"Joe Swanberg's Quiet City"
By Spencer Parsons,
2:45PM, Tue. Mar. 13, 2007
That can't be right. Aaron Katz wrote and directed Quiet City, which premiered yesterday and will play two more times this week (4pm March 14 and 1:30pm Mar. 16, both at the Alamo South Lamar). Didn't he?
He did, but there's a funny story here. Better to let Joe and Aaron tell it in their own words as relayed in separate phone interviews.
Katz: "Joe Swanberg's Quiet City?" What to say? He just e-mailed me with a link, and like a one-line question, “what do you think, Katz?”
Okay, let's back up...
Swanberg: Aaron sent me an early draft of the script and I happened to get it a day before I went to the Port Townsend Film Festival in Washington, so while Kevin (Bewersdorf) and Tipper (Newton) and I are on a flight from Chicago to Seattle, Tipper and I spend the flight acting out the roles, with Kevin sitting annoyed next to us. So we got the idea that we should fuck with Katz by shooting some scenes of the script, and tell hem we’d actually made the movie without his permission.
Katz: I think they shot it…not even on a video camera. Like they used the movie function on Tipper’s digital still camera or something. And Kevin shot it with Joe and Tipper acting out the parts.
Swanberg: We started it in the airport in Seattle, and did a little bit on the flight, and then shot the last bit in the airport in Chicago. We started editing on the flight, and Tipper made some music in Garage Band, and Kevin made titles for what was like 6 minutes from the film. So I e-mailed him a link and told him we’d just sent a rough cut to Sundance.
Katz: So I watched it for about five seconds, and just panicked, thinking he’d really stolen my script. I was just baffled, so I paused it, and I’m like “what? WHAT?” and I watched it again… It was the titles. You’ve gotta see the titles. The scene is obviously in an airport and looks like it was shot in an hour, but the titles make it look like someone really put some time into it.
Swanberg: So he called me later that night after he’d figured out it was a joke. We were just dying, Kevin and Tipper and I. In a few hours we’d pulled together a project and did the ultimate filmmaker prank.
Katz: The thing is that I always have this nagging fear in the back of my mind that somehow I might not manage to make the film. I think everyone does. So the idea that Joe, I mean, with access to the script for just a couple hours, that he would get to make it before I did! Like he could be more prolific with my work than I am. Of course he wouldn’t steal something, but with Joe, he’s so prolific that it’s slightly more reasonable to think he could do something like that than it would be with other people. Of course he has better things to do than make other people’s movies. Ah, Swanberg, he’ll be sorry one day!