As the fifth annual Austin Revolution Film Festival prepares to kick off its screenings Wednesday, September 21st, filmmakers from around the globe gather to debut their latest works in front of the discerning-yet-receptive audiences of Austin, TX. In terms of comedy, one film has emerged as the proverbial heavy contender; a black comedy about mortality, adulthood, and arrested development, Funeral Day is a biting tour de force with one of the more lively and able casts you’re likely to catch at the cinema this year. This Saturday, September 24th at 2:00 p.m., director/star Jon Weinberg’s Funeral Day makes its world premiere as part of the Austin Revolution Film Festival.
Funeral Day is the story of Scott (Jon Weinberg), a neurotic young man prone to more than his fair share of fits of hypochondria. When Scott discovers a suspect lump on his testicle on the day of his best friend’s funeral—a friend who died of cancer, no less—he skips the funeral and decides to start living his life to the fullest before it’s too late. Weinberg, who also directed, was originally drawn to the film because of sensibilities he felt he shared with the lead character. “Funeral Day was written by Kris Elgstrand and he had sent me an early draft of the script. I quite liked it at the time and it stuck with me. While I’m not quite as neurotic as Scott (my girlfriend might tell you otherwise), I related to some of the things he goes through and I really appreciated the comedy and the absurd situations he finds himself in.” Indeed, Weinberg’s appreciation for Scott’s plight is the element that anchors an incredibly sympathetic and nuanced performance.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Minnesota, Weinberg’s appreciation for the arts grew slowly over time until they manifested into career aspirations. After studying theatre at both the University of British Columbia and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Weinberg ended up in Los Angeles and began to forge industry connections. When it came time for Weinberg to embark upon making his first feature film, he recalled Kris Elgstrand’s quirky comedy and leapt at the chance to bring it to life. “I put together a team and we got to making the film. We raised some money, Kris did some rewrites, and we assembled the cast and crew,” says Weinberg. Several members of that cast came from high-profile film and television roles. “We were lucky to have such an incredible cast, including Tyler Labine (Deadbeat, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil), Dominic Rains (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Suzy Nakamura (Dr. Ken, Modern Family), Jed Rees (Deadpool, Galaxy Quest), Tygh Runyan (Disturbing Behavior, Snakes on a Plane) among others.” With his star-studded supporting cast in place, Weinberg set about constructing his filmic opus.
Like most—if not all—indie productions, Funeral Day boasted its share of challenges. Weinberg related one tale of a shooting day gone hopelessly belly up thanks to some stodgy neighbors. When location and casting challenges necessitated a new filming location, not all members of the neighborhood were thrilled to share the block with a movie crew. It wasn’t long before the fire marshal was called in, threatening to confiscate the crew’s equipment in retribution for the lack of filming permits. Thanks to some intrepid stalling by Weinberg’s assistant, the scenes were shot and the equipment was packed away by the time the fire marshal gathered the gumption to do anything. But while there were numerous challenges, there were infinite and unexpected rewards. During the crowdfunding phase, the Testicular Cancer Society reached out to Weinberg. Founder Mike Craycraft felt that the film could be an invaluable tool in educating men on men’s health issues and promoting early detection. Weinberg described partnering with the Testicular Cancer Society as “a no-brainer,” and their alliance was born.
Jon Weinberg’s Funeral Day is a clear labor of love and while it’s often easy to dismiss comedies—even dark and cerebral fare—as “frivolous,” it's films like Funeral Day that subvert that expectation and add prestige to the arena of independent comedy. Weinberg’s dedication to his vision is the same passion that typifies the filmmakers of the Austin Revolution Film Festival. It is only through honesty, sheer grit and determination, and old-fashioned ingenuity that independent films get made in the first place, but it requires an extra layer of clarity of vision and obsession to make a good film great. Jon Weinberg is the kind of filmmaker who proves that cream rises to the top; don’t miss your chance to see Funeral Day this Saturday, September 24th at 2:00 p.m. as part of the Austin Revolution Film Festival.