Director Joe Swanberg on ‘Drinking Buddies,’ Complicated Relationships, & Craft Beer

The last time I saw Joe Swanberg was at IFC Center in the winter of 2009. I was talking a class with filmmaker Caveh Zahedi who brought in guests to screen their films each week, and instead of presenting Hannah Takes the Stairs or Nights and Weekends, Swanberg chose to show us a rough-cut first hour of a very low-budget movie he was working on. In his Q&A afterwards, he expressed the challenges of making the film and the independent film world in general, seeming to have hit a point in his career that was dying for a shakeup. “I eventually finished that movie,” he told me earlier this week when we sat down to discuss his wildly enjoyable new feature Drinking Buddies. It’s been four years since he showed my class what would go on to be the Kate Lyn Sheil and Amy Seimetz-led Silver Bullets, but for the director who garnered acclaim for years as a leader in “mumblecore” cinema, his latest effort proves he’s not only crafted a film that has mass appeal but shows the work of a more matured director who has truly honed his own style of filmmaking.

Set in the world of a craft beer brewery in Chicago, Drinking Buddies tells the age old tale of intimate platonic love with a question mark. We’ve all been there and we’e all seen the way that underlying desire either fades or ignites into something substantial, but for the characters that populate his laid-back film—played fantastically by Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, and Anna Kendrick—when things get complicated, sometimes a good pint of beer isn’t simply enough to ease the tension. As his largest production to date, the film explores the relationship between best friends Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) and their significant others Jill (Kendrick) and Chris (Livingston) as they grapple with feelings they cannot quite come to terms with or have forced themselves to repress. But unlike most “romantic comedies” of the same ilk, Drinking Buddies has a natural ease and genuine mix of playfulness and dramatic emotion that resonates in its small gestures and humility. Due in large part to Swanberg’s affinity for improvisation and replying on the personal strength’s of his actors, the film arrives from one honest moment to the next and leaves you feeling wholly satisfied. 
I sat down with Swanberg last Monday to talk about his moral duty to comedy, getting lucky with his cast, and just how much beer was consumed on set.
I realy enjoyed the film. It just felt really honest, which is rare these days. But your films always deal with complicated interpersonal relationships, so how did this specific story come to you and what’s your connection to having it set in a brewery?

Well, it was a couple things. I brew beer and I really pay attention to the craft beer scene—especially in Chicago. I have friends that work in the industry so that was really an early inspiration, just to do something set in a brewery. Then also, the movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, and the idea of making a movie about these two couples and mixing up that. And Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid was an inspiration—her stuff general is an inspiration—that movie specifically, I just loved how complex and squirmy the relationships are in that.
I realized last night that another big early inspiration was this filmmaker Madeline Olnek—she made this movie Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, which was at Sundance in 2011. I’d known her a long time and we were walking around, and she was saying that she had come to feel like, as a filmmaker, if you have the ability to make comedies, she said that she thinks it’s immoral not to. And I thought that was the most insane piece of film theory I’ve ever heard! But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and what it meant, and at this point, what I consider the noble task of making people laugh. So that really kicked around in my head for a long time and had a lot to do with why I made something like Drinking Buddies after this period of really dark, personal insular stuff like Silver Bullets—to make a comedy or comedy-drama but something that was funny.
Your other films have been heavily improvised with very loosely structured scripts. Did you have more of a structure for this movie but then just let the characters breath and play out their fate?

