‘Harmony and Me’ Director Bob Byington

Written by  //  February 8, 2010  //  Concerned Interview, The Table  //  No comments

This Saturday, Feb. 13th, Donnybrook is collaborating with the Denver Film Society to bring you Harmony and Me (and You). Following a special screening of Bob Byington’s Harmony and Me, DWA and DFS are throwing a Valentine’s Day party. Harmony and Me won 2009’s Starz Denver Film Festival’s Audience Award, beating Academy Award-nominated films Precious and Up In the Air. Annenberg Fellowship recipient Bob Byington directs Justin Rice (frontman of the indie pop band Bishop Allen) in this perfectly humorous, sometimes jaded film about love for Valentine’s Day weekend.

The film title and main character are named after a Elton John lyric; why did you pick Harmony over such character gold as Honky Cat, Jamaica Jerk-Off, or Bennie and the Jets?

It’s flattering to see you’ve done research. For readers who don’t know, these are Elton John songs. The title really picked me, other than the way around.  I am aware that that’s an at least semi-pretentious answer.

I’ve heard the film is semi-autobiographical. How was it growing up with the name Harmony?

What a funny question!  Believe me, being named Bob is no picnic either.

Let’s talk about your choice not to shoot Harmony and Me in 3-D.

Let’s get back to this one.

When Harmony burns the book and the yoga mat, is that your symbolic way of saying that broken hearts make people hate intellectual and physical pursuits?

I do think if your heart is broken it creates in you at least temporarily the kind of ennui that makes either seem fruitless.

During your festival travels, I’m sure you’ve run into more than a few audience members who ask questions that lack the sophistication and grace of your film. What is the dumbest question/statement you’ve received on your quest with Harmony and Me?

Let’s talk about your choice not to shoot Harmony and Me in 3-D.

You’ve managed a coup de gras and filled your cast full of professional, hilarious actors. How’d that happen when most independent filmmakers cast their friends in all the roles in their films? Are your friends that cool, or did you make a deal with the Weinsteins–I mean, the devil?

Coup de gras? is that like Foix Gras? I do think you can be pretty ambitious about casting, and good actors tend to know and attract one another, so. Aim high, I say.

At the Denver Film Festival, your film won the coveted Audience Award. How much of that had to do with Denver having the most film savvy audience in the lower fifty?

Denver audiences are great, Great… winning the Audience Award meant a lot to us, it was a boost for the movie for sure.

Writing romantic comedies seems to lead to more noble jobs such as re-booting comic book franchises; what comic book franchise are you hoping to re-boot?

Sadly I know nothing about comic books, my mom didn’t allow them in the house, she made us read Dostoevski when I was like nine.  I am aware that that’s an at least semi-pretentious answer.

Justin Rice, lead singer of Bishop Allen, is lead in your film. Please share with us a completely made up story that happened with him during shooting.

One day, when we were doing an interior shot of Justin walking down the hallway, we decided to put him in a brown sweater. We sent him to wardrobe and he put on a cardigan that was more burnt sienna than brown, but he looked good in it. But then, our wardrobe girl had a thought; “What if we put him in a blue sweater?” and Justin was really into that idea, because it turns out, (and I had no idea this was the case) that Justin’s favorite color is blue. It just clicked. So Justin put on the blue sweater, which also happened to be a cardigan and it just fit him perfectly. It was also a little cold on set, so it also helped keep him warm. It wasn’t freezing, it’s just that the air conditioner was on and it definitely created a chill. I actually had a windbreaker on. We originally thought that Justin should wear a windbreaker (this film is semi-autobiographical after all, as you point out in your earlier question) but the nylon kept making this “whooshing” sound every time he swung his arms and our sound guy was really having a hard time with that. We tried a different mic, but it was really difficult to phase the sound out, I didn’t want to have to do it in post, so that’s when I thought, “Maybe he should just wear a brown sweater”. Wool is usually quieter. But the thing is, and here’s the kicker, turns out the blue cardigan we put him in, was actually a blend of 70% wool and 30% nylon, which is crazy, I had no idea. So we kind of got the essence of the windbreaker into the scene, just by virtue of the fact that there was a little bit of nylon in that sweater. It was a win, win situation. And Justin just looks great in blue. It really makes his eyes pop on screen.

There will be an after-screening party on Saturday the 13th. If we come to your screening and party, what will you do for us?

I will give anyone who doesn’t like the movie a dollar.

February 13th: Celebrate (or uncelebrate) Valentine’s Day by having a date with Harmony and Me. The film will be followed with a Q&A with director Bob Byington, a dance party/reception in Gallery 30 with cupcakes, drinks, a raffle w/ prizes related to the film, Donnybrook DJs, and most of all, witty conversation. The purchase of a ticket ($15 general/ $12 members) to the 7:15 showing will include the Director Q & A as well as an invitation to the exclusive party following.

Harmony and Me runs February 12th-February 18th at the Starz Film Center. The screening and party are open to the public. The Starz Film Center is located at 900 Auraria Parkway, Denver, CO, 80204.

About the Author

Fritz Godard

Fritz Godard is Donnybrook's film columnist, world-renowned filmmaker, and reason behind Marilyn Monroe's demise.

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