Joe Swanberg

Joseph Swanberg (born August 31, 1981) is an American independent film director, producer, writer, and actor. Known for micro-budget films which make extensive use of improvisation, Swanberg is considered a major figure in the mumblecore film movement.[2][3][4] His films often focus on relationships, sex, technology, and the filmmaking process, and he is credited with launching the careers of Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig, and the Duplass Brothers.[5][6][7]

Joe Swanberg
Joe Swanberg 2014.jpg
Swanberg in 2014
Joseph Swanberg

(1981-08-31) August 31, 1981 (age 40)
OccupationActor, film director, TV producer, screenwriter
Years active2005–present
Notable work
Easy (TV series)
Drinking Buddies
(m. 2007; div. 2019)

Early lifeEdit

Swanberg was born in Detroit, Michigan, and was raised in Georgia and Alabama.[8] He graduated from Naperville Central High School in suburban Chicago and attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale as a film major, earning a bachelor's degree in 2003.[9] As a teenager, he worked at Hollywood Video.[10]


In 2005, Swanberg directed his first feature film, Kissing on the Mouth, for a modest budget. He followed it with LOL (2006), which marked Swanberg's first time working with actress Greta Gerwig. Gerwig and Swanberg collaborated on the director's next two features: Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007), which also starred filmmakers Andrew Bujalski, Ry Russo-Young, and Mark Duplass and marked Swanberg's first collaboration with animator and actor Kent Osborne; and Nights and Weekends (2008), on which Gerwig shared a directing credit. Swanberg's next feature, Alexander the Last, was produced by Noah Baumbach, who would later cast Gerwig opposite Ben Stiller in his 2010 film Greenberg.

After spending all of 2009 working on Silver Bullets, Swanberg finished seven features in 2010: Uncle Kent, Caitlin Plays Herself, The Zone, Art History, Silver Bullets, Privacy Setting and Autoerotic (co-directed with horror filmmaker Adam Wingard). Uncle Kent premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011 and Silver Bullets and Art History premiered at the Berlinale in February. The rest of the 2010 films premiered theatrically in 2011 after screenings at film festivals. Four of these were later included in Joe Swanberg: Collected Films 2011, a DVD boxed set from the music and video label Factory 25.[11]

In 2012 Swanberg wrote and directed the film Drinking Buddies, starring Olivia Wilde, Jake M. Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston. The film was produced by Alicia Van Couvering and Andrea Roa and shot by Beasts of the Southern Wild cinematographer Ben Richardson. The film was acquired by Magnolia Pictures shortly after its SXSW premiere.

The following year Swanberg shot Happy Christmas, starring himself, Melanie Lynskey, Lena Dunham, and Anna Kendrick from Drinking Buddies. This was the first of his films to be shot on 16mm film, rather than digital.[12] The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

His next film as director was Digging for Fire,[12] which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and stars Jake Johnson.[13] The film was released on August 21, 2015 by The Orchard.[14]

Swanberg wrote, directed, and produced Easy, an anthology series for Netflix. The series premiered in 2016 and ran for three seasons ending in 2019. Easy featured many of Swanberg's frequent collaborators from his films including Jake Johnson, Joe Lo Truglio, and Nicky Excitement.

In 2017, Swanberg and Jake Johnson co-wrote Win It All. Johnson stars alongside Aislinn Derbez, Joe Lo Truglio and Keegan-Michael Key. The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 11, 2017. It was released on April 7, 2017, by Netflix.

Swanberg is a noted proponent of Internet-based distribution for independent films and has made his 2011 feature, Marriage Material, available for free on his Vimeo page.[15] He also released his 2020 feature, Build the Wall, starring Kent Osborne and Jane Adams, on his Vimeo page.[16][17]

In 2021, Swanberg opened Analog Pizza and Video Store, a VHS video rental shop in the back room of Borelli's Pizzeria in Chicago.[10]


He cites Elaine May, Paul Mazursky, Lars von Trier,[3] Marco Ferreri,[3] and Eric Rohmer as influences on his work.[3]


