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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #35: Kris Swanberg Had a Dream Cast and Crew for ‘Unexpected’

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #35: Kris Swanberg Had a Dream Cast and Crew for 'Unexpected'

Unexpected” follows Samantha, a high school science teacher at a low-income school about to close, and she has just found out she’s pregnant. Though her boyfriend, John, proposes and is thrilled to begin a new life together, Sam struggles with the idea of halting her career to be a full-time mother. Simultaneously, one of Sam’s brightest students, Jasmine, has also become pregnant. Sam makes it her mission to get Jasmine into college and bonds with her over their impending motherhood. Unbeknownst to Sam, Jasmine is wiser than she gives her credit for, and when things don’t go exactly according to Sam’s plan, she must reexamine what is best for herself and for the people she loves. 

What’s your film about, in 140 characters or less?

“Unexpected” is about a high school teacher that gets pregnant at the same time as one of her students.

Now, what’s it REALLY about?

It’s about relationships, love, responsibility, class differences, circumstance. It’s about pregnancy and becoming a parent and how beautiful, scary, and wildly emotional that is.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

This is my third feature. My first two features were tiny and improvised so in a way this almost feels like my first. It’s a personal story for me because I used to be a high school teacher. I taught film and video on the west-side of Chicago for a few years. I made great connections with my students and that’s where this story comes from. I also drew on a lot of my own feelings about pregnancy and motherhood for the film.

What was the biggest challenge in completing this film?

Besides the same challenges that any indie film would have, it was kind of a dream. I had an amazing cast and a great crew. I had a wonderful experience all around. I think personally my biggest challenge as a director is keeping my head on straight after 14 hours when I know everyone wants to go home. It’s hard not to just say “yeah that’s good, let’s wrap” and to remain focused and make good decisions.

What do you want audiences at Sundance to take away from your film?

I really want them to be swept away by it emotionally. Nothing pleases me more as an audience member than
when I get wrapped up in a film and my critical eye goes out the window. I hope I’ve made a film that can do that.

Are there any films that inspired you?

I tried to watch a lot of pregnancy movies, there are strangely not that many. “Away We Go” is great, there a lot of nice naturalistic moments in there. I got really in to “She’s Having a Baby” during pre-production. It’s super crazy and has some wild dream sequences, but has some really nice scenes about marriage and relationships that really nail it.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a script about basketball.

What cameras did you shoot on?


Did you crowdfund?

We did not. We found investors in Chicago that were awesome and hands-off and really supported the film.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. Click here for more profiles.

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