Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglvoa Backstage

We recently met up with the 3 directors of ‘The Swell Season’ – Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

The world fell in love with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova when their songwriting collaboration in the film Once culminated in a jubilant Oscar® win. But behind the scenes, where Glen and Mar’s on-screen romance became reality, a grueling two-year world tour threatens to fracture their fated bond. Gorgeously filmed in black and white, this music-filled documentary is an intimate look at the exhilaration and turmoil created by both love and fame.

Interview with Directors: Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, Carlo Mirabella-Davis


VIMOOZ: What led you to make a documentary on this subject (two specific subjects)?

Carlo Mirabella-Davis: I had the good fortune of meeting Glen (Hansard), and we had an in depth conversation about art and music, etc, and he explained that they–the band The Swell Season–were about to go on a world tour. He expressed that they were excited about the attention and exposure, but there was also an anxiety about them being thrust into the limelight, which they hadn’t been in before. So then I got these two guys together, and said there could be film in this, and Glen and Marketa agreed to let us go along on their tour. It took 3 years of filming, and when we started out we thought we had a traditional music documentary, but as we filmed we realized there was a different story being told, a very personal story, and the music complemented it.

Chris Dapkins: It was a plunge into the unknown, but it had a lot of potential.

VIMOOZ: When did you each become involved? How long have you known each other?

Mirabella-Davis: Chris and I have been collaborating since we were fifteen, and we made a short film together. Nick and I met at NYU Grad School.

VIMOOZ: What was the collaborative experience like directing your first feature?
Nick August-Perna: It was generally very positive; we all pulled each other in and created a center for the project.
Mirabella-Davis: Yeah, we kinda even each other out.
Dapkins: We also divided up responsibilities, which helped– from the beginning of shooting, to this point, with publicity and emails, etc.
Mirabella-Davis: We often felt like we were all one unit– all co-directing, and fulfilling different crew responsibilities.
August-Perna: There’s something really democratic with three people as the director rather than just one.
Mirabella-Davis: You have three times the talent!
August-Perna: There’s this thought in film that you need to have one strong director at the head, and that it’s very important to have one person in charge, but we found the opposite to be true.

VIMOOZ: How or why did you decide to film in black and white?
Dapkins: We were aware of the film Once (the fictional film which starred Hansard and Irglova), and that had tendency to go towards a documentary style, so creating a documentary out of that film, we wanted to create a different experience. So we used a 35 MM cinema lens attached with an adapter to a digital camera, and black and white was part of that aesthetic.
Mirabella-Davis: We wanted a cinema verite style– observing the subjects without interfering, and we were largely influenced by the music documentaries of the 60s and 70s by Pennebaker. Chris was very patient as a cameraman. We didn’t always pursue Glen and Marketa, we also let them come to us. Black and white was a consistent and cohesive element, recording as we did over a long period of time.

VIMOOZ: Was it difficult convincing Hansard and Irglova to be documented?
Mirabella-Davis: It was an ongoing process. Above all things, they’re artists, and they love art, Glen appreciates the documentary form. And being friends with them helped. Because of the syle– the verite style– they saw the footage and were taken aback by how personal the film felt, at how we were capturing them. Things changed, too– early on, the camera was a little intrusive for them, but after three years it became natural.
August-Perna: It’s a weird experience for anyone to watch oneself. It’s an act of courage– an excersizing courage on their part.
Mirabella-Davis: They were generous with us, and authentic.
Dapkins: And in the final cut and analysis, they trusted us to handle the footage.
August-Perna: It’s certainly a balancing act– anything can turn to disaster. Spending time with them without the camera was important.
Mirabella-Davis: They’re great conversationalists, so having conversations with them about music and art off camera was part of the process.
Dapkins: The life quotient is as important for the process as the strategy.

VIMOOZ: Have they seen the film? What was their response?
All: Yes, many times. They liked the final product.

VIMOOZ: How do you feel about your film being at Tribeca?
Mirabella-Davis: We are so honored and thankful, and beyond delighted. This was our hope– this was the festival we wanted.
Dapkins: This is the ideal festival, being in NY, in terms of quality films.
Mirabella-Davis: And we’re New Yorkers, so it’s important to us. Glen and Marketa also love the city.
August-Perna: Tribeca thinks a lot about their program, and making the right choices in terms of film selection.
Mirabella-Davis: They’ve also been very good to us.

VIMOOZ: Will the film be at other festivals?
Mirabella-Davis: There are others on the horizon, but it’s still up in the air.

VIMOOZ: Do you think getting the film distributed will be difficult?
August-Perna: Well I think there’s an international interest.
Dapkins: They have very dedicated fans.
August-Perna: There are fans that checked with them when they heard about the documentary and then emailed us saying it was okay to make it. They’re very protective. So there should be a wide interest in the film.

VIMOOZ: Any new projects?
Mirabella-Davis: We’re working on projects together and separately. I’m working on a feature that was in the Sundance Script Lab.
August-Perna: We have our individual projects, and we’re researching projects to do together.

Director: Carlo Mirabella Davis
Director: Chris Dapkins
Director: Nick August Perna


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