Joe Swanberg: How to Shoot & Sell Six Feature Films in a Year!

Joe Swanberg, Build the wall, build the wall film

If you want to be an indie filmmaker you should definitely study the work of the prolific film director Joe Swanberg.

Who is Joe Swanberg?

I just recently not only discovered his work but also started to study his unique filmmaking process.

I heard that Joe Swanberg has made over 20 feature films in the past 10 years, six of which were made in 2011 alone (Yes — that’s six feature films in one year.) So, to say the man likes to work is an understatement. He’s the definition of INDIE FILM HUSTLE!

Despite the fact that some filmmakers who have spent decades working in Hollywood are renowned for their continuous output, Joe Swanberg happens to be one of the most productive filmmakers of his age which suggests that is he is crazy or really unique or a perfect blend of both.

In order to really understand Joe Swanberg, it is critical to know that he has given total of 11 feature films at the being 31 years of age and out of which seven were finished in 2010 and have earned millions and earned many accolades.

Why would a filmmaker ever want to produce such a high volume of work in such a short amount of time? According to Joe Swanberg,

“It was mostly about getting my work noticed.”

He said that

“If everyone is going to ignore you, then you have to start producing film after film and eventually someone is going to notice what you are doing, even if the films are total crap.”

History of Joe Swanberg

On the 31st of August 1981, Joe Swanberg was born in Detroit, Michigan. He spent most of his growing up period in Alabama and Georgia. Swanberg graduated from the Naperville Central High School which was in the Chicago suburbs and earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale as a film major.

Swanberg directed his first feature Kissing on the Mouth in 2005. The film featured real interviews with graduates fresh out of college and had a documentary-styled approach to conversations and graphic sex. It is valued as one of the original films of the Mumblecore movement.

Kissing on the Mouth was followed by LOL (2006). This was also an independent Mumblecore film that examined the impact technology had on social relations.

The plot revolved around three college graduates in Chicago named Chris, Tim and Alex. While making out with his girlfriend, Tim watches his laptop screen. Chris is carrying on relationships via cellphones and Alex’s fixation with chat rooms destroys a would-be direct relationship with a girl he interacts with at a party. This was the first time Swanberg had worked with actress Greta Gerwig. They both team up on the directing of the next two feature films Hannah Takes The Stairs (2007) and Nights and Weekends (2008).

Hannah Takes the Stairs, an ultimate anti-romantic comedy film is known as Swanberg’s best film to date and starred filmmakers Mark Duplass, Andrew Bujalski and Ry Rosso-Young it was also his first time with actor/animator Kent Osborne.

An effort of the whole Mumblecore team, the gang was asked to give additional material on the sound and feel of the dialogue and how they thought it should be.

The final product turned out to be naturally goofy with a taste of cringe and the awkwardness of Greta Gerwig’s character defined her career from there inspiring her later role of Frances Halladay.

Greta Gerwig shared directing credit with Swanberg in Night and Weekends (2008). The story follows a long-distance relationship and its aftermath between two people who live in New York City and Chicago respectively.

The first half of the film depicts their relationship and the second half centers on the closure and the prospective continuation which happens to occur after a year of events of the first half.

Directed by Swanberg and produced by Noah Baumbach, Alexander the Last came in 2009 and was about a married actress and her sister. Swanberg spent the whole of 2009 on Silver Bullets which starred Swanberg, Kate Lyn Sheil, Amy Seimets and Ti West and had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011. According to Richard Brody of The New Yorker it was the 9th best film of the year 2011.

As an actor, he has had leading roles in several horror successes, most notably You’re Next, The Sacrament, and V/H/S. Through his production company, Forager Film Company, he has produced the work of other filmmakers, including Harrison Atkin, Alex Ross Perry, and Zach Clark.

He and his wife, Kris, also created the popular web series Young American Bodies which ran for four seasons on Nerve.com and IFC.com.

You can watch his new feature film Build the Wall, in its entirety below. Starring Kent Osborne, Jane Adams and Kevin Bewersdorf.
Thanks to Joe for uploading it for free.

His plans for a fun weekend with Sarah are upended when his friend Kev unexpectedly arrives to build him a wall.

Joe Swanberg Keynote | SXSW Film 2016

In the year 2010, Joe Swanberg finished seven features films Uncle Kent, Caitlin Plays Herself, The Zone, Art History, Silver Bullets, Privacy Setting, and Autoerotic.

Uncle Kent was written by Kent Osborne and was co-directed and co-written by Swanberg. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It starred Kent Osborne, Josephine Decker, Jennifer Prediger, Swanberg and Kevin Bewersdof.

The film was about a 40-year old animator Kent, who meets a New York Journalist, Kate. Kent invites her to L.A for the weekend and Kate accepts but upon arriving she discloses that her heart belongs to someone else and Kent tries to make sense of this whole mess.

Art History and Silver Bullets premiered at the Berlinale. The rest of the 2010 films after being screened at film festivals premiered theatrically in 2011. Out of these feature films, four were included in the Joe Swanberg: Collected Films 2011 later which was a DVD boxed set.

Joe Swanberg directed and wrote Drinking Buddies which starred Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, and Jake M. Johnson. By far his largest budget to date (about $500,000, most of his film range from $5,000 – $50,000). The film is about two co-workers Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) who work at a craft brewery Revolution Brewing and spend all the time having fun and drinking.

Supposedly perfect for each but both happen to be in relationships Luke with Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Kate with Chris (Ron Livingston). Jill asks Luke about marriage and he promises to talk about it sometime soon basically evading it. Drinking Buddies was premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival and was also screened at Maryland Film Festival the same year.

Produced by Alicia Van Couvering and Andrea Roa and was shot by Ben Richardson, cinematographer of Beasts of the Southern Wild. Shortly after the SXSW Premiere, it was acquired by Magnolia Pictures.


