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DENTLER INTERVIEWS HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS DIRECTOR SWANBERG

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in Filmmaking
on Aug 17, 2007


Matt Dentler came up with a great concept to help get the word out about Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs, which begins a theatrical run Wednesday, August 22 at New York’s IFC Center. He’s done interviews with Swanberg and the film’s other principal collaborators and parceled them out to a number of different film bloggers.

Here’s the Filmmaker segment, and thanks, Matt, for including us.

JOE SWANBERG INTERVIEWED BY MATT DENTLER

On the eve of the theatrical debut of Joe Swanberg’s SXSW 2007 hit, Hannah Takes the Stairs, I wanted to check in with each of the film’s principal collaborators. The film has been documented as a successful collaboration between acclaimed film artists from around the nation, each one offering their own trademark influence on the
final film. “Hannah Takes the Stairs” will open at the IFC Center in New York, on August 22, as well as be available on IFC VOD the same day. As part of an ongoing series you can find throughout the film blogosphere, here is an interview with “Hannah” director Joe Swanberg (also the writer/director of LOL, out soon on DVD):

Dentler: How did you first get connected to Hannah Takes the Stairs?

Swanberg: I met Anish Savjani at SXSW after the premiere of my second film, LOL. He wanted to know what I was working on next, and I told him about a few of the ideas that I was kicking around. The idea for Hannah really appealed to him, so we started talking more seriously about it. We were both excited about the new HD technology and the new channels of distribution opening up, and we thought that this was an interesting story to tell, so we decided to go for it. I started casting right away, and he went to work putting the production together. Four months after our first meeting, we were shooting the film.

Dentler: What do you remember most about the shoot in Chicago?

Swanberg: I remember everything really vividly from the shoot. It was an amazing experience for me. There was so much good energy, and the sense that we were all working together to create something special. Every few days a new person would arrive and add some new flavor to the dish. We did everything together as a group, and it’s like we were living in some magical world that we had created. Because nobody was from Chicago, and I wasn’t staying at my apartment, the “Hannah” house became this weird other place for all of us. I have a feeling that if I went back it wouldn’t be there. Like maybe we just imagined it all. Some particular highlights are (in no particular order): Kent doing penis tricks, Kevin cooking delicious meals, the Duplass and Bujalski “Breakout” rivalry, the Rohal and Bujalski actor look-alike rivalry, no air conditioning, Greta getting really drunk and talking about theater, watching “School Ties” and trips to Cookie Dough Creations.

Dentler: How did the production process differ from your own other projects, or projects you’ve acted in before or since?

Swanberg: This was a really big change for me from Kissing on the Mouth and LOL. I was able to be a full-time filmmaker for the first time, so my level of focus was much higher. I was able to pay everyone on the film, which made me feel really nice and gave the production a level of professionalism that I appreciated. I had the help of a co-producer, which was amazing. Anish went really far out of his way to make sure that I could focus all of my energy on the artistic aspects of the production and not get bogged down by the logistics. It was also my first time working with experienced actors, which allowed me to use some extended takes that give this film a different feel from my others. The whole thing was a huge learning experience, as a filmmaker and as a person.

Dentler: What are your thoughts on the issues of sex and relationships that come to the forefront of the film?

Swanberg: I think it’s important to realize that no one person is going to fulfill every need and desire in your life. If you’re
looking for that person, the way Hannah seems to be, you are going to be dissatisfied. I have an addictive personality, and I recognize that in Hannah. I get really into people, and I focus a lot of energy on them, and it’s really intense for a period, and then that energy and attention shifts to someone else. I’m trying to balance that a lot more in my own life, and that’s my hope for the character in the film. Whether she is figuring that out or not at the end is up to the viewer to decide.

Dentler: Ever been in a love triangle?

Swanberg: I am currently involved in a love triangle with my wife and the Internet. Sometimes we have a threesome and it’s great, but other times my wife gets jealous of my time with the Internet. Sometimes I get jealous of my wife’s time with the Internet. It’s really complicated, but we are committed to working it out.

Dentler: Did you ever work with “the stairs?” Any thoughts on why they didn’t make the cut?

Swanberg: As far as I know, Hannah took the stairs before the production ever started, so I never saw them. I think the stairs decided that they were going to take some time and focus on their music, so they’re letting acting take a back seat right now.

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