ARUN RATH, HOST:
The Netflix distribution model has changed the game in Hollywood. Now, we have another player - BitTorrent. That's an online file-sharing system often associated with piracy. But just yesterday, they started offering a brand new film, and they're asking downloaders to pay what they want.
The new movie is called "Hits" - the writer and first-time director, David Cross. He's the comedian you might know as Tobias on "Arrested Development." He was also the co-founder of "Mr. Show" with Bob Odenkirk. "Hits" is a dark comedy about our collective obsession with one thing.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HITS")
SUNNY EDELMAN: (As member of the press) And now, 45-year-old Dave Steuben (ph) finds himself a bit of a local celebrity.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: You're, like, officially famous now.
MEREDITH HAGNER: (As Katelyn) I wanted to be famous.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: Cory's famous.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Think tank will be famous.
HAGNER: (As Katelyn) I should be famous.
RATH: David Cross joins me now. Hi, David.
DAVID CROSS: Hello.
RATH: So first, set the story up here for us. This takes place in a small town in upstate New York - Liberty.
CROSS: So it centers around a father and a daughter. The father is a simple municipal worker who wants his pothole fixed on his street. And his daughter wants to be famous and just feels that she deserves fame 'cause she's an interesting person. And one of the videos of the dad ranting at town hall about his pothole ends up going viral.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HITS")
MATT WALSH: (As Dave) ...Because this town is a farce.
AMY CARLSON: (As Christina Casserta) Time Mr. Steuben.
WALSH: (As Dave) I can speak if I want to.
CARLSON: (As Christina Casserta) You just did.
WALSH: (As Dave) Oh, and where in the Constitution does it say that a man only has three minutes to speak? Show me, Ms. Casserta.
CROSS: And meanwhile, this is all frustrating this girl. She wants to be famous and desires fame, and her dad, who wants nothing to do with it, is getting increasingly famous.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HITS")
HAGNER: (As Katelyn) Dad?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Don't be scared, we're here to help.
HAGNER: (As Katelyn) Dad.
WALSH: (As Dave) Hey, honey.
HAGNER: (As Katelyn) Dad, what the [expletive] is going on?
WALSH: (As Dave) Oh, these boys - they're going to help me get justice with the town council.
HAGNER: (As Katelyn) What?
WALSH: (As Dave) Yeah, they're from New York City. Apparently, there's a video online from the council meeting the other night, and all sorts of people are starting to rally behind my cause.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: Yeah, your dad is about to be the most famous man in town.
RATH: The obsession with fame is something which runs deep through this film. And I'm wondering, as somebody - I mean, you got on TV 20 years ago now. How is getting famous or being famous different now?
CROSS: Being is probably not that much different. Getting to be a celebrity - that's changed dramatically. And that's what the movie's about - is that you don't have to show any discernible talent to be famous. And you - you know, we've all heard the phrase, you know, famous for being famous. I mean, look at Bravo now. Look at TLC. Bravo used to be like a legitimate network, I believe, like 15 years ago.
RATH: It was, like, arts and - yeah.
CROSS: Yeah, yeah, and now it's just [expletive], and the people that are - for the most part - that are on shows on Bravo are anywhere from bad to despicable. They're shallow people with terrible morals, terrible ethics. And then the people that watch those shows mostly watch it with detached irony, or supposedly - that's in air quotes - you know, but actually really do perpetuate the existence of that very show that they claim to hate and make fun of just by them watching it and writing, you know, snarky blogs about it.
RATH: Do you detest those characters in your film who are kind of from that world?
CROSS: You know, I don't like any of them. I feel - the thing with Katelyn is, I understand her. I mean, she's a product of her environment, and that's an environment that you and I gave her. I don't know how old you are, but I'm assuming we're somewhat in the same generational age. And this is the world we gave them. And as much as I feel like it's shallow and valueless, I don't fault her. I mean, that's where we are now.
RATH: And that's what, you know, people always say about the younger generation, right?
CROSS: Always - I'm very aware of that. I'm totally aware that every generation makes fun of the generation that comes after it. But still, I think we can all agree, no matter how old you are, whether you're 15 or 105, that the baby boomers were literally the worst generation in history.
CROSS: Let's all agree on that, at least.
RATH: So tell us about this distribution model that you've come up with and how it's going to work.
CROSS: Well, there's two different things that are happening concurrently. One is, the movie's available on BitTorrent as a pay-what-you-want package. Also, we started a Kickstarter campaign to get it into theaters, which we were successful with. And we were in 50 different theaters, and those are also pay-what-you-want.
RATH: So Thom Yorke from Radiohead released his solo album through BitTorrent last year.
CROSS: That was the direct inspiration.
RATH: What do people pay when you tell them pay what you want?
CROSS: I don't know. We'll find out.
RATH: (Laughter) You know, as somebody who's worked in public broadcasting for a long time, I think that maybe we're the founders of the pay-what-you-want model.
CROSS: Yeah, I concur with that, yeah - the pledge drives.
RATH: That's David Cross. His directorial debut was just released yesterday through BitTorrent Bundle. It's called "Hits." If you prefer the big screen, it'll be in select cities this month. David Cross, pleasure to speak with you as always.
CROSS: Thank you - you too.
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