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Interview: ‘Sparrows Dance’ Director Noah Buschel & Star Marin Ireland On Mumblecore, Low Budgets & More

Interview: 'Sparrows Dance' Director Noah Buschel & Star Marin Ireland On Mumblecore, Low Budgets & More

This weekend, a movie that is very close to our hearts finally opens. “Sparrows Dance” is a micro-sized indie romantic comedy about a woman (played by Marin Ireland from “Homeland“) who refuses to leave her apartment, which makes meeting someone something of a challenge. This changes when her toilet gets backed up and she has to hire a plumber (Paul Sparks from “Boardwalk Empire“). Love blossoms, but as Poison taught us, every rose has its thorns, and this rose is super thorny. We saw the film before last year’s Hamptons Film Festival and fell in love. It’s just as quirky and fun and technically proficient as something like “Frances Ha,” and it’s finally seeing the light of day thanks to Tribeca Films.

We got to speak to director Noah Buschel and Ireland back at the Hamptons Film Festival, where we talked about Buschel’s attraction and revulsion to the “mumblecore” sub-genre, how Paul Sparks talks in real life, and where the decision to shoot the movie in a boxy 4:3 aspect ratio came from (you can watch the trailer here). And not only that—we’ve got five sets of tickets to give away to a screening of the movie in New York on Friday at the Cinema Village. The show starts at 8 and it will include a post-film Q&A with Sparks and Ireland hosted by yours truly. So if you’re interested, shoot us an email, and we’ll see you there!

When conceiving of the movie, which has a budget-friendly single location but a number of sophisticated visual flourishes (more on those later), Buschel said he was driven by a simple imperative. “I had all these younger Brooklyn punk friends that are making all these mumblecore movies and they were just making movies all the fucking time and I was waiting for millions of dollars to come through to make my movies,” Buschel explained. “So I was like, Fuck this I hate mumblecore. But at the same time I wanted to make a good mumblecore movie that’s not hand held, that has real actors, that has a real DP. So that’s what we tried to do: make a mumblecore movie that doesn’t suck.”

One of the most arresting images in the entire movie is when Sparks and Ireland start to dance. The camera slowly pulls back and it’s revealed that the “apartment” is actually part of a set. It’s a fourth-walling breaking flourish that was originally supposed to exist as a much different shot. “That was going to be an effects shot and you were going to see the city and other apartments so it was going to be this it’s one apartment in a sea of apartments-type bullshit. And we kept seeing the effects and I thought, ‘I just love the look when you see the fucking set.’ Finally, it just seemed so beautiful and in the spirit of what we’re doing that we figured we’d just show the set.” Ireland agreed: “Yeah we were just hanging out in the soundstage and I knew the producers so well and I knew Noah so well and it was just like being in this little space together.”

While Buschel didn’t offer Ireland any additional information about her agoraphobic character, they did come up with some of the character’s physical traits together. “I wanted her to have some tics so I just asked her to come up with some and she did it on stage and I was blown away,” Buschel said. Soon this became a short hand for her character. “I thought I’d just do a tic on the first few takes,” Ireland admitted. This was not to be, of course. “But then he’d pick what he wanted but then later in the shoot he’d say, ‘I want you to do one of the thing with your chin and then one with your eyebrows.’ He knew all of the mannerisms.” Ireland then confessed that she’s “about half a step from being this character at all times.” 

“Sparrows Dance” also features one of the more memorable music moments of the year, concluding with a track by French house duo Cassius that might be familiar to some viewers who have listened to another collaborative album from an influential duo. When we asked the question we got a somewhat anxious cough from one of the film’s producers, who was sitting near by, and Buschel seemed uneasy. “That’s a tricky question,” Buschel began. “We put it in and then I heard it on a Jay Z/Kanye West song [‘Why I Love You’ from Watch the Throne] and I was like, Fuck. So… no comment.”

Given that Buschel and Ireland had such a great experience working together, it makes sense that they would want to work together again. And they have. Since we last spoke, the movie has gotten a title (“Glass Chin“) and, as Buschel described it to us, it stars “House of Cards” breakout star Corey Stoll and, “It’s a boxer movie… Stoll and Marin are together, they’re a Jersey couple and chaos ensues. He’s a little bit mobbed up. It’s much bigger. Snow leopards are in it.” It sounds like Ireland’s performance won’t be quite as expressive. “There are no tics but I’ll probably have to wear a wig,” she said. We’re in.

“Sparrows Dance” opens on Friday. We hope to see you at the screening!

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