EXCLUSIVE | “It’s been completely surreal” – Kyle Marvin on the remarkable rise of indie sensation The Climb

We speak to Kyle Marvin – the co-writer and co-lead of one of this funny and profound take on friendship

The Climb

LONDON – There was something quite amusing at the sight of myself sat down with Kyle Marvin in the swish restaurant at one of London’s leading hotels. The co-writer, and co-lead of indie hit The Climb has made a film that is accessible. it’s about real guys, doing real things. A candid exploration of male friendship. We didn’t quite fit in to the aesthetic that surrounded us, listening to bad jazz music, and eating tiny little tacos. We spoke in depth about this brilliant production, and just how much it meant to both Marvin and his collaborator Michael Angelo Covino, for this film to have travelled in the way that it has, with a successful showing at Cannes 2019 along the way. But it is now finally, being released in the UK – and here’s our lengthy chat with the man himself to whet you appetite, as we also talk about the power of cinema – at a time when we really need it.

The Climb
The Climb was originally a short

I loved the first scene, and even though I loved the direction the film went in there was a small part of me that thought… oh my God is this going to be like this the whole way through? Was that ever an idea?
Kyle Marvin: I mean, we joked about it. What if we just did a two hour movie on bicycles? I think what we did was we found this really special tone in the short film, so we wanted to expand that tone and feeling for the whole movie, and wherever we felt it ending we moved onto the next thing.

Did you have to do many takes? Because that must’ve been really tiring?
Kyle Marvin: Incredibly tiring. The whole movie is 12 takes, just long single takes. They all had their own particular challenges, but the opening scene especially, that was almost four miles of bike riding in a single take. The way we did all of our scenes is that every scene got two days, and the first day would be rehearsals, and then the next day we’d just do take after take after take and just go for it.

So how did you guys first meet?
Kyle Marvin: We meet in New York, I was in commercials and Michael was an actor, and he was on one of our sets as the talent and we hit it off. He was a filmmaker and asked if he could join me and we started making commercials together, which we did for 10 years.

The Climb
Imagine doing this take, over and over again

The film, and I mean this as a compliment, but it’s a bit mad. Offbeat, unconventional. I was wondering about the pitching process, getting people to fund this and back you? Because say you do a formulaic thriller you can pigeonhole it and explain what it will be, whereas yours is difficult to describe, so was it hard to get people to put their faith in you when it hard to describe what they were putting their faith in?
Kyle Marvin: Totally. I think it helped we had a short film, which is sort of the opening scene of the movie, and that was a really nice calling card for people to understand what we were doing. That helped because we could say, “it’s this – this is what I’m doing”. We wanted to make a weird bittersweet thing where you feel really sad but you’re laughing out loud.

They are inherently quite sad characters aren’t they?
Kyle Marvin: They are.

Was the profound elements something you wanted to inject right from the offset or did they evolve as the project was?
Kyle Marvin: That’s something we wanted to portray from the beginning. People have to care about this movie and at first we wanted heavier jokes and more jokes, and then we started pulling back a little on it. We come from a mindset that slow pace wins. If you set up a joke and that nine minutes later you pay it off, you’ll laugh harder than if we just kept giving you tiny little jokes that got exhausting. So we wanted to pace this, to take our time and breathe. So you’d forget and we’d hit you with something absurd.

It’s also displaying vulnerability in men, which is refreshing to see.
Kyle Marvin: That was something we were going after. The cinema that we were consuming were not portraying relationships that were totally true to us and our relationship. We have a relationship where we can cry, and we talk to our friends in very candid ways. So we wanted to portray that on screen.

The Climb
And again, and again…

How much of the friendship we see is based on your real life friendship?
Kyle Marvin: I think we drew from other friendships in our lives maybe more than our own. I think ours is pretty healthy and more normal, and not as funny as these guys. We just wanted to make a movie about friendship, a universal thing where people could say, ‘I have a Mike’, or ‘I have a Kyle’. That’s what we were really going for, trying to make those archetypes that were more universal.

So what was the idea behind keeping your own names? Take Curb Your Enthusiasm for example you have Larry David playing a version of himself, taking his own personality traits and amplifies them for comedic effect. Were you doing a similar thing, is that why you kepot your names? Or are these very much fictional creations?
Kyle Marvin: I think they’re fictional, I don’t think we’re that similar to the actual characters. There are pieces of our personality that we played up to like, like we’d say ‘Kyle you’re kind of a pushover’ and ‘Mike you can be an asshole sometimes’. But we wanted to blur the lines. We were unknown, so what a great thing to come out with a movie that blurs the lines of who we are. It’s us, but it’s not. That’s really exciting.

Talking of exciting, it was in Cannes! How has this year been for you guys? It must’ve been surreal?
Kyle Marvin: It’s been insane.

The Climb
There is also a wedding at the heart of this tale, it’s not just cycling

We’re sat here now in one of the most horribly swanky hotels in London, eating tiny tacos.
Kyle Marvin: [Laughs] This is very indicative of my year. Bad jazz music and tiny tacos. But yeah it’s been completely surreal. It’s crazy. We’ve been making stuff and putting it out into the world for so long and we’ve sent stuff to Cannes before but it’s never got anywhere. So to send something in the mail and have a French person call you up and say ‘congratulations’ is just insane. Then the reception has been beyond what we could have ever imagined. We’re just enjoying it.

It feels like people are taking a punt with this film as well? There are so many brilliantly creative voices out there waiting for a break – you must be thrilled people at Cannes, people at Sony, they took that chance on you?
Kyle Marvin: Totally. All of the people who have come on board and supported us along the way have all been unexpected in their own way.

Of course people will see influences from American indie productions, but there was something quite European about this movie. Did that come from an in-built passion for European cinema?
Kyle Marvin: 100%. There are many American directors that I really like and who I admire tremendously, but there were so many films I had not been exposed to my entire childhood which I then discovered later in my life, because I was becoming more nuanced cinematically, and they were all coming out of Cannes. They were different. People making different choices. Beautiful, elegant, tremendous movies were coming out of that ecosystem, and not just Cannes but all of European cinema. So me for me, being in that field is surreal, but makes sense as stylistically we were very influenced by European cinema.

The Climb
Okay, but there is a lot of cycling

It’s one of the best things I discovered when I started doing this as a career, was to be exposed to movies from everywhere. Because when I was a teenager, what I would go to see with my friends would only ever be English language films. Great stories aren’t limited to being from English language countries.
Kyle Marvin: Exactly, and everyone has the equipment, and everyone has the tradition now, and their own heritage in cinema, their own language in cinema. They reference films from ten years earlier which referenced films from 40 years earlier and you get this amazing depth of visual language that I think is so inspiring. To watch a Chinese movie and think… this has no narrative similarities to any Western film I’ve ever watched and yet I cried and I loved it.

Nothing brings us closer together as people that finding that emotional connection with people from completely different walks of life to you.
Kyle Marvin: Film makes you empathise, it makes you feel what another human being feels. If that human being comes from an enemy combatant country – which is how America feels, not how I feel – and you’re empathising sand feeling a deep, emotional connection, that is so much more powerful than animosity or fake news or whatever you wanna call what is going on.

The Climb is released on October 23rd

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