Pretty much. On Drinking Buddies, it was much more solid than it’s ever been before. On something like Silver Bullets there was literally no direction, we just started shooting scenes and then over the course of two and a half years sort of came together. But with Drinking Buddies there was an outline that was very solidly in place that we were working from.
I really appreciated the ending—when does life ever have a nice resolve, right? And everyone has been in a relationship like that, either you just stay friends and in time whatever weird romantic longings fade or you fall in love. Had you planned out the ending of the film or did that change as the shooting went along?
I did. I knew how I wanted it to end. The final scene in the movie wasn’t the final scene in the outline, there was one other small scene, which we shot, but when we shot the scene that is the final shot in the movie, I knew even on set that that was how it was going to end. We went through with shooting the other scene just in case, but in the editing room I never even ended up editing it.
In a film like this, so much depends on the idiosyncrasies of its characters and what the actors bring to them. How did you go about finding the leading actors and do you think it would have been a different film if not for them?
I didn’t write it with people in mind but because of the way that I work, it’s always so dependent on the people that I work with. If you were to sub out any of those four actors with somebody else, it would be a totally different movie. It’s one of the reasons why I love working that way, I feel like I’m best taking advantage of the talent that I’m working with and really shaping the movie around their strengths and what I find exciting about them. Jason Sudeikis knew my work and sort of encouraged Olivia to check it out and nudged her towards doing something like this, and Jake was recommended by Lizzy Caplan who had done a couple episodes of New Girl and thought he was really great. So she encouraged me to meet him. 
Even with Ron and Anna, everyone has a very genuine and exciting chemistry.

They’re amazing. I’m so spoiled, it’s really an incredible cast to get to work with. 
I’m sure you didn’t have very much to spend just hanging out before shooting. Did everyone click really fast?

We couldn’t spend much time, yeah. It was crazy. Olivia was coming back from China because she had just finished Spike Jonze’s movie, so she got in like two days before we started shooting. Ron and Anna didn’t come in until a week into when we started shooting, so it was really kind of nuts in terms of how they had to get to know each other. But that’s what makes them professionals, they’re good at faking it until they don’t have to fake it. 
Going back to your affinity for improv and letting the actors take the reigns there, was a lot of dialogue and the playfulness of the film just the actors just riffing and doing what felt right in the moment?

Definitely. All the dialogue is them coming up with that. Jake described it as, like, the first take is the writing take, and then we kind of go from there and use that as a sort of baseline to do multiple takes. It’s shot pretty conventionally even though the film’s improvised—there’s a lot of over the shoulder cross-cutting and things like that—but it’s one camera and so we get a take that we like, riff on that a couple times, and then hone it from there.
The movie is so much about these close relationships and small moments between the characters and with the tenor of their lives, it really feels like it could be a story that could translate to any period of time. But it was interesting to see the little hints of modernity, like talking about Instagram. I thought I would hate hearing that in a film but it actually felt natural here.

I think it’s because it’s not a line. It’s not like I’m a screenwriter whose like, “I’m going to write an Instagram line to make my movie hip!” When that stuff comes out naturally in conversation, you can feel the difference between something that you feel like is trying to convince you that it’s cool and something that’s just two young people talking to each other. 
Drinking Buddies was obviously a bigger production than your past work and builds you out into a new audience as well. Was it a conscious decision for you to venture away from what you’d been doing and make something on a larger scale?

It was conscious in the sense that I was attempting to connect with a bigger group of people. That sort of goes back to what Madeline said—if you can make a comedy, it’s immoral night to. That fell in line with also the idea of wanting to reach the broadest audience possible with that movie. 
And to be able to make people laugh is not an easy feat.
It’s hard! I would argue—I’ll probably catch a lot of shit for this—that making a mainstream comedy is much more difficult than making an art film. That audience, the critical audience and the art house audience, it’s much easier at this point in my career to know exactly what they want and exactly what they would respond to, what kind of camera stuff they consider to be exciting or beautiful or whatever else. In terms of putting a movie in a multiplex and trying to make America laugh, I have no idea what they want. That’s a real challenge for me. But I didn’t know how big Drinking Buddies would be. It was a conscious effort to try and expand that and reach people, but I didn’t know that I would get these actors and that the movie would have the ability to reach so many people.
So how much beer did you actually drink daily?

A lot. I tried to limit my beer consumption to one beer at lunch but then after we would finish each day—especially the days we were shooting in the brewery—I would often pester the brewers because I’m a home-brewer. I had so many questions for them, which naturally led to us having to drink beer so they could explain certain things to me. But it was great, I would love to make more movies set in the world of craft beer.
You mentioned that you were unaware of how big the movie would be—so how does all the positive reception feel?

