Fourth Of July
A New Film written by Joe List and Louis CK
Directed by Louis CK
A recovering alcoholic and jazz pianist in NYC confronts his acerbic family during their annual Fourth of July vacation.
Starring: Joe List, Sarah Tollemache, Paula Plum, Robert Walsh and Robert Kelly
Featuring: Nick Di Paolo, Tara Pacheco, Chris Walsh
With: Tony Viveiros, Lynne Koplitz, Courtland Jones, Dorothy Dwyer, Richard O’Rourke, Bill Scheft, and Allan Havey
FOURTH OF JULY OPENS IN THEATERS JULY 1
When Joe List and I came together to write Fourth of July we met at the same subject, family, from two different perspectives. One being that of a young man who is struggling to find the confidence to start his own family and finding that he is overwhelmed by the mistakes of the family he was raised in. The other, the perspective of a father whose kids are grown and who is beginning to confront the unfixable mistakes of his young fatherhood and the impact they might have on his children.
Surprisingly, we found that we were each more interested in the other’s story. I thought the movie should be about the young man who finds the courage to confront his family and to break free of them by standing up to their denial and cyclical oppression. And Joe thought it was much more interesting to have a subject be the parents, and what happens to them when they’ve been confronted, and told by the child they gave life to and raised that they did it all wrong. The movie ended up falling somewhere in between.
As we drew out the characters and the story we found the movie was also a great vehicle for talking about anxiety. Anxiety, it’s something that almost everyone who I love suffers from. I have a lot of remorse in my life about having misunderstood the anxiety suffered by people I love. This movie was an opportunity to explore that subject and share some of what we learned and have experienced.
Other subjects we found on the story’s road: alcoholism and the world of 12 steps. And something Joe and I share from our common upbringing, the unique city of Boston and the brutal and beautiful culture of the people there.
So this movie is about a lot of things. And I think they are all carried and represented beautifully by the vulnerable and regretfully readable face of Joe List.
I would say the biggest challenge of telling the story of an anxious courageously sober man with deep unresolved feelings about his love and family, was that Joe is truly a courageously sober and sensitive guy. He was deeply affected by everything we shot in the movie. And it was a profound and often hilarious experience to be in his personal space while trying to simply keep a disciplined production moving.
The rest of the cast is comprised of reliable and solid comedians who Joe and I have known throughout our careers including Lynne Koplitz, Nick Di Paolo, Robert Kelly, and Tony V, who I have worked with many times before and have always found to be perfectly dependable and always surprising.
Joe’s real life wife Sarah, played Jeff’s wife Beth in the movie. She played the part with a humble honesty that gave the movie its center and spirit. Bill Scheft is a veteran comedian I befriended when we were both writers on Letterman and became a mentor to Joe, a part he adapted as his a sponsor.
The rest of the cast, relative unknowns, are the hard-working core of the Boston film and theater world. Paula Plum, Robert Walsh, Dot Dwyer, Cortland Jones, Richard O’Rourke, Tara Pacheco, Chris Walsh, and Bill Scheft are all folks who have played small roles in large productions and large roles in small productions. They all stepped up and made this movie shine to life and light.
My production team was brought together by Brady Nasfell, who produced two of my standup specials. He and Lea Cohen, who I have depended on to run all of my endeavors of the last few years, delivered everything that we needed and assembled a crew of hard-working artists and trades people for the small budget that I was able to provide by taking out a line of credit on my home.
My job as director was made easy by an art department making great choices, allowing me to just show up, look around and say “Great. Thanks.” The wardrobe department that was able to nail a very singular and unfashionable look: the thrown together shitty cotton clothes of the average Boston alcoholic.
We all lived together in the remote woods by the shore of Lake George in the perfect house found by location manager Jeff Caron.
The Director of photography, Chris Raymond and I had only worked with on my first movie, Pootie Tang, where he was a camera loader. Chris and I were immediate natural partners. We agreed to shoot a movie on anamorphic lenses which gave us, amongst other things, the ability to depict the unsettling and panoramic over awareness of a man with anxiety disorder.
Outside of my two scenes as Jeff’s therapist, which we shot first and got out of the way, for me it was a real pleasure to direct without acting for the first time in many years.
I felt able to look after the cast and focus on the look of the movie. Whether or not I did any of that properly, is up to pretty much everyone but me.
I am very pleased with the results and hope that folks enjoy “Fourth of July.”