Creative Loafing: Why devote a feature film to sock puppets?
Lamousin: I wasn't initially interested in sock puppets - I wanted to do a spoof of film noir and detective movies. I wanted to write a short script that I could easily make. I thought about using inanimate objects, and then hit on the idea of sock puppets. I thought it would be creative and easy to do, but it was creative and really hard to do.
The film finds far more funny puns on feet, socks and laundry than I'd expect. Did you write with a thesaurus on your lap?
When I work on a project, I become hypersensitive to the subject matter. I remember watching a cop movie and hearing the line "I'm going to take you downtown as a material witness" and thinking "I've got to write that down!" I went online and got ideas from sewing terms and types of fabric. I tried not to use any pun twice - I had pages of additional puns that I couldn't find places for.
Were the sock puppets difficult movie stars?
The actors are essentially just as long as your forearm, so I had to find someone who could build in miniature. Jeffrey Zwartjes, who I call "the mad genius," used to work for the Center for Puppetry Arts and really saved us by making lots of our sets and puppets. Since the puppeteers had to stand, everything was raised off the ground about 6 to 8 feet. Plus, we had a set built out of paper and hot glue, and our actors were made of fabric, so it was easy to break things, and the scenes where we lit stuff on fire were incredibly risky.
Did people think you were crazy to make a sock puppet movie?
Fortunately, right after I finished, the script was a finalist in the Slamdance and Cinestory screenwriting competitions, which gave me something to back it up. Whenever I'd tell strangers about it outside the film industry, I'd get two very distinct reactions: It's either the funniest thing they've ever heard, or it's crickets chirping.
I understand the story has a 9/11 inspiration, which isn't what you'd expect from sock puppets.
My hero had to investigate something, and I thought, "Of course, a missing sock!" It needed to be more involved than that, though. This wasn't long after 9/11 and my mother in Baton Rouge was really freaked out, telling me, "Don't tell anybody you're Lebanese!" Which sounded crazy, but people who looked foreign had been victims of violence or vandalism. Film noir often involves war and espionage, so I thought, "What if it's Wool War II, and America's fighting the Wool army, but the hero, Terrence Cotton, is secretly a cotton/wool blend?"
How far can sock puppets take you?
The Lady from Sockholm has been accepted at film festivals in Orlando and Ontario, so that's where it goes next. I've written other screenplays, but lately I've been thinking about a sock puppet Western. I love the idea of doing more films like this and having the same "actors," like Terrence Cotton, play different roles. It would be like Wes Anderson's films, in which the same players keep turning up. Only the puppet version.
The Lady from Sockholm plays Sun., June 12, 5 p.m., at the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, 80 Forsyth St. www.rialtocenter.org.