He has been referred to as “The Godfather of Mumblecore”, but writer/ director Andrew Bujalski would like to shed this nomenclature. His early films (Funny Ha Ha 2002, Mutual Appreciation 2005) contributed to the movement that helped people like Joe Swanberg and Mark Duplass break into mainstream filmmaking, and now it’s Bujalski’s turn. Results is a comedy starring Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders as Trevor and Kat, two intense personal trainers, and Kevin Corrigan as Danny, an out of shape, lost, wealthy divorcee who seeks their help. With Trevor and Danny forming a bit of an odd couple relationship, both of whom have feelings for Kat, there are elements familiar to the studio rom com, but with Bujalski’s unique sensibility it becomes something else entirely.
We talked to Bujalski and Corrigan about their working relationship and this shift from indie to a more studio friendly project.
Dork Shelf: Are you now, or have you ever been a member at a gym like this?
Andrew Bujalski: Not necessarily at a boot camp kind of gym like this, but about halfway through the movie Guy’s character takes Kevin’s character to a kind of old school weight lifters gym. As I was writing the movie, the only way I was ever going to get myself into a gym with any consistency, would be to tell myself that it was research. That was the gym that I was going to for about a year before we shot. I became very affectionate for that place and for the characters in there. Unfortunately we shot the movie and I had no time to go, then right as we were wrapping the movie my second child was born and I haven’t set foot in a gym in the last year. But I miss it, I never thought I would miss the gym.
DS: How did you pitch this film when you were first getting it off the ground?
AB: I wrote it with Kevin Corrigan and Guy Pearce in mind and just got very lucky that I was able to cajole them into coming down and doing it. Just talking about that cast was interesting to people but I’ve never been any good at pitching. For this movie I was very fortunate to find financiers very early in the project so I didn’t have to do a lot of getting into rooms and pitching, they just read the script and they responded to it. Then I realized when we were premiering at Sundance and I started to read people synopses of the movie, that I fell into this trap that I always fall into, which is taking that something that seems very simple to me but ultimately is quite difficult to describe. That’s the sort of story that I’ve always been attracted to, I like stories that are difficult to pitch. They tend to be richer and more interesting stories.
DS: So you read your reviews?
AB: Not all of them and not thoroughly, but yeah I do. I shouldn’t but I do. I think it’s kind of axiomatic that one shouldn’t read reviews, and yet I do. As much as it can fuck with your head I’ve found over the years that there is some value to it. It’s just interesting to see how some people are reacting to things and it’s also surprising.
DS: Did you know Guy and Kevin personally or just their work?
AB: Kevin I’d been a fan of for 20 years and I’d known socially a little bit just the last few years, and Guy I had breakfast with while discussing another project and I just found him really engaging and fascinating and of course I’ve always been a fan of his work. So they were the first two people who sprung to mind when I was thinking about what actors I’d like to work with and was very lucky to get them.
DS: And this was before you’d even started writing Results?
AB: That was kind of the spark of it, was sitting down and thinking, alright if I want to do something with pros, who are some pros that I could imagine working with. I was already just making myself laugh trying to picture those guys in the same movie.
DS: Kevin, do you ever get used to someone someone coming to you with a part they’ve written specifically for you?
Kevin Corrigan: Yeah I’ve had people write things with me in mind in the past, a lot the time it was just a case of not even being close to being anything like me. Although, is that point of having a part written for you? So you can just be you? I don’t know.
DS: What was it about the ones that didn’t feel right?
KC: I couldn’t feel the disturbance, you know? It’s like listening to music. Sometimes people will give me music to listen to and tell me that I think you’re going to like this, it seems like the kind of thing you would like, and I will give it a scrupulous listen. Track by track, listen to the whole thing. I want to feel the disturbance in this character, I want to get that unmistakable sense of madness or despair. “Despair” is the key word here, there was a sense of despair in the character that Andrew wrote for me to play.
DS: You’ve done some writing of your own in the past, any plans to return to it?
KC: I tend to hook up with people who do a lot more writing than me. I was kind of prolific when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, I wrote a couple plays. I got too aware and became self conscious about it. I never figured out how to get back to being un-self conscious enough to be able to write and finish what I start. I’ve met up with people who write and direct and do that thing that I would like to do and I live vicariously through them as an actor. Andrew is one of those people that I have a kind of symbiotic relationship with. Probably the most mature collaboration of that kind that I’ve had in my career. They’ve all bore some kind of fruit. But I’m talking to you promoting it now, they don’t all get that far. I think that’s a real tribute to Andrew’s maturity and determination and the stock people put in his talent.
DS: Once on set, is the script sacred or do you like to mix it up a bit?
AB: We did stick to the script but with every take you change things up a little bit and it feels different and you tease different meanings and different feelings out of the things. That’s why we make movies, that’s why I’m not a novelist. It’s not done when I finish putting words on the paper.
DS: As an actor, do you want a director who is hands-on with his performers or would you rather be left to your own devices?