I keep waiting for the backlash to start. Whenever anybody likes anything of mine, there’s always this sort of this immediate push back, so we’ll see how that goes, but it’s been great. I love the movie, I’m very proud of the movie, and I want people to like it so it’s exciting that people are watching it. And because it’s Magnolia, we’re doing the ultra VOD, so it’s already been on iTunes and VOD now for a couple weeks and there’s hard evidence that people are watching it, which is really exciting—but the theatrical side of that is still a big question mark. But from my point of view, just because of the actors involved and how good they are in it, there’s nothing not to like. When people don’t like the movie I completely understand, but even in those instances I feel like you’re still afforded the opportunity to see four really good actors doing good work, which for me, just as a film viewer, is exciting.
What do you think attracts you to keep exploring relationship dynamics as a topic for your work?

I just think about them a lot. It’s fascinating to me the way people—just in the relationships that I get to witness through friends of mine—it’s so interesting to think about, to meet and get to know two discreet people who have decided to make a go of it together. And from an outside perspective, you get to see who they are and why they click or don’t, and it’s just endlessly fascinating and there’s a million variables.

The Most Exciting Films From This Year’s South By Southwest

This year the film portion of the South by Southwest Conference had thirteen entrees that premiered at Sundance and a number of studio-funded projects destined for wide release, meant primarily to bolster the star power attending the daily and nightly Paramount theater premieres. This is not a bad thing—rather, it’s a testament to how vital the SXSW Film Conference has become to the film scene in general, a diverse conflagration of anything and everything within the strata of a theatrical experience. However, it doesn’t make breaking new, below-the-radar films any easier, especially with a bigger schedule—the much-anticipated premiere of the The East comes on the final night of the conference, after this will be published—and more theaters scattered around town.

That’s where I focused most of my efforts on the film front, catching more than 20 films—in honor of the film conference’s 20th anniversary—most of them produced on very low budgets or premiering for the first time in the United States. I skipped Burt Wonderstone and the Evil Dead reboot, as they’re flicks I’ll see in my local megaplex depending on the Rotten Tomatoes reception. I skipped Before Midnight in favor of a local Austinite’s film, quite regretfully—I’d rather pay to see the final installment of Linklater’s walk-and-talk romance trilogy, anyway. The six films listed here are the ones I found to be the most impressive and important glimpses into the cultural zeitgeist at the 2013 film conference—though there are a number I didn’t get a chance to see due to scheduling conflicts and the fact that the press screening library crammed into the convention center stairwell was so atrociously barren. But with so much paranoia surrounding pirating these days, who’s going to risk turning in a DVD to the media?

Spring Breakers

Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, the charged 1,300 plus audience at the Paramount was—as a Deadline reporter put it—both “joyful and bewildered” when the lights went up after the North American premiere. While some critics may find the surface layers of the film to be a mile wide and an inch deep, or an extended Skrillex music video, this is merely the backdrop Korine wanted to create. The slow-motion montage of barely clothed coeds binge drinking on a Florida Beach in the opening minutes of the film is the ultimate thesis statement—the youthful, primal obsession with self-destruction, beautiful imagery, carefree sexuality and complete sensory overload is all about to come into sharp focus.

With a dreamlike storyline, seedy neon-soaked cinematography, and non-linear editing reminiscent of a Terrence Malick film, Spring Breakers preys on the audience’s senses. You kind of can’t look away, whether you’re enjoying yourself or not. And—without giving up the ending—one could even argue that Korine’s work is a bizarrely magnificent statement about feminism, where the pretty, aggressive blondes in this vapid fantasy world of a St. Petersburg Spring Break are the ones who are the true gangsters.  Regardless of if you agree with any of this analysis, you should see Spring Breakers for James Franco alone, as the corn-rowed, grill-sporting thug who goes by the moniker of Alien—it’s truly a performance for the ages.


