Bob Byington, March 2014. Photographed by Matthew Mahon
April 29, 1971
|Years active||1996 – present|
Bob Byington (b. April 29, 1971) is an award-winning independent American film director, screenwriter and actor living in Austin, Texas. He is most noted for his films RSO (Registered Sex Offender) (2008) and Harmony and Me (2009). His 2012 film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, won The Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Locarno Film Festival. His latest film, 7 Chinese Brothers (2014) stars Jason Schwartzman, Olympia Dukakis and Tunde Adebimpe.
Robert "Bob" Byington grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. He studied at the University of California, Santa Cruz and received a major in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Byington directed his first film Shameless in 1996, and followed up with Olympia in 1998, which played on opening night of the South by Southwest Film Festival. He then entered a decade long "God-imposed" hiatus before directing his next three films RSO (Registered Sex Offender) (2008), Harmony and Me (2009) and Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012).
Style and content
Byington's work has been called literate, bawdy, sardonic, and quirky. The Los Angeles Times described his film Harmony and Me as a "collision of joyous whimsy and bittersweet melancholy." His work is occasionally lumped in with the larger mumblecore movement in part because of his appearance in Andrew Bujalski's film Beeswax and his use of actors, such as Bujalski, Justin Rice, and Alex Karpovsky, who appeared in movies carrying the mumblecore label.
Byington considers his films thematically different from mumblecore and has resisted the label. Variety magazine agreed in its review of Harmony and Me describing Byington's work as "mumblecore without the mumble." Unlike the extreme naturalistic dialogue of many mumblecore films, Byington's work leans towards exact dialogue and, according to Roger Ebert, "perfect timing" which is "unreasonably funny". Filmmaker Magazine likened his rich humor to the New Hollywood comedies of the 1970s.
Byington often reuses performers, including Nick Offerman, Kristen Tucker, Pat Healy, Keith Poulson, Kevin Corrigan and Suzy Nakamura. Offerman starred in Byington's latest film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, which premiered at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and is slated for wide release Spring of 2013.
- Harmony and Me
- People's Choice Award for Best Narrative, Denver Film Festival
- Selected as the only American film to have its premiere at New Directors/New Films presented by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
- Financed in part by an Annenberg Fellowship from the Sundance Institute in 2008.
Kicking the Seat praised Somebody Up There Likes Me as "the best English-language film of the last forty-six years."
"To me, Austin is a really great example of a close-knit American independent filmmaking community that shows the kind of collaboration and inventiveness that it takes to make great films outside of the studio system. You've got a guy like Bob Byington who has developed a very unique style working with the same group of people on his last few films, and his films feel very organic as a result. They're the kind of movies that can only be made if the cast and crew are very comfortable working together. And when you watch his films you feel like you're part of their group too – it's like he's letting the audience in on a big inside joke."
Filmography (as writer and director)
- Shameless (1996)
- Olympia (1998)
- RSO [Registered Sex Offender] (2008)
- Harmony and Me (2009)
- Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012)
- 7 Chinese Brothers (2014)
- "Interview with Byington in Filmmaker Magazine".
- "Harmony and Me review in LA Times". Los Angeles Times. March 26, 2010.
- "Interview with Byington in New York Magazine".
- Scheib, Ronnie (March 30, 2009). "Harmony and Me review in Variety Magazine".
- "Harmony and Me review by Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Harmony and Me at Denver Film Festival".
- "New Directors/New Films page for Harmony and Me".
- "Sundance Awards Byington Annenberg Fellowship".
- Dalton, Stephen (August 13, 2012). ""Hollywood Reporter review of "Somebody Up There Likes Me" from Locarno". The Hollywood Reporter.
- ""Things Are What You Make of Them: The Deliciously Cracked Comedies of Bob Byington" by K. Jones. Austin Chronicle, October 3, 2009.".
- "The Love Connection: Michael Moore Hearts Austin And Two Of Its Funniest Filmmakers...." K. Jones. Austin Chronicle, July 24, 2009.".