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The Love of Super 16mm Film

The following year brought Swanberg’s Happy Christmas which starred himself, Lena Dunham, Melanie Lynskey, and Anna Kendrick. The plot centers on Jenny (Kendrick) who is in her 20s and an irresponsible girl who has come to Chicago to live with her older brother Jeff (Swanberg) who is a young filmmaker living a happy married life with his novelist wife, Kelly (Lynskey) and a two-year-old son.

Jenny’s arrival upsets their quiet life as she and her friend Carson (Dunham) initiate development in Kelly’s life and career.

Happy Christmas is Swanberg’s first film to be shot on 16mm film. It premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Some of his other films include: 24 Exposures and All the Light in the Sky

Digging for Fire was his next film as a director and was premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival starring Jake Johnson. He is noted advocate of internet-based distribution for the independent films and he also made his 2011 feature Marriage Material available on his Vimeo page and that too for free. Check it out:

Swanberg uses improvisation extensively and his films usually focus on relationships, sex, technology and the process of filmmaking. He takes influence by Elaine May, Lars Von Trier, Marco Ferreri, Paul Mazursky and Eric Rohmer

Joe Swanberg’s keynote at this year’s SXSW Film Festival is a must-watch for any and all indie filmmakers. What I really loved about his speech is his frankness about the financial realities of being an indie filmmaker. I love this quote and it’s so true:

“The only way you’re ever going to make any money is if you invest in your own movies.”

Sometimes no money is better than some money

The above is one of the most interesting points from the keynote because almost every indie filmmaker I know would agree that it’s better to have some small budget than no cash at all. However, Joe Swanberg has a different take on it, as he puts it:

If you have “some money”, everybody is going to want some of that “some money.” If you have “no money”, everybody knows it — and then they’re just there to work. In a best case scenario — you sell a movie and then you’re able to pay people afterwards better than you could’ve paid them if you had “some money.”

This quote really sums up a lot of what I preach on Indie Film Hustle:

Well, I think that there is a notion that for artists to think about business is to corrupt the art process. As soon as you start considering market factors and numbers and all of that stuff, you’re not being a true artist, you’re not following your true vision. To some extent, maybe that’s true, but I think that by knowing the marketplace before I go into a movie, once I’m there, I’m completely free to do whatever I want because [there’s not that] giant question mark of whether there’s an audience for that thing.

Definitely put an hour and a half aside, sit down and soak it all in. He is truly spitting out gold in this keynote.



Mumblecore: Film Movements in Cinema

The core of what filmmaking is that it has always been there to entertain people with different audio and visual sources along with some cinematic techniques and professionals. This entertainment has been evolved from different phases and now it is revolutionized to a completely new picture of streaming, television, and film industry.

There was a time when people watch silent and unvoiced, dialogue fewer movies; then comes an era where there were black and white movies. And now we all watch colorful movies with songs and visual effects, even 3D, animated movies and the future VR (virtual reality) projects are also been made nowadays.

The Independents

Apart from films, which are made nowadays on highly based techniques and modern resources, there are some other kinds of films do exist too. These are independent or indie films which do not need any specific studio to produce the movie, they really don’t care or are concerned with tentpoles, or mega budget studio films. They want the control to tell their own story.

Indie films have more of a clear voice from the filmmaker. There’s no interference for studio executives or higher ups, the filmmaker’s vision is what’s up on the screen. These films tend to be more naturalistic, from dialogues to gestures and even seem a bit rawer than your regular and polished studio films.

Indie films are not trying to reach the widest audience they can, they live in the niche.  Because these films are realistic and tell more intimate and personal stories, they don’t hire actors rather they work with real common people to deliver undecided dialogues (improv), so as to give natural performances. These films are mostly shot on locations and not on a studio back lot.

What is Mumblecore?

Enter Mumblecore

So what if you as a filmmaker had no money, didn’t know any professional actors, and only wanted to tell the story you wanted to tell, the film movement would be looking for is  Mumblecore.

The term Mumblecore is used for a special type of film that is different from usual big-budget studio feature films. These films are basically a niche genre of independent films.

The Mumblecore films are shot with fairly raw, natural acting and usually non-scripted dialogues or improv. They’re stories about real life, about personal relationships and non-mainstream topics, most commonly of adult beings in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Mumblecore films are extremely low budget as well (usually thousand to if you’re lucky a few million dollars) and are quite different from normal studio movies in many aspects.

Mumblecore films are often shot on a very low budget, with an extremely low budget, but they don’t have the same requirements as a big budget movie.

  • Some of the key points of the Mumblecore genre are:
  • Very low budget (sometimes even free or near-free)
  • Very short shooting time (usually 1–2 days for each shoot)
  • Non-scripted dialogues or improv
  • No professional actors
  • Filmmakers who are not professional filmmakers or those who have no experience
  • Usually non-mainstream topics, such as sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.

Mumblecore is a subgenre of indie film. The definition of Mumblecore varies from person to person. Some people say it’s only about non-scripted dialogues and improvisation, while others include more than just that.

In some ways, Mumblecore is like the new wave of the old indie films, which are usually shot in the US and Europe. It has become the new indie film movement.

History of the Mumblecore Movement

Andrew Bujalski was considered to be the creator of Mumblecore, as he directed the first-ever Mumblecore film titled as Funny Ha Ha in 2002. Later on, a lot of similarly themed movies began to be made which were then presented in film festivals to gain popularity and appreciation, because it was harder to get a wide release in theaters based on the personal types of stories and lack of movie star power.

The 2005 South by Southwest Film Festival screened many Mumblecore movies for the first time and at the very same festival, the term Mumblecore was given to these featured films.

The term Mumblecore was coined by Eric Masunaga and it stuck. SXSW release put a spotlight on these kinds of films and made stars out of the filmmakers who made them. The Mumblecore movement owes a lot to South by Southwest Film Festival.