Heather Wahlquist has appeared in relatively minor supporting roles in her husband Nick Cassavetes’s films over the past decade, which makes her leading performance in Yellow all the more impressive. In it, she plays one of those artificially gorgeous yet vividly delusional California women named Mary Holmes, who is barely holding it together. She teaches elementary school children and chases pills with vodka nips throughout the day, regularly drifting into her own alternate realities, which are equally colorful, musical, hilarious, and horrifying. As her antics get worse, she is forced to return home to her family, where Wahlquist takes us inside the core of her character, revealing the origins of her mania. The entire film, which Wahlquist also co-wrote, is a quiet yet remarkable achievement.

Good Ol’ Freda

The Beatles have been covered from just about every angle possible by now—except the one director Ryan White found for Good Ol’ Freda, when he interviewed Freda Kelly, the head of the band’s fan club for much of the ’60s and perhaps the only Beatles employee who had never broken her silence about the band. It’s a sweet film and a fascinating look at an incredibly respectful and moral person who was tasked with protecting and representing some of the most famous people in the world. White’s storytelling does reveal a few new insights into who the Beatles were behind the scenes, but the film focuses primarily on Freda, examining how someone so close to those who were literally changing the world could remain so true to who they really are as a person.

Scenic Route

Bleak tales about the insignificance of man and the brutality of the world are tough to pull off without fine acting and crackling dialogue, which is why Scenic Route works so well. Two friends, played by the diametrical opposed Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, are stranded off the incredibly photogenic highway through Death Valley and forced to reexamine their friendship after drifting apart. The situation quickly goes from bad to worse, however, due in part to both men’s egos and stupidity, as well as a bit of bad luck—which, when you get all philosophical about it, is something that life often serves most of us in the end.

Drinking Buddies

There’s a incredibly unique tone to Drinking Buddies, thanks in part to director Joe Swanberg’s technique of having his actors tightly improv every scene in the film. It’s also probably because his core cast consists of seasoned professionals like Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, and—most impressively—Olivia Wilde, who really shows off her dynamic acting chops while also looking crazy hot. The result is a romantic dramedy—if that’s even a thing—that qualifies as one of the more realistic unrequited love stories that has worked in a while.

Cheap Thrills

The first film purchased at South by Southwest this year—by none other then Drafthouse Films, who held the world premiere in one of their theaters—this fine dark comedy is ultimately a real-world fable about what desperate men will do for money. Made on a shoestring budget with a quality cast (Pat Healey, Sara Paxton, David Koechner, and, by far the most impressive transformation, Ethan Embry as a tough guy) Cheap Thrills is a testament to true independents of the past that deserve to break through to a wider audience. It manages to break new ground and entertain, while keeping its message hidden until the very last frame.   

The South By Southwest Premieres We’re Most Anticipating

For those of you heading down to sunny Austin, Texas this Friday, you’re in for a real treat. The South by Southwest Film Festival begins on the 8th and will boast a week of non-stop events from film debuts, to 150 different workshops, and panels. This year, Steve Carrell and Jim Carey’s new comedy, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone will open kick off the fun, but the festival will also see premieres from all over the world. So in anticipation for the upcoming festivities we’ve compiled the features we’re most looking forward to seeing—from Joe Swanberg’s latest comedy Drinking Buddies to Richard Linklater’s highly anticipated Before Midnight, and all the cinematic gems in between. Enjoy.

Short Term 12 

Director/Screenwriter: Destin Daniel Cretton

The film follows Grace, a young supervisor at a foster-care facility, as she looks after the teens in her charge and reckons with her own troubled past. An unsparingly authentic film, full of both heart and surprising humor.

Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield

(World Premiere)

Evil Dead 

Director/Screenwriter: Fede Alvarez, Screenwriter: Rodo Sayagues

Five friends, holed up in a remote cabin, discover a Book of the Dead that unwittingly summons up dormant demons which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left to fight for survival.

Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore

(World Premiere)

Drinking Buddies 

Director/Screenwriter: Joe Swanberg

Weekend trips, office parties, late night conversations, drinking on the job, marriage pressure, biological clocks, holding eye contact a second too long… you know what makes the line between “friends” and “more than friends” really blurry? Beer.

Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston

(World Premiere)

Loves Her Gun 

Director/Screenwriter: Geoff Marslett, Screenwriter: Lauren Modery

This romantic tragedy follows a young woman’s transition from flight to fight after she is the victim of street violence, but will the weapons that make her feel safe again create problems worse than the ones she is escaping?

Cast: Trieste Kelly Dunn, Francisco Barreiro, Ashley Rae Spillers, Melissa Hideko Bisagni, John Merriman

(World Premiere)

Much Ado About Nothing 

Director: Joss Whedon

Shakespeare’s classic comedy is given a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon’s film.

Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese

(U.S. Premiere)

Some Girl(s)

Director: Daisy Von Scherler Mayer, Screenwriter: Neil LaBute

On the eve of his wedding, a successful writer travels around the country to meet up with ex-lovers in an attempt to make amends for his wrongdoings.

Cast: Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Mía Maestro, Jennifer Morrison, Emily Watson

(World Premiere)

I Am Divine 

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz

The story of Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, and how he became John Waters’s cinematic muse and an international drag icon.

(World Premiere)

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Director: Sophie Huber

An iconic actor and passionate musician in his intimate moments, with film clips from some of his 250 films and his own heart-breaking renditions of American folk songs.

(U.S. Premiere)


Director: Simon Ennis

Director Simon Ennis introduces us to an unforgettable group of characters who all share one thing in common: an obsession with the Moon.

(U.S. Premiere)


Director/Screenwriter: Carter

A comedic look at the life of a former actor turned writer struggling to cope with reality, his work and interpersonal relationships. 

Cast: James Franco, Catherine Keener, Fallon Goodson, David Strathairn, Alan Cumming

(North American Premiere)

The Wait 

Director/Screenwriter: M. Blash

An enigmatic phone call from a psychic, catapults a family into a state of suspended belief while waiting for their recently deceased mother to be resurrected.

Cast: Jena Malone, Chloë Sevigny, Luke Grimes, Josh Hamilton, Devon Gearhart

(World Premiere)

Before Midnight 

Director/Screenwriter: Richard Linklater, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

We meet Celine and Jesse nine years after their last rendezvous. Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early forties in Greece. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story.

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior

Pit Stop

Director/Screenwriter: Yen Tan, Screenwriter: David Lowery

Two men. A small town. A love that isn’t quite out of reach.

Cast: Bill Heck, Marcus DeAnda, Amy Seimetz, John Merriman, Richard C. Jones

SXSW Reveals Its Midnight Line-Up

As we all dust off our cowboy boots and get ready to head down to Austin next month for the SXSW, there’s much to look forward to. We’ve already announced the main slate of the film festival but now, the good folks down in Texas have revealed their Midnight line-up and we’re definitely onboard.

With features from Rob Zombie and Xan Cassavetes and a slew of narrative and animated shorts, check out our highlights from the list and head over at The Playlist for the complete line-up.

Haunter (Canada)
Director: Vincenzo Natali, Screenwriter: Brian King
Lisa Johnson is one day shy of her 16th birthday and will be forever. She and her family are doomed to repeat the fateful day before they were all killed in 1985.
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden, David Hewlett (World Premiere)

Kiss of the Damned
Director/Screenwriter: Xan Cassavetes
Beautiful vampire Djuna tries to resist the advances of human screenwriter Paolo, but eventually gives in to their passion. When her sister Mimi comes to visit, Djuna’s love story is threatened, and the whole vampire community becomes endangered…
Cast: Joséphine de la Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, Roxane Mesquida, Anna Mouglalis, Michael Rapaport, Riley Keough, Ching Valdes-Aran (U.S. Premiere)

