Five Questions With... Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz (THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON)

In Spotlight Film THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON, Zak runs away from his care home and teams with fugitive Tyler to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Featuring Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, and Thomas Haden Church.

We spoke to writers/directors Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz. Read more with them below, and see the film on Sat, June 22 at 7:30pm and Sun, June 23 at 2:45pm!

Note: Young Film Lovers between the ages of 18-30 can see this film for just $10 with code NFFYFL30 online or at the box office!

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NFF: Can you talk a little bit about your inspiration for the film?

TYLER & MICHAEL: We wrote THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON  after a heartfelt conversation with our friend Zack.  He’s a born entertainer and had been studying acting and dance most of his life when he told us that he wanted to be a movie star.  We replied honestly that there weren’t a lot of opportunities or roles written for people with Down syndrome to star in movies and he asked, “Then why don’t you write one for me?”  

NFF: What was the casting process like, and where did you find Zack? When did you know he would be your star?

TYLER & MICHAEL: The role was written specifically for Zack, we spent a lot of time together talking about life, movies, adventure, and what he likes and doesn’t like.  A lot of the dialogue in the movie are things that he’d said to us in conversation.

Our biggest challenge wasn’t casting Zack it was keeping him in the role.  Before we landed with producers that "got it" at Bona Fide and Armory we had offers to finance the movie but only if we’d cast a known actor without a disability playing disabled.  

The rest of the cast that filled out with perfect fits.  I’m so proud of the performances given by Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, and Jon Bernthal.  Legendary wrestlers Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Mick Foley were amazing to have on set and they added depth and authenticity as well.

NFF: There's both a "buddy comedy" and "road trip" vibe to the film, although this is a uniquely original take...were you inspired by other films in those genres?

TYLER & MICHAEL: There’s a lot of movies that we love and every day we break down films and talk about what types of elements work well to make audiences feel certain ways, connect to characters, and trigger emotions.  Tonally we were influenced by HUCK FINN, STAND BY ME, MUD, etc.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

TYLER & MICHAEL: First and foremost we’re staying as present as possible with THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON.  We want to support the movie every way we can so audiences go see the work our whole team put from producers, to actors, and crew. 

Beyond that we have a TV show that we’re developing with LuckyChap based on our experience living in an illegal tree house surrounded by raccoons and mountain lions in Los Angeles (Money was tight right before we left to shoot THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON) and a feature that we’re keeping under the radar for the time being.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

TYLER & MICHAEL: Everything that we’ve heard about Nantucket has been extremely positive.  We’ve always wanted to go to the island and the reputation of the festival is that a lot of the focus is on writing which is such an important part of the process and often overlooked. 


With any movie the goal is for the audience to connect, feel something, maybe identify with a character, and have an authentic experience.  When we premiered at SXSW the reactions exceeded expectations and the film took home the audience award.  In Nantucket we hope the audience is taken in by the mix of hope, heart, and drama as well in a way that might make their day, week, or life just a little bit better.