MOVIES | “Get Low”: Director Aaron Schneider on his feature debut featuring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray


A few weeks ago, Aaron Schneider, the director and editor of the humorous new 1930s-era fable Get Low, was in Minneapolis promoting the film, which opens August 13 at the Landmark Edina Cinema. The interview took place at a hotel in downtown Minneapolis, and Schneider looked understandably fatigued. 

Get Low premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, and since then, the film has been getting heavy festival play and, along the way, earning major kudos from critics worldwide. (I saw the film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.) Schneider said at the end of the interview, “I’m fortunate that the film has played well at not only its world premiere in Toronto, but at all the festivals its screened at—Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca—even though I had a strange experience with the film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last month. I usually try to sit in the theater when I can and see how the audience is responding to it, you know, laughing at the right scenes or quiet during its more dramatic scenes. Well, we screened the film twice at Edinburgh and both screenings were dead quiet. Nobody was laughing or making any sounds during either screening. I didn’t know what to think, it was the first time that had happened. The funny thing was we ended up willing the audience award. It was the craziest thing.”

Get Low stars Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black, Bill Cobbs, and Bill Murray. Duvall’s Felix Bush has become a hermit and has been one for over 30 years. Once he gets wind that an old friend of his has passed away, Felix gets the idea to throw himself a “funeral party” while he’s still alive. He enlists funeral director Frank Quinn (a wonderful Murray) and his younger partner Buddy Robinson (Black) to help him prepare for the party. Bush wants the entire town to come and attend the party and tell stories about the mysterious Felix, who is the most talked-about person in the county: he wants to clear the air about an event in his past before he dies.

Schneider originally studied mechanical engineering at Iowa State University, switched to USC’s School of Cinema and Television on the advice of Billy Crystal, and got his first break as a cinematographer on the television show Murder One in 1995. He went on to do additional camera work on feature films such as Kiss the Girls, Simon Birch, and The Express. But it was his work as writer, director, and editor on the short film Two Soldiers, which is based on a William Faulkner short story, that opened the door for Schneider to direct Get Low as his first feature film. Two Soldiers won an Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action) in 2004, and since then Schneider has been working on making Get Low a reality.

The first question I asked Schneider was what attracted him to Get Low and made him want it to be his first feature as a director and editor.

Press play button below to hear the interview.