KC: It varies. There are times when you work with a director who emanates uncertainty. They don’t want to bother you but you can feel how indecisive they are. At those times I will come right out and say just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. I mean that literally. Tell me where to stand, where you want me to walk to, how you want me to say the line. It’ll make the process go a lot quicker. In the end you just don’t have time to do this stuff. Everybody has the same amount of time to get this stuff done. You’re either falling behind schedule or you’re ahead of schedule, most of the time you’re behind schedule. Someone like Andrew, he says just enough. He doesn’t say too little and he doesn’t say too much. Mainly because he’s already written the script and done all his talking in that department. Flip through one of his scripts, I don’t know if they’re all like Results, but his characters are so talkative. So verbose. They have so much to say. At least Trevor and Kat, about themselves, about their relationships. Presumably these are Andrew’s thoughts about those things, about those subjects. He’s already said everything he wants to say by the time we’re on set shooting the film so he doesn’t have to talk a whole lot. He’s already anticipated having limited time to get his shots. I like working with someone who’s organized that way. I like to work with people who are spontaneous and who are inventive but I like for them inventive before we get to the set.
I worked with Terrence Malick on a film two years ago, and it’s Terrence Malick! He was trying to reinvent the wheel right in the middle of take and it was a little frustrating. He’s kind of whimsical that way. The guy’s a legend, he can do whatever he wants and he does seem to do whatever he wants. Things aren’t nailed down at all. The movie is truly like this living thing, you don’t know where it’s going to go or what’s going to happen. That can be kind of frustrating when you’ve spent all night memorizing lines and then the lines end up not mattering all that much. I like for there to be form. I like for there to be organization.
DS: Do you feel like there is more spontaneity on the smaller films?
KC: I was just watching a documentary on Goodfellas and they’re talking about the scene where Joe Pesci says ‘do you think I’m funny?’ That scene is a perfect example of what we want out of a movie when we say we want spontaneity. It seems like they’re improvising while the camera’s rolling, but they weren’t. They rehearsed and then they rehearsed some more and then they took the best parts of the rehearsal and they scripted it and then they memorized the script and then they shot it. So it’s kind of facsimile of an improvisation. It’s still retains the feeling of improvisation and it looks like it’s happening spontaneously but it really isn’t. It’s organized. That said, there can be stuff that’s improvised right in front of the camera, there are happy accidents if the people involved are really good at thinking on their feet. I’m not really quick like that. I wouldn’t say there was more of it or less of it indie films, it really depends.
DS: Was it very different to direct a film a little less indie than what you’re used to?
AB: Yes and no. It’s different every time and it’s painful every time. My job didn’t change much. My job is always just about trying to listen to people and doing whatever I can to do help foster an environment where they can do their best work. Professionals or unprofessionals, they’re always just people. No matter how much experience you have, no two people approach this gig quite the same way so you’re always trying to figure out who they are and what they need from you. But it was a bigger operation. I always think the military metaphor is pretty apt. People talk about guerrilla filmmaking, and the early movies I made where we’d have a five or six person crew, they were guerrilla operations, just running around in the jungle and doing what needs to be done. Whereas a show like this, somewhere in the range of 40 crew people every day, that’s more of occupying force and that’s more of a hierarchical military operation where I feel more like the general sitting behind his desk sending young people out to get blown up. That’s an adjustment and that’s something I’m still working on because it does become more managerial. But when all is said and done we’re always aiming towards the same goal, it’s always about trying to get creative people in a room together, winding them up and letting them go.
DS: Kevin I don’t know if you’re aware that IMDb.com now lists ‘Trade Marks’ for some actors, have you seen yours?
KC: (laughs) Yeah there are some silly ones on there. Tell me some of them.
DS: “Razor-sharp looks”… I’m not sure if that’s referring to your appearance or looks you give, “cold dark stare”, “Freqently plays criminals: Drug Dealer, Drug Addict, Kidnapper, Rapist, Drunk, Bank-Robber, Hitman etc.”, “Plays characters who swear non-stop and over the limit” …. I think you’re really breaking type with Danny is Results, because he’s not really any of those things.
KC: I appreciate you saying that. In a lot of cases he is kind of lumped in with those other characters. He’s like a burnout, he’s this, he’s that. I just told someone he’s probably my most sophisticated essay on the burnout character that I’ve done. If you think that it’s departure from all that stuff then I’m glad you think so.
DS: I really do. You also weren’t any of those things in Buffalo ’66, which is one of my favourite movies of all time.
KC: Thanks a lot, I like that movie. I sort of didn’t want to know about it for a few years after I worked on it but then I kind of came back around to it. I was kind of insecure at the time but I think Gallo made a great movie. I’m better in it than I thought I was. I thought I was wasting film while we were shooting. I just kept asking Vincent Gallo if I could do something different, make a different choice, could I just be different? And he said you can’t be different. He was talking to the character and I understood that and it was a really great piece of direction. I still didn’t want anybody to know that was me just because of my neurotic actor idiocy. Like anything, with a few years distance, you can enjoy it. A few years a later I watched it by myself and laughed through the whole thing.
DS: What’s on your Dork Shelf?
AB: When I was a kid I read all the Oz books and at one point I was a member of the international Wizard of Oz club, I should probably renew my membership. I had a collection but I’m sorry to say I sold most of it off. I loved the books and I loved the world and I loved having those things but I thought that there would be some more collector minded person who would love that more than I did.