Q&A with Joe Swanberg — Director of ‘Drinking Buddies’

By Joseph Alton, @JoeAlton

In the film Drinking Buddies Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde) work at a Chicago brewery. The two are quite fond of one another, but both are involved in relationships with other respective partners. A complicated and intricate love story ensues. The film is unique in that “there was no script. [Swanberg] had an outline on paper that [the actors] never saw, but [Swanberg] described it. All it had were the basic plot points.”

Photo Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The flick has been receiving a fair amount of buzz in the craft beer community. It seems that people more interested in seeing how the filmmakers handle the topic of beer than they are with the actual story line. I chatted with the Director of Drinking Buddies, Joe Swanberg to get some more information straight from the source. Mr. Swanberg assures us that care was taken in terms of beer. Several industry experts were consulted to create believable brewery-relevant substance for the story. The film was shot at Revolution Brewing in the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago and other respected brewer(ie)s (like Half Acre Beer Company and Three Floyd’s Brewing) shared their expertise with the makers of the film.

The Minneapolis release of the film is slated for a September 13, 2013 at Lagoon Cinema in Uptown.

The Growler: Why does craft beer work as a catalyst for this story?

Joe Swanberg: It’s an exciting industry (I’d argue, one of the most exciting things happening in America right now) and it helps define the characters right away. Passionate people work at craft breweries. Just like with indie filmmakers, they aren’t in it for the money. They chose to pursue something they love and believe in. It’s also a non-traditional workplace where they can drink and be a little more loose than other jobs, so it provides nice opportunities for the characters to flirt and hang out.

G: Is it easier or more difficult to direct a film that is almost fully improvised?

JS: For me it’s easier because I get to work directly with the actors to shape the story. We don’t have to translate a text. We get to exist in the moment and do what feels right. I’m drawn to realism and the improvised dialogue is one tool to help achieve that.

G: Did you work with a beer “consultant” to help make the film factually accurate in terms of beer and brewing content?

JS: I did. My friend Kate Thomas, who works at Half Acre, was incredibly helpful explaining the craft beer industry to me and also working with Olivia to get the details of her job right. Aimee Quinkert, who works at Revolution Brewing, where we shot the film, was also a big help. We used her office as Olivia’s office in the movie! Additionally my friend Andrew Mason, who I’ve known since high-school, brews at Three Floyds and he was the first person to work with the actors and teach them about brewing. Jim Cibak, at Revolution, picked up that job once we were actually shooting there. The craft beer scene in Chicago was so helpful and supportive with the film.

G: What (beer) do you have in your fridge right now?

JS: Too many to list, because I have an entire fridge devoted to beer, but if I limit it to the top shelf:

  • Revolution “Anti-Hero” and “October Fest”
  • 3 Floyds “Jinx Proof” and “Zombie Dust”
  • Lagunitas “Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin”
  • Half Acre “Akari Shogun” and “Pony”
  • Great Lakes “Commodore Perry”

Drinking Buddies Trailer:


Play Dates

On Screen
Chicago, IL: Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema
New York, NY: Sunshine Cinema 5
Atlanta, GA: Midtown Art Cinemas 8
Brooklyn, NY: Nitehawk 3
Denver, CO: Mayan Theatre
Katy, TX: Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park 6
Philadelphia, PA: Ritz at the Bourse
Portland, OR: Hollywood Theatre
San Diego, CA: Ken Cinema
San Francisco, CA: Roxie
Vancouver, WA: Kiggins
West Los Angeles, CA: Nuart Theatre

Cambridge, MA: Kendall Square Cinema 9
Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami, Bill Cosford Cinema
Dallas, TX: Texas Theatre
Dallas, TX: Magnolia Theatre – Dallas
Dallas, TX: Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley 16
Seattle, WA: SIFF Cinema at the Uptown
Tempe, AZ: Valley Art 1 Theatre
Washington, DC: E Street Cinema

Austin, TX: Alamo Slaughter Lane 8
Austin, TX: Violet Crown Cinemas
Cleveland, OH: Capitol Theatre 3
Columbus, OH: Gateway Film Center 8
Concord, NH: Red River 3
Minneapolis, MN: Lagoon Cinema
Palm Desert, CA: Cinemas Palme D’Or 7
Santa Fe, NM: CCA Cinematheque
Tucson, AZ: The Loft Cinema

North Charleston, SC: Park Circle Film Society

Salem, MA: Cinema Salem 3
Winston-Salem, NC: Aperture Cinema

Lancaster, PA: Zoetropolis

Madison, WI: UW-Madison Cinematheque

Gainesville, FL: Hippodrome – Gainesville

Pelham, NY: Pelham Picture House

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Cinema

Milwaukee, WI: University of WI – Union Theatre

Knoxville, TN: Scruffy City Cinema Club

Nevada City, CA: Nevada Theatre

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