Noah Marks on his political comedy ‘Dragon Eats Eagle’

Photo provided by Endeavor Media & Entertainment
Photo provided by Endeavor Media & Entertainment

Writer/director Noah Marks brings a fresh take on political satire with his new film, Dragon Eats Eagle.

Dragon Eats Eagle is kind of like Dr. Strangelove meets Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead as it breathes life into one of the many fan fictions existing around the origins of the coronavirus in a funny but morbid way. The film is about two low-level but immortal government workers follow orders from their absurd superiors that will determine the fate of their country in a film nobody would make but everyone wants to see. 

Dragon Eats Eagle stars Kathy Richter, Harrison Marx, Charlie Ferrara, William English and even features Noah himself in a role. 

Check out our interview with Noah:

Where did this film, Dragon Eats Eagle, come from?

Noah: So Dragon Eats Eagle basically, was an idea that somebody came to me with that I always felt was very low hanging fruit. So I did a couple of features so far, like before I started dragging his eagle and the final he became the financier but he came to me saying, ‘you should do a movie about the state of the world and the state of America.’ And I was like,’ I guess that would be funny,’ but I don’t really want to do that, like it’s not that interesting to me. I don’t particularly like politics. I’m very knowledgeable about politics, but I’m not– I don’t love it. I don’t find it that interesting. It’s necessary but, you know, usually in films it never goes that well. But then I watched a movie called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead with Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, and I was blown away by how they took this grandiose play of Hamlet and just focused the play on these two real nincompoops, for lack of better terms, who just kind of wandered around and were just hanging out and they get blamed for, you know, the terrible things that happened in Denmark. And I said, ‘you know what, that is a good idea. If we could take the political landscape of the United States and just put it in the eyes of these two, you know, immortal college roommates,’ and that was kind of the idea. And I knew that if it was a buddy comedy, I would find it enjoyable. And then the research started coming after that and I just hit the ground running.

How much research did you have to do and what specifically did you research?

Noah: First I wanted to know about the main two characters, Tucker and Ralph, so I just did a bunch of research on where they would be and what they would do. But a lot of it never made it into the film itself just because, you know, if we wanted to do a scene in ancient Egypt, that would cost quite a bit. But it also wasn’t that relevant to the film. But I researched a ton on like, political philosophy, and philosophy that boiled down to– in the world, there are always going to be three variations of these three things: communism, socialism, capitalism. And I basically, in terms of the film, would assign a character one of these ideologies and then kind of work with the ideology as well as the character to kind of see what they would really want, and at the same time, I’ve just made fun of things on each part along the way. So, it was a lot of political reading and a lot of philosophical reading about how civilizations are kind of put together in a way and how, you know, complacency in a certain government or to servitude in a certain government can react poorly on an individual. And so there was a lot of reading along that and a lot of reading about just the history of American politics as well.  

That’s really cool. I am not that knowledgeable about history and politics. 

Noah: I always wanted it to be based on some sort of fact, because, in a way, if you have an unopinionated piece of information, it’s hard, it’s– all jokes stem from facts, like one of the most human jokes is if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. And so every joke has a butt or a person or a group that is kind of being made fun of, so I knew as long as there was an unopinionated piece of information, it would be hard for somebody to take that much offense to it.

Gotcha. In creating a political comedy, obviously, there’s going to be people that love it and people that really hate it. Did you have any reservations about creating this film and what jokes to put in?

Noah: I knew going into it that that was part of the point. Half of it was to be controversial because controversial stuff is entertaining, but I also wanted to do something that was unifying in a way where anybody could kind of sit back and laugh at the absurdity regardless of what side you’re on. But when it came to reservations, absolutely. There is the plague in the film, which the plague is clearly regarding COVID, but I never wanted to say that COVID wasn’t real and it wasn’t a real disease and a real illness that caused a lot of heartbreak and a lot of people to have a lot of trauma. The plague in terms of the film itself was just a plot point. It was just a device in order for a lot of things in this grandiose play to happen. So that was one of my big reservations for writing. It was never supposed to be about the plague, it was supposed to be about the ideologies themselves.

And this comedy is also called a tragedy, like upfront you say that this is a tragedy. Can you explain that a little bit?

Noah: Sure. This is where it gets a little meta and a little philosophical in a way where it’s a tragedy for American people because the whole idea and I’m really not one sided myself, I have my own opinions and things that make sense make sense to me things that don’t don’t, but I do know that a thing that is important for me is individuality and freedom. And the United States was built upon that idea of freedom. I know some people will take that idea of freedom and kind of take it to an extreme in some ways, but freedom to me is just freedom of self expression and things along that nature. And when you become so in love with being a kind of a servant to the government in a way, you forget that the government in the first place, at least in America, was always meant to serve the people and it’s kind of been reversed. So it’s a tragedy for Tucker and Ralph’s character who, for me, embody the common man, the American worker, the American person who wakes up and works for their family, works for themselves, works for something of meaning and something of value or something societally. And when that kind of individuality gets pummeled, in a way, it’s a tragedy, because you lose your sense of self. It’s kind of more philosophical and less, as fun as the film is, but in terms of the tragedy part, I would say, for me, that’s what it is. The loss of individuality and the imbalance that happens after it.

How did you settle on Dragon Eats Eagle as the title?

