Paul Dinello might not have directed a single episode of Comedy Central’s “Strangers With Candy” as the skein’s co-creator and co-writer (along with Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert), but the tyro filmmaker says he had all the skills he needed to helm the feature version of the show.
Dinello credits his time at Chicago’s Second City theater company (1987-1992) and being on the set of the “Strangers” TV show for teaching him how to direct.
“At Second City you write what you do, you perform in it, you direct yourself, you pick your own costuming and if you need a prop you make your own prop,” Dinello explains. “You learn all of the aspects of the creative process. I guess (‘Strangers’) is sort of the same thing except somebody spent a lot of money. That’ s the only difference.”
That money, several millions of dollars, came from David Letterman’s production shingle Worldwide Pants, marking the first time it has backed a feature film. Pants also gave Dinello creative control.
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Pic, which screens in the Midnight section at Sundance, is essentially a prequel to the “Strangers” series, which follows 46-year-old Jerri Blank (Sedaris), a former boozer, user and loser who returns to her parental home and attends high school as a freshman. The series aired for three seasons until Comedy Central pulled the plug in October 2000.
After working on individual projects and collaborating on a book, Dinello, Sedaris and Colbert put their warped minds together again to mount the feature. They wanted to make sure the spirit remained — read: seriously off-beat and intentionally offensive — and had to go the independent route. But they easily found a big-name cast among their fans and friends, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Allison Janney.
Despite being “swamped” for the past year and a half, Dinello is looking for another helming gig and continues to write scripts with Colbert and is working on a project with Sedaris. “I really liked the experience of the film and spending my time editing. Ideally, I would like to write and direct another film.”