Joe Swanberg is a true independent. His work stands as a testament to taking advantage of limitations, bending and breaking methods of storytelling, and expanding the way movies are produced and distributed. Whether his films belong to the “mumblecore” movement or not, they are unique and fresh in the American landscape.

I’d like to thank Joe for taking some time to answer our questions.

1. What defines good storytelling?

One of the exciting things about filmmaking is that there is no definition of good storytelling.  It’s such a subjective experience.  What captivates one person might bore another.  Everyone tells stories in his/her own way and it’s all good and valid.

2. Describe what it was like when you first started out making films (with limited equipment, budget, etc) and how you worked around your limitations?

I’m still making films with roughly the same equipment that I was using when I started out.  The cameras have changed over the years, but I can still carry everything I need in one bag.  The budgets are about the same too (LOW!!) so it’s just the process that I’ve been refining.  I like having limitations.  It’s helpful for me.  If the limitations weren’t imposed by the budgets and equipment, I would probably impose them myself.

3. What is the present state of cinema in America?

American cinema is so big and diverse that it’s hard to pin down it’s present state.  There is certainly a lot of work being made.  If I had to use a word to describe American cinema right now, that word would be, “expansive.”

4. What do you think is the most important thing to happen to cinema in the last 25 years?

I think the Internet is definitely the most important thing to happen to life in the last 25 years, and cinema is included in there.  It is a platform for releasing, viewing, sharing researching and connecting over cinema.  It created a giant community of bloggers and scholars that discuss cinema and it allowed filmmakers to share their work with the whole world, for free!

5. What new directions do you see cinema taking in the next 25 years?

I think cinema will continue to be more and more interactive.  I’m not sure if I like that, but I think it’s inevitable if it’s going to compete with the Internet and video games for people’s attention.  Our attention spans won’t be able to handle 90 minutes of uninterrupted viewing.  There will have to be buttons to click on and ways to talk to your friend while the movies are showing.  I will most likely keep making art movies, which will become more and more of a connoisseur experience until they’re relegated to the margins of mainstream culture the way serious theater and classical music is now.

Running Wild Films continues this series of interviews with the storytellers we admire, the ones who challenge us and push cinema forward.