Three Great Things: Robert Schwartzman

The musician turned director, whose new movie, The Good Half, is playing now at Tribeca, on get-togethers, Dodgers games and filmmaking.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the Tribeca Film Festival world premiere of The Good Half, writer-director Robert Schwartman’s new drama starring Nick Jonas, Brittany Snow, David Arquette, Alexandra Shipp, Matt Walsh and Elisabeth Shue, Schwartzman shared some of the things that bring him the most joy in life. — N.D.

Getting Together with Family and Friends
I really love having little get-togethers with friends and family. The lockdown and these past few years were really strange because I became a dad during that time. I love community and hosting, so it was hard for me, because I wanted so much to share in that experience of fatherhood with my family. I had to energetically shut myself off from the world at a time when I just wanted to be embraced by it so much. When I’m hosting, I’ll have a margarita machine and a cheese plate and put candles everywhere; I love running around and setting up the house and making it look nice for guests to come over. I’ve loved that since I was really young, which I think plays into how I make a film, because that’s also a form of presentation.

I was kind of a quiet loner as a young kid, but I grew up in a family that was all about community and getting around the table and sharing food. So I was in an environment where congregating was treated as something very special. I love to bring people together so they feel good and happy like I do. If I cook food for people, I want them to really like it. I care about that and I get really bummed out if someone doesn’t like something, because I just want them to be happy.

I get excited when I play a show and I love the feeling of an audience singing with me and everybody feeling good. I make movies for the people I love, and if I write a song, I really want to play it for others and for them to like it.

Going to Dodger Games
I was born and raised in the city of Los Angeles, where there is an iconic stadium called Dodger Stadium with incredible history. And I really love going to Dodger Stadium and watching a baseball game there. I’m not a baseball fan in the way where I hate other teams, I just really love walking into Dodger Stadium and seeing the field, sitting in my seat, getting a Dodger dog and watching the game. It’s so awesome to me.

I haven’t gone to a game recently, because I haven’t been able to be a part of big, crowded events. My wife and I had kids, and we got nervous, but I want to get back into the flow of going to Dodger games. For some reason, going outdoors to a big baseball stadium and eating a Dodger dog brings out this great happiness in me. It’s really weird, even standing in line to buy a hot dog or concessions excites me! I just love it. I think I’m amazed by anything where large numbers of people from different walks of life come together and tune in to the same frequency. And then for a moment, we’re all together and all connected, and there’s something so interesting about that.

There are moments in my life where I’ve been able to share in the experience of going to a game with my dad, my uncle and other people who were very important to me who aren’t around anymore. So going to the game maybe also takes on a feeling of tradition for me. And if I get to take my kids to a Dodger game at some point, I’ll be carrying on that tradition.

I’ll bring it back to filmmaking, because my new movie, The Good Half, is premiering at Tribeca this week and I really love the feeling of making a movie. To me, it’s no different than making music; it’s all very tied together. I just love getting to make something from scratch and creating something new for people to enjoy, because making a movie is really about community and collaboration. It’s like hosting a party, being on set every day with your crew and getting to plan and solve problems. Ever since I made Dreamland, my first film, I started to think, “Wow, like this is something I really love and I want to keep shooting and making things however I can.”

I wanted to be a filmmaker even before I started making music. As a young kid, my friends and I would write short stories and shoot things for fun after school. And that’s how we learned – we would cast people, do the wardrobe, edit and put end credits on the films and screen them for people. We really cared about it. I went to film school and then started writing songs, formed a band and got sucked into the music industry, but doing music was very unexpected for me. I felt way more comfortable making movies and music was totally foreign. So becoming a filmmaker has been me returning to my original dreams and passions.

But being on this music journey for over a decade was really helpful for me as a filmmaker, because when you’re on the road, you get a crash course in how to work with people, solve problems and deal with budgeting. I think music really helped shape who I am as a filmmaker and gave me tools and perspectives that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It also helped me meet a lot of people, absorb the world, become more comfortable with others, look for stories and characters around me, and work with rhythm and timing and editing. But crucially, it allowed me to realize that I wanted to make movies for myself. That I wanted to do things that appeal to me and make me happy. And I want to try to hold on to that as long as I can as a filmmaker.

Featured image show Robert Schwartzman with actor David Arquette during the making of The Good Half.

Robert Schwartzman is a filmmaker and accomplished musician. He formed the band Rooney in 1999 and signed with Interscope/Geffen records in 2002. He studied film at the Oxford Media School and has acted in multiple films, including The Princess Diaries and The Virgin Suicides. He made his directorial debut in 2016 with the drama Dreamland, which he also produced, co-wrote and scored, and followed it up with the comedies The Unicorn (2018), starring Lauren Lapkus and Nicholas Rutherford, and The Argument (2020), starring Maggie Q and Danny Pudi. He has two new films that have premiered in 2023: Hung Up on a Dream: The Zombies Documentary, about the seminal English rock band, and The Good Half, a comedy drama starring Nick Jonas, Brittany Snow, David Arquette.