Joe Swanberg is a busy director, but Drinking Buddies is his highest profile film so far. Two co-workers in a small brewery spend their days flirting and joking, but both are in relationships. The film continues Swanberg’s brand of subtle, naturalistic mumblecore, and has the actors almost entirely improvise the script.
On the red carpet in Leicester Square we talked to Anna Kendrick, one of the stars of the film. Kendrick explained what it was like to improvise her lines: “It was scary at first, but really freeing, really exciting and challenging in the best way.” Neither she nor the rest of the cast had relied so heavily on improvisation before: “At least we were all in the same boat in that we were a little bit terrified, so we were all forgiving of each other.”
Another novelty for Kendrick here was the way she developed her character, Jill:
“Joe [Swanberg] told me what he wanted from the character and everything he was saying reminded me of my sister-in-law. It was fun to study her and she was a good sport about it. It was the first time that I’ve based a character so directly on someone in my life and it was great because I had this wealth of information I could always draw from.”
The film was unusual for director Joe Swanberg, too, who had a bigger budget and more famous actors than he has previously been used to. We spoke to him on the red carpet.
Joe, did the increased familiarity of the actors put extra pressure on you when you were making the film?
Joe Swanberg: A little. The actors certainly didn’t, but I probably put extra pressure on myself because I was aware that more people were going to see this one and there were different expectations. But it really felt just like all the other films. It was bigger, but the vibe on set was the same and all the actors were there to have that experience with me. There weren’t really any agents or publicists involved – we really did it very quietly under the radar, and I don’t think people in Chicago even knew we were making the movie until we were finished.
It’s a film that isn’t overtly a comedy but instead it has a lot of subtlety to it. Is exploring ambiguity the sort of thing you enjoy doing?
JS: Yeah I can’t help it! I feel that even if I tried to make a broad comedy I would end up with something just more naturalistic than that, so it must be my natural inclination to want to dig into real relationships and real people.
The film is set in a brewery and features a lot of onscreen drinking. Have you drunk any good beers in London yet?
JS: You know I just arrived in London a few hours ago so I’ll do that tonight.
What connects Swanberg and Kendrick is their work ethic: Swanberg has made 13 films in the last eight years with recurring elements of subtlety, naturalistic conversation and the theme of relationships, while Kendrick was keen to explain her motives:
“I really like working and I get bored when I’m not working. I am drawn to honesty in scripts and people being brave enough to say something I have felt in my life before or have seen in the real world before. That’s what I find exciting.”
Drinking Buddies is released nationwide on 1st November 2013. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for Drinking Buddies here: