Magnolia Pictures releases Support the Girls on August 24th, 2018 at IFC Center and Alamo Drafthouse City Point.
NYC MOVIE GURU: In the editing room, how did you find the write balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually?
Andrew Bujalski: Part of what you do in the editing room is that you try to look at the thing from every conceivable anger and then you drive yourself crazy. At some point, you'll always get lost in a maze where you'll go, "Do we need to do a pass where we make everything flow and hit the dramatic beats?" You come at it from many different angles, undoing and re-doing everything until, eventually, you just learn to settle into whatever the film is. A lot of editing is just learning what the film wants to be. You get to know the material enough until it starts to tell you what it wants to do. The hardest thing about it is trying to see the whole thing. It's a big thing that's made up of a lot of micro decisions.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you manage to master the skill of writing dialogue that sounds so true-to-life?
AB: I don't recall mastering anything. It's one of those mysteries of writing. It always starts with hearing voices in your head and then transcribing them. Those are the rhthyms that come to me naturally, for better of for worse. I really don't know how to write any other way. It's fun and thrilling to take that and bring it to actors and to let them breathe life into it. For me, sitting down in front of a piece of paper is very helpful because I know that it won't stay between me and the page forever. We do get to bring some other people to it to make some magic.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about the concept of "realism" in a movie? Would it be fair to say that the kind of realism in Support the Girls is very different from the kind of realism in Funny Ha Ha?
AB: Yeah. Any time you try to boil down a big idea into one word, there's a lot of different interpretations that you can bring to it. Everything I do, I hope, has to resonate with real life. Ultimately, you're putting something on the screen and you want people to come in and bounce their own experiences off of it and be moved by it, one way or another. For me, rooting something in real life and experiences that we've all had is my way of getting there. That's what interests me. That said, it's all a show and all a construction. Even in those first few movies that I did that did not have celebrity actors in them and that were very focused on trying to get performances that didn't feel actorly in the sense of trying to get across big emotions in clear and simple way. Those are performances where the actors were allowed to be confused and to show these things that you rarely see on screen, but that you know from real life---even in those movies, I never felt like we were making a documentary or telling the 100% straight truth of something. It was always scripted and there was always a narrative, but there was a specific kind of touch to it. I think that you're right. Support the Girls feels very different because there's a lot of different styles than what I would've been doing in Funny Ha Ha, but it's always a balancing act of Truth and Fiction. That's part of why I like movies in the first place. The way that the medium is built, you can never make anything that's entirely true or entirely fiction. There's always an element of both in every movie ever made. Trying to find that balance is where a lot of the directors' work is. Truth is within Fiction and Fiction is within Truth. I can't untangle it all, but that's the filmmaker's job. That's the real magic of cinema.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about Support the Girls being lumped into a genre? How do you feel about the concept of genre in general?
AB: There have been plenty of "genre" movies that I love. I've never sat down and tried to write something in a "genre" mode. The closest I came was with my previous movie, Results, which had a lot of elements of romantic comedy to it. I was aware of those tropes and playing with them, but I couldn't have written the movie only thinking in terms of, "How does the genre work? How do I play with the genre?" It could only flow from the characters for me, so I had to take the characters as seriously as the characters in anything that I wrote. There are writers who do the other thing which is just write through genre. Often, you can get great work out of that, but it's just not a way that I've learned how to work. Genre for genre sake doesn't really interest me, but you can tell a really great story within a genre.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How tricky it is to know how to end your movies, especially when it comes to how abrupt to end them?
AB: In my movies, of course, it's all a question about how abrupt to end it. I like endings. Support the Girls is something that at one point, years ago, I had a version of this idea as a television show, but I never quite figured it out in part because the biggest problem with TV shows is that you're not allowed to end them. It's very hard for me to know how tell a story without an ending. It's just part of my storytelling DNA. So, at the end of the day, it's just an organic process of trying to figure out what you want to say and to get in there. When you have a sense of that, then you probably have a sense of when it's done.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How important do you think a film's plot is, ultimately?
AB: I read a great quote the other day about how plot is for people who know everything already and narrative is something for people who wish to explore. Somehow, that difference between plot and narrative is something that I can certainly relate to. I've never had much of a head for plots. I admire it and I enjoy watching the gears turn, but it's not what engages me in a story. I don't really get that engaged by following plots. If I go to see a movie and there's a mystery about who the murderer is, I kinda don't really care. I'm just interested in the journey that the characters go on, whatever that is.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a film into a classic that sticks?
AB: When it comes to making a movie stick, that's kinda like your highest aspiration as a filmmaker: "Can we make something that will still mean something to the people who experienced it a year from now or ten years from now?" In the 21st Century, with a total media and cultural meltdown, it's impossible to know if anything will last. You hope that you're creating an experience that resonates and maybe you bring that experience with you. That's what inspired me and got me started this in the first place: being a kid, falling in love with movies and not being able to get them out of my head. There are some movies that I loved when I was 5 or 6 years old that are still inside of me. It's an extraordinary thing.
NYC MOVIE GURU: If you woke up one day during the production phase and had a budget of $100 million, how would you spend it?
AB: I would embezzle it! [laughs] The thing with a $100 million movie is that it usually comes with a lot of people who are investing the $100 million and who have very specific goals. So, there's a perversity to filmmaking. As I've made 6 features over the years, while my professional standards are low budget, it's a hell of a lot more money than it was when I started. Yet, when we had the least amount of money, we felt the less crunched budget-wise because what we were doing was simple and straightforward. It wasn't easy, but we only had a few pennies to rub together, but we knew what we needed to do with them. We didn't necessarily want some more pennies. I think that the best movies are the ones that are struggling against something. You have to see the struggle of making a movie in the movie. You have a lot better chance of making something good when the money is a bit tight than you do when you have more money than you know what to do with.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you define charisma, a very essential element in cinema?
AB: I don't know how I would define it. I think that it's all intuitive. I think that you're right that it's a pretty crucial ingredient. You don't make a movie with someone who you don't think you want to watch on screen. That's something that might be different for me than it is for you. Whether it's a professional or nonprofessional actor who has charisma, it's always someone who makes me want to watch and lean forward in my chair pulling me into the screen.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think would make a great double feature with Support the Girls?
AB: American Job by Chris Smith who did American Movie. Certainly, a lot of this movie is just about working and having a job.