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indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Andrew Bujalski, director of “Mutual Appreciation”

indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Andrew Bujalski, director of "Mutual Appreciation"

Andrew Bujalski‘s second film, “Mutual Appreciation,” is the story of Alan, played by Justin Rice, a struggling musician who moves to New York to pursue his career. He shows up looking for a drummer for his first gig, and goes about self-promotion, resulting in an encounter with Sara (Seung-Min Lee), a radio DJ who finds interest in the aloof Alan. During down time, Alan hangs out with his old friend Lawrence, played by Bujalksi, and Lawrence’s girlfriend Ellie (Rachel Clift), a journalist. Both Alan and Ellie, however, find mutual attraction, but are hesitant to go with their yearnings. Bujalski won the Someone to Watch Award at the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards for his first feature, “Funny Ha Ha,” and received a jury award for best screenplay for “Mutual Appreciation” at the 2005 Newport International Film Festival. Bujalski shares with indieWIRE about his calling to be a filmmaker, his Harvard days that lead him there, and his dreams about Gerald Ford. The film screens beginning September 1 at Cinema Village in New York and opens L.A. at the Sunset 5 and Playhouse 7 in Pasadena on September 8.

Please give some insight on your pre-film work history. Where do you live?

[I am] 29 years old, currently paying my rent by writing screenplay-for-hire. Before that I paid rent by teaching film production class, and before that substitute teaching in Boston Public Schools, temping (offices, supermarkets, factories, etc), very occasional freelance writing things, and other here-and-there stuff. [I was] born in Boston, and the pattern of my life since has been moving away, coming back, moving away, coming back… Currently living in Jamaica Plain neighborhood (southern Boston) with a roommate and a six-toed cat.

What lead you to filmmaking?

I was obsessed with movies as far back as I can remember (“Rocky III,” “Star Trek II,” etc), [and] never really considered doing anything else with my life. Wish I could be a musician but lack any apparent talent. Also wish I could be a novelist; same problem. Also painting. Or, I don’t know, even dancing. They all sound good to me.

Did you go to film school?

[I] studied film as an undergrad at Harvard, which has a tremendous program where you really get an opportunity to “handmake” films, which doesn’t make you particularly employable but does give you delusions of autonomous grandeur, which I’ve managed to hang onto since.

How did “Mutual Appreciation” come about?

The seed of the notion for “Mutual Appreciation” was wanting to make a film with Justin Rice in the lead. I thought there was something funny to be done there. Then I just started collecting ideas and notions and stirring them all together…

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced with the project?

Distribution is a pain in the ass. Most of the people in that business are very friendly and affable and nice to talk to, but the business itself of course is brutal.

What are some of your creative influences?

My biggest creative influences are the casts of the films, they do all the heavy lifting.

What are some of your non-film interests?

Interests outside of film…? Umm. I like sudoku. I like Jimmy Carter. Actually, forget sudoku, crosswords are still the best. I also like Gerald Ford, I once had a dream that I WAS Gerald Ford and felt very powerful. I like Chicago deep dish pizza… But I guess I’m doing a list of LIKES, not INTERESTS. What am I interested in?… I feel like I’m applying to college here… Interested in humanity’s battle against entropy?

How do you define “success” as a filmmaker?

“Success” and “goals” as a filmmaker seem to be constantly shifting ground for me. I suppose the greatest core goal is a realization of the fantasy that my film might mean as much to someone else as my favorite films have meant to me.

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