The writer/director of Amanda And Jack Go Glamping, Brandon Dickerson, kept noticing something his guests had in common when they’d stay at Green Acres, the glamping resort he owns just east of Austin, Texas. People came out there to unplug and get back to nature, they had this expectation that spending a day or so ‘getting away from it all’ would solve all their problems for them.
Having helmed such heavier films like Sironia in 2011 and Victor in 2015, he took the opportunity to write and direct something a little more lighthearted, and the characters of Amanda and Jack were born. With their marriage of 15 years on the fritz, they take a vacation to Green Acres (where much of the movie was filmed) to try and salvage their love for one-another.
Before the film premiered at this year’s Austin Film Festival, we got the chance to talk to stars Amy Acker and David Arquette about the experience.
What made you guys decide to come together and make a movie about glamping?
Amy Acker: I think Brandon kind of brought everybody together. He was living on Green Acres. They started this glamping retreat with his family and I think he was inspired by the setting and decided to make a movie there so we got the benefits of his family deciding to buy some goats and alpacas.
How much time do you guys spend out at the Green Acres when you weren’t filming? Did you do anything to sort of immerse yourselves in the environment?
David Arquette: Well, I got to stay there before for a night and then we rehearsed there for a couple days.
Acker: We shot the majority of it there so I felt like we were there all the time.
Arquette: Hanging out there was fun. It’s really a cool thing. I mean, the script just sort of talked to me. Kathleen Sutherland sent it to me. She produced Boyhood and she knew my sister [Patricia Arquette] so that’s sort of how it got to me, I think.
You both portray opposing halves of a couple that are obviously strained but you still manage to sort of portray that even though you don’t you don’t have a lot of time on screen together, particularly in the second half of the movie. How do you work out that dynamic to translate on screen?
Acker: It’s funny, Brandon was talking last night about how he chose the first day of shooting to be the first scene of the move where we’re kind of butting heads the most on the way there, and it’s like an awkward car ride. But I feel like it was quick and fun and we got that little rehearsal period.
Arquette: Yeah, I mean, we had this really interesting rehearsal period where we kind of really talked about relationships and problems we’ve had in the past and things we’ve done personally, that I’ve done, blah, blah, blah. Just kind of relationship dynamics and we kind of broke it all down and, strangely enough, I know her husband. I did a play with her husband a long time ago. And she’d worked with Brandon before so, it just felt really like we kind of knew each other. It felt really comfortable very quickly.
Your on-screen relationship does have this lived-in feel to it.
Arquette: Yeah. And we’re in this house. We’re eating where you’d eat and, you know, she’s sleeping where you sleep. Made it very real. Made it easy for it to feel genuine.
And David, you have the task of making Jack a sympathetic character, despite being…
Arquette: Troubled. [Laughs]
Troubled in a way you can’t quite put your finger on, either.
Acker: What’s the fear of heights?
Arquette: I think there was a lot of childhood trauma that we didn’t explore. But that’s what I kept going with there. Just freaked out about everything. There’s a few people I know that are like that. That have lived their lives with things that kind of made this horrible impression while they were kids and it still haunts them so I felt like that was a lot of this guy. And also, I don’t know, just his irritability and his self-loathing is kind of easy to tap into.
There’s a certain neuroses that comes with being a writer.
Acker: Do you know?
I can attest to it a little bit on a personal level but at the same time I can climb a ladder without having an anxiety attack. So did you just sort of go with this internal monologue of childhood trauma to help define it internally?
Arquette: Yeah. Brandon really wrote it all in there. It was all in there. He just constructed such a beautiful script and had little nuances and everything so it made it really easy. There were certain things. Like, I was like, “Well, he’s just climbing up on top of a table. He wouldn’t be scared of that, would he?” He’s like, “No”. Like if you’re really scared of heights, like even that’s hard so I just trust him and embrace it and really sell that he’s scared to be up on this table and, you know, the way he shoots it too, it sort of sells that.
Did you two go off book at any point?
Arquette: Little moments maybe. Not too much.
Acker: I feel like maybe the ends of scenes, things were thrown in but it was pretty much written the way that it is in there.
On that note, was “Boys Don’t Cry,” which you sing in your big musical number, in the script?
Arquette: Absolutely. And I was freaked out about that. But he got the rights to it. It was incredible. I don’t know how he got the rights to all of these amazing 80s songs but he did and then I had to learn it. It was nerve-wracking. It is kind of like, yeah, just go out and do it and then you’re going to sing and I’m like, “Whoa, we need to practice this. This is, like, a serious thing.”
Acker: You worked hard on that.
Arquette: I did work hard on that. I could sing it much better than I ended up singing when we filmed it. I just get so nervous and never got the ukulele right. But I studied with Austin Ukulele Society. So that was cool. They helped me out.
I know they’re not in the movie a lot, but is it difficult working with alpacas and mules? There’s that old saying about working with children and animals.
Arquette: It wasn’t difficult at all. I mean, there was like little moments. They get scared really easily so you have to make sure everyone’s quiet. There’s tons of people around so certain things and then he very slowly comes over and then you find your moment and they don’t run off. And then really chasing him, we really did have to try to wrangle him back in there and it did take quite a while.
Did any of that make it on the screen?
Arquette: Yeah, some of it.
So, Amy, how did you find the character of Amanda? There’s a lot here dedicated to Jack finding the courage to overcome his neuroses and all that, but you really carve out a great character as well.
Acker: You know, Brandon had kind of showed me the script cause we had worked together previously and he says that he had written the character with me in mind so I think, for me, the hardest [was] maybe going back and watching it. I usually play characters that are a lot more further away from who I am in real life. For me it’s more uncomfortable to be someone who’s that similar to me and since he wrote it with me in mind, I guess a lot of the mannerisms and ways she spoke was similar to how I would be so it was fun and a way that would seem like it wouldn’t be challenging but at the same time, felt more uncomfortable.
Is it intimidating as an actor to play a role once you learn it was written with you in mind?
Arquette: Depends on what they write. If it’s like, “This guy’s a complete narcissist egomaniac.” Whoa. Okay.
‘And we had you in mind from the start!’
Arquette: [Laughs] Exactly. There are moments like that stuff happens. It’s pretty funny.
Has this experience inspired any glamping expeditions in your real lives?
Arquette: Well, I have a trailer. I have a 1939, no, wait, 1959 Airstream. It’s really cool. And I have it parked in Las Vegas. My friend has a trailer park there and they all live there in downtown Las Vegas. I go there and stay with them sometimes. It’s a little glamping check in.
Acker: We’ve gone a couple of times. There’s a place near Santa Barbara called El Capitan Canyon. It’s a fun little place.
Despite the circumstances of the film, it really does sell the experience.
Arquette: I mean, it was a beautiful film to be a part of and immersed in that world.
Acker: Yeah. I really want a yurt in my backyard.
Amanda And Jack Go Glamping Opens In Theaters On November 10th