Bill Guzik, director of the new feature Misanthropes, finds inspiration in the knockabout bohemian life — the grittier, the better.
The 34-year-old indie filmmaker grew up in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and, in 2012, relocated to the South, now living in East Atlanta. In the past he has worked with musicians and skateboarders, but lately he is widening his lens to explore bigger themes of surrealism and absurdity “tethered to dramatic narratives that may leave the audience with questions.”
In fact, many questions arise from Misanthropes, a visual collage of vignettes with rough edges and nubby textures. This free-associative, feature-length film was shot using hit-and-run “guerrilla filmmaking” techniques across the city. It took him four years to complete the feature, which receives its premiere on Friday at the Plaza Theatre.
Guzik sat down to talk with us about his ambitious project.
ArtsATL: What put these images in your head?
Guzik: I have been making my own films since I was a kid, and about five years ago I decided to dive into feature-length filmmaking. I was inspired by Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave and wanted to make a film in Atlanta using a similar style and approach.
ArtsATL: Why the downbeat title Misanthropes?
Guzik: I came up with the title in the middle of production. I was watching an interview with [The Brian Jonestown Massacre singer] Anton Newcombe and he mentioned feeling misanthropic as a young adult. I felt like that attitude existed with a few characters in the film, so I ran with it.
ArtsATL: How is this film similar or different from your other projects?
Guzik: Most of my previous films are either music or skateboarding documentaries. For some of the scenes in Misanthropes, we showed up to a location, filmed quickly, and got out of there. This is very similar to skateboarding. The difference is that other scenes were totally scripted and rehearsed.
ArtsATL: What is your philosophy of filmmaking?
Guzik: Films are capable of representing the human experience more closely than any other medium. If you can strike a chord with people, you will be a successful filmmaker.
ArtsATL: What are some Atlanta landmarks viewers can look for?
Guzik: I dreamt up the film while working at [the longtime intown Atlanta restaurant] Eats, so I used it as a primary location. Some other landmarks include Arabia Mountain, the Krog Street Tunnel, Aurora Coffee, the old Mammal Gallery, Criminal Records, the Doll Head Trail, the Big House on Ponce and Oakland Cemetery.
ArtsATL: The musical score was especially haunting and mood-setting. Was that your handiwork?
Guzik: The score was written and performed by Ross Politi and Evgenia Leshchinskaia. They both act in the film as well. The soundtrack throughout the film is full of Atlanta and Minneapolis musicians I have met over the years.
ArtsATL: Some viewers might see shades of Richard Linklater in Misanthropes. Who are some of your influences?
Guzik: Linklater’s first feature, It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, was a big influence for me, and Slacker, as well. Both films are creatively constructed with very small budgets. I’m influenced heavily by [Jim] Jarmusch and [John] Cassavetes, too. I love how dry Jarmusch can be, and Cassavetes had this ability to capture raw emotion from his actors. I also have international influences. Luis Buñuel’s sense of humor gets to me and [Robert] Bresson’s technique was so precise and innovative. His film The Devil Probably is one of my favorites. [Jean-Luc] Godard is another French New Wave director I’m influenced by. Him and Cassavetes were both known to write scenes mid-production, and that was refreshing for me to hear. You can write the movie as you go, and I thought, I can do that.
ArtsATL: The plot is rather elliptical and nonlinear. What is the overarching message of Misanthropes?
Guzik: Although there is a plot to Misanthropes, I don’t consider it a plot-driven movie. I think the film does a good job conveying a feeling that most young adults, especially service-industry people, can relate to. I can’t say there is an overarching message because I’m not trying to preach. Maybe just hang in there and embrace the absurdity of life? I don’t know.