The term "film festival" typically solicits images of snooty parties, experimental films that are way too serious for cinemas, and actors who talk endlessly about how they "fell in love with the script."
But, as it turns out, they're not all like that.
Some, like the New York City Independent Film Festival, are just about cool, talented people getting the opportunity to come to New York and showcase their work to a creative community.
Jeff Ayars and Dan Rosen are two of those people.
The pair met in college and after graduating, co-founded Cannibal Milkshake Comedy, for which they write, direct, edit, and shoot their own comedy sketches.
They are best known for their movie parodies such as Canadian Sniper, The Revenant (Leo's Lost Outtakes), and Double O Dad, in which Ayars' all-American, just-generic-enough looks lend themselves quite handy in portraying the film stars we know and love.
This year, their comedy sketch Kinder: Tinder for Kids was selected to play at NYCIFF and won for best sketch comedy.
Yep, you read that correctly: Tinder for kids.
The sketch parodies the dating app we all have a love-hate relationship with. It imagines a world in which kids can set up their own playdates using the app, where "sharing a juice box doesn't always have to mean something."
It's just as hilarious as it sounds.
I had the opportunity to sit down with the pair and talk about the sketch, as well as the rest of their work together for Cannibal Milkshake.
First off, I know you're all thinking it: how the hell did they come up with the name 'Cannibal Milkshake'? Rosen says, "We were throwing around a lot of stupid names in Jeff’s parent’s kitchen the summer after we graduated, and we eventually settled on that one."
Ayars added, "It makes just as little sense now as when we came up with it, but it’s perfect for SEO."
I've got to give them credit there. I mean, if you're googling 'cannibal milkshake', you're either specifically looking for the comedy duo or you have some seriously questionable hobbies. And hey, those weirdos just may find a new hobby in Ayars and Rosen's work. Who knows?
Kinder is definitely one of their stand-out videos. How did they come up with this brilliantly on point concept?
"Dan frequently texts me joke ideas with little or no context, for instance: 'What about Kinder?'...To which I say something like, 'That’s a word, what about it?' Of course, once he clarified 'Tinder for Kids,' I was super excited and we probably spent an entire night texting jokes back and forth", Ayars says.
"We then started to think about if it was an actual app, how would it be marketed, and that’s when we realized we needed real kids to say these ridiculous things--just like you’d see in an e-harmony ad or something. Luckily, our friend Dana Berger (a hilarious actress!) offered to reach out to casting and acting groups to find the kids, and soon we had dozens of kids reading these absurd lines that we wrote."
The decision to use actual kids in the video was not only an effective comedic element, it also supported the social commentary Ayars and Rosen are making.
Rosen explains, "Kids all seem to have smartphones by middle school now, and their entire social worlds revolve around their phones and apps. So Kinder: Tinder for Kids was just plausible enough to be the next hot dating app, especially in our constantly-connected world where companies and startups seem to be chasing a more and more niche market with apps like Thrinder (Tinder for threesomes) and Farmers only."
And plausible, it certainly was. So plausible, in fact, that more than a few people thought the app was real. Their film parodies have also been mistaken for actual movie trailers.
"It’s a good feeling," says Rosen, "because it means we convincingly pulled off the tone and style, which makes the satire that much stronger. If these parodies are plausible to people, it says something about our culture that goes way beyond our silly sketch."
The sketch, silly as it may be, received quite a lot of attention even before becoming an NYCIFF official selection and award-winner.
In addition to receiving nearly 40,000 views on YouTube and being featured as a top 5 video of the week on Splitsider, the sketch was featured on HuffPost Parents, Gizmodo, and Social Times.
They're not just riding on their success, however.
Ayars and Rosen are pounding the pavement, creating new content and continuing their live performances of their sketches.
They've also recently collaborated on and completed season 1 of their web series, French Kiss, a quirky, comedic drama which was an official selection of the 2015 NYC Web Fest.
Clearly, they work very hard, and constantly.
So, what exactly is this process like for them? How do they come across their concepts and churn out material?
"Once we have a concept down, our writing process is a lot of Google Docs and coffee shops-- but the ideas are always sporadic texts or mid-conversation eureka moments," Ayars says.
"In terms of production, we’ll usually meet up on a Friday to polish the script, shoot on a Saturday, and not sleep until the video is edited by Monday morning. Right now, we have a lot more surreal app & tech-world sketches in the pipeline, and of course, I will always remain the bearded, blank white slate for Dan’s Hollywood parody desires."
Their forthcoming work will undoubtedly continue to garner well-deserved attention on the web, and we're psyched to see what's next for Ayars and Rosen.
Be sure to follow the duo on Twitter to stay updated on new projects and general hilarity.
If you'd like to see the gents of Cannibal Milkshake live, you can catch them perform in College Humor Night at the UCB Theater in Chelsea on Thursday, May 12th at 9:30 p.m., as well as Rosen's stand-up set in the Instantacular show at The Creek & The Cave this Friday, May 6th at 8 p.m.[Feature Image Courtesy YouTube]