The Lords of Salem
Director/Screenwriter: Rob Zombie
From the singular mind of horror maestro Rob Zombie comes a chilling plunge into a nightmare world where evil runs in the blood.
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn (U.S. Premiere)

Plus One
Director: Dennis Iliadis, Screenwriter: Bill Gullo
When the party of the decade is disrupted by a supernatural phenomenon, the night soon descends in to chaos.
Cast: Rhys Wakefield, Logan Miller, Ashley Hinshaw, Natalie Hall (World Premiere)

The Rambler
Director/Screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder
After being released from prison, a man known as The Rambler stumbles upon a strange mystery as he attempts a dangerous journey through treacherous back roads and small towns en route to reconnecting with his long lost brother.
Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Lindsay Pulsipher, Natasha Lyonne, James Cady, Scott Sharot

You’re Next
Director: Adam Wingard, Screenwriter: Simon Barrett
A fresh twist on home-invasion horror. A gang of masked murderers descend upon a family reunion, and the victims seem trapped…until an unlikely guest proves to be the most talented killer of all.
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg

Get a First Look From the Set of Ti West’s New ‘Sacrament’

Ti West knows what he’s doing. The intelligent and weird director takes cues from classics of the past to transform contemporary horror into something original and refreshing that creeps up on us like someone breathing on our neck in the dark and the things that go bump in the night rather than cheap thrills and spooks hiding around the corner. When I spoke with him back in September for the release of anthology film V/H/S, he had some interesting things to say about what elevates a genre film into a more cineamtically challenging realm and his intentions as a filmmaker:

The Exorcist is a movie about a woman with a sick daughter, and then it’s a possession movie; or The Shining is about an alcoholic man who hates his family, and then it’s a haunted hotel movie. Those are things that make the movies personal or sociologically interesting and give them value beyond just the surface-level genre stuff. I think it’s missing [in most horror movies] because it’s easier to not focus on the story. Why go back and try to get A-list directors to make smart genre movies when you can make them for cheap with people who just take cool shots. [Those movies] make millions of dollars; from a business perspective, why would you do that? As far as me trying to do it, I think it’s the right thing to do. That’s just kind of a lame reason but that’s how I am. People will give me some money to make horror movies, so if I can take their money and promise them that, yes, it’ll be a movie called The House of the Devil and at some point there will be satanic stuff they can sell, but I get to do whatever I want. And whether it’s horror or not, I can put whatever I want in there that I think is valuable. The genre elements that are being sold to you are gonna be there.

And with the first photo released from his latest project in production, The Sacrament, we’re thrown into the fields of Savannah, Georgia where actor AJ Bowen appears to be bloody and on the run while engulfed into some sort of hallucinatory tunnel. The film, produced by fellow horror master and friend Eli Roth, also stars mumblecore king Joe Swanberg, Kentucker Audley, and filmmaker/Upstream Color star, Amy Seimetz. Yeah, we’re excited.

the sacrament

Check Out the First of the 2013 SXSW Film Slate

While we’ve all been busy getting excited for Sundance’s incredible 2013 slate, the good people organizing this year’s annual South by South West Film Conference and Festival have been busy unveiling their lineup for 2013. Come March 8th, we’ll all head down to sunny Austin, Texas for a week of non-stop events from film debuts, to 150 different workshops and panels. This year, Steve Carell and Jim Carey’s new comedy, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone will open kick off the fun, but the festival will also see premieres from mumble core king Joe Swanberg with his new film Drinking Buddies, as well as Harmony Korine’s candy-coated nightmare Spring Breakers.

SXSW Film Conference and Festival Producer, Janet Pierson stated that, "Everyone knows that we like to have a good time at SXSW, and our 20th year is already well on track with smart, stylish and highly entertaining work…hough this is just a taste of what SXSW 2013 will have to offer, what better way to get the party started than with ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,’ which had us laughing our heads off, despite an 8 am Monday viewing." And with less than two months to go, we can all start counting down now.

