Deconstructing the Duplass Brothers: Like Brothers – Finally, A Book that Celebrates Failures in Filmmaking

Part memoir, part eclectic life navigation, part celebration of failure. Like Brothers is a tour of the Duplass brothers’ sibling brain on films, screenwriting, and unique insights into our shared foibles.


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Part memoir, part eclectic life navigation, part celebration of failure. Like Brothers is a tour of the Duplass brothers' sibling brain on films, screenwriting, and unique insights into our shared foibles.

Duplass Brothers… book… whhhaaaattt?!?!? My sometimes slow-mo leftover-Lymey brain totally fired on all synapses when I found out the Duplass Brothers (aka Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass) had gone old school and written a book, Like Brothers. And then Ballatine Books kindly mailed me a copy to dig in before the brothers talk. Yep… somehow the Universe double gifted not just a book but also a book tour passing through San Francisco, only a couple of hours away.

A Duplass Brothers Book You Say

Since the Duplass Duo is on my “Superhero Indie Film Inspo List” (aka In a Multiverse We Work Together), I jumped into an all-nighter read. Seriously, try to stop reading. This book is a box full of twisty glazed donuts that you can’t walk away from until you snarf the last crumb.

Admittedly, I was super grogs at work the next day, but the day job ain’t feeding the soul.

But Like Brothers will.

Superhero Indie Film Inspo List

*Your Superhero Indie Film Inspo List may vary.:)

A free flow of part memoir, part eclectic life navigation, part celebration of failure. This book is kind of a Being Duplass Brothers tour of their kismet-y sibling brain on films, screenwriting, and unique insights into our shared foibles.

A wonderful sense of solace permeates the book – that no matter the market, these brothers will keep bringing their A-game to independent storytelling, across genres and across genders.

So, about that celebration of failure…

Most writers and filmmakers blip over missteps when that’s the primo learning stuff we’re all jonesing for. A flash of recognition that we all have to stumble about, on and off the beaten path, to telling a great story and living a creative life. So maybe we should more fully embrace failure in our learning curves. The Duplass Brothers sure do.


The Duplass Brothers Infuse ‘The Do-Deca-Pentathalon’ with Character-Driven Truthfulness


Like with Vince Del Rio, their first feature film. Wait, what? The Puffy Chair is where the Duplass Brothers myth amps up, right? Yeah, not so much. Apparently, Jay and Mark flip some corporate documentary money (great story there!) into a movie they both call “just kind of… blah.”

Wow, that’s a hard-earned truth. Blah… like the blah opening that won’t fix itself 15 pages in or the blah main character who keeps flipping into reactive mode when she should be heading down a proactive path. Blah… the un-doer of hours of our hard work and the hardest Band-Aid to rip off when you just want to keep hobbling forward.

But Mark and Jay convey a sense of hope throughout Like Brothers, how-to steps to get beyond the blah in your stories and in life: “The good news is you don’t need connections or nepotism on this path… You just need to be desperately driven, hard-working, and honest with yourself.” Check… check… and oh, crap. That’s a tough one… check with an underline, so I don’t forget that inner honesty thing.

Part memoir, part eclectic life navigation, part celebration of failure. Like Brothers is a tour of their sibling brain on films, screenwriting, and unique insights into our shared foibles.

Shared Tidbits from Like Brothers Talk

So, the perfect bookend to reading Like Brothers is a book tour stop in San Francisco. Prior to that night, the Duplass Brothers seem to be in my periphery. Yeah, we don’t roll in the same circles for sure. But my first time working the Sundance Film Fest was the year they produced and released the ground-breaking iPhone-filmed Tangerine. And then my first Tribeca Film Fest this year had the release of the Duplass-produced Duck Butter.

And I’d rolled through their filmography in a sporadic forward-backwards order since I’d hopped into the Duplass filmography slipstream at Togetherness. They’d reeled me in with a pierogies reference in an episode set in the Midwest. Then even more recently, Table 19 just ridiculously gets me – the kind of real dialogue you expect the Duplass Duo to throw down with such precision and love.

But that Saturday night in San Francisco, they were in front of me in full-on Duplass technicolor. Hell, yeah. This was the night to be in the now. So in the spirit of real time, here’s some Mark and Jay back-and-forth free flow, with bursts of insights and inspiration. Almost like you were there.

Setting priorities… this one is a brain stopper…

Mark: Ask yourself, before you make anything, does this offer something that I don’t feel guilty about not getting to?

Being an original voice…

Mark: 12 years of failing before I realized that one.

Jay: Now we have survivor’s guilt, to teach others to avoid our potholes.

What about ego…

Jay: Ego’s first to go.

Mark: Best thing that ever happened to us as artists.

Then they re-lived 2002’s This is John by showing the Sundance-selected short. Or as Mark quips, “The tragi-comedy of our lives.” The feeling of all-is-lost-over-the-little-things still holds up, no matter the technology.

Joys and trials of collaborating and filming…

Mark: Will you help me raise my C- idea to something that is applicable to others?

Jay: Learn to live in chaos on set. Create this environment where lightning can strike for improv.


Cracking the High Concept Code – How to Elevate Your Movie Idea


Inner workings of their brains…

Mark on his brain: My brain is spastic and fireworksy.

Mark jumps in on Jay’s brain: If you give him space and time, he can find something unique.

Ending thoughts…

Jay: We spent six to seven years raising funds and no longer filmmakers. It’s better to make stuff cheaply. You can fail and still recover.

Mark: Lead with kindness and raise everyone up with us.

Bonus Life Lesson – One Out of Five  

Chapter “One Out of Five” – darn it. My fingers are poised to tell you about this special chapter, but that’s not fair to either of us. Let’s just say this chapter will stop you short on that all-nighter reading jag. As if you could shake the book sideways and Mark would tumble out, to finish the story in person.

So, just stop. Put the book down. Let the moment wash over you. All I can say is… be in the now for this one. For bona fides.

More articles by Cheryl Laughlin

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