Although these kinds of movies were raw, had a low budget and no movie stars they still had an immense impact on the indie film scene. Here is a list of a few major standouts.

Mumblecore Filmmakers

Andrew Bujalski:

Andrew Bujalski, founder of Mumblecore was famous for his influential signature series and unique filmmaking style. His movies had a magical element of passive-aggressive conversations in which the dialogue deliverer will not hurt the companion in any case and at the same time make his point in the scene.

The popular Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation of 2005 were funny though but they lack a clear communication process and maybe they fail to link with reality. On the contrary to it, Beeswax was a kind of reality-based illuminating movie of his in 2009. His recent Computer Chess is a revolutionized movie and has improvised dialogues along with an intriguing storyline.

Bujalski’s films roamed around money and wealth, as shown in his film Results; which is about managing small business gracefully. However, the character of Trevor is mostly about physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness.

Bujalski is a clever director and observer of human nature, when he noticed the love triangle between Danny, Kat, and Trevor he created moments which brought you into the drama. With his twisted flavors and fine directing skills, there created a classic comic movie with a graceful touch of romance that eventually became his unique style.

 Joe Swanberg:

Joe Swanberg‘s comfort level was different and his movies revolved around sexual confusion, relationship conflicts, and dissatisfaction along with technological matters. His first movie Kissing On The Mouth was on the same topic, however, later on, his creation Alexander The Last of 2009 shocked everyone and proved to be a different kind of Mumblecore film. Other films include Uncle Kent, Digging for Fire, and Drinking Buddies. He also just created a show on Netflix called Easy.

Mark and Jay Duplass:

Mark Duplass is considered to be the wizard of Mumblecore films. His ideas, creations, and executing capabilities have always taken him to the highest. He and his brother Jay Duplass can come up with many elementary movies that are considered to be true Mumblecore writings.

His first feature film, The Puffy Chair in 2005 was a professional glory on the most popular Funny Ha Ha, and he took the core conversational awkwardness to his movie in a new way. After that his success era has started, he with his sibling directed Baghead which was a blooming piece of art of that time, flourishing the indie industry with low budget but extreme entertaining storytelling.

Later on many outclass creations were made by these duo siblings that surprised everyone with amazement. Other films include; CyrusJeff, Who Lives At Home, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, Zero Dark Thirty and The League.

They even had the Mumblecore style series on HBO Togetherness and just signed a four-picture deal with Netflix.

Lynn Shelton

Lynn Shelton had always wanted to become a film director but was worried that being a woman in her mid-30s would be a huge hurdle to get over. When she saw the award-winning French director Claire Denis give a talk at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum in 2003, Denis said she was 40 years old when she went down the path and directed her first feature film. That one statement changed Lynn Shelton’s world and started her down the path of an indie filmmaker.

In 2004, Lynn Shelton began working on her first feature film, We Go Way Back, which she wrote and directed. Described as “impressionistic” and “polished”, the film tells the story of a 23-year-old actress, Kate, confronted by a 13-year-old version of herself. We Go Way Back premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2006 and is getting a release very soon.

Shelton’s film Humpday, (starring Mumblecore filmmaker Mark Duplass) was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was purchased by Magnolia Pictures, and has been shown at SIFFSXSW and the Cannes Film Festival as well at other film festivals.

Kentucker Audley:

Kentucker Audley produced many impactful movies like Team Picture, Holy Land and David Holzman’s Diary with pure Mumblecore elements in them. He also runs a unique website to feature low budget movies named NoBudge.com. Also, he is planning to launch a new platform to further enhance and NURTURE the indie film industry.

Frank V. Ross:

This director has many Mumblecore focused movies like Audrey The Trainwreck which had improvised dialogue and based on true low budget and Mumblecore principles. His recent Tiger Tail In Blue had opening title come up 55 minutes into the movie, which signature elements of Ross’s production and sometimes a mess with the expectations of the audience.

Aaron Katz:

Katz has delivered a remarkable collection of films which have comedy element along with couple conflicts and annoyances. His overly scripted and detective stories have always been joyous to the audience. His films include; Quiet City, Cold Weather, and Dance Party, USA.

Greta Gerwig:

Greta Gerwig has, in some ways, become the face Mumblecore movement. She had an opportunity to work with great directors of the time and created some marvelous movies like Nights and Weekends and To Rome With Love. But later she jumped behind the camera to create her own entry into the Mumblecore movement,  which showed great variation and discipline, as in the fantastic Frances Ha.It can be said that indie filmmaking is changed, and it will continue to evolve according to the times, technology, and stories filmmakers want to tell. Many amazing filmmakers wrote the history of Mumblecore, though they had to face some downfalls and rejections they never stopped hustling and putting their untiring and pure-hearted efforts to glorify this industry even more.

From the first-ever Mumblecore film Funny Ha Ha in 2002 to the more recent and modest one, Midnight Delight in 2016, there has always been a joyous and remarkable effort to fascinate the audience along with a magical message.

The independent film industry is not receiving much love or financing from the big studios but in an ever-changing media landscape, new players on the scene seem to be changing that. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have embraced Mumblecore filmmakers and contracted them to create fresh, original content with full creative freedom. The times they are a-changing and I think for the better.

Hyperrealism, Mumblecore, & “Togetherness” – VICE Meets the Duplass Brothers

Filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass have made a big name for themselves with the endearing hyper-realism of their mumblecore films. The brothers have now delved into the world of TV with their series Togetherness, which follows the tribulations of thirtysomethings trying to make sense of their adult lives.

Togetherness stars Amanda Peet, Melanie Lynskey, and Steve Zissis. The series premiered on HBO this January and has already been renewed for a second season. We sat down with the Duplass brothers to talk about the series and its parallels with their lives.

