When Little Blue Men Fight the War at Home

Scott Prendergast on 'Kabluey'

Scott Prendergast (center)
Scott Prendergast (center)

The image came out of nowhere. Scott Prendergast was on an airplane when he visualized a little blue man with a giant blue head. A mascot costume of some sort? Thus the film Kabluey was, partially, born.

"I saw a giant round head with no face. I knew it had to be baby blue. He was holding pink fliers out in a desolate anywhere," Prendergast says, adding that when he blurted it out, the passenger seated next to him gazed back warily.

The second half of the film plot came when his brother, a member of the Oregon National Guard, was called to Iraq in 2002 with two weeks' notice, leaving his wife and their two young children in a swirl of chaos. Prendergast came to stay over the Christmas season and ended up lingering for two months. "Kids are sponges," he says. "They suck up everything around them, and their father had mysteriously disappeared. They were acting out, and they were horrible little monstrous children. It was awful. I hated the kids. They hated me. My sister-in-law was falling apart. And one day I thought, 'My God, could this be any worse?' And then I came up with the idea for a guy in that situation who has to have a horrible job, too."

The result, shot in Austin in the summer of 2006, is a film that is funny, tragic, and human. Prendergast, who got his break in the Groundlings comedy troupe, wrote, directed, and starred in the film as a Buster Keaton-esque everyman who in wordless moments evokes laughter and pathos simply through the way his blue-costumed body moves. A self-described control freak in recovery, he counts Me and You and Everyone We Know director Miranda July as a role model for making himself the star of his first feature film. "That film's tone is so unusual," he says, "and she is the embodiment of the movie."

Filmmakers scouted Salt Lake City and incentive-rich New Mexico before settling on Austin for its ability to provide the mix of unique looks Prendergast was after. The main set is a nondescript cookie-cutter tract home that he compares to something out of Edward Scissorhands, only blander. Add to that an office for a failing high tech company and those desolate back roads, and you have a film where setting reverberates as character.

Lisa Kudrow portrays the sister-in-law, who in the film is involved in an adulterous affair while her husband is off playing soldier. In real life, Prendergast's brother is back, and he and his wife have had yet another child. The director's sister-in-law approved of the choice of Kudrow but demands Prendergast remind audiences that this is fiction and that she's a faithful wife. The low-budget indie is elevated by a cast that also includes Terri Garr, Christine Taylor, and Saturday Night Live's Chris Parnell. The two boys are played by Texans, and the supporting cast and crew are largely local, so expect a party atmosphere at the Austin Film Festival screenings.

Saturday, Oct. 13, 9:30pm, and Tuesday, Oct. 16, 7:15pm, Bullock IMAX

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