Harmony Korine on Creating ‘The Beach Bum’ and Finding Your Ultimate Filmmaking Bliss

Harmony Korine Beach Bum
Filmmaking advice for capturing comedy, poetry and the cosmic American dream from the SXSW 2019 premiere of ‘The Beach Bum’.

At the world premiere of Harmony Korine’s long-anticipated follow up to Spring Breakers, the wry director of Trash Humpers, Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy, gave audiences another absurd, indulgent, sunbaked romp across the Florida Keys with The Beach Bum.

And while having an iconic star character like Matthew McConaughey’s "Moondog" will pretty much guarantee an enjoyable show, Korine also opened up about filming his first feature in seven years and how he was able to turn the descent and desperation of Spring Breakers into a surreal, gratifying - and maybe even a bit dangerous - comedy.

Treat Your Script as a Starting Out Point

As you might expect with a writer / director who has predominantly experimented in the non-linear and surreal throughout his career, Korine admitted that while he had written a tight “82-page script” going into filming The Beach Bum, he and the cast would use it merely as a starting out point when filming their sets.

Life is the Art, Create the Moments

The results show as scenes tend to meander as the characters stumble in and out of conversations and across the sets and often, ultimately, into one another. But as Korine explains in the Q&A after the premiere in Austin, his goal with his filmmaking is to simply “create the moments.” Especially for characters like McConaughey’s where “the poetry is a burden, but life is the thing” for Moondog.

The Beach Bum

Shooting Scenes Across Multiple Locations

To achieve these moments, Korine would often shoot the same scenes again and again across multiple locations. You can see this in the final version of the film as conversations between characters often begin in one spot but end in another. Korine explains that this is partly by design but also an exercise used to help the actors develop their characters and their performances across the takes.

Good Comedies are a Celebration

Korine admits that his latest feature should definitely be considered a comedy. “It’s more of a celebration,” he says of The Beach Bum, in contrast to Spring Breakers which, “was more sinister.”

“It’s nice when you make a comedy and you sit in a big room and people laugh,” which was certainly the case with 500+ crammed into the Paramount premiere. Although, as is the case with those familiar with Korine’s filmmaking antics over the years, the overall tone creates a message that is mixed and at least a little bit dangerous in what it lacks to clarify.

But, from a filmmaking perspective, it’s a great example of creating a film which is blissful, fun and definitely strives to be true to itself.

The Beach Bum is set to hit theaters March 29, 2019.


For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by Blackmagic Design.     

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