This is a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s quote by filmmaker John Sayles about the difficulty of making money these days as an independent filmmaker. Joe Swanberg may be the most prolific filmmaker in the United States. Some filmmakers make six films in their career—Swanberg’s made that many in one year.
To date he’s made 29 (feature and short) films . I haven’t seen any of them—and you may not of seen any of them, or even heard of any of them—but you have to admit that making 29 films the last decade or so is a pretty impressive feat.
He’s made enough money (via small distribution deals, writing scripts for hire, and directing a project for HBO) to eke out a living including having insurance, and buying a house and with his wife. (From what I can gather they still ahem some student loan and credit card debt.)
The Chicago-based filmmaker also joined the WGA and the DGA, and his 2014 film Happy Christmas featured Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham in the cast.
“There are a lot of filmmakers I know who are making very sincere attempts to make work that is commercial, but they don’t know what that means. They pitch me a project: ‘I’m tired of doing the arty thing. I’m working on a screenplay now that I think I can attach some famous people to and actually make some money.’ And then they tell you the idea and you’re just like, ‘Never in a million years is a) any famous actor going to want to do that movie; or b) is any distributor going to want to put it out. You are so deluded right now. You don’t know what ‘commercial’ means.’ And these are smart people, but they shouldn’t be thinking about ‘commercial.’ They stand a better chance of making money by following their own whacko artistic vision.”
Writer/Director Joe Swanberg
Filmmaker Magazine interview with Esther B. Robinson