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Mark Duplass talks Netflix, his new HBO show, and ending Togetherness at TIFF

(Photo: Juanito Aguil/Getty Images)

On Monday night, Blue Jay, which stars its writer Mark Duplass, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Following the screening, Duplass and director Alex Lehmann headed to a celebratory dinner at a steakhouse attended by press like The A.V. Club. It was all pretty swanky, but Duplass knows many people are not going to see this movie in a theater and then head out for the night on the town. “I don’t expect everybody to pay $12 to see Blue Jay,” he told us before the festivities got truly underway. ”What I expect is heavy rentals on iTunes and then it’s going to explode when it hits Netflix. Because the person who has the curiosity and can watch it for free—they’ll be pleasantly surprised by it.”

Blue Jay is a film made for a Netflix audience, and that’s not meant as a pejorative. It’s part of Duplass and his brother Jay’s deal with the streaming service. The black and white two-hander follows high school sweethearts (Duplass and Sarah Paulson), who have a random encounter that leads to a night spent reminiscing, for better and for worse. It’s clear chatting to Duplass that he’s savvy about Hollywood’s new laptop reality even as he strives to develop intriguing material. “My goal, I should say on the Duplass side of things, is to make them movies that are ideally relevant, that are really well reviewed, and that have something in them that allow someone to click on it on Netflix,” he said. “And I use that as a limit to be creative and try and think about, okay, what’s that thing that will lead me to the artistic bliss that I desire as an artist, but can simultaneously be an image that will be successful for [Netflix] on their channel.” He’s come to the conclusion that “people like their indies indie,” and Blue Jay represents that scaled-down vision. “When people are going to snuggle up to Netflix and they want to watch something small and unique and specific they actually go deep on that,” he said.

Duplass is also practical. He responded to a question about the cancelation of his HBO show Togetherness with a glass half full perspective. By the end of the series, he admitted that he and Jay were “fucking exhausted,” and didn’t fight for it to stay on the air. “We didn’t go to the mattresses for it because there was this little part of us when they were like, ‘We may not be bringing the show back,’ we were like, ‘Oh my God we we’re so heartbroken,’” he explained. ”And then we were like, ‘What if our lives opened up and we could do all of these other things?’”

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In fact, they are working on an anthology series for HBO called Room 104, which takes place in a single room of a “$79 a night, corporate, boring-ass motel just outside the airport.” (Think Holiday Inn Express.) Duplass wrote half of the 12 episodes that make up the first season, and then reached out to filmmakers like Half Nelson’s Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden for the rest. “The heart of the show is about something that I really just deeply believe in, which is the closer you look at things that are honestly the most mundane things you can imagine is kind of where really great magic is and that is part and parcel with Blue Jay a little bit,” he said.

Blue Jay will have a limited release October 7, expand to VOD platforms October 11, and eventually hit Netflix within the year. Room 104 hits HBO in 2017. We assume Duplass sleeps never.

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