starting with Bill Wise, he's hilarious but seems completely off-the-cuff. Is there any script involved, or do you just let him loose to do his thing? Also, where/how'd you find this guy?
The Flesh Life was completely scripted ...

I acted in a movie with Bill Wise when I was 19. The director fired him because she couldn't handle him and thought he would be impossible to edit.

I thought the director was crazy because he was the best thing about the film. My brother and I always wanted to work with him and The Flesh Life  gave us that opportunity.
What proved the most difficult challenge of making The Flesh Life?**
Writing the episodes while shooting. We would write four episodes, then shoot them, and as soon as that was done we had to write the next four episodes while editing the first four episodes. This went on for the entire season. We were shooting close to 10 pages a day, which was very ambitious. The fact that it was an ensemble cast with a few first time actors made it even more challenging; it took a lot of coaching.

The Flesh Life was produced in your garage if we're not mistaken. Is this still the Mishnoon HQ?
When we started out we were working out of our garage. We had a couch, a white board and either a fan or heater on standby. Fortunately, we made the transition a couple years ago out of the garage and into a nice office in South Austin.

Will there be a Flesh Life Season 2, and if so, when can we expect to catch the first installment?
As of now there will not be a Season 2.  At one point we were hoping to use the show as a pilot to pitch to HBO and try to get a series going.

How many projects do you typically take on at any given time? What's in the works right now?   
We normally have about five to 10 projects going at any given time. What's new and exciting is we just had an investor approach us to invest in our first feature film. We're just finishing up a script we like so it's good timing.

More and more people these days are telling us it's time to make our first feature. We've been talking about doing one for about five years, so it's nice to see that it's getting closer to being a reality.

Some of the notable things we're doing right now is wrapping up a commercial for a tech startup called Omiro, planning more Gill Webb episodes, working on a commercial for an insurance company and talking with Black Joe Lewis about doing a music video for his new album.

What's a typical day like in the life of the Holden brothers?
We're either on-set directing, or we're writing in the morning, drinking healthy amounts of espresso and editing into the evening with meetings scattered throughout the day. Sometimes we write again at night.

You guys grew up around some pretty big names in country music. What impact would you say that experience has had on your approach to filmmaking?
We kind of grew up around the outlaw country scene. I guess that in some ways it's always given us an edge but an appreciation for poetic lyrics. We like to think we have good taste in music. Taste goes a long way, especially when creating a tone that complements the story we're trying to tell.

How would you describe yourselves as filmmakers, and what kind of projects do you see yourselves taking on over the next decade? Anyone in particular who you draw influence from?
We hope to have three feature films in the can over the next decade. They get a little more ambitious as they go along, but overall I would say we are passionate filmmakers. We want to create art that inspires growth and evokes thought.

Federico Fellini, Hal Ashby, Preston Sturges, Jean Luc Godard, Frank Capra, Cassavetes, Pedro Almodovar, Coppola, Kubrick, Billy Wilder.

Last question: How'd you guys come up with the name Mishnoon? What's the backstory?
Mishnoon is Arabic for "crazy." The correct spelling is actually Majnun, we kind of Americanized it. We interpret it as "poet," some people interpret it as "crazy." We might be a bit of both; you make the call.