Short Starts: Watch ‘Gangster Squad’ Director Ruben Fleischer’s First Film ‘The Girls Guitar Club’

By  · Published on January 6th, 2013

Ruben Fleischer is on a roll right now, with his third feature in four years hitting theaters (a bit delayed) this Friday. Before Gangster Squad, he directed the dark comedies Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less, and long before that he made his first film, a short from 2001 titled The Girls Guitar Club. Producing and directing off a script from the comedy duo of Karen Kilgariff and Mary Lynn Rajskub (both of whom were then perhaps best known for Mr. Show), Fleischer thought it would be his calling card for jumping into Hollywood.

“I basically spent all the money I had saved and was sure that movie deal offers were gonna come and I’d be directing pilots [for] television shows,” he told Collider back in 2009. “And as soon as people saw the short film, but of course people thought and said, ‘Oh that’s good,’ and [then] nothing ever really came of it.”

Perhaps the reason is that it does seem more a showcase for Kilgariff and Rajskub’s Tenacious D-esque musical satire project, especially given that this project shares a name with the film’s title. That same year, though, they could also be seen performing a humorous number in Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s marital drama The Anniversary Party. Over the next decade, the two found other success, Kilgariff as a writer and producer for Ellen DeGeneres and then Rosie O’Donnell, Rajskub a character actress now best known for the TV series 24 and films like Punch-Drunk Love and Safety Not Guaranteed. Fleischer meanwhile “had to start from scratch” and gradually got his foot in the door for good.

The Girls Guitar Club also features Nick Swardson (who reunited with Fleischer for 30 Minutes or Less) in one of his first screen roles, Dave Allen from Freaks and Geeks, and popular singers Grant Lee Phillips and EELS’ Mark Everett. Kilgariff and Rajskub play employees (owners?) of a vintage store, but they’re in the process of learning guitar and writing silly songs about their lives (in real life The Girls Guitar Club act was a parody of ’90s indie girl rockers). Everett plays an “indie music guy” who tells them to record a demo, which seems to empower them in a way that they hadn’t intended.

I think it’s a cute little short and reminds me a lot of people and places I knew in the ’90s (maybe it was a bit dated when it was made?), and I’ve always been a fan of Rajskub because we don’t get enough character actresses of her kind. Watch in full below and let me know if you think it should have brought us Fleischer features much earlier or if you think Hollywood was right to ignore him back then.

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.