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in Filmmaking
on Oct 18, 2007

Ed M. Koziarski in the Chicago Reader posts a piece about mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg in the months following his breakthrough film Hannah Takes the Stairs. He goes with the hook of Swanberg still struggling financially despite his mini-stardom (“It hasn’t changed my life at all,” Swanberg says. “I’m still sitting in Chicago wondering how I’m going to buy groceries. I’m not getting phone calls from agents or studios saying, ‘What are you up to?’”), but there are other observations in the piece worth noting.

Like this one:

Hannah Takes the Stairs grossed a respectable $6,000 on one screen its opening weekend in New York and $18,000 total through its runs in Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle. It played in Portland, Oregon, earlier this month and opens Friday for a weeklong run at the Gene Siskel Film Center. This feature has more muscle behind it than any Swanberg’s made to date, but getting it into theaters has still been a struggle. “The Music Box passed on it. The Film Center didn’t really want to do it. They were like, ‘I don’t think there’s an audience for it.’”

Film Center director Barbara Scharres admits she did have reservations. “Joe’s movie and this movement appeal to a demographic that is more used to accessing entertainment through the Internet and other means that don’t involve going to movie theaters,” she says. To some extent, Swanberg sees her point. “I don’t even know if I’m all that good at getting younger people to see the movie,” he says. “It’s not Napoleon Dynamite, that’s quirky in a safe way. I don’t think Hannah could be turned into a mainstream success no matter who tried to do it.”

Swanberg says in the piece that the film has yet to recoup its five-figure budget and that he hopes that he himself will start to realize some profits in about a year.


“If I can make enough of these small movies that they’ll all be out on video and bringing in some money, eventually five or six of them would be bringing in enough that I can start to live on it,” Swanberg says. “It becomes more about having a body of work, rather than about having one individual film that’s really successful.”

There may, however, be that one film in the future that pays the rent. Koziarski reports that Swanberg is at work on a bigger budget film produced by Film Science and Garden State‘s Camelot Pictures.

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