Rainn Wilson, best known for playing Dwight Schrute on The Office, shot a 140-second film using a Nikon D5000 as part of his participation in the Nikon Film Festival. He talked with us about directing, pancakes and solar-powered deer-meat grinders.
Rainn is one of three judges in the inaugural Twitter-themed Nikon Festival, in which people submit 140-second videos in the hopes of winning a $100,000 prize. Here's Rainn's own video—not a contest entry, naturally—which he made using just an entry-level DSLR:
In your 140-second film, you scatter pancakes on the ground in the shape of an eye, taunt a rocking horse, and play yourself in ping-pong. Were you worried about making a film that's such transparent Oscar-bait?
I was, I was a little bit. You know, there's kind of a formula for winning an Oscar and I pretty much followed it to a tee. The only things I left out were someone dying of a debilitating illness and a lot of, like, tracking shots at an airport.
You're an actor, writer and Twitterer, so it seems like this festival is a pretty good fit—but what about this particular festival most appealed to you?
One thing I'm all for, in all seriousness, is, in this age of minutia, where anyone can post their domes on their websites or on YouTube, where digital cameras take high-def video, is to democratize the filmmaking art. Instead of filmmaking being this realm of people who went to top film schools and knew the right people, now it's open to everyone. All you need is a camera that you can buy at your local Best Buy, a good idea and some visual talent for storytelling, and you can win a real prize.
Hypothetical question: What would you say is a reasonable amount of money to slip a judge in, say, a digital short film festival, to ensure a win? Purely hypothetical, remember.
I can guarantee anyone a win for $99,000. You could walk away with $1,000. American. Just slip me 99 grand and it's yours.
You've achieved pretty amazing success in the past few years, with a breakout role on a hit sitcom, the leading role in a movie, and a bunch of memorable cameos. Were you upset when MTV chose iJustine over you to be the official Twitter correspondent of the 2009 Video Music Awards?
Upset is the understatement of the century. I was devastated. My world was rocked. I have more Twitter followers, I'm better known, and I have a MUCH better body.
Your spirituality-discussion website is called SoulPancake, and pancakes are also featured in your 140-second film. What can you tell us about your relationship with pancakes?
You know, I'm trying to get over a primal wound. When I was a child, I was raped by a pancake.
My followup question was if you had any favorite pancake recipes you want to share, but now it seems like kind of a sore topic.
Yeah, very sore. But I'd have to go with the walnut-cranberry.
That's a good one.
Your 140-second film is really well shot and fun to look at—did you direct it yourself?
I directed it in collaboration with a friend of mine, Joshua Homnick. We've collaborated on a bunch of things; we're actually working on a new media project for Microsoft Zune and Xbox. [Joshua is] a great filmmaker, photographer, and editor; I couldn't have done it without him.
Are you interested in maybe directing an episode of The Office, like Steve Carell did?
Yeah. John Krasinski directs one in the spring and supposedly I'll be directing one pretty soon. So get ready for that. I'm gonna put Carell through his paces. I'm gonna be like, "Man, uh-uh, not good enough. Not funny enough. Try again, make me laugh. Cut! What are you thinking, Carell? Come on, magic man, show me what you got!"
Do you think Dwight would read Gizmodo? I ask because it sometimes seems like some of our commenters are channeling him.
Dwight would definitely be on Gizmodo, but he'd be the guy on the comment board who always writes "first." He'd always be in a race to write first. He'd be "The First Guy."
After seeing the joy that Dwight took in his Christmas present this year, a nutcracker he built himself, I'm curious: What would Dwight's favorite gadgets be? Are any of them from this century?
That's an excellent question. I think Dwight would enjoy updating industrial gadgets from the last century for the modern world. For instance, he might have, like, a deer sausage grinder, but solar powered.