'Nights & Weekends' Host Liane Hansen talks with filmmakers and actors Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig about their new film, Nights And Weekends.
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'Nights & Weekends'

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'Nights & Weekends'

'Nights & Weekends'

'Nights & Weekends'

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Host Liane Hansen talks with filmmakers and actors Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig about their new film, Nights And Weekends.


From NPR News, this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen. "Nights and Weekends" is a film about relationships, in this case, a long-distance romance between two characters, Mattie and James. And before I continue, I want to say that this is not a G-rated movie.

James and Mattie are played by the directors and writers of the film, Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig. Appropriately, Joe is in the studio at WBEZ in Chicago, the town he and his character, James, call home. And Greta joins us from NPR New York, her home as well as Mattie's. Welcome to both of you.

Mr. JOE SWANBERG (Actor and Director, "Nights and Weekends"): Thanks.

Ms. GRETA GERWIG (Actor and Director, "Nights and Weekends"): Hello.

HANSEN: Hi. Joe, let me start with you. This is a very independent movie. Is there a story line - I mean, is there one line that would describe the movie?

Mr. SWANBERG: Yeah, I mean, I've sort of taken the easy road and called it a movie about a long-distance relationship, which is like - makes it sound almost like the kind of movie you might go to see in a movie theater.

HANSEN: Ahuh. Greta, what would you - how would you characterize the movie, pitch it in one line?

Ms. GERWIG: Well, I think if - to get people to see it, Joe and I shouldn't be in it. It should be celebrities, and it should involve a bank heist.

HANSEN: And a car chase.

Ms. GERWIG: Yeah.

HANSEN: Yeah. This is really a movie about a relationship that unfolds - you know, the guy lives in Chicago; the girl lives in New York - how they grow apart and how they grow together. In the beginning of the relationship, you've nailed it in terms of, as a couple gets to know one another, the ticks in each character start to come out.

I want to play a scene because all of the film is really everyday scenes that add up to the arc of these two characters. And this is Mattie getting annoyed by James, played by Joe, and Joe's eating a banana.

(Soundbite of movie "Nights and Weekends")

Ms. GERWIG: (As Mattie) I think that one of the grossest things in the world is somebody else eating a banana. It's the way it smells and it sounds. And I love you, but it's gross. Eew! Oh, God! I just saw it inside your mouth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: How many takes did that take?

Mr. SWANBERG: Fortunately, just one. I mean, the way that we work, a lot of times, we have some sort of concept of where we want to start and where we want to finish. But in the middle, they usually get away from us, and that's where we kind of stumble across scenes like the banana scene.

HANSEN: In this movie, "Nights and Weekends," we don't get a lot of character development. It's like, the audience crashes into the lives of these two people. Joe, who's James?

Mr. SWANBERG: James is sort of me with a sort of different life, you know, and...

HANSEN: What's the life? What's the back story with James?

Mr. SWANBERG: Instead of - you know, I'm a filmmaker, and James is a videogame designer. So, I've made him creative so that we can sort of share those similarities.

HANSEN: Greta, who's Mattie?

Ms. GERWIG: When the movie opened, she's a nursing student in New York City. And being a nurse, you can work many places, and she thinks, this is great. I can go anywhere that James needs to go for his job. And she was kind of going for it, and she got derailed.

(Soundbite of movie "Nights and Weekends")

Mr. SWANBERG: (As James) Because I'm sick of you f-ing crying every time. It's not perfect.

Ms. GERWIG: (As Mattie) Every time that it's not perfect to me - we haven't seen each other for three months - I make sure that I save my money and buy a ticket, and I make sure that I get my work done so we spend time together. Every time it's not perfect, I fix it.

HANSEN: This is a very low-fi production. But movies like yours and some of the others that you've made, Joe, people are starting to put them into a genre. And the genre is called mumble-core.

Mr. SWANBERG: That's right.

HANSEN: Right. Now, I have to say, when I first heard about it, I had no idea what mumble-core is. But watching your film - I mean, two ordinary people, you and Greta playing James and Mattie, I thought it was called that because you have these scenes while you're eating, and I can't understand anything you say.

Mr. SWANBERG: Yeah. The origin of the word mumble-core isn't necessarily from my movie in particular. It's sort of as a grouping, I think, that initially a lot of people had problems just actually understanding the dialogue. You know, if you're having trouble understanding the dialogue, that's an accident. It's not something that we're...

HANSEN: Right.

Mr. SWANBERG: Doing on purpose. It's sort of a result of the low-fi production.

HANSEN: How would you pitch it to a distributor to get some wider screenings of it?

Mr. SWANBERG: I've had that problem with all the films that I've made. Part of the reason I still have the problem is I haven't figured out how to pitch it. And I feel like, with each new project that I do, it's sort of like digging that grave a little bit deeper. And I think distributors are realizing that I'm making these movies because I like to and not because I'm trying to get bigger budgets or make bigger projects.

HANSEN: What kind of audience reaction have you had to this movie?

Ms. GERWIG: I would say that people personalize it. They make it their own. I mean, they come up and say, this makes me want to call my ex-boyfriend or my ex-girlfriend. And they want to talk about it, and they want to talk about their own lives and how it relates. And I don't think I've ever been involved with something that hit quite such a tender chord in people because most people have failed relationships, and it's strange how they're very similar.

HANSEN: Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig wrote, directed, and star in the new independent film "Nights and Weekends." It's now available on Video On Demand. Joe joined us from WBEZ in Chicago. Greta joined us from our New York studios. Thanks and good luck to both of you.

Mr. SWANBERG: Thank you.

Ms. GERWIG: Thank you.

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