Jackass 3.5 Director Jeff Tremaine on the Future of Jackass and DIY Filmmaking

Despite the fact that the summer movie season is in full swing, only one new film opens in wide release on Friday: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Of course, if the idea of watching Johnny Depp do his Jack Sparrow thing for a fourth time in less than ten years doesn't exactly get your juices flowing, you can always open your laptop and watch Jackass 3.5.

Every Tuesday and Friday since April 1, new short films under the Jackass moniker have been released online via Joost. There are 35 currently available (for free, provided you're of age), with titles ranging from "rocket weenie" to "invisible wee" to "enema," which just posted on Tuesday. Why not simply release what has amounted to a feature length film's worth of content in theaters, especially since Jackass 3-D grossed $170 million worldwide last year? Director Jeff Tremaine rang up Movieline last week to discuss the advantages of this online distribution, the technical wizardry behind Jackass, and whether or not Jackass 3.5 will be the last time you ever see these filthy shenanigans.

What's the story behind Jackass 3.5?

Basically, we knew going in that making Jackass 3, that we were going to over-shoot dramatically -- which is what did happen -- but we also knew that every time we've made one of these movies, we've just really ended up at least a movie and a half of footage. And actually the success rate has gone up from the first movie to the second movie, almost every bit -- the bits were better that were left on the cutting room floor. And then when we made the third movie, we had a lot of bits that were totally movie-worthy. So, the idea was let's make something out of them other than DVD extras, because we felt they were movie quality bits.

Which begs the question, why not just release Jackass 3.5 theatrically?

Some of these bits, like for 3.5, they need a little context, so we go to a little documentary-style where we explain things. Then you see the bit, and why it failed or not, and by just explaining a little bit of backstory, it makes the bits really funny. It's a different thing than the movie, where everything needs to stand on its own. These are conceptualized a little differently. So, in a way, you get to use bits that wouldn't work in the movie, but work if you know what's going on.

Plus, if there's a film property that works best in three-minute online shorts, it's Jackass.

Oh, yeah. This works very well for my ADD. These short little bits. It merits standing on its own. It would just get buried on a DVD extra. Especially since our DVDs are so full of extra footage anyway. There's so many failures within our successful bits, and outtakes; there's so many things. The DVDs are a rich experience without all the bits that are freestanding. We did Jackass 2.5, and we were pretty excited about having a feature that is streaming. It's just sort of a new way to hit the audience.

Do you think that online distribution is a model that many films will follow in the future?

Well, it gets a lot of people talking. It becomes a press story because it's digital versus analog. But I just think Jackass works so well digitally. The fact that it can be broken into these little freestanding segments. That's how we did Jackass 3.5 with Joost -- we just put it out there as little, individual segments, because Jackass works like that. Not many films do.

It's interesting to me that you guys have been doing these lo-fi indie shorts for years, and now the rest of the film community is starting catch up somewhat.

We're the masters of that domain!

Exactly. You're basically one of the trailblazers for the DIY film movement.

We still have that mentality. I'm very much -- I like to wear every hat. We're very much into the DIY aspect -- we're very proud of it, and its DIYness adds to the aesthetic of Jackass. So, moving forward, I think that will always be a part of me. I always struggle to just wear one hat and just have this huge crew. One of the struggles of Jackass 3-D was having so many people to wrangle. The 3-D crew added a lot of people. But really everyone adapted to how we did things, and everyone was cool about it, and it worked. Our do-it-yourself, half-ass-ed-ness. (Laughs)

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