Pages Navigation Menu



An interview with UNEXPECTED director, Kris Swanberg.

Before working as an actress/filmmaker, Kris Swanberg taught high school in Chicago. After getting laid off, she branded her own ice cream before delving into the film industry full time. Swanberg is now making her solo-directed feature debut with UNEXPECTED. The film follows Chicago high school teacher Samantha (Cobie Smulders) as she is forced to find a new job knowing that her school will be shutting down. Making matters even more difficult for Samantha is her unexpected pregnancy with boyfriend John (Anders Holm). Samantha begins to bond with her student Jasmine (Gail Bean), who is also pregnant. With each other’s help, the two women strive to figure out their respective futures. We spoke with Swanberg over the phone from her native Chicago, discussing the film and the importance of Sundance.

Black Sheep Reviews: UNEXPECTED is one of very few films about pregnancy told solely from a woman’s perspective. Did you consciously try and take that direction?

Kris Swanberg: Yeah I didn’t really realize it until I was in pre-production. I didn’t even think about it while I was writing the script. We worked on it for like a year, year and a half or something and it never once occurred to me that this was anything unique, and then when I was in pre-production my DP and I were watching references to try and get an idea of how other people had done like delivery scenes and stuff for instance and it blew my mind that there was nothing. The closest thing to a female perspective in a pregnancy movie is JUNO, and that’s really so different tonally than what we tried to do. JUNO is hardly dealing with the internal stuff. It’s more about the adoption stuff. Anyway I felt that that was really fascinating.


BSR: It is also really refreshing to see a film with this subject manner in which both sides of the couple are completely supportive of one another. The film does not show Samantha and John fighting, nor does it show them discussing whether or not they will even have the baby. Was this dynamic important for you?

KS: Yeah it was, because I wanted this to be a real story. I thought there would be enough conflict, enough drama just in what these women were going through kind of like internally without having a lot of unnecessary external conflict. In real life I haven’t really encountered that many people that are like bad people that are mal-intentioned. Mostly it’s just a matter of like misunderstanding and lack of empathy or trying to see things from other people’s perspective. She does have that conflict with her husband in this movie. John is not understanding what she is going through, but it wasn’t because he was a bad guy. It was really because she wasn’t really able to vocalize it and he wasn’t able to understand it and that is where most of the couples comes from and in my relationship as well. I think in a lot of people’s relationships it is not like anybody is the bad guy, it’s more that people are not understanding each other.

BSR: What was the casting process like, specifically in relation to casting Cobie Smulders?

KS: The more well known actors were mostly found through the traditional way of sending the script out to agents in LA and meeting with the different actors and actresses. I met Cobie over breakfast in LA and we really hit it off on a personal level and she really related to the script and that was something that was really exciting for me, especially because the script comes from as a personal place. To meet her and have her feel so invested in the material because of her own personal experience was really exciting. She is a working mom and at the time she had a five-year-old and is going through all of that kind of emotional stuff that I went through as well. We bonded because of that and she felt really passionate about the part as well. I was really excited to cast her.


BSR: How important are film festivals like Sundance and NXNW to American indie films like this?

KS: They are definitely super important. I was very excited to get the call from Sundance that the film got in. It was a really big stamp of approval and for most people that aren’t inside the film community, it’s really the only festival that they have ever heard of. So when you say “Sundance” it means something to them and what it means to them is like “this is an art movie or this is like an indie movie but it’s at a festival where I’ll be able to watch it.” So I was excited about that and then of course just like on an industry level it is a festival that distributors attend and they look for films there and they buy stuff there. And so from a business stand point, it’s very meaningful as well.

UNEXPECTED is now playing in select theatres.

Share Your Thoughts