International Man of Independents
The wide world of producer Anish Savjani
If you're an independent filmmaker in need of a producer, Anish Savjani is the guy to find. The trick might be tracking him down, since he seems to be everywhere at once while always on the go. The next festival in your neighborhood might be the best place to start: Here, two of his latest productions – erstwhile Chronicle contributor and current Northwestern professor Spencer Parsons' I'll Come Running and Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy – will screen during the Austin Film Festival.
Wait ... I might have spoken too soon: At the moment, Savjani, who makes his home in Austin but his movies all over the world, is in New York City, where one of his favorite directors, Joe Swanberg, will open his Nights and Weekends at the IFC Center on Friday. It played the Woodstock Film Festival recently along with Parsons' thrillingly lovesick feature-length debut and Reichardt's anticipated follow-up to Old Joy, which will see its own theatrical release Dec. 10. "There has been a lot going on up here lately," Savjani says. During an e-mail interview, one gets the feeling he finds himself saying that a lot, no matter where he is.
Austin Chronicle: What are you working on right now?
Anish Savjani: I have three films in postproduction right now: Joe Swanberg's Alexander the Last, which stars Jess Weixler from Teeth; Mars, an animated feature by Austin-based filmmaker Geoff Marslett starring Mark Duplass; and 16 Blades of Grass, a documentary about education in rural India by Sweta Vohra. I'm also working with another Austin filmmaker, Bob Byington, on Harmony & Me, which is also in post and stars Justin Rice.
AC: Is it common for a Directors Guild of America trainee to get hired by a big-name producer like Scott Rudin right out of the assistant director training program? Can you talk about how that opportunity came along and how you decided to focus on producing?
AS: While I was a DGA trainee, I met Lars Knudsen, who was a former assistant at Scott Rudin Productions. He recommended that I become an assistant and got me an interview. I'd never set out to become a producer and had no expectations initially, but after working at SRP, I was led in that direction. I then joined Lars and his producing partner Jay Van Hoy on [former Austinite Steve Collins' feature] Gretchen, and that's when I really knew this would be my trajectory.
AC: What sort of influence did Rudin have on the types of projects you take on? I guess we all take away our own ideas about what characteristics the films you've worked with share, but what themes do you see?
AS: I hope I'm being diverse in what I do. Each project has come to me in a different way, and I try my best to carefully consider each new opportunity. I never want to get pigeonholed by a particular genre or type of film. I think the common denominator in the projects I've produced thus far has been that they're all low-budget and we've really had to work within our means.
AC: You've worked with Kelly Reichardt before, and Spencer Parsons is a contemporary of filmmakers such as Joe Swanberg. But beyond relationships, what drew you to Wendy and Lucy and I'll Come Running?
AS: I was fortunate to work with Kelly on Old Joy, and she's great to work with. I'm learning more and more as a producer by working with her. With Wendy and Lucy, she and Jon Raymond did a great job of storytelling. I enjoyed their screenplay thematically and loved how it felt so realistic without anything being overstated.
With I'll Come Running, I was really driven to Spencer as a filmmaker. He was just so enthusiastic about the film and knew everything about it, every detail, and there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to work with him.
I'll Come Running screens Saturday, Oct. 18, 9:30pm, Rollins Studio Theatre; Wendy and Lucy screens Saurday, Oct. 19, 7pm, Paramount.