For another great resource on Mumblecore check out mumblecore.info

IFH 280: Misadventures in Micro-Budget Filmmaking with James Morosini

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Today’s guest is actor/writer/director James Morosini. His film Threesomething is a micro-budget film that he jumped off a cliff to make. With this being his first feature film as a director he definitely had some misadventures. In this interview, we go into the details of his journey making and distributing his film. We also discuss how he made a clip from the film go viral on YouTube.

Zoe, Charlie, and Isaac spend a night flirting with the idea of a threesome… until it finally happens and all hell breaks loose. While two fall deeply in love, two test their sexual limits. They each discover fantasies they never thought they had and try things they never thought they would. This sexy comedy will make you squirm with its hilarious awkwardness and challenge your ideas of sex, love, and friendship.

Below James wrote an amazing article detailing his misadventures so when you are do listen to the interview the article is required reading.

Enjoy my conversation with James Morosini.

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Today on the show, we have Writer Director James Morosini. And he directed a micro budget film called three something and it's pretty interesting his story and how he made this micro budget film and, and truly his misadventures making it because he had really never directed a feature film prior to this movie. Now he is an actor, and he's been in many films and TV shows like American Horror Story and lethal weapon. But this is kind of his first journey into making a micro budget feature film. And he truly did have some misadventures in it. And it was a pretty fascinating story. He wrote an article on the blog many, many months ago when it came out, if not a year or so ago, when it first came out. But we finally got our schedules to match and have him on the show to tell us all of these crazy stories of how he made it, how he got it out there, and so on. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with James Morosini. I like to welcome to the show James Morosini man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

James Morosini 2:52
Yeah, man. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 2:54
Yeah, man, we we, we connected a while ago and very before you started making you move while you were making it a try to put it all together and talk a little bit about your making of and stuff like that. So I'm glad to see it actually Finally, was finished.

James Morosini 3:10
I know man, me too. I it's been quite the journey. Yeah, I think we're talking about when I was still kind of shooting it and, or editing it. And I was You and I were talking about kind of like, the best way for me to go about, you know, on the next steps of like, you know, the whole festival experience. And the best way to think about that.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
Well, before we get into it, so how did you first get into the business because you have a unique story how you've got to this point as a director. Oh, yeah, dude. Um, okay. I mean, I guess I might do my uncle was Christopher Reeve, the actor. I'm sorry, Your uncle is Christopher Reeves. Yeah, it was even Superman.

James Morosini 3:56
Yeah, yeah, it is pretty awesome. I know. So I grew up with it kind of in my family, but I didn't really do much but I would like mess around with the video camera and stuff when I was younger. And then and like, make stupid little videos, but I didn't really do any plays or anything in high school. I'm, I'm for context I'm, I make a living. I am an actor. And then I and then I write director I'm not acting. So So yeah, and I, you know, I did a my first play was right after high school, I done a bunch of like little film projects in high school. How I did this play with it at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. And then from there, I went to USC, and studied theater for a couple years and then started kind of studying independently, and then really dove into learning about film and stuff and making my own projects and then And then afterwards, I did a pilot with Comedy Central and then that just kind of snowballed into other projects and other opportunities.

Alex Ferrari 5:11
Cool, man, I mean, you've been acting I mean, your IMDb is fairly impressive. So, as an actor, you you are working actor. I'm a working actor anymore. You're a unicorn. a unicorn. Exactly, no. I mean, it's, it's funny for you to say like, you know, I act as my full time job. And I just direct on the side. It's, it's weird for you even to hear those words. Because so many people are killed dying just to be able to make a living as an actor.

James Morosini 5:40
Yeah, man. I mean, I, you know, I am also dying to make a living sometimes. And then, and then it works. And it's like, great for a few months, you know?

Alex Ferrari 5:49
Yeah, it's up and down

James Morosini 5:50
Back to like, not working and just kind of living off the money you've made. Yeah, that's

Alex Ferrari 5:55
And hopefully those residual checks come in.

James Morosini 5:57
Yeah. And they're there. They're like, you know, it's like finding like water in the desert sometimes. Oh, fuck, you're in this. They're definitely, definitely happy to get them when they go.

Alex Ferrari 6:09
So you decided to jump in and make a kind of micro budget, independent film? And you kind of learned along the way if I'm not mistaken.

James Morosini 6:19
Yeah, I mean, I had made a bunch of shorts before. And I, I've always since I was younger, you know, I've, I've pretty much been watching a movie a day, for for a really long time. And so I've always been kind of obsessed about making a full length film. And I've made all these like, little shorts and taught myself kind of how to how to do it, you know, just by watching like, videos on YouTube and stuff and asking a billion questions. And so yeah, man to make the feature, I just kind of I, I the idea that was so scary to me. Because it seemed like such a different thing. In terms of like, you know, like, how do you make that much content? And so, yeah, I felt like I was kind of, like, my attitude through the whole thing was like, I'm okay. I just want to finish this film. And I'm gonna try to have faith that as we go, we'll be able to kind of figure out the things we don't know. And, and, and I think we're, I think we're really successful in doing that. Because it's like, you know, we shot, you know, we had, like a scriptment knows that.

Alex Ferrari 7:34
I'm very well aware of those.

James Morosini 7:36
Yeah. But we Yeah, we had, like, you know, some scenes were totally written, some were kind of more vague and outline, and then we were also able to kind of like, we shot chronologically, so we're able to, like, adapt that to how things were going.

Alex Ferrari 7:51
That's, it's, it's, I mean, as an actor, I know. A lot of actors love to have the the security of the of the script, the security of the words. And it scares the hell out of a lot of actors having this improv, like, free wielding, vibe on set, how did you feel about it working with the actors?

