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South By Southwest 2014 Interview – BUZZARD director Joel Potrykus

BUZZARD - At SxSW 2014
by Jason Whyte

“If you dig on junk food, heavy metal, and angry young men, then come party with Buzzard. It’s an art film disguised as a violent slacker black comedy nightmare. Anti-mumblecore.” Director Joel Potrykus on his film BUZZARD which screens at the 2014 South By Southwest Film Festival.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

First time at SXSW, been to Austin before. We plan on keeping it very weird. Don’t want to throw off the weirdness ecosystem. I’m planning on stalking Jodorowsky the entire time. That’s about it.

Your favorite barbecue/food in the city?

Not Stubb’s. Bland.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?

I make these films with my film band, Sob Noisse; producers Ashley Young, Mike Saunders, Kevin Clancy, and Tim Saunders. Joshua Burge continues to be the face of these films. If you want taste the vibe, then watch “Coyote” on Vimeo and “Ape” on iTunes or Amazon or wherever. “Ape” was my first feature. It premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, so it was a little odd to be so far from home for its debut. This time around I’ll know the language and won’t accidentally order a plate of lunchmeats for dinner.

How did this whole project come together from your perspective?

I was rushed into finishing the script after an inquiry from an important screenwriting lab. I had a few pages done at that point, but needed to then crank out the remaining 100 in two weeks to meet their deadline. Otherwise, I don’t know when I would’ve actually finished it. The idea comes from many times I’ve done lousy temp work in the past. Such a dull work day in those generic cubicle mazes. I spent most of my time goofing around and pretending I was busy. I tend to throw lots of different ideas into my screenplays, so my love/fear for Freddy Krueger crept in eventually. And working with the same film posse, Sob Noisse, made it smooth having a 10-month pre-production and rehearsal time. Joshua Burge deserves and Oscar for this monster of a character.

What was the biggest challenge, or challenges, in making the film?

There aren’t many challenges when you work with your friends and don’t have investors or execs breathing down your neck. Finding money is usually the hardest part, but luckily we all have great friends and parents that believe in all of us. For some reason.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?

Probably watching Joshua eat a heaping plate of spaghetti for a shot. It was right after dinner and the shot was only supposed to last 20 seconds, or so. But I like watching him eat. And he’s a soldier. He literally stuffed his mouth and chomped away, and didn’t stop until I said cut. Which came about 5 minutes later. Then I made him jump on a bed for about two minutes straight. Again, this all happened after we ate dinner.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

Coffee is so 1997. Caffeine-free for me. Sob Noisse doesn’t schedule 16 hour days. We don’t even get rolling until noon. I don’t want this to be any harder than it needs to be. And I hate waking up early. The less crew, the easier it is. The less tired you are, the more focused the film will be. I like to keep it chill. I’m driven my Doritos, mostly.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

This is first time I’ve ever had an actual DP. Normally, I do all that myself. But I wanted “Buzzard” to look great. One of my best friends, Adam Minnick, came to Michigan from Austin, coincidentally, to work on the film. We’re on the same page with everything aesthetically, which would be naturalistic and patient shots. Minimal lighting gear, full-on guerrilla style. We mapped out shots for months before getting to the set. He brought in an assistant camera guy, Brandon, from Seattle. Between them, the technical side was covered. I could focus on performances and the fund stuff. Glad to welcome those guys into the band.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW?

Looking forward to the free food and drinks at the little parties all day. I’m mapping out a plan to be a complete scavenger the entire time. That, and unveiling “Buzzard”, the coolest movie in the city.

After the film screens at South By Southwest, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to screen?

After SXSW, “Buzzard” is going to screen at my dream NY premiere; New Directors/New Films. Playing the MOMA is no joke. I take that seriously. No goofing around. Of course, a large part of the story revolves around Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew, so I’ll let the film goof off for me.

Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

The State Theatre in my hometown of Alpena, Michigan. Just too bad it’s owned by GKC Cinemas; an organization full of buttholes who are delusional about ticket sales and don’t care one bit about supporting the arts or hometown kids.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film?

The same thing I say to anyone texting or talking during any movie. “Hey. No more.” I’m that dude that will call you out. I even called out a deaf guy during a screening of “Hausu” who was receiving subtitle texts on his phone. Just sit in the back row, man.
There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?

Don’t aspire to make the next “Transformers”. Instead, make the next “Transmorphers”.
And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

“Buzzard” at SXSW… Man, that was an incredible viewing experience. My time machine runs perfectly now.

This is one of the many films screening at the 2014 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 8-16. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jasonrcwhyte

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originally posted: 03/04/14 06:33:44
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