Friday, May 29, 2015
Interview: Andrew Bujalski
Like a character from one of his movies, writer-director Andrew Bujalski has a self-effacing style of speech and a habit of making a thoughtful observation, then promptly second-guessing it. He also seems to be motivated in large part by conquering his own fears, which he acknowledges so freely that he used the word "fear," "frightened," or "terrified" in answering about a third of my questions as we discussed moviemaking in general and his latest feature, Results. Where Bujalski's early films were about people feeling their way through life after college, and his last feature, Computer Chess, was an affectionate and bemused look back at the infancy of computer-nerd culture, Results is a charmingly meandering, brainy rom-com set in the adult working world. As always, the director finds gentle humor and emotional truth in the bumpy road traveled by his main characters: Trevor (Guy Pearce), the owner/manager of a gym; his star trainer, Kat (Cobie Smulders); and their new client, Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a newly minted millionaire who's a schlubby stranger to the world of fitness. He also scores some interesting points about how the work we do—or, in Danny's case, don't do—both reflects and affects who we are.
Your movies don't seem strictly autobiographical, but they do seem to be at least partly about whatever stage of life you're at. I wonder if you're thinking about doing anything about parenthood, since you've been very open in interviews about how being a father has transformed your life.
I don't know. The problem is it would be such a big undertaking that I'm a little nervous about the idea. You really have to direct kids. Not that the directing would be so scary, so much as coordinating and organizing and the rest of it. Like with everything, there would be ways, but you strike fear into my heart. [laughs] Like you say, nothing I've done is strictly autobiographical, but it's all very personal. My life feeds into what I do in a kind of back-alley way, in terms of perceptions and wondering what we're doing on this planet. So, yeah, the thought of doing a movie about parenthood has crossed my mind. I've imagined what I'd like to say about that, but it would be kind of frightening to try to actually pull it off.
How much do you get to choose what you do next and how much is just a function of what you can get funded? Are you always working on a bunch of different things at once until one of them gets greenlit?
Yeah, to some degree. Politicians always talk about the arc of the possible, and there's certainly some of that when it comes to moviemaking. I have movies that I haven't figured out how to get made, so we're not talking about those right now because I haven't made them. On the other hand, like politicians, you can fall into the same trap where if you get too focused on what's possible then you'll never make any progress, so I try to let my imagination go. Ultimately, the thing that I've found is that, although I may have a half-dozen ideas that all exist on different budget levels or in different spheres, nothing really happens until I say, "Okay, this is the one I want to do." Certainly, the big change, at least for right now, about being a parent is that it feels like I can't do something that I'm going to spend 12 years on and make a thousand dollars for. In the past, for whatever reason, that did seem like a good idea. [laughs] I mean, I love working that way. I love the freedom of that. And I would love to go back to it, but maybe it wouldn't be possible. Read the rest in Slant Magazine