James Morosini 8:12
Sure. I mean, I think it was such a small production among friends that we all there was kind of the energy in the room that like, we're only going to use this stuff that works. So there was, there was really a lot of room to fail and be bad. And I've found that and I found that room to be bad is the only thing that allows really room to be very good. Because if you're playing it safe, it just kind of ends up being pretty middle of the road. Yeah, so we, you know, it would shoot a ton. And then we use like slivers of footage, where things really popped and connected. And it was usually the moments where people were kind of caught off guard or like, you know, where were things weren't going as planned?

Alex Ferrari 8:59
Where was raw and natural,

James Morosini 9:01
It's raw and there's, you know, authentic? uncertainty and yeah, we'll figure things out.

Alex Ferrari 9:08
So the name, so the name of the movie is called three something. Three, something Yeah. Can you give the two minute pitch? Or what two second pitch?

James Morosini 9:16
Yeah, sure. It's about a group of friends that try to have a threesome, and the reality falls short, or it turns out differently than their fantasy. And that's kind of what the movie explores, is the difference between fantasy and reality. And it also explores kind of explores, like people trying to live up to images, you know, the guys in the movie are really trying to be to experience their masculinity and do this threesome and it turns out it you know, they're actually way more sensitive than they'd like to admit. You know, and ever, everybody's kind of like falling on their faces. It's kind of about people like, in their 20s and cute 20 somethings. No, it's it's, you hear that pitch a lot. That's why I make that joke. But But yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's about kind of fantasy and reality and how that plays into things like love, sex and friendship.

Alex Ferrari 10:29
And what is what was the budget of some of you on me asking?

James Morosini 10:32
Um, I don't want to say it on here. Under a million? Definitely under a million? Yes. Okay, how long did it take you to shoot. So we shot, we basically did it in a few different legs of shooting, we did like 11 days of production. And then I edited a rough cut, showed it to a bunch of people basically got tons and tons of feedback. And then, and then we did like, a few other legs of like, pick up three or four day bursts to, like, fill out the film and to kind of like, you know, some of the stuff we threw away, and then added to and, and, yeah, I mean that our intent around the whole thing was realizing like, because we didn't have a ton of money, the thing we could do really well was to be nimble, and to like, and to, to, you know, go about doing things in, in a less rigid way, where like, we were really trying to just get stuff that felt really, really raw and honest. Because I think that's, that's, that's one thing, when you're doing something with a lot with less money that you have on your side is the ability to do that.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
Now, how did your acting experience help you in directing the film?

James Morosini 11:47
Yeah, I mean, I think my, my bullshit meter for myself is is fairly high. So like, I I'm really aware when I'm, when I'm not being truthful, in my own acting, or if I'm like, pushing or manufactured, or, I'm just not, if I'm, if my acting is kind of like, if it feels, it feels fake, it really bumps me and it's like, I can't, it's, I know when I'm phoning it in, or when I'm, or when I'm not, and I'm really connected to something. And so I think I have a heightened sensitivity around that with other actors as well. And I, I kind of just tried to talk to other actors, how I am talking to myself in my head. And and I think, I think as an actor, you know, actor directors have the thing on their side where they can they kind of can use vocabulary and, and express nuance in a way that they would to themselves. There's they kind of understand like this, this other way into communicating that there's really subtle things.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
Now you're the style of the film, when you were shooting it, it was a very kind of Joe Swanberg Mark duplass style, kind of running gun.

James Morosini 13:03
Um, yeah, I mean, yeah, it was like a mix of, you know, things being super structured and specific. And then a mix of times, we're like, Alright, let's just kind of like, let the camera run and and figure it out as we go. And then, you know, we turn it off. Talk about what was working, and then we've refined stuff and then and then, you know, shoot it again. And, yeah, it was like, it was like, it was like a, it was kind of like an iterative refining process. So like it, we wasn't like, we went into it, we're like, here's exactly what we need. The whole thing was kind of exploration, you know, and, and we refined it as we went.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
You're kind of doing the rewriting process while you're on set, like Yeah, exactly. Just kind of just kind of chiseling away at things, trying things experimenting. And apparently sounds like you had the luxury of time. Yeah, sure. It's such a low budget,

James Morosini 14:04
Also the luxury of enthusiasm. I mean, we were all like we really really want to make this film and we were all not paying ourselves so like the only reason we were there was to make something really cool that I that that's an experience that is is really amazing because it's rare yeah cuz nobody because then nobody's there wondering when they can you know go home people are just like let's you know we're here to make something and to connect in a real way and you know, when there's that energy on set I feel like it it it really adds to the to the peace

Alex Ferrari 14:43
Oh, there's no question about it I from firsthand experience, when you have that kind of energy on set where everybody's they're all going towards the same goal all no one's giving you attitude, no egos are involved. We're just trying to make the best work possible. It is a wonderful experience.

James Morosini 15:00
Because it kind of leaves room for people to go like, I don't know, or like to not need an answer right now. And there's kind of flexibility in that, that can be really nice and, and can can find, like, unexpected things and kind of follow your whim in a way that you're not really able to when you're like, you know, really trying to make your days and write

Alex Ferrari 15:23
It because every minutes costing you 1000s of dollars.

James Morosini 15:26
Yeah, exactly. When there's when there's a little bit more room like it. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what that gives you, but definitely something of value.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
I think it's I mean, from speaking from someone who did to have these kinds of features, it's it's the wonderful world of being completely free. Yeah, yet being terrified because you literally have just a sliver of something to hold on to.

James Morosini 15:53
Right. Yeah. Yeah, no, that terror is definitely it feels ever present.

Alex Ferrari 15:59
Like, but it's a good kind of terror. It is, you know,

James Morosini 16:04
I mean, it's it's the terror of like, feeling embarrassed. Really, like you're Yeah. Cuz you're like, you just really don't want to screw the pitch. Yeah, I think they're really afraid to look stupid. I think that's like a really a driving force for everybody's like, people want to, people want to appear to others, like they really have their shit together. And and it's scary when you're at a place it not knowing because you're like, should I need to know the answer now? Or it needs to be good. And, and? Yeah, I kind of found it. Like, it was like, we were constantly going between, like, wanting there be space to play and find it. And then we would go to be like, Okay, well, we need something right now. Like, let's, you know, what's the best thing we've got? And you know, and just roll with it. Yeah, man. And then it's like, you know, you'd, you'd get what you got that day. And then you cut it down to kind of like the exactly what it needs to be and how it fits into the already existing footage. And then from that, it's it's like, you're kind of like, I guess it, I guess it's kind of like, You're, you're building a puzzle. And then you're like, Oh, we need a piece of this. And then you're going out and getting that piece but it but it's almost like starting with a partial puzzle

Alex Ferrari 17:28
Your writing with, you basically have a rough draft, and you're going out and writing the story with the camera and the actors.

James Morosini 17:35
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then you're keeping expenses as low as possible, so that you have that luxury to do that. And there's something about, okay, we're on, we're on set, everybody's here, we have to make something, there's something about that pressure that can sometimes lead to like it like because then there's not all the steps between the moment of inspiration, when you're like, Oh, I have a great idea, I'm going to put it in a script form, then I'm gonna send it to producers, then I'm gonna attach a cast, then we're gonna plan a day to shoot it. By the time you get to actually making it that moment of inspiration was like, you know, it could it could be like a year or two or even more ago, where it's like, it's not really that inspiring anymore. Or it might not be, you know, but if you're like, Great, let's just, let's go do it. Like, you're going to find something that inspires you on the day, and that thing is going to you're going to be able to experience that, from watching it.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
Now, what is the biggest mistake you made while making the film? Wow. It's hard to say, Man, I mean, the whole thing. I mean, like, the whole thing was a mistake the whole day. I'm not.

James Morosini 18:42
Yeah, it was my first feature in the whole my whole mentality around it was like, I want to fail as much as I want to be as ambitious as I can around this. And then I also want to fall on my face as much as I can to understand to learn from falling on my face, right? And then also realizing that no matter how bad a certain scene turns out, we can always cut it and then learn from what didn't work and reshoot it. So, so nothing, you know, even though you're shooting it, it's not if it doesn't cost a lot to make, and there's, you know, few enough people involved where they're kind of down to that ride. Nothing's that final, you know, so you can you can, you have again, you have the room to fail, in terms of like, I'm trying to think of like a big mistake. Oh, no, man.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
Well, let me let me rephrase the question. If you can go back and tell yourself something before you started shooting, what would it be?

James Morosini 19:46
Yeah. Um, I think I mean, honestly, you just be like to try to enjoy it more.

Alex Ferrari 20:00
That's a really you know what, that's really good because when you're in that intense pressure cooker, you don't enjoy the ride. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

James Morosini 20:19
No, and I didn't I mean, I look from like the time I thought of the idea to like now it being released on all the platforms, it dude it like, a lot of it was was less fun than it could have been had I been had I want it, you know, a little bit more loosely. But it was like, you knows so much of it is is motivated by like, You're, you're afraid and you just want to get it made. And and so you're just you're kind of in a panic state a lot of the time. And I just wish I could go back and be like, Dude, it's not that serious. Just relax, relax, you're going to make it it actually, it doesn't matter if at the end of the day, it actually doesn't matter. Like, you're, you're just just just chill out.

Alex Ferrari 21:15
I think if you learned that lesson, the entire process was worth it. Because it's such a valuable lesson to learn. And I've had many years to learn it.

James Morosini 21:24
Totally man. And I think it's one you have to learn over and over and over. No, I it. Yeah, it's like just the future is a scary thing. But it but right now isn't necessarily so if you can just be where you are in the process right now and dive in there, then you'll be fine. You know,

Alex Ferrari 21:44
Now you so you finish the movie, you edited it. And and now what is a marketing plan? What was your ideas of how to get it out into the world?

James Morosini 21:52
Yeah, we use a lot of social media ads and, and, you know, we had relationships with a lot of different blogs and, you know, things like this. And, and, and also, you know, the film, you know, going to cinequest was was really useful.

Alex Ferrari 22:12
They're they're wonderful. They're Yes. Where I premiered. It was great.

James Morosini 22:15
Yeah, man, they're really awesome. And oh, and you know, we released a little chunk of our film online. We released one of the scenes, and somehow it went viral. That's like, eight and a half million views now.

Alex Ferrari 22:31
Yeah. And when you say somehow it went viral. I mean, look at the title. Act like you didn't know what you were doing. Okay?

James Morosini 22:43
I guess threesome scene.

Alex Ferrari 22:45
Threesome scene, generally is gonna get a kick.

James Morosini 22:49
If you search threesome on YouTube, it's it's one of the first videos that comes up.

Alex Ferrari 22:55
I mean, to be fair, though, I guess. Yeah, that was and to be fair, it was a threesome scene, not the threesome

James Morosini 23:02
Scene that they were looking for. I know people people back you can look at the analytics on it. And people tend to stop watching when they realize that it's not the kind of threesome scene they were looking at.

Alex Ferrari 23:13
Aren't any three some scenes like that on YouTube? They don't allow it.

James Morosini 23:16
I know. I don't know why people are going on YouTube to look for porn. It doesn't really make sense. There's there's a porn, like very few clicks away. Like it's not like you have to like, have to go hunting for it on YouTube. Like, there's plenty of porn that you can go watch.

Alex Ferrari 23:34
Well, I mean, it was a strategic plan that you did that. And I saw that I was like, look what these guys did. That's great. Fine, you know, they they use the viral thing to the UPS degree. Yeah. And it's like 8 million plus, and you're still probably getting 10s of 1000s of views and then on a daily basis.

