One of the most exciting films showing at this year’s Indie Grits festival is Big Significant Things, a feature-length yarn about a twentysomething who, primed to move across the country with his girlfriend and become a homeowner for the first time, takes off on a secretive month-long road trip through the South, where he searches for, of course, “big significant things.” The film premiered at the SXSW film festival earlier this year with a strong critical reception and is being screened twice over the course of this week: at 3pm on Wednesday April 16 and at 7pm on Friday April 18. Jasper sent a few exploratory questions to director Bryan Reisberg to find out more about the motivations behind the film, and he kindly obliged.
Jasper: Tell us a bit about where the idea for the film came from.
Bryan: I used to day dream about just leaving; going on a trip and not telling anybody. I wasn’t serious about it, but I had these naive and romantic visions of leaving my job and friends and family behind in lieu of a wildly spontaneous adventure into the unknown expanses of the world. I think they call that vagrancy these days. Unfortunately these fantasies usually reduced into logistical exercises. So instead of dreaming about this ”wildly spontaneous” adventure, I would spend a lot of time thinking about the implications of being unreachable, who I would need to email to defer student loans, important dates for online bill payment, what my mother would think. She’d probably start chain smoking, stressing about where she went wrong — and you can’t really enjoy wild spontaneity knowing that it’s also killing your poor mother. And then I’m also broke so I’m not sure how I’d even pay for it anyways. So it all got really stressful to even think about. And on top of that, I was reminded of some of my favorite films from the 60s and 70s that dealt with similar themes, albeit during an incredibly volatile time in America. At that time, there was a lot to either fight for, or escape from. So it made me think — well — what do I have to run away from? I’m 25 and I have a leak-proof roof over my head and a steady job that doesn’t require any physical labor. So in the span of an hour, these delusions just turned into me hating myself for whining about my perfectly normal, if not fortunate, life.
Jasper: Is this your first big feature? What other projects did you work on prior to this?
Bryan: This is my debut feature film. Prior to this, I made a short film called FATHER/SON that premiered at the London BFI Film Festival and played festivals around the world. I also recently directed a yet-to-be-released web series called THE WALKER, starring Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan and Rightor Doyle. I do a lot of work with my production company partner, Andrew Corkin, with our company Uncorked Productions (www.anuncorkedproduction.com).
Jasper: Did you think much about existing road narratives or road films before embarking on this project? If so what kind of impact did they have?
Bryan: I watch a lot of movies — many of which impact me in one way or another. There were a lot of films that became important to creating Big Significant Things– not only films that dealt with road trips, but films that dealt with similar themes that I wanted to explore, including the humanist American films of the 60s and 70s: Paper Moon, The Last Picture Show, Five Easy Pieces, Easy Rider, The Landlord — and more contemporary cinema from Alexander Payne like About Schmidt and Sideways. My film pays homage to many of my favorite films from the 70s so they had a very direct impact on me.
Jasper: What perspective does this film take on the much-debated Millennial generation?
Half the fun is figuring out the answer to this question after seeing the film.
Jasper: What is the hardest part of making a full-length feature film?
When you’re on set, every day brings a myriad problems. And to be honest there’s not much time to think. So it takes a lot just to learn how to creatively pivot without compromising.
For ticketing information go to indiegrits.com/program/feature-films/big-significant-things/