While at Sundance 2019, I had the opportunity to chat with director/musician/actor Robert Schwartzman about his comedy film, ‘The Unicorn’. We spent time at the Coppola Lounge, discussing his new film, threesomes and the themes of the movie including the writing process and the music of ‘The Unicorn’.
Dawn Church: I wanted to ask. Can you tell me a little bit more about what went into the writing development for the script?
Robert Schwartzman: Yeah, I mean, development is interesting. I like the process of development because, it’s the moment where you are dreaming up things. You know what I mean?
Robert Schwartzman: And by the way when you find a really good script and you can still come to it with a perspective and work with the writer and redevelop it. So, it was a story again, I met a Unicorn one night. It seemed like a jumping off place to tell the story, and with that it was sort of the early stages of like something to bite into point to something to bite into, and it felt like, you know when you are making a film or you are making a feature, you have to sustain the audience for a certain amount of time. So you want to grab on to a story that is kind of, you’ve earned sustaining and maintaining everyones interest level. And for comedy I think you want to find exciting characters that ask big questions and that is a jumping off place. So we started with a jumping of place of, their looking for their Unicorn. It’s one night, the train leaves the station, they get this idea and they just go with it. And like, it just get’s crazier, one beat at a time. And then with that, you know, we had the story, I went to Nick Rutherford who was the lead in the movie. Nick is from a comedy group called Good Neighbor, which was basically Nick, Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennet. Kyle and Beck are now on Saturday night live and they are really great cast members. Anyways, those three guys came up in comedy together. I was a fan of good neighbor. So I reached out to Nick, we became friends and I pitched him this idea for The Unicorn, he really liked it and we started writing it, and I got to collaborate with some other great comedy writers. And we were moving really fast. The nature of an indie is you that you try to just go with it, you know what I mean.
Robert Schwartzman: It was fun to make an independent feature where you don’t have to play by the rules of like certain types of politics of studios and it’s for yourself in a way, to make an indie- feature. And I think you just try to get excited, get passionate and just run and go and try not to slow down. And that was the nature of this movie. We had this idea and we went for it. We said we were going to shoot at this time frame and we works towards making that happen. And that is the nature of the movie, it’s very spontaneous, it’s really fun, it’s like the train leaves the station and it never stops. So anyways there is an energy of making that we this movie I hope you feel that when you see it. That The Unicorn captures that kind of momentum of storytelling.
Robert Schwartzman: But, anyway, I think a lot of people have their own way of telling stories and what makes them excited and how they make movies. Sometimes they work to a script, sometimes they work to an outline and sometimes it’s heavy improve, you know what I mean?
Dawn Church: Yes.
Robert Schwartzman: So there are a lot of ways to do it, but that is the fun of movie making and the magic of this art form.
Dawn Church: Were there any magical moments when you were picking out the music for it?
Robert Schwartzman: Yeah, well my life was music before I got more into filmmaking. I have a band called Rooney, and we would tour a lot and I’d make a lot of records and I find songwriting and filmmaking really similar, because you are still telling stories. When you write music, it’s really like a ground up creative process of telling these stories, and when you make your cover art and your music video, you are still telling your story. So, it’s like I find that so satisfying and in filmmaking as well, you are carrying the ball through the whole process. But when I am working on the film, I am thinking of music ahead of time. So when I am reading the script, I am already thinking about, I start making a playlist of the music I’d like in the film or the musical identity of the film. So I start with play listing the movie ahead of time, but the nature of the beast is when you try to get music in a movie, you have to go clear the music and you have to pay money. And it can expensive. So you have to be able to adapt to changing your musical ideas and with The Unicorn, it has tons of music and there is a really good soundtrack coming out in March so, I am excited for people to hear that. There are some great artists on it. There are a lot of older artists that maybe younger generations don’t know about, we can turn people on to these new bands, and a lot of today artists that people might be familiar with, so it’s a good clash of music to inspire people to with. The music component is a big part for me. We spent a lot of time getting the music right.
Robert Schwartzman: Well, it’s important. I feel like, the ride you take the audience on, the music can really help pull which ever emotion you are trying get out of the audience to real compliment the script. The music can make everybody happy, sad, scared, you know. So it really helps on that film ride.
Robert Schwartzman: You know a lot of filmmakers will talk about how it can totally define the movie. Think of great scores and how iconic, when you hear that music you think of the film, so if they find that harmony, there is nothing like it. It’s like a magical experience.