James Morosini 23:51
I guess I feel bad that I'm now I don't really feel bad. But there's a part of me that I guess feels a little guilty that there's all these disappointed masturbators out there that are

Alex Ferrari 24:01
One of them is your question. Did you actually make any money off of that on YouTube? Did you actually monetize it or no,

James Morosini 24:07
No, no, we didn't we use it was it was still so early on in the process that we still had our temp music in there. So we just like put it out with one of the songs. It was really like, the reason I go like it somehow went viral is because I literally just uploaded a small part of the rough cut onto YouTube. And I didn't push it at all it just found somehow. But yeah, it's it's the, you know, I've done so many shorts where like, we released the short and then we're sending it to everybody we know and we're doing this we're doing that this we really just like uploaded and it somehow, you know, to the partner one day we just started climbing like 50,000 views a day and we were like, Dude Did someone you know samurai, the dude that I wrote and produced and acted in it with he and I will Dude, did you pay for these views? Like, just be honest, be honest, he paid for the views because there's a lot. And I, I kind of didn't believe him and still until it started hitting like a million and stuff

Alex Ferrari 25:12
Because it's costing cost too much money.

James Morosini 25:14
Like, there's no way he spent like $1,000 to get a million views like that. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
That's Yeah, cuz and that's something that anyone listening don't do that don't buy views. It's just not I had a guy I had a guy a filmmaker, that I worked on their film and this guy was just an egomaniac. And he he put his trailer up. And he'd like paid for like two or 3 million views on that trailer. And that was what he led with every single time he spoke about the movie. Look, our trailer got two or 3 million views. There's so many people wants to watch it. You've got to buy it and no one bought it. It's just a waste of time.

James Morosini 25:53
Yeah, I don't think people really care doesn't really move the needle in terms of people's enthusiasm. They're like, Oh, cool, X amount of millions of views, like, people just want to see a good movie. Right? And so the trailer sucks, and you have 50 million views like it does. I'm not gonna want to see the movie if the trailer sucks, or if the you know, or if the teaser doesn't look interesting.

Alex Ferrari 26:16
Right? Right. Right. Right. No Question. Now, what was the what kind of distribution plan did you have for the film?

James Morosini 26:22
I mean, we didn't really have a plan going into it. Our plan was to, you know, our last resort was going to be to self distribute, go through stripper, or potentially put it on VHS, where it's like, you know, you pay each time you want to watch it. So yeah, I mean, that was, that was like worst case scenario, which wouldn't have been that bad. But, uh, I went, but then we just we went to Sundance this past year to support a friend's film. And I met one of these guys that works at gravitas. And we we started talking about Burning Man, and Vipassana meditation. And then I mentioned that I had made a film and he's like, oh, cool, man, send it to me. And I was like, Alright, whatever. And I sent it over. And then we got a call a couple weeks later being like, Hey, we want to make you an offer on your film. And so yeah, it's funny that it can be that simple is like awkwardly standing around a Sundance party and meeting a random person. And to sell your film.

Alex Ferrari 27:32
That is, what Sam's lens is for. Totally, in many ways you the contacts you can make at Sundance. It's just I mean, you're from LA. I'm from LA. So you know, I'm from Boston. I mean, you live in LA. Oh, yeah, I'm from I'm from the East Coast as well. But no, but we both live in LA. So we, the businesses around us, but it's so spread out, and we can't there's, there's people you can never in a million years get access to. But within Sundance in that four or five block radius, everyone, there's 50,000 people that are in the business. Yeah. Amazing. I love I love going to Sundance, it's so fun. It is it is a unique experience in the world, there is no other place like it, ever, you know, that time of year is very, very special. Now, would you make another movie in the same kind of way, the same kind of style, budget and so forth.

James Morosini 28:21
You know, it wouldn't be my first go to I guess I'm interested in exploring how to put a movie together more traditionally, with kind of the same spirit as we made this film, but I do want to challenge myself to make another kind of movie. You know, that that is kind of like, I don't know, I want the steak. Even though I want to go into it and have fun, it's up. I really like feeling. I like the feeling of butterflies as I'm making a goal. I like the feeling of like it feeling like you're performing a high wire act. Yes. The whole thing like that, that adrenaline is is an intensity is something that I think really can bring a lot of people together and, and creates kind of this, this, this feeling that you're on this like mission with these people and that that's kind of why I love making movies and acting and stuff is because you're kind of like I don't know, you're trying to do this, this weird difficult thing with with people. So no, I don't know. I mean, we made a movie, right after three something in a similar way. We we I don't think we were as we didn't have that feeling around it. We were like, yeah, we can do this. It's fine. Like we'll just throw it together. And it didn't have the same magical quality that threesome did so we just we ended up changing the form of it now it's it's it's a little it's a it's a short series. But I'm still glad we made it because it's like we wouldn't have made that short little series have we just been like, yeah, let's just wait Till somebody gives us multiple millions to make our next film. No, I the next film I want to make is it's kind of a personal story. Based on my experience growing up in Boston, I was like 14 or 15 obsessed with mafia movies. And I sold pot to make friends and got caught. And so the movie The movie is about, it kind of has the sensibility of like an eighth grade or like a ladybird. It's kind of like awkward teenage years, but it's structured like a Goodfellas or something where this kid desperately wants to be a gangster. But he's so clearly not.

Alex Ferrari 30:42
So Napoleon diamond dynamite meets, Goodfellas Got it?

James Morosini 30:45
Exactly. The The, the the feeling that I don't know, I just I love those movies growing up. And so that that's the film I'm putting together now. It's called acne.

