Twitter Facebook Instagram Google+ Tumblr YouTube E-Mail WhatsApp Sign In Check Close snapchat
Search
Exit Clear

Check Out ‘Easy’ for the Threesome, Stay for the Characters

Check Out ‘Easy’ for the Threesome, Stay for the Characters: Grant Lamos IV / Getty

Grant Lamos IV / Getty

Joe Swanberg is an indie film director who’s used to lots of control, small theatrical releases and a niche audience on video. Today, his eight-episode series Easy premieres on Netflix to 83 million households in 190 countries.

There’s not an ounce of compromise on the screen. If you like Swanberg films like Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas—young Hollywood stars having great conversations and energetic sex—you’ll definitely like Easy. And if you just want to see the threesome between Orlando Bloom, Malin Akerman and Kate Micucci that everybody is going to be talking about, you can go straight to Episode 6 and fast-forward through the first 15 minutes.

But don’t do that. Or do, and then start over from the beginning. It’s a good episode and not just because it’s a good threesome. (Spoiler alert: It is a good threesome.) Swanberg’s characters have a natural charm and kinetic bounce. They talk and they interact. They’re more alive in the moment than we are most of the time, and we’re happy to be reminded of that.

And the cast is loaded: Marc Maron, Orlando Bloom, Malin Akerman, Emily Ratajkowski, Hannibal Buress, Dave Franco, Jake Johnson, Aya Cash, Elizabeth Reaser. Most are only around for an episode or two, but it’s fun to see so much familiar talent in one place at one time.

We sat down with writer/director Swanberg to talk about his career, his approach to story and why he still likes to be his own cameraman.


There’s a lot of sex in this series. Does Easy mean what it sounds like?
The sexual connotations of the word “easy” were definitely considered in choosing that title, but I like the name also because it felt really felt open-ended to me. I don’t know what the show is yet or will become in the future, but I felt like the title Easy would allow it to go anywhere it wanted to go over the years.

So you’re already thinking about future seasons. Do you want to come back to this universe?
Absolutely. In a perfect world, every season would introduce new characters and revisit people we’ve met before, even with season-long gaps in between seeing some characters. I have really big dreams for the show and would love to do it for a long time, crossing these characters over into each other’s lives in increasingly complicated ways.

You work pretty fast. How many shooting days went into the episodes?
We typically shot each episode in four or five days. I have definitely done entire features in five or six days, but four days was about as short as we could do for this with the crew and production approach we’re using.

You have had sex scenes in your movies, so I imagine the actors in Easy knew what they were getting into. What is that conversation like?
It’s really open. What I have learned over the years is that it’s insanely important to make sure that everyone understands what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen, which aspects of it are crucial to the episode, which aspects of it are open-ended. I want to work with people who are comfortable and walk away having had a good experience, but I want the actors to have ownership of the character. We’re all adults and everybody is professional, so it’s become less scary and more fun over the years.

Are you still shooting Camera A yourself a lot?
I operated the camera quite a bit in this first season. Handheld camerawork is essentially editing; the decisions about where to turn and what to look at are really editing decisions. I want to make those decisions myself. I worked with a cinematographer, Eon Mora, who shot my last two features, and he has a real sense of how I like to shoot. I really love operating a camera and being involved in that aspect.

Do you think you have to be a student of psychology to write this kind of relationship-driven ensemble stuff, or do you work mostly from instinct?
Most of Easy comes from an autobiographical place or from things that have happened to friends or from actors conveying these stories. I try not to invent too much, so that it’s grounded and specific. For me it’s more like making a documentary. It’s about trying to remain objective and do a good job telling a story from every character’s point of view—and then crafting something that feels very structured from what often feels more open-ended and chaotic than that.

You’re dealing with a specific social issue in each episode. The one with Maron is about privacy and first-person storytelling. The episode with Elizabeth Reaser and Michael Chernus is about gender roles in a marriage. That’s not really something you’ve done in your films.
The anthology format was an opportunity to have each episode be about an issue. I was always less interested in doing that in films. It provides structure to these episodes, which are 20 to 27 minutes long. I think shows like Black Mirror and Tales From the Crypt were successful partly because they were so issue based.

I try not to invent too much. For me, it’s more like making a documentary.

Tony Scott, the New York Times critic, wrote you leave room for “contingency, confusion and randomness” in your films. Do you think that’s right?
Tony Scott likes some of my movies better than others. [Laughs] They’re always meant to be open-ended, and I’m never 100 percent sure what’s going to happen. If I wasn’t interested in that confusion and chaos, I wouldn’t be working that way. But I like that. I like it when I see it in other people’s films, and it’s something I try to capture in my own. Three-act storytelling is a valuable tool, but it can be oppressive. When I got out of film school and started making my own films, I got burned out on story. I felt like I was watching movies that were doing a good job of telling a story but a bad job of feeling alive.

Do you think a theatrical release still makes sense for an indie film when you’re going to make all of the money from streaming?
I don’t think it makes sense for every film. I still like to see small, independent films in the theater. Drinking Buddies had a bigger theatrical gross than any of my previous films, but it still made most of its money from iTunes and other VOD outlets and now on Netflix. It’s not cheap to put a movie in the theaters, and it’s definitely not cheap to make people aware of it.

That’s what I really like about day-and-date releases. You get the maximum impact from your marketing money, and I get to see it in the theater or on video from the very first day.
I totally agree with that. By the time most movies are available on video, you’ve lost the attention you got from the theatrical release. With Alexander the Last we premiered at South by Southwest and made it available on VOD the same day, and with small films you sometimes just get one shot when people are paying attention.

And now you’re on Netflix with no theatrical release.
It’s the most excited I’ve ever been for a project. It’s coming out in 190 countries all on the same day, and nothing short of $300 million comic book movies got that kind of release until now. I feel like I get to make exactly the kind of project I wanted to make and get the same kind of attention as a Hollywood film.

Playboy Social

Never miss an issue. Subscribe and save today!

Loading...