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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Filmmakers Philip Burgers and Kitao Sakurai for "The Passage" @ Palm Springs International Shortfest


The Passage

Created by Philip Burgers

Directed by Kitao Sakurai

Writer/Actor Philip Burgers and Director Kitao Sakurai screened their short “The Passage” (2018) at the Palm Springs International Shortfest. The film is a comedic and creative tour de force about funny man Phil as he journeys through multiple continents, traveling the world in a single day without speaking a word or ever actually leaving Los Angeles, California. In Phil's and Kitao's words, “This film is about traveling and travelers.”

The short premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Nashville Film Festival and Best Comedy at Aspen Shortsfest, making it an Oscar-qualifying live action short film. Produced by Abso Lutely Productions, it will be released by Super Deluxe on the week of October 8th.

I sat with Phil and Kitao to talk about their film. Fittingly, we took some moments before speaking to watch the end of the world cup game between Germany and Sweden. Here is what they had to say:


Can you tell us about the theme of the film and where you shot it? 

PHIL: We filmed it all in a 30 mile radius of LA. But you don't know if he's left California or not. Living in LA, it's so multicultural that you can be anywhere and you have at least 80 different languages being spoken there. You have like Thai Town, Little Tokyo, China Town, etc. At the same time, I personally don't feel like I'm involved in those other cultures. I see them from a distance. You might go and visit there or eat there but you're never part of the culture there. So it's just like a funny feeling to be surrounded by that but not in it at all. The idea came from this longing to be part of all these cultures that we're surrounded by. It's about connecting and being involved in their world but then also being chased out of it. I'm from LA but I have a Dutch passport. My mom's Italian and my dad's Dutch. I lived in Europe for 10 years. I just love culture and travel. 

KITAO: I was born in Japan and I grew up in Ohio but I live in LA.


How did you meet and start the journey of making the film together?

KITAO: We met through a friend and became friends. Super Deluxe had been wanting to work with Phil for a while and I've been wanting to work with Phil too. So when the opportunity came up to make something, we got together on it. It was a synergy. We're both interested in similar themes and ideas. We're always exploring comedy and performance, trying to do it in not a typical way. That's what I love about Phil and the comedy he does, because it's a different approach to making people laugh and of looking at the world. 


How did you come up with the idea for The Passage?

PHIL: I got the idea from living in LA and feeling disconnected from these other cultures. Wanting to be a part of that, it was just inventing little scenarios where I would get sucked into their world. Then we found a way to piece it together and shape every world I entered into. It's endless too. We could keep going with it.


Will you make it into a feature?

KITAO: Perhaps. We're just pushing the film along. It's had a really good run and we're focusing on the Academy Award angle. 


What are you working on next?

KITAO: I'm working on a feature now that's coming out next year and I just directed The Eric Andre Show. Also, Phil and I want to do something together again. We're talking about ideas, whether it's from this short or not. We're open. I love collaborating with Phil and we want to do more. 

PHIL: I also run a theater in Silverlake, LA, called the Lyric Hyperion Theater. We do a lot of the same kind of work from The Passage but on stage. I love working together with Kitao. We have a nice balance. Our skills complement each other so it's nice to find that. As an actor, I have a film I'm in that will be premiering at the Venice Film Festival.


How was your experience at PS Shortfest?

PHIL: It was great. Just meeting other filmmakers and seeing other films. It's cool how international it is. I wasn't expecting that and that was really nice.


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An award-winning performer and creator, Philip Burgers spent half his life traveling the world, living abroad in South America and Europe, and mastering various languages, before training at the prestigious French clown school, Ecole Philippe Gaulier — a workshop that has trained Sacha Baron Cohen and Roberto Benigni, among others. Burgers toured the globe with solo and ensemble clown shows and family shows he created himself, earning the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show in 2012 with several other accolades for various work. He went on to create and star in television shows for Channel 4 in the UK, and a pilot for FX in 2014. Burgers also starred in a Netflix character special in 2016. He continues to create, perform, teach, and direct, as well as run the Lyric Hyperion Theater, which nurtures and cultivates new talent in Los Angeles, CA.

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Known for directing and executive producing Adult Swim’s groundbreaking late-night comedy The Eric Andre Show, Kitao Sakurai began his eclectic career as a child actor in Cleveland, Ohio. As a teenager Kitao dropped out of school, moved to New York and entered the world of opera and experimental theater, collaborating with renowned director Doug Fitch on productions at the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic, Lincoln Center and elsewhere. Kitao then shifted his focus to cinematography, lensing numerous rap videos and indie features such as Ry Russo-Young’s You Won’t Miss Me. In 2010 Kitao wrote and directed the internationally celebrated feature Aardvark and shortly thereafter began his collaboration with comedian Eric Andre.

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Super Deluxe is a premium, multi-platform entertainment company with the most engaging and fastest-growing channels targeted at creative youth. Known for developing culturally-relevant characters and story formats that resonate with loyal fan bases, the company produces an ecosystem of content, from scripted and unscripted TV shows to Webby Award-winning short-form videos and social media, interactive live programming, creative tech products, and branded campaigns. In 2018, Super Deluxe will have seven TV shows on Netflix, TBS, Facebook, AMC’s Sundance Now, and more. The Los Angeles Times has described the company as shaping the future of television and Fast Company has named it one of Hollywood’s Most Innovative Companies.



Abso Lutely Productions was founded in 2007 by comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim and producer Dave Kneebone. It began as a means of producing the surreal sketch comedy show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! for Adult Swim, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with the release of the 3rd season of Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories. By prioritizing the amplification of fresh and unconventional comedic voices, Abso Lutely has since become a destination for ideas that push the boundaries of traditional comedy. It produces shows for major networks including IFC, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, and Netflix, as well as the reborn Super Deluxe, and is known for spotlighting up-and-coming talents such as Nathan Fielder (Nathan For You), Eric Andre (The Eric Andre Show), and Kate Berlant and John Early, plus comedy veterans Scott Aukerman, Bob Odenkirk, and David Cross, to name a few.

Interview by Vanessa McMahon

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