This past spring, I had the chance to interview independent filmmaker, actor, and writer Robert Byington. Using his own unique wit, Byington answered questions about inspiration, humor, and how a location affects storytelling. One thing’s for sure, this storyteller keeps you on your toes.

BlueCat: I read that you were first inspired by intelligent filmmaking at a young age. What films/filmmakers inspired you to work in film?

Byington: Just movies I saw where it seemed like I started to get the sense that someone was making the ?lm. For whatever reason I noticed it during Annie Hall in the ’80s and Chinatown in the ’80s also. Gus Van Sant’s first film had a big impact on me, Mala Noche, I’d never see anything like it, and I saw it on TV, by accident, in the early ’90s.

BlueCat: What drew you to write the Film Harmony and Me? Byington: The Elton John song “Harmony” was a big inspiration, and I started to get an idea for a movie that was oddly based on the song, tonally.

BlueCat: What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about screenwriting?

Byington: That’s a good question, I think the lesson I’ve learned is that finding your voice involves some trial and error.

BlueCat: Your scripts are comprised mainly of very biting humor. What comedic scripts or films had an impact on you?

Byington: Raising Arizona, Meet the Parents.  The descriptions for the scenes in Love Liza had a really big impact on me, they were so alive. But I don’t think that’s a comedic script.

BlueCat: Your films have unique, somewhat offbeat humor to them. I read that the kind of humor that interests you is intelligent but also ‘built on an understanding of language.’ Can you elaborate on this quality?

Byington: I see language as a kind of music, and the goal with Harmony was to put that across.

BlueCat: Is the use of offbeat humor deliberate or does that come naturally to you/your story telling?

Byington: I’m afraid it comes naturally.

BlueCat: How much of an impact does the city of Austin have on your writing/character? Byington: I think it’s made its way into the films in a way that affects the tone, in a way I don’t fully understand even. Austin is a special place, no question.

BlueCat: You write, direct, and act. Which of the three do you find the most creatively satisfying? Why?

Byington: Acting is fun, writing is lonely, directing is hard.

BlueCat: What advice do you have for aspiring independent filmmakers?

Byington: Don’t listen to anyone, starting with Bob Byington.

BlueCat: You mentioned in an interview last year that you were going to start filming Seven Chinese Brothers this year. What is the status of that project?

Byington: We are excited to have Patton Oswalt in the lead, and working on getting the money to line up the way it’s supposed to.

BlueCat: How did the idea for the script Seven Chinese Brothers come to you?

Byington: I saw a movie called Hearts of Atlantis nine years ago, and I said to myself, I can write a movie better than that, and then I spent six days writing a script, really only a few hours each day, certainly no more than 20 total, we’ll continue to hope that the finished product is better than Hearts of Atlantis. I don’t know though, it’s taking a while. At least they got their movie made, and they have Anthony Hopkins in it.

BlueCat: What is the most rewarding thing about screenwriting? Byington: I can’t think of anything that’s too rewarding. I really don’t like it.

BlueCat: What are the essential elements for a great script?

Byington: Very difficult to put your finger on.

For more information on Robert Byington, check out his IMDB page. For the latest on Harmony and Me, visit the film’s site.

Read more writing tips, career advice and profiles at BlueCat’s blog.