Alex Ferrari 30:56
Nice, very cool, man. So I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

James Morosini 31:07
Yeah, so I think I think the advice I would have given myself as I was, as I was trying to break into business was just, it would just be to be as bold as you possibly can. Don't worry about just take, take shots, just just have ideas of things you can do to, to move forward and just do those things. Just learn through failure, don't, don't be afraid of falling on your face. And then also just try to do something, try to do something kind of scary every day. Whether that be reaching out to someone you really respect or writing down a conversation you had or you would like to have. And then kind of like changing one of the elements to make it more fantastical or cinematic. For example, I just had my my girlfriend, I got this cat. And then we had to return the cat. And it was this whole debacle that kind of reflected like, the nature of our relationship and stuff. And I wrote a short but I changed the cat to a monkey. And so it's like, now I gotta love the song making that person but but anyway

Alex Ferrari 32:18
You're gonna get a monkey, you're actually gonna get a monkey

James Morosini 32:20
I try to get a monkey. Yeah, I don't know, the idea. One of the main things that appeals to me about the idea is like, how am I going to get a monkey? And how am I going to American director Becky? Yeah, how am I going to direct the monkey

Alex Ferrari 32:36
I The advice I could give you as a director who's worked with animals? Just make sure the budgets really low. But yes, it's gonna take you a while.

James Morosini 32:49
I'm pretty excited to figure it out. But But yeah, so the advice I would give is just to fail as frequently as you can. to not try not to care what other people think about you. And then to just to just to try to like, try to figure out what makes you weird or insecure and then make things about about that.

Alex Ferrari 33:11
Very cool. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?

James Morosini 33:16
Yeah, I think I think there's a few Elian Czanne's book called my life, it's a life. That book is unbelievable. And I really connected to it because it's about an actor that wanted to say more than than just acting and kind of had this like, feeling of unrest in them. And so we started directing and it's extremely candid and, and really awesome. And then another book. I don't know I'm reading. I'm reading the book Cassavetes on Cassavetes right now.

Alex Ferrari 33:52
He has a good book. That's it.

James Morosini 33:53
I love it, man. Yeah, it's it's really inspiring.

Alex Ferrari 33:56
Anybody who wants to make movies like the style of your movie or the cell that I made in my films. You got to watch Cassavetes, you've got to study Cassavetes because he was the godfather of that kind of stuff.

James Morosini 34:08
Yeah, true man

Alex Ferrari 34:10
Without question. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn within the film industry or in life?

James Morosini 34:18
What is it honey attracts more flies than vinegar?

Alex Ferrari 34:23
Very true.

James Morosini 34:24
It's just like, if you're upset, just like try to deal with it on your own and try not to just don't be a dick.

Alex Ferrari 34:30
There's the best advice you can give anyone just don't get

James Morosini 34:33
Like feel sometimes like yelling or getting upset with other people can feel like it's going to be productive. But it actually never works. It just like the only thing that person then ends up experiencing is is their feelings being hurt. They're not really they stop listening to what you're trying to even communicate. And then you also just then all of a sudden feel guilty and you can't even think about the thing you're trying to communicate. You just feel bad for you. Not being kind. Yeah, I think that that's one that's like you have to regularly remind yourself is like, Hey, be nice. Everyone's here for 80 years if they're lucky, and then they die. So just fucking, like everybody's really a lot more fragile than they seem. And, and everybody's just kind of doing the best they can. So try to be try to be good to other people because that's,

Alex Ferrari 35:25
Now we're three of your favorite films of all time?

James Morosini 35:27
Wow. Okay. I think one that I recently saw is going to make the list movie called Toni Erdmann.

Alex Ferrari 35:42
Just just got two more they just come to mind.

James Morosini 35:44
Okay, okay. I really like das boat.

Alex Ferrari 35:48
Oh, that's boot. That's boots. Yeah, yeah, movie.

James Morosini 35:52
And I love and I love I mean, I've seen been red lines so many times. I think it's kind of structurally all over the place. But there's something just like, so ambitious around it. And like, so, so raw and like, kind of random that I that I really love.

Alex Ferrari 36:12
Yeah, it's well, that's Malik. Yeah, it's Malik. I'm actually we're actually doing the director series that I have on YouTube, which is basically diving in and breaking down and dissecting that movie right now, actually. Which is such a great way all this stuff is is such an insane journey to watch stuff. Yeah. Now, where can people find you?

James Morosini 36:35
They can go to my website, JamesMorosini.com. And they can see a bunch of stuff I've directed and other stuff. They can just hit me up from there. And, and yeah, my movies available on Amazon, iTunes, all of the streaming and on demand platforms. It's called three, something that's three spelled out, not the letter. And yet, check it out. And if you dig it, let me know.

Alex Ferrari 37:00
Very cool, man. I put all those links in the show notes.

James Morosini 37:04
I'm on Instagram and Twitter.

Alex Ferrari 37:06
Very cool. I'll put all those links in the show notes. And James thanks again for being on the show and sharing your experience brother.

James Morosini 37:12
This was so fun. Thanks, man.

Alex Ferrari 37:15
Thank you, James for coming on and dropping some experience knowledge bombs on the tribe today. And, and sharing sharing your adventures or misadventures in making your micro budget feature film. So thanks again, so much. If you want links to the movie, or anything we talked about in the episode, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/280. And by the way, Happy Thanksgiving to all of my us. listeners out there members of the tribe, Happy Thanksgiving, you guys are probably all stuffed right now listening to this, or it's a day after two days after. And you're still stuffed. Because that's that's what we do. So happy. I have a great weekend, guys have a great long weekend. And don't forget, we are having that Black Friday sale for IFH.TV. If you sign up for IFH.TV, you get a coupon for a free month that you could give to anybody, filmmaker, friends, families, colleagues, whoever you want, and I made a nice beautiful little e card, they will get sent to you. So you could just forward it along with a code. And that could take advantage of IFH.TV so that's going to run until Cyber Monday. So of course just go to indiefilmhustle.tv or IFHTV.com have a good turkey day guys. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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