Industries are always in a constant state of change. It may come slowly, but if consumers demand new and better products, it is only a matter of time until the market shifts course to meet those demands. The new and improved version of a product may take further time to catch on, but eventually, it will replace the outdated product and over time, its familiarity will make it a household name.
No one can say how long it will take before the public accepts something new, but one way you know an industry has achieved a breakthrough is when it becomes part of the popular culture. And that is exactly what has happened with the craft beer industry. On August 23, 2013, Magnolia Pictures will release a movie which revolves around the lives of four individuals, two of whom make a living at a local craft brewery. The film stars Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston. It is called Drinking Buddies, and it is the latest directorial effort from Indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg.
I had a chance to talk to Drinking Buddies director Joe Swanberg recently and find out more about the making of the movie, craft beer’s place in the film, and Swanberg’s own love of fine brew. Here are my questions and Swanberg’s candid responses to each:
- Lots of movies involve the subject of love triangles, or in this case, love rectangles, and are set in the workplace, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that took place in a brewery. What inspired you to use a craft brewery as a setting?
I am a home brewer and a huge beer geek. I live in Chicago and I am an active consumer and supporter of craft beer. It is a world I think a lot about. Having the movie take place in a craft brewery was a chance to get to know that world a little better. Yes, it is an exciting work environment. Relatively few movies involve beer or breweries and the craft beer scene is so exciting at the moment.
- Did you consider using any other type of setting or did a craft brewery just seem like the right fit for the story?
A craft brewery was right there from the beginning. I never thought of doing anything else.
- Beer certainly flows in this movie and many scenes include several glasses of fine brew. Does craft beer factor into the movie’s plot, however subtle?
Yes, it does. First, I think that there is the obvious and well known social lubricating quality of beer. It also factors in because it says something about who the characters are. People are there, working in a craft brewery, because of their passion about craft beer, not because they are going to make a lot of money. I feel similar about independent film makers on the small side instead of the big conglomerate film makers , who are like the macro in the beer world. Additionally, the craft beer revolution is tied into people being more conscientious about the food they eat, their desire to go local, support small businesses, go organic, and so on. I wanted to set the movie within that framework.
- Drinking Buddies relies on improvisation for its scenes- a risky move that can sometimes backfire. You have used this style in past films, but with Drinking Buddies, was improvisation part of the original plan when you dreamed up the idea of the movie, or did the talents of the lead performers convince you it would work well?
It was part of the idea from the beginning. I have worked this way for a long time now. It is part of how I think about movies. It was a selling point for the actors and actresses, too. They are not normally given an opportunity to improvise roles. I think they liked being able to have a say in the writing process.
- How much of the dialogue is spontaneous in nature? Were the performers given free rein to say whatever came to mind?
There was a tight structure. But performers were free to say what they wanted. The entire movie is improvised. The tone as a director, I am setting the tone and pace. I want the actors to bring a lot of themselves to the roles. There is a mind of naturalism and comfort that comes to this style.
- Can you tell us what brewery was used for the filming?
The movie was filmed inside Revolution Brewing in Chicago.They are making some great stuff.
- The character Luke, played by Jake Johnson, sports an Abita hooded sweatshirt in one scene and wears an Old Style Cap. I can also see bottles of Founders Centennial Ale and other beers at different points. The Old Style cap makes sense because the film is based in Chicago, but was there anything behind the decision to display brands like Abita and Founders?
I love Founders and the others. I wanted the movie to be inclusive of the craft beer scene in the Midwest. Three Floyds Brewing is in the movie… Half Acre Daisy Cutter…. Bells Amber Ale… New Glarus also sent some beer. Firestone Walker, Avery, Dogfish Head and other craft brewers supplied t-shirts. I just wanted to reach out and support breweries that I liked.
- Last question: What would you name as your favorite craft breweries and craft beers?
If I could take three breweries to a desert island, I would choose Three Floyds Brewing, Revolution Brewing, and Half Acre Brewing. For beer, I would bring Three Floyds Zombie Dust, Half Acre Akari Shogun, and (Mother of Exiles) Pilsner from Revolution Brewing to have something cool to drink.
Look for Drinking Buddies in theaters nationwide on August 23, 2013.