Before his Beeswax began its theatrical premiere run at Film Forum, this past weekend, Andrew Bujalski spoke with The L Magazine's Nicolas Rapold.
The L: The low-key thing, is that a product of your approach or is it more about the type of people you're depicting?
Andrew Bujalski: More and more I'm inclined to believe, and more than I care to admit, a lot of that just comes from me and my temperament. I feel like I've been struggling making sense of people's interpretations of my films. I'm sure in many an interview I've made tortured attempts to justify why there are not grand theatrics in the film. I can still do that but I just think that ultimately it comes from that: I have a calm temperament, so that gets imposed on the films.
The L: There you go imposing your calm temperament!
AB: Yeah, I know. What's fascinating is how much it can infuriate people. That's something that I didn't see coming the first time around, but I've gotten used to it now.
The L: The new story takes place in Austin, Texas. You've moved away from Northeast postgraduate settlement grounds.
AB: And that was a legitimate if minor concern about shooting in Austin: this is the most easygoing place I've ever lived. And knowing my own temperament and the kind of characters I've written, well, is it just going to be too damned easygoing? Are we going to have to ratchet up the tension ourselves a little bit because the environment is going to be working against us?
The L: Throw in a car chase or something.
The L: Incidentally, I think Frederick Wiseman was shooting a documentary in Austin — was that at the same time?
AB: I heard about that, I don't know when he was there. His wife is a law professor at the University of Texas. For the part of the lawyer, I'd gotten in touch with her, trying to get her to screen-test for the lawyer. I'd never met her, but somebody recommended her. It didn't end up working out; she was out of town.
The L: The legal wrangling in Beeswax is stuff that doesn't ordinarily make for a movie premise. But it's interesting to watch relationship dynamics backlit through these matters: Jeannie tells the lawyer about the Amanda situation in terms of her degrees of friendship with everyone involved.
AB: I had a lot of fun with the lawyer scene. I think a lot of what's driving the movie is this tension of the lawsuit hanging over them: the difference between how Amanda and Jeannie relate as human beings, and then what they've put on the document — that neither of them understand but that, when it comes down to it, will supersede everything that's been between them. Certainly any time I've signed a legal document in my life, it's filled me with terrible anxiety. Because I always look at the words on the page and think, That's not what I'm trying to do here at all. I don't even know what this means, and I'm going to put my name to it.