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An Austinite Makes a Canadian Film: "Beeswax" Director Andrew Bujalski

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire August 4, 2009 at 2:24AM

Austin's Andrew Bujalski is the director of indie favorites "Funny Ha Ha" and "Mutual Appreciation." "Beeswax," Bujalski's latest, opens at Film Forum in NYC on August 7 (at the Nuart in LA on August 21). At the center of "Beeswax," a hit at SXSW that had its premiere at Berlin, are two twin sisters, Jeannie and Lauren (Tilly and Maggie Hatcher). Jeannie is a co-owner of a vintage clothing store, whose co-owner is trying to buy her out. Lauren, on the other hand, is trying to get a teaching job, for which she needs to be interviewed by her ex-boyfriend's brother.
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Austin's Andrew Bujalski is the director of indie favorites "Funny Ha Ha" and "Mutual Appreciation." "Beeswax," Bujalski's latest, opens at Film Forum in NYC on August 7 (at the Nuart in LA on August 21). At the center of "Beeswax," a hit at SXSW that had its premiere at Berlin, are two twin sisters, Jeannie and Lauren (Tilly and Maggie Hatcher). Jeannie is a co-owner of a vintage clothing store, whose co-owner is trying to buy her out. Lauren, on the other hand, is trying to get a teaching job, for which she needs to be interviewed by her ex-boyfriend's brother.

Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Andrew Bujalski. 6' or 5'11" depending who you ask, or how much I'm slumping, or how confident I'm feeling.

What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career.
I don't remember a time when I wasn't a movie nut. My parents exercised extraordinarily little censorship over my early movie-viewing. I was taken to see many violent & child-inappropriate movies of the early 80s. But I adored "Rocky III" the most. As I got older, "Rocky III" fell in my estimation, and I became a "Rocky II" partisan. Now that I'm older still, I am finding that there is more hidden wisdom in "III" than I'd known.

Please discuss how the idea for "Beeswax" came about.
I met Maggie Hatcher in 1997 or 1998 and met her twin Tilly shortly thereafter. I found them both immensely charming as individuals, and mind-blowing as a duo. For most of a decade I carried around in the back of my head the fantasy of trying to harness some of their magic into a film. So a few years ago I starting thinking and writing, and projected some ideas I had about family onto a story that involved people wrapped up in a civil lawsuit, which seemed to represent everything contrary to the family ethic.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences (if any), as well as your overall goals for the project?
I've made two previous personal features and I've had the feeling since the first one that I was on borrowed time with these, that they ran contrary to the desires of the market and that swimming upstream was only going to become more difficult for me and my collaborators as we all got older. So part of my personal goal was just to make the film the way I believed it needed to be made while it was still possible for me to do a project without real consideration for "commercial" concerns.

Aesthetically, I think I had a dream of a kind of movie that would be great to watch any day of the week, but *especially* great on a Sunday afternoon.

Also I think I had some idea that, whereas with my first film I was secretly trying to make a French movie, and with my second an Italian movie, this time for some reason I envisioned a Canadian movie. (Which surely seals our commercial fate.)

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution?
Writing is excruciating.

How did the financing and/or casting for the film come together?
The film was paid for primarily by two private investors, both of whom were any filmmaker's dream, absurdly supportive and hands-off and great inspirations. In addition, we received grants in both pre-production and post-production that were massively helpful in seeing us through.

Casting was the usual series of shots in the dark for me, seeking out non-professionals, asking around to see who knew someone who might make sense for the part, meeting people & screen testing them when they seemed like a good fit. Producer Dia Sokol was very helpful in this process and some of the last little roles to get filled in were people she discovered in coffee shops or on the street.

What is your next project?
I've got at least three fantasy projects taking up space in my head right now, all of them quite different from each other--though, I always think what I'm working on is going to be wildly different from whatever I just did.

What is your definition of “independent film,” and has that changed at all since you first started working?
I don't know. I think some guy walking around with a Bolex and cutting stuff at home and paying for it out of pocket could probably be called "independent." James Benning, Peter Hutton, that kinda person. I've never made a film without at least a dozen other people hanging around, all of whom I feel quite dependent on.

What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
Stop worrying about your career. Make a good film.

This article is related to: Features, Interviews