Joe Swanberg Drinking Buddies Interview
Joe Swanberg Drinking Buddies Interview
Joe Swanberg in an American independent filmmaker, whose has been creating movies and working in the film industry since 2005, when he wrote, directed and starred in his first feature, Kissing on the Mouth, about a girl who is in denial about her relationship with her ex-boyfriend. With another 20 or so credits as director/producer and around 40 as an actor under his belt, his most recent feature, Drinking Buddies was on show at the 2013 London Film Festival.

Here he talks to View’s Matthew Turner about his passion for independent beer making, why he loves a good old fashioned romcom, and what he feels about Quentin Taratino’s praise for the film.
First of all, where did the idea come from, first of all?

Joe Swanberg

From two places. I mean, I wanted to do something about Craft Beer [independent breweries] and set in the Craft Beer world but also I was inspired by Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a Paul Mazursky movie. Just to tell a complicated adult [story] that was funny, that managed to remain funny even though it was getting into serious, interesting things. So I sort of put those two things together, I grafted the complicated relationship thing into the brewery setting.
So would you call the movie a romcom for film buffs who hate romcoms?

Joe Swanberg

Maybe. I mean I happen to really like romcoms but they’ve been really bad for the last couple of years. In a sense, we’re just using genre as an entry-point to the movie. It starts like a romcom but hopefully doesn’t go in those directions ultimately. I’m very performance orientated as a filmmaker, so it was useful to steal the set-up of romantic comedy just as a way to get into the characters; for the first 30 minutes it’s got that set up, then I was happy to break away from it.
Did you see that Quentin Tarantino called Drinking Buddies one of his top movies of 2013?

Joe Swanberg

I saw that and my head swelled up to about twice its size. It’s really exciting. It’s probably the best external validation I’ve received as a filmmaker, just because it’s coming from another filmmaker. It’s really cool. I grew up loving that guy's movies and I still do.
There is a really flirty scene at the end of the film but no definitive conclusion. Why did you decide to end it in that way?

Joe Swanberg

Well to me, I felt like Jill and Luke’s relationship has sort of overcome an obstacle, and I felt like Kate and Luke’s characters had sort of walked up to the line of their sexual tension. I mean for me it’s a happy ending. They’ll be able to be friends now. They’ve stared it in the face and hopefully overcome it. I wanted to end on an upbeat note, even though it’s a little ambiguous. I think it will always be challenging for them.
We come in feeling like Kate and Luke have been friends for a long time, and there’s such chemistry between Jake [Johnson] and Olivia [Wilde]. How long did it take to get the chemistry between the two actors?

Joe Swanberg

Well, we got lucky because there was a charity event in Kansas City that they were both part of a few weeks before we shot, so we actually got an unauthorised rehearsal period where they just got to drink and make each other laugh. When they arrived in Chicago they already knew each other, which was nice. You’re hanging your hat on these relationships and if the chemistry isn’t there, you’re in trouble, so it was really fun to get to work.

I specifically scheduled the movie so that the first few days on shoot was just the two of them in the brewery goofing around and the actors could get to know each other while the characters were having light, fun scenes, rather than during the heavier stuff that comes later. I also specifically didn’t bring Ron Livingston or Anna Kendrick in until about a week into the shoot so that Jake and Olivia could form those bonds.

I wanted at least in the first two thirds of the movie for their relationship to seem more viable than Luke and Jill’s relationship, so we could sort of utilise the fact the actors didn’t know each other very well to create an intimacy in this one thing that isn’t a real relationship, and an aloofness in the one that’s supposed to be the six year long relationship. But the truth is, they are all really good actors and I think that good actors can to some extent fake that chemistry.
But it didn’t come across as fake.

Joe Swanberg

Yeah, I agree. It was really fun to shoot. I mean on set it came across as real too and it’s exciting as a director to see that happening.
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Content updated: 19/04/2019 12:14

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