As the ‘catfish’ host directs his first feature film, he says he picked an ‘amazing’ actor to star in it.
For three seasons, “Catfish” host Max Joseph has passed through the country’s most remote towns and cities in hot pursuit of online liars. But take away his signature Minicam, plop him down in a Hollywood director’s chair and what will happen?
For the last month, Joseph has been busy shooting “We Are Your Friends,” a coming-of-age feature film that follows the life of a young DJ who falls for his mentor’s girlfriend. Though Joseph’s a filmmaker through-and-through, he recently told MTV News filming for the silver screen is a completely new experience. But he doesn’t seem nervous. One reason: He has all the confidence in the world that Zac Efron and Emily Ratajkowski — the project’s stars — will leave moviegoers speechless.
You’ve directed more than 70 short films, but this is your feature film directorial debut. What’s that like?
There is kind of a feature film virginity that’s held up on a pedestal more so than any other type of film project. It’s a rite of passage and it comes with a lot of challenges and struggles, but there’s a bigger victory at the end if you pull it off.
On the other films I’ve done, I’m shooting them, editing them, running out the morning and night before to get all the props, and you can’t do that in a feature. I barely touch the camera. It’s much more about management, delegation and leadership than it is being a jack of all trades. There’s a lot more that can go wrong, but you have a lot more support.
The Instagram videos and photos you’ve posted make set look like a party — are you having a blast?
We have a good time, and a lot of that comes from having done “Catfish” for the last three years. I’d been spending 12- or 13-hour days with a crew of 12 or 13 people making a show, and you just learn that no matter what you’re doing, you have to make it fun. At the end of the day, it’s the best job in the world. How stressed can you really get?
What is ‘We Are Your Friends’ really about?
It’s really a story about that transition from being a kid to being an adult in today’s world and what that means. Music and festivals and DJs are kind of the cultural touchstones that we’re seeing right now on MTV and social media — we wanted to make a movie about growing up and have that type of music be the pulse of the story. It’s not just about falling for forbidden love, it’s about mentors and proteges and respect for the artists that have come before you and finding your voice. It’s disengaging the people and things you love that might not be good for you. It’s about a lot.
In a weird way, a lot of the themes have come out of ‘Catfish.’ I wrote this with my writing partner while making the show, and every day, we’d be in a different part of America going into random people’s homes and entering their lives. We were really seeing a cross-section of the world, and the themes of the movie have been directly inspired by all the things we saw.
How has Zac Efron been on set?
He’s amazing. He is a world-class person. He’s the first person to say hello to everyone and he’s the furthest thing from a prima donna. He’s extremely professional, always in a good mood and keeps things light. He loves the crew. He’s a trooper, and we have a good time.
We talk about a lot of stupid stuff outside of the film and show each other videos about other movies and characters and shots that we like. He’s just been a great collaborator, and I couldn’t ask for anything more from the star of my first feature. He really is bringing everything he’s got. People are going to be really pleasantly surprised. It’s a balanced performance, and I think people are going to wake up and say ‘Holy sh**, Zac Efron!’ He was funny in ‘Neighbors‘ and great elsewhere, but this movie really steps up his game.
Were you familiar with his work?
I wasn’t that familiar with Zac’s work originally. I had heard about ‘High School Musical‘ and seen the funny pool party video he did. But when I met with him, I really liked him. Then I saw ‘Paperboy,’ which was extremely impressive. I was like, ‘Holy sh**, this kid has really got something.’
There was a feeling when ‘Neighbors’ came out that Zac…was graduating from the younger teen heartthrob into a movie star and an actor, and I think perception was changing. We caught him at the right moment, and we’re lucky to have him.
How did you decide on Emily Ratajkowski as his love interest?
When I’m doing ‘Catfish,’ I don’t watch TV or have time for a lot of extracurricular stuff, so I was maybe the one guy who hadn’t seen the ‘Blurred Lines’ video that she was in.
As soon as we went into the audition, I was so put back on my heels and surprised by how good she was. At the end of the audition, I was like ‘Who the hell is that?’ My casting director told me she had just shot ‘Gone Girl’ and was in ‘Blurred Lines.’ Everyone knows her from that, but nobody knows she’s actually an incredible actress. They’re about to know really soon. She’s gonna blow people away. She and Zac have amazing chemistry.