Here‘s what SXSW 2013 looks like so far:

Downloaded (World Premiere)
Director: Alex Winter
Downloaded is a documentary that explores the rise and fall of Napster and the birth of the digital revolution. It’s about the teens that helped start this revolution, and the artists and industries who continue to be impacted by it.

Drinking Buddies (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Joe Swanberg
Weekend trips, office parties, late night conversations, drinking on the job, marriage pressure, biological clocks, holding eye contact a second too long… you know what makes the line between "friends" and "more than friends" really blurry?  Beer.
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston

Everyone’s Going to Die (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Jones
A modern British story about coming home, getting by and the redemptive power of feeling you’re not alone. A story where porn hotlines rub shoulders with sexy beavers on rollerskates; where the past is laid to rest, two lives are changed and nobody, finally, is going to die.
Cast: Nora Tschirner, Rob Knighton, Kellie Shirley, Madeline Duggan (United Kingdom) 

Evil Dead (World Premiere)
Director: Fede Alvarez, Screenwriter: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues
Five friends, holed up in a remote cabin, discover a Book of the Dead that unwittingly summons up dormant demons, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left to fight for survival.
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore

Good Ol’ Freda (World Premiere)
Director: Ryan White
Good Ol’ Fredatells the story of Freda Kelly, a shy Liverpudlian teenager asked to work for a young local band hoping to make it big: The Beatles. Their loyal secretary from beginning to end, Freda tells her tales for the first time in 50 years.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (World Premiere)
Director: Don Scardino, Story by Chad Kultgen & Tyler Mitchell and Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley. Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John, Francis Daley
When superstar Vegas magicians Burt and Anton let their act grow as stale as their friendship, an ambitious rival with a cutting-edge delivery swoops in for the kill.
Cast: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, with Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini and Jim Carrey

Spring Breakers (U.S. Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Harmony Korine
Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.
Cast: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine

Attention Mark Wahlberg and Samantha Morton! Joe Swanberg Wants YOU!

If director Joe Swanberg had his way, then Mark Wahlberg and Samantha Morton would be doing dishevelled, semi-articulate, twentysomething romantic malaise in a sun-washed studio apartment, DIY style. Swanberg, himself a (somewhat) dishevelled twentysomething, named the two stars as his dream Tinsletown collaborators when I spoke to him recently from SXSW. The workaholic director was in Austin premiering his latest work Alexander The Last, an engaging, fly-on-the-wall romance, currently playing on IFC On-Demand.

Swanberg’s oeuvre has divided film critics who don’t quite know what to make of a filmmaker who reliably churns out buzzy improvisational, no-budget movies with non-professional casts. His films don’t break bank, but they’re notable enough to deserve their own genre. We know them as mumblecore. I spoke to Swanberg about his love-hate relationship with that word, why Sundance won’t accept him, and why Morton and Wahlberg are his favorite actors.

You premiered Alexander The Last at SXSW, and I know the festival has been good to you in the past. How does it compare to other festivals? I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the world premiere of all the movies here. The films are very fragile and are at the beginning of their lifespan, so it’s nice to have an environment that feels really supportive, and have an audience who I feel is excited about films, and support small American films. This is always the festival that I stage the reaction to the film by. Everything else has always been compared to SXSW in my head because I’m always here first.

You’ve been rejected by Sundance on a number of occasions. What do you make of that? Is it hurtful? Well, I’ve submitted a couple of films and they haven’t programmed them, so there’s something about the work that’s not speaking to them. I think the films they’re championing must be doing something else, that when they see my work, it’s not getting them excited in the same way as the folks at SXSW. This year for the first time Trevor Groth, who’s one of the programmers at Sundance, e-mailed me and told me that he really liked the film, and was sorry it didn’t get into the festival. So they’re definitely looking at them there, but they just doesn’t seem to ever make the final cut.

