The Nix Bros. like what they see in Denver’s camera-ready comedy sceneBy John Wenzel | July 10th, 2012 | No Comments »
For a pair of filmmakers with no budget and only four days to shoot, Evan and Adam Nix packed a lot of Denver into their music video of the same name.
With the help of local producer and comedy booster Andy Juett, the Nix Bros., as their creative partnership is called, brought Denver-bred comic T.J. Miller’s song to life with shots of Miller bathing in beer outside Pete’s Kitchen, cliff-diving at Casa Bonita, breakdancing at Civic Center and cavorting at the foot of the big blue horse sculpture (a.k.a. “Blue Mustang”) at Denver International Airport, among other locales.
“It’s been a hell of a process editing it,” said Adam Nix, 25, the younger of the two brothers who stand about 6-foot-5 feet 5 and are often mistaken for twins.
“More than anything I’m just excited about the opportunity that we had to work with T.J., and I’m sure it’s going to be a little bit of good exposure for the Nix Bros.,” added Evan, 28.
Indeed, not only is Miller a rising Hollywood name, but the video for “Denver,” a track off his 2011 comedy-rap album “The Extended Play E.P.,” will premiere before the Film on the Rocks showing of “Bridesmaids” at Red Rocks on Tuesday. It also premieres exclusively online at here on Wednesday.
It’s a moment the Nix Bros. should savor because, since the video represents their highest-profile collaboration yet amid many and overlapping creative pursuits.
In addition to the dozens of online Nix Bros. comedy videos and shorts — they’ve collectively nabbed about a million views on YouTube and FunnyOrDie.com — the duo runs the Laugh Track Comedy Festival, which marks its third year at the Oriental Theater Aug. 2-4. They also play in the absurdist synth-pop band Total Ghost, which has taken on a life of its own despite starting as a total joke.
“It was a birthday video that Adam and his roommate Randy (Washington, Total Ghost’s singer) made for my now-fiancée,” Evan said. “The idea was like, ‘We weren’t sure what to get you, so we reached out to this European pop group that makes custom birthday songs for money.’ She obviously immediately figured it out, but it was really funny so we showed it to other people, and it got a good response, then put it online and it got an amazing response.”
The party-ready group has played about 70 shows in Denver since 2011 and counts super-fans such as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk (of SpaceX and PayPal), who once offered to fly the brothers to Germany to perform for him in person.
Tales of filmmakers falling backward into cult fame aren’t hard to find, but less visible are the years of trial-and-error that lead to those moments. And the Nix Bros. have plenty of the latter.
They were born in Denver but grew up about 20 miles outside of Las Vegas in Boulder City, Nevada (population 15,000), where their father was a city council member.
“We were kind of hoodlums,” Evan said. “We got caught once after breaking into this housing development that was under construction and causing a couple thousand dollars’ damage by glueing windows shut, throwing things down the stairs and just beating it up.”
“Our dad lived on a golf course so there was also a lot of us screwing around, digging holes and doing all sorts of things you’re not supposed to do on a golf course,” Adam said. “We’d make dry ice bombs and blow things up so we could play them back in slow motion or reverse.”
Getting a VHS camera in high school gave the brothers something to focus on, leading to countless experimental films that further staved off their crushing boredom. They studied filmmaking at the College of Southern Nevada and made shorts like “Lowell Gleason Wears Glasses” before transferring to the Colorado Film School in 2006, all while submitting their work to films festivals and building their name.
In Colorado they made the cheeky documentary-style video series “Rainbow Chasers” (a spoof on meteorological storm chasers), which featured comedian Nathan Lund — a buddy of theirs from back home.
“They were immediately the coolest guys,” said Chris Charpentier, a Denver comedian who acted in “Rainbow Chasers.” “And that’s where I met Nathan Lund, too.”
Charpentier and Lund went on to form the Fine Gentleman’s Club comedy troupe with Bobby Crane and Sam Tallent — a group that runs Denver’s weekly Too Much Fun showcase, and that has worked with the Nix Bros. ever since.
“They’re both really funny dudes,” Charpentier said. “Adam is super shy, the introvert, and Evan is more outgoing. But they work together better than anybody I’ve ever seen. They’re one person.”
The Nix Bros. are well aware of how many brother-filmmaking teams are out there (the Coens, the Farrellys, the Hughes, the Wayans, etc.) but insist their creative relationship isn’t all freaky telepathy and intuition.
“We both have deep voices and talk at a level that is hard for most people to hear,” Evan said. “So they think we’re communicating without words, but really we’re carrying on full conversations. You just can’t hear them.”
Both brothers have jobs at advertising agencies — Adam at Boulder’s massive Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Evan at Denver’s tiny Image Brew — but have continued honing their skills with a number of silly videos, such as “Thom Yorke Has to Pee,” which garnered more than 220,000 hits on YouTube.
All in the edit
Lately the Nix Bros. have been shooting and editing a video series for the Grawlix, a web-only offering based on a monthly alternative comedy show featuring Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl and Ben Roy. The eight episodes have added up to about an hour and a half of footage — roughly a full-length feature — and they’ve gotten some feedback from some unexpected places.
“We’ve heard our name come back to us through our sister (Alison) who lives in New York and is a really successful model,” Evan said.
The brothers shoot the videos quickly but spend weeks sharpening the edits for each episode.
“I’ve never worked with anybody that fast,” said the Grawlix’s Andrew Orvedahl. “On most shoots it’s like delays and re-shoots and it’s just grueling and not even fun. But these guys are hilarious and prepared. Instead of having big egos they’re just confident in their abilities.”
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that’s starting to pay off for the Nix Bros. Most episodes have been featured on the homepage of FunnyOrDie.com — a popular website founded by comedy heroes Will Ferrell and Adam McKay — and it’s given the brothers a surfeit of original material to interpret.
“There are plot points that go through episodes, so it’s like long-form storytelling in a way,” Evan said. “The thing I like most about it is that we’re telling stories. Everybody who goes to film school just wants to tell stories.”
John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and blogs editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.