Andrew Bujalski – Mutual Appreciation
American indie filmmaker ANDREW BUJALSKI goes for the small details on his acclaimed comedy drama MUTUAL APPRECIATION. BY FILMINK'S LUKE BUCKMASTER
Renowned for low-fi, low-key, low-budget relationship talkies, writer/director Andrew Bujalski is about as far removed from Hollywood artificiality as possible. In 2004, on the back of his impressive debut feature Funny Ha Ha, Bujalski won an Independent Spirit Award and flew to LA to collect it. It was a prestigious ceremony, and he was on TV accepting the award. Bujalski got a grant, half a million handshakes and a strong sense of flirting with the big guns.
That was on a Saturday night. Come Monday, he was back working the daily grind, doing substitute teaching at a public school while daydreaming about his whirlwind weekend. “There's always this weird dichotomy of on the one hand quote unquote success,” he tells FILMINK, “and on the other, of being terrified that I won't be able to pay my rent next month.”
Bujalski is not in a hurry to jump on the Hollywood studio bandwagon. His films – Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation – have accrued considerable praise for their intelligent, dialogue-based scripts and lifelike production techniques. Bujalski's fly-on-the-wall style has been heavily influenced by his days spent studying documentary filmmaking at Harvard. “My initial training was in documentary, and that had a lot to do with the way I want to work. In documentary, you can go out with a camera and sound and that's it; that's all you need to make a movie. That's the opposite from what conventional film school is about.”
On the subject of himself as an audience member, Bujalski says that he often gets frustrated by the sharp structure of most contemporary films. “Sometimes you can hear the typewriter; you can hear the screenwriter and all the clever things they're putting down, and it doesn't quite come to life. So it's always been my first priority that the film feels alive, even if that is occasionally at the risk of people getting alienated by the loosy-goosiness of it. Structurally, it does have a beginning, middle and end, but it doesn't have a resolution, and it doesn't have the traditional establishment: act one, act two, act three.”
Just like the personality of his films, Bujalski appears to be a patient and mannered person who moves at his own speed. He may not, however, always remain on the indie side of filmmaking. “I may have a Hollywood writing job coming up, which is great, and certainly that will pay better than teaching or things like that. Right now, though, it's a little nerve-wracking because it's all to do with Hollywood lawyer stuff. I'm waiting for the cheque to come.”