What is your relationship towards the term mumblecore? Have you accepted it? It’s a love-hate relationship. It’s impossible for me to be really upset about it because as dumb as the word itself might be, it gives people something to hold on to and a way to write about the work. I think that anybody who has fallen under that umbrella term has received more attention because of it than they probably would have otherwise. I’m very realistic about how beneficial that’s been, and even though sometimes it’s clearly reductive to group the words together and it’s occasionally frustrating, the benefit of that is I feel that the work I’ve been doing is being talked about, which I think is one of the most important and exciting things that you can feel as a filmmaker.

Has there been an interview that you’ve done where that word has not come up? I don’t think so. My work especially, is extremely closely associated with it. What’s actually pretty funny, is when people talk to me in person and I can sense that it’s about to come up, and I can see that they get all nervous thinking like, “Oh should I not say the word? Is he going to get mad?”

I know, when I said it just now I cringed. Well, it’s a cringe-worthy word.

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly reviewed the film, and said this: “Another mumblecoremovie. But Alexander the Last is better than that — fresher, deeper, and more mysterious.” How do you react when you hear something like that? I guess it could be taken as a backhanded compliment, but his review was really nice and really thoughtful, and more than anything else, I feel he understood what we were going after and that worked for him, on an emotional level. If the other work hasn’t done that for him, then I think it’s valid to say what he said. That comment implicates a lot of filmmakers and a lot of work that I particularly like.

Either way, it was a great review. Yeah, I think so too. I’ve never met him, but his review is the kind where you get the sense that somebody’s a warm person, and wants to like movies. The movie contains a very realistic sex scene. I read somewhere that the sex in your films is not simulated. Is that true? No, that’s not true. It never has been. I’ve never shot real sex.

Have you ever heard that being said about your films? Yeah, I have. I don’t know where that started, but I think I’ll take that as a compliment.

Do you ever feel uncomfortable when your camera is that up close and personal with two naked people pretending to have sex? With Alexander the vibe was really funny while we were shooting that stuff. While we’re rolling, the actors have to be concentrating and engaged in what’s going on, but we also had a good laugh every time I would call cut. But I work with a very small set and crew, so there’s not a lot of lights or extra people standing around gawking at what’s going on, so we’re able to be more comfortable and do what we need to do without a bunch of fuss.

A lot of your scenes are improvised, so what does your typical script look like compared to a more traditional film script? There’s no script to speak of. What I end up with is a one page document with just a list of scenes, and it just develops as we go.

How much of the film is made in the editing room afterwards? So much of it. I’m editing as we’re shooting, so that becomes the writing process. We’ll shoot for a couple hours and then I’ll cut that scene together, and we’ll all watch it. If it’s not working, then we’ll go back and reshoot it.

When was the first time you considered yourself a filmmaker? I don’t know. In high school I started making stuff. I took a summer class at Columbia College in Chicago. We shot on 16mm and cut the film ourselves. There’s something very strange about it. When people ask me what I do, or when I have to fill out my tax form, it feels really silly writing ‘filmmaker’ in the occupation line. But I have to because I don’t know what else to call it. I almost feel like it’s a joke or something–like they’re going to call me and laugh at me.

Who are your dream Hollywood stars to work with? I think right now there are a couple guys and girls in Hollywood that I would love to work with. But the woman I would be most excited to work with is Samantha Morton. I think she’s really incredible and exciting, and that’s somebody who could make me drop pretty much everything to go and work with. Maybe my guy answer would surprise you, but I think Mark Wahlberg is probably the most exciting Hollywood actor. I love that guy.

He’s done some great work. Yeah, The Departed is incredible, I <3 Huckabees is incredible. There’s something so sincere about him, but he’s also a movie stare. I really am fascinated by him.

What will a Joe Swanberg film look like in 20 years? I’ll probably end up doing the opposite, just as a reactionary thing. My best guess is that my future films will look the opposite of what is mainstream at that time. Whatever is going on traditionally, I will probably be pushing hard the other way.