Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

FUTURES: 'Sleepwalk With Me' Writer-Director-Star Mike Birbiglia Builds a Career Out of 'Funny With Pathos'

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire August 23, 2012 at 9:26AM

Mike Birbiglia came to Park City this year as a popular comic and emerged as an acclaimed filmmaker, writer and actor following the great reception his film debut, "Sleepwalk With Me," received at Sundance.
1


"Sleepwalk With Me"
IFC Films "Sleepwalk With Me"

Was "Sleepwalk With Me" the type of film you envisioned making back then?

Yeah. A movie is never quite going to be what you think it's going to be. I remember having lunch with Craig Zobel, who did "Compliance." I have this habit of really picking the brains of people who's films I really like. At the time, I was asking Zobel, Lena Dunham and Noah Baumbach questions. One of the things Craig Zobel said was, "A film is never what you think it's going to be. You shoot it, then it's another thing, and then you mold it from there." That's a completely accurate statement.

Tonally, it's exactly what I wanted to, even since I was in college. I wanted to make something that made me feel the way I feel when I see a James Brooks film, or those Woody Allen films from the middle years. It doesn't look and it's not edited in the way I imagined the film would be, but it's striking the right balance between drama and comedy that I was hoping for.

Given that you performed the "Sleepwalk With Me" one-man show for a good long while off-Broadway, how did you keep the process of translating it to the screen exciting and fresh for you?

Making a film is beyond exciting. It's so exciting it's exhausting. It's such a different medium. Having to collaborate with your cinematographer, your actors, your production designer, etc., is all-consuming. The idea that it would be boring in any way is not even possible.

READ MORE: The Top 11 Indies to Watch on VOD This August

And I think the fact that I put it out in all those formats helped shape the feature. It gave all the department heads and the actors some confidence. Like, Mike doesn't know how to direct a feature, but he knows how to make things funny with pathos. That counts for something.

"Sleepwalk With Me"
IFC Films "Sleepwalk With Me"

How did you juggle wearing so many hats while making this film?

Very clumsily [laughs]. No, I'm actually looking to do it again with my show "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend." I'm working on that right now. It was very hard to juggle. I was fortunate to have co-director Seth Barrish. He and I have been working together for six or seven years. He really knows what I like and what I don't like. We can almost not speak about certain things and just know.

Now that you've made your mark as a filmmaker, do you see yourself going down a similar route -- writing a solo show then adapting it for the screen -- for all future film projects?

It's funny, because this summer I did stand up for the first time in a while. I just loved it so much. There was part of me after making the film that was like, well, I'm just going to make movies from now on. But after doing that show, the murkiness I feel doing a play, a movie... I think the murkiness will be the thing that's unique about what I'm doing and not the thing I'm ashamed of. I think it might be I workshop in front of audiences and then I convert that into film. That might be what I do for the rest of time.

This article is related to: Futures, Interviews, Mike Birbiglia, Sleepwalk With Me





Win The Complete Twin Peaks on Blu-ray from Indiewire! in Indiewire's Hangs on LockerDome


SnagFilms

Watch Over 10,000 Free Movies!

We the Economy: Supply and Dance, Man!

Why is the law of supply and demand so powerful? In this whimsical tale, our friendly narrator guides bored students Jonathan and Kristin through a microeconomic musical extravaganza.

More