Interview: Filmmaker Bob Byington Talks ‘7 Chinese Brothers’

Thank you for taking the time, my name is Randall Unger with the Movie Network. So yeah, I saw the film the other day, it was really good, really funny, great timing from the entire cast.  I want to know, how did the project originally come about?

Well, that’s a good question, Nick Offerman was the producer of my, the last one that I did.  Somebody up there likes me.  And Nick has a lot of friends in Hollywood and he and I were doing a Q&A at the Cinefamily in Los Angeles and we, Nick invited Jason Schwartzman, this is in March of 2013.  Invited him to moderate the Q&A and they had such blisteringly good chemistry together that we started to joke about making a movie together.  And so Nick ended up with a lot of other commitments and he couldn’t do it but Jason stayed on board and we were able to make the movie cause Jason… has a lot of… umm… we were able to get the movie made cause Jason was going to play the lead.

So what was it about Jason that you found so appealing for the lead?

Oh, well, I don’t know, I mean I think he’s a movie star.  I don’t know, I mean, we were just thrilled that he would even consider it.  Because I think he is so appealing on screen, I just sort of assume that everybody else does.

You assume correctly.

Yeah, he’s got a lot of charm and he’s a good, great actor.

What films of his do you consider his best?

Well, I really consider Darjeeling Limited a lot and that’s a movie I have watched a few times and he’s a writer on that and I just really like him and his presence in that.  Every movie I see him in I just wish there was more of him so we put him in every scene.

Fair enough, what about the other cast, tell me what it was like casting Olympia Dukakis and Stephen Root, such a diverse group of people, a talented group, what was that like?

Well again that sort of gets back to Jason a little because a lot of these people like Olympia and Stephen we were able to get once they knew Jason was on board.  And a lot of actors leap at the opportunity to work with someone like Jason Schwartzman.

Good point.  Okay, okay, are there any actors that you haven’t worked with already that you might want to in the future?

Yes I would like to work with Zach Galifianakis.

Oh yeah?  Great, great.

Again, very dry humor, very sarcastic.  Very funny.

Do you prefer, here’s a question, do you prefer humor, comedies to drama? What do you think of the term dramedy?

Don’t like it, don’t like it, no.


It’s a made up word, I don’t like made up words.

(laughs) Okay, because your films don’t lean one way or the other, they are kind of like a mix of both.

My films?  No I make comedies.

Just straight out comedies, but like dark, darker than the typical Hollywood machine, you know.

If you say so, you know, however you want to characterize it, it’s really your say and I respect your opinion.  But I wouldn’t call them dark comedies, I just call them comedies.

Okay, hmm, so you are involved with the Mumblecore movement.

No, this is post Mumblecore, Mumblecore is dead.

What are your thoughts on the dead Mumblecore and of your involvement in it?

It was thrilling to be involved and thrilling to not be involved anymore.

Okay, what do you hope audiences take away from this film?

Well, we made a film, again, that we hoped would appeal to a Schwartzman fan and you know that’s the movie we made so its getting out there and seems like audiences are responding to it in that way.  So that’s been great.  You know that’s the movie we set out to make and we just played it in New York over the weekend and I was surprised by how well audiences responded to it.

Well yeah you have a terrific cast and terrific story you can’t really go wrong there.

Again, if you say so, I’m going to take your word for it.

You don’t think so?  You don’t think it’s a great movie?

Oh, I’m not one to say.

Okay, okay (laughs) were there any challenges during filming?

Oh, only challenges, only challenges, everything is… I don’t know, the movie doesn’t look difficult when you watch it (laughs) but it was difficult to make.  Even the most simplest thing you end up needing to do a lot of things that you might not think you need to do.  A lot of challenges.

Can you give me an example?

Sure, um, there is this scene where Jason is talking on the phone, he’s talking to his boss and we had to shot that scene twice.  You would think that we’d be able to shoot it but we had some problems with the lights we had some problems with the phone, we just had some logistical problems that something that seems like it would be pretty simple and we had some problems with the extras.  And so we were lucky enough to be able to shoot it again and then a lot of that stuff just kind of fell into place.  Where are you calling me from?

Oh, I’m in New York.

You are?  And what website is this… is this, caused I looked up the Movie Network.

If you just type in the… if you go on Google I think there is another one…

Oh cool, are you guys going to throw a review up there, or did you do that already?

No, not yet, I am doing the interview first and then I’m getting to the review.

Oh, well, I hope you liked it.

I did, I did, my only complaint is that it is a little short.  I wish…

Oh well, better to be too short than too long with a movie, right?

Like you said, I could’ve watched Jason Schwartzman for like another half hour or forty minutes.

Yeah, I know what you mean and we did have a longer cut of the film we just ended up cutting it back a little bit.

Oh I see, would that longer cut be on the Blu-ray or DVD?

No, no, but it is on my hard drive if you’re ever in Austin you can come by.  We’ll pop that in.

Okay (laughs) I may take you up on that.

Yeah, we’ll pop that in and then you can watch our July 2014 cut.

So your number came up as San Francisco.

Yeah, I live in Austin.

How often do you travel for work?

I travel a lot.  A lot.  Always working.

What do you have next, what is lined up?

Trying to set up a movie with Zach Galifianakis.

Can you divulge the details of the story or anything like that?

It’s a comedy about a man who gets kicked out of Los Angeles.

Kicked out of the city?  Alright, I like it already, it has that quirky feel.  I know that you don’t like labels, but I think that quirky is appropriate.

I don’t know, I don’t like that word, you’re right.  But maybe I just need to learn to like words like Mumblecore, quirky, dry, dark.  I’ve got to jet down to this lunch I’m late for but I’m glad I got to talk to you.

Oh yeah, likewise, likewise, I will be in contact with the publicist and perhaps we can chat a little more in the future, about future projects.

Thanks very much.

Thank you for your time.

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