5 stay-at-home questions with Eric Swinderman

Filmmaker Eric Swinderman

We’re more than five long months into (ugh, do I say it?) our post-COVID-19 new normal (there, I did it), and, for the most part, we are all still in quarantine. 

While it’s true we’re all getting out a bit more and taking on versions of normal things, things certainly aren’t normal. Everything requires a little more thought and thoughtfulness, along with whole bunch of new skills.

So while we’re not stuck at home, we are staying at home. And we’re still talking to filmmakers about what they’re doing during the pandemic. Today we chat with Eric Swinderman, best known for his films Made in Cleveland and The Enormity of Life.

MMM: How would you describe being a filmmaker locked down at home without a crew?

Eric Swinderman (ES): As someone who considers myself a writer first, the change hasn’t been that drastic as I was working on an episodic series for streaming. So while I probably haven’t been writing as much during the lockdown as I could be, due to the anxiety and general strangeness of it all, I have been working on fleshing out the first season.

One thing I just started working on is something I’ve coined “Social Distance Acting.” I’ve reached out to about two dozen actors I know about shooting some scenes, separately, from their own homes on whatever cameras they have access to (iPhones included) using scripts from iconic movies and then uploading them to me to edit and see if we can make it work. Totally for fun, not going to do anything with them beyond sharing them with my small circle.

Behind the scenes of 'Made in Cleveland' with Busy Phillips and Gillian Jacobs

MMM:
How are you stretching your filmmaking skills while at home?

ES: Again, as an artist and a writer, things are about the same as they were a couple weeks before the shutdown. Aside from the fact I can’t do my weekly dinners with my partners, I’m still writing and fleshing out the first season. I had the first four episodes of an episodic drama written with a blueprint for four more. The plan is to have all eight written by the time we are able to shoot the pilot.

MMM: What passion project are you working on now that you’ve got extra time?

ES: I’ve been working with Bryant Carroll and Sage O’Bryant on a really dark episodic series called Epidermis with some really great actors from shows like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Black Swan and The Deuce, to name a few. We had a schedule to shoot the pilot in May, but that is obviously on hold now, as is everything with my feature film The Enormity of Life. That was a feature we shot with Breckin Meyer and Emily Kinney and we had hoped this year was going to be a big festival year, but again this pandemic has turned Hollywood on its head and no one knows when things will truly get going again.

MMM: If you were asked to make a movie about this COVID time, what would it be?

ES: I think most people would lean toward making some kind of horror/zombie film, but that is too easy. I like to write about nuance and the layers of the human psyche, so I would be more interested in writing a comedy.

They say comedy is simply tragedy plus time, so I’d like to explore the way this pandemic has affected our minds and our spirit, our relationships with people we know and people we don’t. Maybe a few working titles would be Pandemic Pam or Quaran-Tina.

MMM: What five films are a must for everyone stuck at home?

ES: Watched all 10 Star Wars films in order (including Rogue One). Season 3 of Ozark (in my opinion better than Breaking Bad). Catching up on the last season of Shameless. I refuse to watch Tiger King, and catching up on some of my influential favorites like Garden State, Away We Go, When Harry Met Sally, Inglourious Basterds and Inside Llewyn Davis.
 

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