Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin Talk Cannes Festival Comedy ‘The Climb’

I had the pleasure of speaking with the filmmakers Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin about their movie The Climb

The movie was written by and stars Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin and it explores the boundaries of two bike-loving close friends throughout the years. 

What would be your advice on starting up bike riding again? 

Kyle Marvin: You just gotta get on the bike! Find a cool bike shop that’s got some interesting bikes and give them a spin. Once you get comfortable, you really get into it. 

Michael Angelo Covino: I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was little. A friend made me go on a ride and I thought “riding bikes is more fun than I remember!” And once you get on your first ten-mile ride, you realize “oh my God I can travel distances?!” It’s fun! 

All you really need is a friend, if you have one friend who is into it with you you can hang out and catch up while on bikes. 

How was it like making a film with your best friend? 

KM: It’s great! 

MAC: It’s cool! We’ve been working together for over 10 years so we’re used to it and we’ve become friends through working together. 

And this started as a short film? 

KM: Yep! And that short film got into Sundance. When we got into Sundance, we realized if we know what the feature is, we need to pitch it while we’re here. 

And we pitched it at Sundance, we closed and secured funding for the feature. 

What was the timeline of going from short to feature? 

KM: It was extremely quick. 

MAC: We made the short, Sundance was in January, then we started shooting in August, then premiered the following night. So it was all about a year and a half. 

There were a few pieces in the movie with harmonized singing, how does that play into the film? 

MAC: It’s a homage to a lot of the movies we love. More importantly, after long continuous shots in the movie, it felt like we needed a palette cleanser in certain moments. 

The lovely thing about using music interludes to break chapters in the movie is it’s celebratory and it’s a reminder that you’re watching a movie. It’s not entrenching you further into longer takes. 

How much of this movie was scripted vs. improvised?

KM: It was basically all scripted. Because of the long takes and the coordination needed for that, it made things necessary for us to have a tight and well-scripted movie. 

If there was any time to improvise it was during the writing process. We really workshopped the scenes and we would try things out and experiment with it. Some during the rehearsal as well. Then when we got to shooting everyone had to be on script. 

How hard was it to wrangle talent when it was jumping from one conversation to another in the same house? 

MAC: It was tough, but it just requires a lot of rehearsal. All of our actors are amazing and they all have theater experience. 

That was the intention was to make sure we had people with theater experience. A lot of New York Theater actors. 

That was the goal so that these scenes could play out at ten minutes at a time. 

What inspired you guys to do the long takes instead of pulling away with different shot changes? 

MAC: It was fun to explore making a comedy with long single takes. It allowed us to find the comedic moments and the timing in the performance rather than having to edit for it later. It was a fun challenge and it fits with what we’re trying to do. 

I love the long take style with movies like 1917 most recently and Rope, what’re some of your favorite long take movies? 

KM: What was the German one that they did all in one take? Victora! The whole movie is in one take! They did it three times and it was done. 

MAC: There’s a movie called Reality, an Italian film. It’s really good. Children of Men, Birdman, there’s so many. It can kinda look like a gimmick, but as long as everything feels motivated it doesn’t. 

KM: It was something that we really challenged ourselves with because the long take is a novelty put into movies that people talk about. For us, we decided if it doesn’t work for what we’re doing, then we shouldn’t do it. It was a challenge we gave ourselves in the writing process to see how we could take the best advantage of that tool. 

When you guys were writing, Mike, were you always going to be the bad guy? 

MAC: We talked about playing both sides and we decided on this because I thought it would be more fun to play this character and he [Kyle] wanted to play the other one. But at first we thought to write it in the other direction. 

KM: We just chose what we were most interested in. 

Dig that! How cold was that water during the water fishing scene? 

KM: It was FREEZING! It was actually colder outside! The water was 30 degrees underneath the ice, right about freezing. But outside it was -16! So it was colder outside than it was underwater. We did that for real at a frozen lake in upstate New York. 

I heard you were in Winter Park for the skiing scene! How often do you both come to Colorado? 

MAC: Not as much as I want to! 

KM: When I was a kid, I used to come to Winter Park every winter. My friend lived up there. That’s how we have a connection to Winter Park. And they’re great, they let us have that Ski lift and they were super accommodating to what we wanted to do here. 

It’s super great! 

What made you guys decide to cast yourselves as opposed to hiring other actors? 

MAC: Well, I’ve done a lot of theater so I consider myself to be an actor. We played our roles in the short and we knew that the core of the movie had to be built around a friendship that felt honest and truthful and had a level of familiarity. 

We probably could’ve found actors but we felt very comfortable playing the roles and wanted to play them. 

What were your favorite scenes to film? 

KM: I actually really like the opening ride! It was a beautiful place, we were in France for it. We had already done one scene and we thought if we could do it again and get it, then we’re onto something. Chasing that felt really good. 

It was also a really daunting technical scene, I enjoyed it. 

MAC: I liked the Thanksgiving and Christmas scenes, had a lot of fun doing those. And the ice scenes were really fun. 

I loved shooting each of the scenes, different challenges in different ways. We would shoot shoot shoot, then when you got it made you realize you got seven minutes of the movie. 

KM: It’s like a sporting event, everyone got focused and there was an amazing energy that kicked in that was almost addicting. We only had two days for each of the scenes so we did one day of rehearsal and one of shooting. Everyone knew, that’s it. We were in those scenes and the stakes were really high. It was like an adrenaline rush. 

Mike, did you actually gain weight for the role? 

MAC: Yeah, I put on 25 to 30 lbs. It wasn’t that easy to gain, it was easier to get it off. To gain I had to overeat every day. 

KM: The problem was while we were shooting he was directing, acting, AND trying to shovel food in. 

Are you guys planning on making some more films together? 

MAC: Absolutely! We are actually writing a film right now. 

What’re some of you guys’ favorite comedy films that played into making this movie? 

MAC: Definitely the Farrelly Brothers movies in terms of the slapstick. Big Lebowski. 

KM: Anything with Jim Carrey. Monty Python. Holy Grail, everything becomes a memorable moment! 

As a Director, Writer, AND Actor of the movie, were their scenes where you had to juggle multiple hats?

MAC: I had to juggle all of the things. But it was about being patient with myself and giving us enough time to make decisions and review. It was nice because it was a slow process. Slowing down the process by doing long takes allowed us to reflect and make sure we were making the right decisions and not scramble through. 

I could act in the scene, then I could step away and watch playback, then I could direct and make changes, then go back and act in the scene. It was a process! 

What’s your favorite out of the three? Or do you love them all equally? 

MAC: I get the most enjoyment out of acting. But the others are rewarding in different ways. The acting’s fun because it’s in the moment and it’s immediate. 

So how long have you been making films outside of making them together? 

MAC: I made my first feature as a producer in 2010, 10 years ago. The summer of 2010 was the first movie I made. Made others in 2013, 2014, and 2015. 

I produced a movie called Kicks, Hunter Gatherer, Keep in Touch, a small horror film called Babysitter. 

In terms of the movie, what was your favorite moment? 

MAC: The moment we got in the camp. It was the most memorable. It was just pure joy and no pain. 

Did the long takes make it easier to edit? 

KM: The real challenge is you’re stuck with some takes that have great moments, then some not as good. We had to kill some great takes because of technical errors. 

MAC: Great scenes weren’t left on the cutting room floor, but takes with great performances and things in them were left behind.

What’s the next film? You said you were currently writing? 

MAC: It takes place in the world of youth football set in the 90s. It’s about parents and children and parents living through their children. And those children realizing that their parents aren’t the role models they thought they were. 

Be sure to check out The Climb which comes to theaters on November 13th! 

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