The morning after a screening of his new independent film Harmony & Me (2009) to over 1,500 people (including Chancellor Biddy Martin) at the 12th annual Wisconsin Film Festival, director Robert Byington sat down with students from Professor JJ Murphy’s Comm Arts 466: Writing for Television & Film and Comm Arts 659: Advanced Motion Picture Production Workshop classes in Vilas Hall. Byington answered a variety of questions about his latest film and his career as an independent filmmaker and screenwriter, including where he receives his inspiration for his films and what exercises he would recommend for aspiring script writers.
While eschewing a direct answer to questions about the unscripted nature of Harmony & Me, Byington stressed the importance of finding inspiration in the world around you that you experience on a daily basis, such as from your friends, relatives, acquaintances, frequently visited locations (such as his own personal acupuncturist’s clinic), etc. Byington also stressed the importance of “energy” in each scene he films, and stated he does not allow any individual on setwho is not performing a specific duty, as he believes they take away from the energy created by actors’ performances in a scene.
Prior to his latest work writing and directing Harmony & Me, Byington independently released such films asShameless (1996), Olympia (1998), and RSO (2008), and is currently in pre-production on Seven Chinese Brothers, starring noted stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt and tentatively scheduled for release in 2011.