Features and Columns

Fund This Film: Jay Duplass and Linas Phillips Take a ‘Manson Family Vacation’

By  · Published on September 7th, 2013

This past Thursday was Werner Herzog’s birthday. We wanted to get him something special, so I’ve made Manson Family Vacation the subject of this week’s Fund This column, because he really wants it made. “I want you to give them money for this film about murder and love,” he can be heard saying in the project’s Kickstarter campaign video. Oh wait, no, that’s just Linas Phillips doing his impersonation of the German director. Phillips, who you may know from his commentaries as Herzog for Tango and Cash and Every Which Way But Loose or his documentary Walking to Werner, in which he personally walks from Seattle to Los Angeles to meet the cinema icon, is one of the two stars of Manson Family Vacation. Here’s hoping he finds a way to slip the voice in this movie, too.

Phillips also made the indie road movie Bass Ackwards (which our own Rob Hunter did not like, to each his own), but here he’s simply an actor, playing opposite filmmaker Jay Duplass (Cyrus; Jeff, Who Lives at Home), who is also mainly just in front of the camera this time around (well, he’s executive producer, too). At the helm for this one is J. Davis, an editor making his directorial debut. In the film, Phillips and Duplass will be estranged brothers, one with his shit together and one not. Duplass is the former, a husband, father and lawyer in L.A. whose adopted older sibling (Phillips) shows up out of the blue wanting to go visit the Manson Family murder sites.

The Kickstarter page describes it as “a story about people who feel lost: lost in society, and in their families, and in their jobs. It’s about the strange ways we go about seeking connection in a complex world. And the ways we can ultimately redeem ourselves.”

The fraternal plot sounds okay, not all that original but conventionally often interesting, yet where the movie is mostly piquing my anticipation is in the Manson stuff. I like that the project’s campaign video goes much more into the Charles Manson background than into the film’s own narrative and shows a number of clips of Manson and his “family.” I really hope that material is actually in Manson Family Vacation, almost in a part-documentary sense. Regardless, there’s also some appeal in seeing Phillips play a guy who is obsessed with the murder-plotting cult leader. The word “disturbing” is mentioned in the video about the film, so that’s good too.

At this point the Kickstarter campaign is near the end, and with six days and less than $5k to go, these guys look like they’ll be easily reaching the very low goal of $40k. But that’s with your help. Or maybe you’ll put them over. Another thing I like about this project and its campaign is that it’s simple, cheap and involves very basic incentives that make a lot of sense. Like, just pledge the amount to get to see the movie. That’s the way it should be.

Watch the video below:

Do you want to see this film? Enough to help fund it?

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.