THE BLOG
05/05/2011 02:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Joe Swanberg Says "Uncle"

I've been a fan of Joe Swanberg since I first saw his films, LOL and Hannah Takes the Stairs, which were inspirations for me to direct my own feature. Swanberg is considered one of the fathers of "mumblecore," though that label should be trumped by the fact that he creates an absurd amount of quality feature films at a blindingly fast clip. (Seven in the last year alone!)

Swanberg's a true professional artist, with a Panasonic HVX200 as his main paintbrush. His films aren't glamorous; they're typically set in few locations and deal heavily with themes of relationship drama and sex, especially involving late 20-somethings.

I saw one of Joe's newest films, Uncle Kent, at Sundance this year and loved it as an example of do-it-yourself micro-budget filmmaking. It's about a 40 year old stoner/slacker/cartoonist (played by Kent Osborne) getting into some odd sexual misadventures in Silverlake, CA, where I also happen to live. Uncle Kent's directing and acting are on-point, and Swanberg's naturalistic style makes it feel like you're truly watching real people in their everyday lives. One of the things that initially drew me to Swanberg's work is his ability to make the mundane seem compelling.

I had the chance to speak briefly with Joe, and it turns out that while much of his content is improvised, his scripts are pretty detailed. He also likes to shoot chronologically and isn't too hot on rehearsals. (With Uncle Kent, the further he got into the filming, the further he got away from the script.)

The film was shot with the same Panasonic HVX200 he used to shoot Hannah Takes the Stairs, though several scenes were recorded with a Flip camera. He and Kent Osborne (star and co-producer) are also both fans of graphic novelists Joe Matt and Jeffrey Brown, and their work inspired the film's style -- mainly in the forms of static compositions and long takes.

Uncle Kent is now playing on cable VOD through June and in a limited run in Chicago at the Siskel Film Center. If you're into do-it-yourself micro-budget filmmaking, I highly recommend checking it out. If you've never seen a Swanberg film before, I recommend starting with this and Nights and Weekends, which he co-directed and co-stars in with Greta Gerwig (now in Hollywood pics such as Arthur and Greenberg). I'm anxious to see what Mr. Swanberg continues to crank out.