Hyland's films and live performances are a regular fixture at Los Angeles' alternative comedy venues. He has also created and starred in two Comedy Central television pilots, one of which was co-created with Bob Odenkirk.
Yes and no. I grew up in Cincinnati and went to school in Cincinnati for fine arts. I also did a concentration on electronics, so I was making videos the whole time. It wasn’t like a traditional film school setting, but I was constantly making short films throughout college. At the same time I was doing a lot of art shows. I was doing graffiti for a number of years, and that was a big part of my life. But I did go to USC out in LA for a condensed summer semester after my freshman year in college and studied film production there. Also, throughout college I had two cable access TV shows, and there were a number of short films and sketch videos that I made for one of those shows. The other cable access show was a fake church show that I put on a religious public access channel. We posed as a fake church band, and we would get emails from people thinking it was real all the time.
Yeah it was. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I guess when I was little I wanted to be an actor, because that’s who you saw first in a movie. Then by high school I wanted to be a cinematographer. I remember when Nike was shooting a commercial in Cincinnati I went to be an extra to soak it all in. I was watching the cinematographer, and then realized that the cinematographer doesn’t necessarily call the shots. That was when I decided that I wanted to be the director. I wanted to be the dude deciding what happens. It was also around that time I started noticing movies like Boogie Nights and The Big Lebowski. Those films really stood out to me, and I started noticing the directors more than my favorite actor like you do when you’re a little kid. All through that period I was doing photography, and I was always making videos. I also performed live comedy to promote my short films and then would sell VHS tapes or give tapes away with my stuff on it.
I think it started in the summer of ‘99 when I took that semester at USC. I feel like those were the first shoots where I got to use proper editing equipment. They would be considered low budget by today’s standards, but those shoots felt like the first shoots that were official. One of the short films that I shot when I went to USC called Straw Scratcher played at a ton of festivals. So, I feel like that one was my first shoot.
It wasn’t really that hard. I was just really excited about it, and I really enjoyed it. It was still really small. It was just me and two other people. It was a fake mockumentary about a street performer. You know when you pull a straw out of a plastic cup and it makes that sound? It was about a street performer, and that was his instrument. I played that dude, and I directed it.
The most difficult thing was trying to get it all accomplished. There was a difficult time when halfway through the shoot we had actually lost the data card that the first half of the day was shot on. The film almost ended up not going anywhere. So the most difficult part was probably going through gravel and snow to find our card with all of the footage on it. It turned out my DP had left on a table at Starbucks, and, luckily, someone had turned it in. So, if someone hadn’t of turned it in, I wouldn’t have been going to Sundance.
I was actually sitting in the same seat I’m sitting in now here in LA. It’s funny, because they called and I missed the call, and I listened to the message. The woman from Sundance was talking a little bit quickly on the phone, but I wasn’t 100% sure that she said Sundance. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but of course they called back to tell me I got in.
It just felt nice to have a victory. (Laughs) For the past three years I worked on two of my own pilots that I created and starred in for Comedy Central which never got picked up. And then I worked on another pilot and a few other things. I mean it’s not a unique thing, but I had so many things on the cusp of a green light that didn’t go the way I had hoped they would. So, getting into Sundance is just like ‘Thank God! Something went where I wanted it to go!’
Well it’s based on life experiences, but I’ll tell you about when I came up with the idea. I go to church once a year, but I’m not really religious at all. My family goes to Christmas service each year, but all of us sort of get bored with the service, so we just end up doodling on the programs, and that’s sort of what we do to pass the time. That’s when I wrote Funnel. I wrote the outline for it and a handful of parts for it while I was at Christmas service.
It’s about a guy whose car breaks down, and he’s sent on a fantastically mundane adventure.
There are really three things I hope to get out of it. I just want to go and enjoy it, because I hear that it’s amazing, and try to soak it all in, and meet people, and all of that stuff. I don’t know, just do all of the things they say to do at Sundance. Then with Funnel, I’m in the movie, so I hope it will open up people to having me appear in their projects. And as far as directing, I hope it would open up some opportunities to maybe do a low-budget feature as my next project. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do is direct features.
I have a script that I’m almost done with for a movie called Day Pass. It’s about two energy-drink-pounding dudes who have their family heirloom stolen, which happens to be an Xbox, and it sends them on an all-night metro bus odyssey to get it back. That’s the next thing, and it’s based on characters that I’ve been working on for a very long time.
Actor, Writer, Director