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SXSW 2009: Andrew Bujalski Minds His “Beeswax”

SXSW 2009: Andrew Bujalski Minds His “Beeswax” (photo)

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You’d think that a film shot and set in Austin would see its world premiere at SXSW. “Beeswax” even features the festival’s new producer Janet Pierson in a supporting role, as well as a slew of faces from the local filmmaking scene (the Zellner brothers, Kyle Henry and Bryan Poyser). And of course, “Beeswax” is the third feature by Andrew Bujalski, whose name is associated with a group of low budget filmmakers known, for the most part, for having met at SXSW over the past few years and subsequently being shoved under the same umbrella-like designator, “mumblecore.” However convenient the shorthand, it’s hardly fair to the filmmakers, much less the films, particularly one as non-mumbly and subtly heartfelt as “Beeswax.” Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher), runs a vintage clothing shop; she may be facing a lawsuit from her business partner, and she seems to be flirting with the idea of getting back together with an old flame, Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), a law student studying for the bar exam. Jeannie’s sister, Lauren (Maggie Hatcher, and yes, they’re twins in real life), is between jobs and boyfriends and knows she needs to pick a track and get rolling again.

At any rate, the Berlin International Film Festival takes place a month before SXSW, and when the Berlinale calls, a young filmmaker books a flight. Lucky for me, then, since I got to talk to Bujalski, who’d all but just stepped off the plane. At the next table, Maren Ade was being interviewed in German, and I wondered if Bujalski had heard of the Berlin School, another batch of low-budget filmmakers finding themselves herded together by critics anxious to spot the next movement. No, he hadn’t, but: “They have a better name.” True. “Beeswax” sees its North American premiere at SXSW tomorrow.

How did you end up making a film in Austin?

I lived in Austin 10 years ago. I actually wrote “Funny Ha Ha” when I was living in Austin. I’ve yet to write a film in the same city that we eventually shoot it. I hope this trend doesn’t continue. Films always seem to end up transporting me somewhere else.

So I lived there a long time ago and when it came time to put this one together, there wasn’t an obvious place to do it. We were all so spread out. I was living in Boston. The twins — Tilly lives in Atlanta, and Maggie was in New Haven at that time. The producers and the DP that I work with were all over the place, in New York and LA. So there was no clear central location and the film didn’t seem to demand too specific a location.

I still have a huge amount of fondness for Austin. I knew people and I knew my way around. Certainly there’s a great film community there, and you need to pull a thousand favors to get a film like this made and I thought it could be done there. Really, what put us over was I’d written this whole script that depended on us finding a wheelchair-accessible vintage clothing store [for Jeannie, who uses one], and of course, after I wrote the script, I kind of realized that those didn’t really exist. For the most part, vintage stores are usually very cramped spaces that you can’t maneuver a wheelchair around in. Austin has a ton of vintage stores, so I did my due diligent Internet research and spent a weekend driving around to all of them. The last one that I went to was the one we ended up shooting in, which was just perfect. Everything about it was uncannily perfect. I’d also written in this back room behind the counter, and that was there. It was eerie how right it was and how friendly the owner was.

Where is it?

It’s Storyville, it’s on 51st and…

That’s right! You see the ad and everything. It actually exists.

It actually exists.

What’s interesting is that you never see the exterior.

You don’t.

Was that a conscious decision?

Well, see, even as a student, I don’t think I ever wrote an establishing shot. I’ve had an aversion to them. We thought about going outside in that first scene, when the new employee, Karina, is outside, but we never went there. We stayed inside.

And yet, throughout, It feels like Austin, and of course, the heat is mentioned occasionally and all that — but there are no state capital shots, no landmarks.

[laughs] And in “Mutual Appreciation,” we never got the Statue of Liberty or anything.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.