The film began with the idea of exploring family: how it can be full of laughter and pain (often simultaneously), how it is both our source of strength and the origin of all our problems, and whatever our relationship to family is, it’s forever. Ultimately, it became a movie about discovery – discovering family, discovering yourself, discovering history, nature, the road . . . discovering America.
Tonally, I’m indebted to Hal Ashby and the character-driven comedies of the seventies. For me, these films resonate because they’re steeped in naturalism, can be sincere without being sentimental, and seamlessly blend comedy and drama. We sought the same grounded realism and delicate balance of humor and pathos with The Discoverers.
Drawing on Thoreau’s idea that you have to get lost in the woods in order to find yourself, The Discoverers is part of a return to the pastoral narrative tradition. By leaving the city, and going back to nature, the characters are stripped from the familiar, and able to see themselves and each other in a new light. Our aesthetic design was conceived around the four movements the Birch family experiences – city, suburbs, forest, coast - moving from a deadpan formalism to an expressive lyricism to chart the family’s emotional and geographic progression through light, color, camera language and form.
This was my first feature and I was fortunate to work with an enormously talented ensemble of creative collaborators. Together, we formed our own band of Discoverers making the movie, journeying from city to suburb, from deep into the forest to the brink of the Pacific. Like the characters in the film, we all set out to find some emotional truth in our work together and I hope our discoveries resonate with audiences on screen.
- Justin Schwarz
Read Stephen Saito’s interview with The Discoverers director Justin Schwarz
Read The Santa Barbara Independent’s interview with The Discoverers director Justin Schwarz