Lord and Miller return to the College with ‘21 Jump Street’
By Kate Sullivan, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The thing that acclaimed directors and general funny men Phil Lord ’97 and Chris Miller ’97 are looking forward to during their visit to Hanover today is an EBAs chicken sandwich.
“It’s hard to get a Portuguese muffin out here in Los Angeles,” Lord said.
Lord and Miller are the directors of the recently released “21 Jump Street” (2012) and the Golden Globe-nominated “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” (2009). “21 Jump Street” was the first live-action feature film that the duo directed, having come from an extensive animation background that began at Dartmouth. The two then continued with their cult-hit MTV show “Clone High” and “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” which the two wrote and directed.
“It’s obviously very different [working with live action],” Miller said. “You’re on set and you have to make decisions very quickly. The stress is the same — it’s just a lot faster. It’s compacted into a tight ball of stress.”
This high level of stress has carried over since the post-production and release of “21 Jump Street” to their upcoming animated “Lego” feature with Warner Brothers, Lord said.
“If we sound really depressed, we were trying to write scenes today, and it doesn’t work just yet,” Lord joked. “This call is going to give us the energy we need, with your youthful hope and enjoyment of life.”
The duo have honed their sense of humor and ability to infuse films with comedy for years. Their penchant for comedy can be seen in some of their earliest work, including a short project called the “Bronte Sisters Power Dolls” (1998), which features the British authors as collectible action figures. Miller and Lord said that their ability to continually produce comedic material arises out of hard work on and high expectations for each project.
“We are really hard on the material and typically start to hate it right away,” Lord said. “Only the stuff that really makes us laugh is the stuff that stays in the movie.”
Lord noted that the collaborative nature of filmmaking and working with multiple screenwriters adds to the humor of the final projects. The pair’s focused work ethic ensures that the scripts are solid before any other aspects of filmmaking ensues, Lord said.
“We take what everyone thinks is the greatest script, and we try to beat it up to within an inch of life to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be,” Lord said.
Lord and Miller, whose creative visions were cultivated while students at Dartmouth, said they are excited about the upcoming unveiling of the new Black Family Visual Arts Center, which will accommodate the studio art and film and media studies departments.
“It’s such a reminder that art making is an essential part of being a human being,” Lord said. “One of the things that’s really inspiring arts education is how it impacts people who decided to have their career in arts and those who go on to have other careers.”
As Commencement looms large for many current Dartmouth students who may be worried about their futures, the success story of Lord and Miller may serve as inspiration.
“We had an animation studio across from a corporate studio,” Lord said. “All the suits would come in, and we would be in our shirts and boxers with loud music playing with no job, thinking maybe we were making a big mistake.”
Despite their initial career fears, it is clear that Lord and Miller have been anything but mistakes at the box office. The College will welcome the filmmakers back to campus as they return for the screening of their recent film — and their favorite local eatery will be seeing them quite a bit, too.
“I’m going to eat an EBAs chicken sandwich for every meal,” Lord said.
Lord and Miller will be the guest honorees and speakers at the Arts at Dartmouth Awards Ceremony, which will take place today at 4:30 p.m. in Moore Theater in the Hopkins Center. The event aims to recognize the talent and accomplishments of Dartmouth students who work in the arts. The directors will also present an introduction to the Hopkins Center film special screening of “21 Jump Street” at 8:30 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium.