Joe Swanberg

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

(1981-08-31) August 31, 1981 (age 41)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation(s)Actor, film director, TV producer, screenwriter
Years active2005–present
Notable workEasy (TV series)
Drinking Buddies
(m. 2007; div. 2019)

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 career of Greta Gerwig.[5]

Early life[edit]

Swanberg was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Georgia and Alabama.[6] 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.[7] As a teenager, he worked at Hollywood Video.[8]


In 2005, Swanberg directed Kissing on the Mouth, his first feature film, 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 later cast Gerwig 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.[9]

In 2012, Swanberg wrote and directed the film Drinking Buddies, starring Olivia Wilde, Jake M. Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston. 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. This was the first of his films to be shot on 16mm film, rather than digital.[10] The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

His next film as director was Digging for Fire,[10] which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and stars Jake Johnson.[11] The film was released on August 21, 2015, by The Orchard.[12]

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 with 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.[13] He also released his 2020 feature, Build the Wall, starring Kent Osborne and Jane Adams, on his Vimeo page.[14][15]

In 2021, Swanberg opened Analog Pizza and Video Store, a VHS video rental shop in the back room of Borelli's Pizzeria in Chicago.[8]


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



Year Film Director Writer Producer Editor Cinematographer Notes
2005 Kissing on the Mouth Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2006 LOL Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2007 Hannah Takes the Stairs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2008 Nights and Weekends Yes Yes Yes Yes No co-directed with Greta Gerwig
2009 Alexander the Last Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2010 11/4/08 No No No No Yes documentary film
Open Five No No No No Yes
2011 Uncle Kent Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Silver Bullets Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes also sound
Caitlin Plays Herself Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autoerotic Yes Yes Yes No No co-directed with Adam Wingard
also special make-up effects
Art History Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
The Zone Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2012 V/H/S Segment Director No Segment Producer Segment Editor No segment: "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger"
also sound designer of the segment
Marriage Material Yes Yes Yes Yes No
All the Light in the Sky Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2013 Drinking Buddies Yes Yes Yes Yes No
24 Exposures Yes Yes No Yes No
2014 Happy Christmas Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2015 Digging for Fire Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2017 Win It All Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2020 The Rental No Yes Yes No No
Build the Wall Yes Yes No Yes Yes

Producer only[edit]

Year Film Role
2009 It Was Great but I Was Ready to Come Home Producer
2011 What Fun We Were Having: 4 Stories About Date Rape
2015 Queen of Earth producer/associate producer
Uncle Kent 2 executive producer
Bloomin Mud Shuffle producer
Lace Crater
2016 Little Sister executive producer
2017 Person to Person
Golden Exits
2018 Madeline's Madeline
2019 Sword of Trust
Holy Trinity

Short Film[edit]

Year Film Director Writer Producer Cinematographer Editor
2003 Mikey Yes Uncredited Uncredited Yes Uncredited
2005 Hissy Fits Yes Uncredited Yes No Uncreidted
2006 Thanks for the Ad! Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2008 Swedish Blueballs Yes Yes Yes Yes No
About Film Festivals No No No Yes No
Ginger Sand No No No Yes No
2009 Birthday Suit Yes Yes Yes No No
One Shot Film Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2010 The World of Film Festivals No No No Yes No
2012 Stray Bullets Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2013 Privacy Setting Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Acting roles[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
2005 Kissing on the Mouth Patrick
Hissy Fits short film
2006 LOL Tim
Young American Bodies Ben TV series
2007 Hohokam The Jeffery
Quiet City Adam
Grammy's Clarence short film
The Timebox Twins Boy
2008 Untied Strangers Wes
Present Company Archibald King
Nights and Weekends James
Paintbrush Danny short film
2009 You Wont Miss Me
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever Hazmat Team
The Mountain, the River and the Road Tom
2010 Everyone Says I Look Just Like Her Brandon
A Horrible Way to Die Kevin
Blackmail Boys Andrew Kenneth Tucker
Audrey the Trainwreck Jeremy Roth
2011 Uncle Kent Joe
Silver Bullets Ethan
Caitlin Plays Herself Joe
Autoerotic [citation needed]
Art History Sam
You're Next Drake Davison
The Zone Joe
2012 The Kings of Yorktown Bartender
V/H/S Sam segment: "Second Honeymoon"
Marriage Material Joe medium-length film
2013 Detonator Sid
Drinking Buddies Angry Car Guy
White Reindeer George
The Sacrament Jake
Proxy Patrick Michaels
2014 Happy Christmas Jeff
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely Akin
Empire Builder The Husband
Journeyman Jake Hopkins short film
2015 There Toth
Uncle Kent 2 Joe
Bloomin Mud Shuffle Brock
Lace Crater Dean
2016 Joshy Aaron
2017 XX Singing Panda segment "The Birthday Party"
2018 Nobody Likes You as Much as I Do Pauly Short film
2022 Offseason George Darrow


Year Film Director Writer Producer Editor Notes
2006-2009 Young American Bodies Yes Yes Yes Yes 23 episodes
also creator, cinematographer and camera operator
2014 Looking Yes No No No episode "Looking in the Mirror"
2016-2017 Love Yes No No No 3 episodes
2016–2019 Easy Yes Yes Yes Yes 25 episodes
Also creator
2019 Soundtrack Yes No No No 2 episodes


  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 (February 11, 2011). "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. ^ "I don't need a man. I would have done all this anyway". The Guardian. August 6, 2015.
  6. ^ Zwicker, Bill (August 19, 2013). "Joe Swanberg tapped his Chicago smarts for 'Drinking Buddies". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 18, 2013. Though born in Detroit, Swanberg has lived "in Illinois since just before high school." A high school buddy in Naperville...
  7. ^ "Writer/director Joe Swanberg's new Netflix show "Easy"". ABC. October 25, 2016. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Krupp, Emma (May 14, 2021). "You can rent director Joe Swanberg's VHS collection from a Ravenswood pizzeria". TimeOut. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  9. ^ "Joe Swanberg: Collected Films 2011". Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  10. ^ a b 4:3 Happy Christmas: An Interview with Writer/Director Joe Swanberg. 4:3
  11. ^ "". Archived from the original on January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  12. ^ Douglas, Edward (August 21, 2015). "". Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  13. ^ "Vimeo". Vimeo. January 9, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  14. ^ "Build the Wall, on vimeo". Vimeo. June 8, 2020.
  15. ^ Brody, Richard (August 28, 2020). "Review: Age Shows in Joe Swanberg's "Build the Wall"". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 11, 2021.

External links[edit]