Welcome to my new blog on Cinema 2.0.
Cinema 2.0 is A NEW APPROACH TO DIY FILM PRODUCTION, MARKETING and DISTRIBUTION working outside of the accepted mainstream cinema industry. It’s about leveraging your peer-to-peer marketing and online digital distribution for your own original cinema making your authentic, artisanal and original programming for enjoyment worldwide.
Microcinema guru Joe Swanberg recently screened his latest Sundance indy film, “Digging For Fire” as the Opening Night showcase for the Chicago Film Critics Festival appearing to answer questions after the film.
It’s a decidedly more mature and focused feature from the darling of the “Mumblecore” movement (a somewhat pejorative stamp attributed to his earlier talkier digital features centered around the sexual actions and inactions of hip twenty-somethings). “Digging For Fire” brings a lush 35mm film focus to this Hollywood-based mini-mystery centered around a young married couple questioning their fledgling marriage and their own individuality now centered around child rearing. Citing Steven Spielberg (!) as an influence, Swanberg has created a film perhaps more in tune with Robert Altman (“Nashville”, “M*A*S*H”) operating on the margins of a narrative loosely interested in a mysterious collection of odds and sods found in the back garden that may lead to murder.
Swanberg charmed the audience sharing his cine craft stories and his working relationship with Jake Johnson (TV’s “New Girl”, “Let’s Be Cops” and his own “Drinking Buddies”) who co-wrote and produced the film. “I’m not that interested in plot,” says Swanberg as he explained the improvisational nature of his work. He’s being a tad disingenuous as the film holds together nicely allowing an authentic and improvisational feel to the work – but it’s clearly scripted and designed with a clear objective. For me, Swanberg is turning into the Woody Allen of his generation exploring the intricacies of marriage and the role of children in a relationship. You can see his real-life edging into the conversation as the characters on-screen mimic the complexities of modern love, marriage and child rearing. Swanberg’s not afraid to ask the hard questions in the film and now surrounds himself with recognizable cast like Johnson, Orlando Bloom (“Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise) and the returning Anna Kendrick (“Drinking Buddies”, “Pitch Perfect 2”) in a much friendlier mainstream polish. We now have smooth syncopated editing, glossy film production values and a much more seasoned hand orchestrated this meta-movie and it allows for an easier transition into his unique world.
But at what cost?
Scheduled for general release August 2015, Swanberg has recently been signed to make his next mainstream studio debut for New Line on “Work Wife”, a thirty-something comedy about young lawyers in love. Swanberg has directed at least 17 indie movies (!) since making his feature directorial debut in 2005 with “Kissing on the Mouth.” and as a prolific writer, producer and actor who co-starred in the popular horror movie “You’re Next”, he’s poised to continue his evolution from microcinema maven to mainstream movie maker.
For me, the question will be if he will abandon the looser narrative structure he’s most known for as his work is homogenized for wider consumption? Will his prodigious cinematic work ethic and unique insights into modern relationships be tempered by the grinding pressure of the risk-averse mainstream to conform into ‘Rom-Com’ happy-ever-after dramedies developed over a longer period of time? With “Digging For Fire”, we see a more focused Swanberg making his transition to Hollywood transplanting his actual filmmaking there with his improvisational methods transported to the fringes of the mainstream. Goodbye, Joe. Don’t forget to fight for your own voice when you land. Perhaps a more apt title for this picture could be “Playing With Fire”?