In Berlin for the world premiere of his new film, "Beeswax," Andrew Bujalski said that he took a rare moment to appreciate his accomplishment at last night's Berlin International Film Festival debut. It was something he said hasn't really taken the opportunity to do with his other work, "Funny Ha Ha" and "Mutual Appreciation."
"On every film, I think I always wanted a moment... to stop and breathe and to feel relieved and happy," he shared during a conversation with indieWIRE this morning in Potsdamer Platz. And how did he describe the feeling? "What's the word," he asked rhetorically. "I was short of euphoric, but slightly more poetic than happy."
Set in Austin, where it will have its U.S. premiere early next month at SXSW, Bujalski's latest is ostensibly the story of a pair of twins, one of whom owns a second hand shop. Short on plot but full of chatty interplay between its characters, "Beeswax" features a host of performances by players in the local Austin film scene. Filmmaker Kyle Henry is the local staffer at the vintage store, SXSW's Janet Pierson portrays the lesbian lover of the twins' Mom, the Zellner Brothers have small roles, and filmmaker Alex Karposvsky ("Woodpecker") co-stars as a main love interest.
The concept for "Beeswax" began with Bujalski wanting to create a vehicle for friends Tilly Hatcher and Maggie Hatcher, twin sisters who play the same in the movie. However, he didn't intend to create a vehicle starring Austin's film community. And Bujalski didn't set out to tell an Austin story. He wrote the film while living in Boston (conversely, "Funny Ha Ha" was written when he lived in Austin and then shot in Boston).
"The last think I wanted to do was make an in-joke for people who knew the Austin film scene," but, Bujalski noted, he ultimately felt good about casting fellow filmmakers knowing that directors would likely have a good intuition about acting. "I tried to cast a wider net, I tried to meet as many new people as I could," he said, adding, "The only way a film like this gets made is begging a lot of people for a lot of favors."
Like it or not, Bujalski's work has become synonymous with the films of other filmmakers, in particular a group of whom connected through Austin's SXSW. They were eventually labeled "Mumblecore" after Bujalski shared the term in an interview with indieWIRE and that word became something of a burden after it was hailed in the New York Times and beyond.
"I'm not crazy about it," he explained today, not uttering the m-word, but he continued, "I had a moment where I felt at peace about it." Explaining the reason, he smiled, "You always want to stay free and stay individual." And pausing, he added, "If people are just thinking about this 'in quote un quote' collective aspect...If you are you are gonna take that phrase and use it to celebrate a supportive community, then I'm on board for that."
As with his other work, Bujalski's latest film already seems to have supporters and detractors alike, at least among early reviews from film critics. But, Bujalski admitted that he doesn't spend a lot of time on either the praise or the criticism. "I have an ego to be stroked, so I am very flattered that people write about the films, but I dont think it's very healthy for me to pay too much attention to that." He continued, "When I turned thirty I made a resolution to stop myself... I stopped Googling my name." But he smiled, "I am not a big enough of a man to to stop Googling the names of the films."
With his anticipated third film finally finished, Bujalski seems a bit insecure about its prospects given the tough climate for indie films in theaters. "One of the reasons it took me four years [to make "Beeswax"] was that I spent a lot of that time being a distributor," Bujalski told indieWIRE today.
"Of all my my chilhood dreams of movies, I never dreamed of being a distributor," Bujalski said, "If there is an artistry, it's a kind of artistry that I don't know anything about. It's a ton of work, [but] not really where my heart is."
That said, he is willing to do what it takes to get his film in front of an audience, preferably on a big screen. "If I've got to drive around to college towns, I will," Bujalski explained, professing a "reverence" for seeing films on a screen, in a theater. "If we cant get it on hundreds of screens we can get it on dozens of screens."