Preview: 'Doucheaholics'

Local filmmakers do the douche with new comedy series
Elizabeth Mitchell, center, and Sean McCarthy are behind the new indie comedy 'Doucheaholics.'

The idea began during a play-fight, the sort a couple has, say, when quarrelling over whether "ridonculous" is legal in Scrabble. "Stop being a doucheaholic," Elizabeth Mitchell told her live-in partner, Sean McCarthy. He counter-accused: "I'm not a doucheaholic. You're a doucheaholic."

Inspired by the idea of a 12-step support group for douchebags, co-creators Mitchell and McCarthy spun out a series of seriously funny short films. McCarthy co-starred as the unfazed ringleader of the meeting, and Mitchell played a seething gothette.

Doucheaholics will be released on iTunes April 24 and Amazon on May 1. The South Bay-based filmmakers doing business as as Guerilla Wanderers, with Mitchell and McCarthy's collaborators Dustin Strocchia and Kevin Loader, spin out fictionalized versions of true tales of bad behavior. One is a rampaging suburban mom (Jenn Tripp) who flips out in an obscenity-rich tirade because she missed a yoga class. The best is "Miles and Madison," about an emoji-laden spat between two ornery tweens. McCarthy says the rewriting on this sequence went into 40 drafts; watching the strife between girls, "It made me thankful I didn't have to endure social media at that age," Mitchell says.

Guerilla Wanderers produces music videos, industrials and commercials in addition to their own indie comedies. They're based in a two-story office building on Industrial Road near the border of San Carlos and Redwood City. The main office doubles as a tiny screening room. On the shelves are some of the awards Doucheaholics won at various film festivals, from London's Raindance to L.A.'s Dances with Films fest at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

McCarthy uses a scheme of Walt Disney's—hammering out ideas in two separate rooms. Sessions begin with an anything-goes brainstorm; the process ends in a small conference room with no electronic distractions, to finalize decisions. "Here's where the daggers come out," McCarthy says.

Interns and other collaborators come and go as we talk: "I met my merry band while following my bliss," McCarthy says. He encountered Mitchell when casting his short film Superhero. Mitchell had previously been training as an actor in San Francisco, learning the Strasberg method. She got the part on the first try...not always the case in a Guerrilla Wanderers production, given that auditioning is a real effort. She remembers "250 auditions during the course of three days" for one film. Soon after the shoot was over, Sean moved in with her.

McCarthy's approach has evolved. When shooting the horror comedy Raging Cyclist (2005) on the bike paths near Almaden Expressway, he used the zero-budget style Robert Rodriguez pioneered in El Mariachi. Now it's "no more eight-day microbudget shoots," he says. Today the work isn't swiped off the streets as it was when he began, with the cops shutting down his shoots now and then. The films have developed into long-term projects with complex digital editing and slaved-over visual textures.

The Guerilla Wanderers try to focus on what both call "the 'why' of it all"—that is, the reason they create, why they continue in such a tough business.

Mitchell says, "We did it all on our own terms, but you get beaten into submission by film festival panels. I'd love to say, 'Look what we did!' and have that be enough. But unfortunately, that's not enough—there's also the effort of putting it all out there."

The pleasure they take in the work is infectious, though. McCarthy had just finished an extra for the Doucheaholics program—a version of "Runaway" by Kanye, filmed in the very same elementary school playground where McCarthy played as a kid. McCarthy was dressed up as one of the female ballet dancers from the West video. Mitchell, in black-clad Doucheaholics character, props up a wall, polishing off a bottle of red wine.

They're both pleased with the reception of Doucheaholics—"We're getting real laughs, not just polite laughs," Mitchell says. In the performances and the comic setups of this work, there's a lot of Silicon Valley texture, particularly in the way they capture the variety, mannerisms and aggressiveness of our local douches.

"It's a whole doucheverse we're trying to create," Mitchell says.

McCarthy adds, "As long as there are douches in the world, we'll be able to continue—it's like the way Law and Order will never end."

Apr 24, iTunes
May 1, Amazon

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