As director, producer, and writerEdit

Year Film Type Credited as
Director Producer Writer Editor Cinematographer
2020 Build the Wall Feature film Yes No Yes Yes Yes
2020 The Rental Feature film No Yes Yes No No
2019 Soundtrack TV series Yes No No No No
2017 Win It All Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2016–2019 Easy TV series Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2016 Love (Episode: "Andy") TV series Yes No No No No
2015 Digging for Fire Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Queen of Earth Feature film No Yes No No No
2014 Happy Christmas Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2013 24 Exposures Feature film Yes No Yes Yes No
Drinking Buddies Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes No
All the Light in the Sky Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2012 Marriage Material Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
V/H/S (Segment: "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger") Feature film Yes Yes No Yes No
2011 Caitlin Plays Herself Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autoerotic Feature film Yes Yes Yes No No
The Zone Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Art History Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Silver Bullets Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Uncle Kent Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2009 Alexander the Last Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2008 Nights and Weekends Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Swedish Blueballs Short film Yes Yes Yes No Yes
2007 Hannah Takes the Stairs Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2006 LOL Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2005 Kissing on the Mouth Feature film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

As actorEdit

Year Film Role
2018 Nobody Likes You as Much as I Do (short) Pauly
2017 XX (segment "The Birthday Party") Singing Panda
2016 Joshy Aaron
2015 Lace Crater Dean
Bloomin Mud Shuffle Brock
Uncle Kent 2 Joe
There Toth
2014 Journeyman (short) Jake Hopkins
Empire Builder The Husband
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely Akin
Happy Christmas Jeff
2013 Proxy Patrick Michaels
The Sacrament Jake
White Reindeer George
Drinking Buddies Angry Car Guy
Detonator Sid
2012 Marriage Material Joe
V/H/S (Segment: "Second Honeymoon") Sam
The Kings of Yorktown Bartender
2011 Caitlin Plays Herself Joe
The Zone
Art History Sam
You're Next Drake Davison
Silver Bullets Ethan
Uncle Kent Joe
2010 Audrey the Trainwreck Jeremy Roth
Blackmail Boys Andrew Kenneth Tucker
A Horrible Way to Die Kevin
Everyone Says I Look Just Like Her Brandon
2009 The Mountain, the River and the Road Tom
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever Hazmat Team
You Wont Miss Me
2008 Paintbrush (short) Danny
Nights and Weekends James
Present Company Archibald King
Untied Strangers (short) Wes
2007 The Timebox Twins (short) Boy
Grammy's (short) Clarence
Quiet City Adam
Hohokam The Jeffery
2006 Young American Bodies (TV series) Ben
2005 Hissy Fits (short)
Kissing on the Mouth Patrick


  1. ^ Allen, Nick (March 16, 2020). "Without SXSW, Kris Rey Looks for a Home for Her Film". Chicago. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  2. ^ Brody, Richard. "The Front Row: Joe Swanberg in Berlin". The New Yorker.
  3. ^ a b c d Kramer, Gary. Interview: Joe Swanberg. Slant.
  4. ^ Trachta, Ali. Interview: Filmmaker Joe Swanberg. Archived 2012-01-31 at the Wayback Machine Chicagoist.
  5. ^ Denby, David. Uncle Kent. The New Yorker.
  6. ^ Brody, Richard. The Front Row: "Silver Bullets" Tonight. The New Yorker.
  7. ^ "I don't need a man. I would have done all this anyway". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Zwicker, Bill (August 19, 2013). "Joe Swanberg tapped his Chicago smarts for 'Drinking Buddies". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2013-12-18. Though born in Detroit, Swanberg has lived “in Illinois since just before high school.” A high school buddy in Naperville...
  9. ^ "Writer/director Joe Swanberg's new Netflix show "Easy"". ABC. 25 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  10. ^ a b Krupp, Emma (14 May 2021). "You can rent director Joe Swanberg's VHS collection from a Ravenswood pizzeria". TimeOut. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  11. ^ "Joe Swanberg: Collected Films 2011". Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  12. ^ a b 4:3 Happy Christmas: An Interview with Writer/Director Joe Swanberg. 4:3
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  14. ^ Douglas, Edward (2015-08-21). "". Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  15. ^ "Vimeo". Vimeo. 2012-01-09. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  16. ^ "Build the Wall, on vimeo". Vimeo.
  17. ^ Brody, Richard (28 August 2020). "Review: Age Shows in Joe Swanberg's "Build the Wall"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 11 November 2021.

External linksEdit