Max Barbakow is a director and writer who has directed many shorts and documentaries. He talks today about his first feature film, Palm Springs.

You can watch Palm Springs on Hulu now!

How did you come up with the idea for Palm Springs?

Andy Siara and I took a weekend trip to Palm Springs in pursuit of an idea for a script and came back with the character of Nyles. That trip combined with Andy’s wedding in Palm Springs, a particularly fraught and tiresome wedding season of my own, and our desire to make each other laugh and better understand ourselves and our relationships eventually led to Palm Springs.

Writer Andy Siara and Nyles (Andy Samberg), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Willard/Hulu)

What were your main references and influences for the writing of the film?

Weddings, love, family, exes, heartbreak, a whole lot of pain and suffering, a fair amount of joy, babies, beers, burritos, death, war, violence, sex, drugs, and a big rock with a hole in it. And: The Great Beauty, Ram Dass, The Graduate, Alex Cameron, Dumb And Dumber, Anomalisa, Todd Terje.

Sarah (Cristin Milioti), Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Director Max Barbakow, shown. (Photo by: Jessica Perez/Hulu)

What is the biggest challenge to write and shoot a film about a time loop?

Doing something new in the genre and with the premise, and making sure the momentum of the storytelling lives up to the promise and possibilities of the narrative framework. Also, keeping track of the emotional throughlines within the timeline.

How did you choose your actors and key crew members?

We got insanely lucky that Andy Samberg responded to the script. He and The Lonely Island saw what we were after and helped us make it way better. In expanding the family, it continued to be about finding collaborators who understood our blended tone and the emotional engine under all the batshit energy, who were excited to come help us make it even better.

Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti), shown. (Photo by: Hulu)

How was the collaboration with Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti and J.K. Simmons?

They are three of the most hilarious, talented, intelligent, generous, creative co-conspirators a filmmaker can dream of. It was a thrill to watch them bring Nyles, Sarah, and Roy off the page and make them dynamic humans.

Director Max Barbakow and Roy (J.K. Simmons), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Willard/Hulu)

What were the main indications you gave to Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti and J.K. Simmons?

Keep it real, keep it grounded. I also tried to give them as much space and time as possible to let go and try things, to create a safe supportive atmosphere to play around in.

Sarah (Cristin Milioti), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Willard/Hulu)

How did you find the different locations and especially the villa with swimming pool?

The Internet. And lots of scouting. S. Dylan Kirkland was our locations guru and is now very well versed in all things “California desert villa.”

Sarah (Cristin Milioti) and Nyles (Andy Samberg), shown. (Photo by: Jessica Perez/Hulu)

If you were stuck in a time loop, what would be the craziest thing you would do?

Swim across Los Angeles through people’s backyards, pool-to-pool until I make it to the beach (hopefully improve my travel time with every go around), then try to join a pod of dolphins, learn their language, and bring them back with me. Or just stay out there. Live with the dolphins. I’d also probably try to go to make it to Equatorial Guinea a la Nyles.

Nyles (Andy Samberg), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Willard/Hulu)

What is your favorite “time loop” movie besides your own?

Groundhog Day, no doubt! Edge Of Tomorrow is great too. Other fave, though not specifically in the “time loop” genre is Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Blind Chance.

What is your best memory of this production?

Early in production: Andy and Cristin wreaking havoc on the wedding, terrorizing wedding guests and bringing us all to fits of laughter. Later on: Andy and Cristin getting more vulnerable up over a campfire in the middle of the desert night, moving us all to tears. Those two memories pretty much capture what we were after with this project. Also: all things Conner O’Malley.

Sarah (Cristin Milioti), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Willard/Hulu)


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