Noah: It’s interesting. There’s no antagonist really in the film. And so it’s– when I say a dragon, you know, the Chinese dragon is not real. You know the one in their legends, from Chinese folklore and all that, and neither is the real American Eagle. But they’re both symbols for their countries. And so when there’s a prey and a predator, the predator does not feel for the prey in any way, it doesn’t feel bad, it doesn’t feel good, it’s just doing it for a sense of survival. And in terms of Dragon Eats Eagle, it was the ideology, obviously, which is a more communistic force that is made fun of in the movie, and there’s also the very capitalistic force of the eagle that is made fun of in the film and it was basically just the natural occurrence that I thought was going to happen– one day the dragon will eat the eagle. And that’s it in terms of just those political ideologies, and so there’s no antagonist, the film is very gray and what’s right and what’s wrong, but all you know is what is wrong is that the people matter. And that’s kind of the idea behind it.

What was it like working with your cast?

Noah: I love the cast. I love every single cast member to death. I love everybody who was on the crew. There were two groups, the politician groups that were made up of older actors and there was Tucker and Ralph who were both in their 20s and so on both sides, I had a very familial sense going to set every day because, you know, with Tucker and Ralph, they’re almost like brothers to me and we would have a great time. And then when I was with the older cast, I learned a ton from them and I was able to give them some ideas as well. It was all very, very familial and communal and it was just a pleasure to work with everybody. Kathy Richter, who plays Madam Evergreen is spectacular on and off screen. And Bill English, I would have to say is just a force of nature on and off screen. He plays the father of the Zeitgeist, the leader of the Z with the big nice beard.

You also act in your movie. How do you balance writing, directing and acting?

Noah: It’s an unfortunate process of sweating and having to re-put the mustache on every take. It’s tough on set for sure. And I’ve done it before, but I have a feeling this is probably gonna be my last time acting for a while just because there are people who study it and are far better than I am at it. This one for me was a bit more natural because I’m just kind of a more animated person. We had some actors come in and some things just didn’t work out for casting Rich Jonsie, but it is a difficult, difficult feat. Once the writing is done, the writing was kind of done for me. We would do little rewrites here and there, but it was all pretty much on the page. And directing– thank God for my cinematographer and Director of Photography, her name is Julia Nesterova, she is Russian. She basically took over when I was acting and to have somebody as spirited and as hardworking and as competent as her just made my life so much easier.

Is there anything that you hope the audience takes away from watching this movie?

Noah: Well, there’s no real meaning that I kind of, not meaning, it does not really have a message, like I never want to put a message in there like you know, do this or be that, it’s more like creating meaning through whatever’s going on. So for me, after writing a little bit where, you know, the Chinese supreme leader says, ‘where I come from, one person speaks and everyone listens, A lot easier, don’t you think?’ You know wha, that is easier? That’s not a bad idea. If we all just had to, if everybody just had to listen to one person, I’m sure things would move kind of smoothly. And then on the other side, there is the sense of individuality and paranoia of people in relation to fascism and things along that nature where, you know, is sacrificing your individual freedom worth it for extra security? For me, this film is about critical thinking. One line is, ‘the teachers union teaches you to read and write and hopefully not think.’ I think that’s one of the most powerful lines because as long as you are okay with yourself, taking an ideology to heart, you have to be able to think critically about why, how, when, and all those other questions basically, in order to make a decision for yourself. For me, it’s about thinking critically and an accurate portrayal of knowledge and intake of knowledge.

If people want to stay up to date with you and your work, where can they find you?

Noah: Sure, absolutely. My two main platforms, I have Facebook and all that stuff, but my two main platforms are YouTube and Instagram. And they’re both @noahsarkcreative. And that’s where I post mostly all my stuff. I’m doing a bunch of Unreal Engine and Blender things now and my next film that we’re writing, currently, is going to be a science fiction fantasy film, which is always what I’ve wanted to do. That’s even before the political satire idea even came up, I was still writing this one even before when I was doing kind of like a musical type of movie called My Frequency, this was the one I was looking forward to doing. So I’m ready for it and I think I have the– what’s it called? The infrastructure, I would say.

That’s awesome. You’re still in the writing process of that one, right?

Noah: I am in the writing. So this one’s interesting though, because I’m in the writing process, but I’m also in this phase of world building, like physically world building with, like, props and, and animations and virtual effects. So we’re kind of building the world along with the story. It’s kind of an interesting thing that I’ve never done before and neither has any of the VFX artists or the writers. So we’re kind of just jumping in. But yeah, that’s all working out so far until the f**king boat flies over. Sorry, excuse my language.

That’s very cool. So I’m assuming because of where you’re at in that process, there isn’t a whole lot more that you can say about it, right? 

Noah: Yeah. Actually, I’m still trying to pick out the right name for it. I’m in between– I’m actually looking at all the names right now, there’s like five to six of them and I can’t pick one. But I don’t want to put it online, like the woman from Uncut Gems is like, ‘I don’t like to say anything about something I’m working on because I believe it’s bad luck, but this is like ingenious.’ Do you know what interview I’m talking about? 

I do not, sorry. 

Noah: I forget, but she says the funniest thing she’s like– it’s the woman from Uncut Gems. But either way, it doesn’t matter. Yeah, I don’t want to say the name right now. I do believe it’s bad luck.

I won’t pressure you any more about it.

Noah: Yes, a sci-fi fantasy @noahsarkcreative.

Before I let you go, is there anything else that you’d like to add about Dragon Eats Eagle?

Noah: Yeah, it’s out now… And exclusively on Tubi and Amazon Prime Video.

Photo provided by Endeavor Media & Entertainment
Dragon Eats Eagle is now streaming on Tubi and Amazon Prime Video