Jay Duplass talks ‘Transparent’ and making movies

“I think I can say this since I didn’t write or direct it, but it’s the best TV show that’s existed in years,” said series star Jay Duplass of “Transparent,” which just won Golden Globes for Best Comedy/Musical Series and Actor for Jeffrey Tambor, who plays Duplass’s on-screen parent.

The Amazon series marks the first regular foray into television for Duplass, who is better known for writing and directing indie (and indie-style) films with his brother Mark. “It’s actually difficult to tell which ones were made independently and which ones were made in the studio system,” said moderator Scott Smith at the Vancouver International Film Festival Industry Conference during an interview with Duplass, who has produced films that have starred Oscar nominees Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Kristen Wiig.

For this multi-hyphenate, the Coen brothers — prior to their mainstream success with “Fargo” (1996) –were the epitome of cool for filmmakers and a major source of inspiration for him. “Everyone in 1991 through 1995 wanted to be the Coen brothers,” Duplass explained and that included himself as he set out to make a film in their vein. “Honestly, throughout my twenties, I didn’t make anything good,” he admitted.

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His brother’s solution to their failures was to start over from scratch and one day told Jay that they would shoot a short film immediately without any preparation, budget or crew. The story came from an incident in Jay’s life the day before in which he had tried to rerecord the personal message of his answering machine and “failed.” They shot for twenty minutes straight and a seven-minute cut, “This is John” went to Sundance (watch below). “It did more for my career than the previous ten years of trying to be the Coen brothers,” Duplass reflected. 

In addition to “Transparent” and ongoing film work through his production company, Duplass recurs on the Fox sitcom “The Mindy Project” and has created an HBO sitcom called “Togetherness” that premiered on Sunday. “It’s like a feature film that just keeps on going,” said Duplass on how storytelling is different on television versus film. “It’s much more lifelike.”

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