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SXSW 2014: ‘Harmontown’ is an honest portrait of a complicated man

SXSW 2014: ‘Harmontown’ is an honest portrait of a complicated man

Directed by Neil Berkeley
US, 2014

Spawning from the popular podcast and controversial behavior of Community showrunner Dan Harmon, Harmontown is an intimate look into his inner workings through his relationship with the people around him. As with him, his relationships are complex. The film explores his simultaneous narcissism and self loathing as well as his core motivations for writing. It’s an honest film about a man who reaches out to the people on the fringes of society much like himself.

After being fired from Community and before being rehired to Community, Harmon used a popular podcast hosted at Melt Down Comics in Hollywood as an outlet. After years of notes, restrictions, and filters on his show, he was now free to roam. Eventually Dan, co-host Jeff B. Davis, girlfriend Erin McGathy, dungeon master Spenser Crittenden, and crew set off on their countrywide tour. What follows is an examination of a functional alcoholic, his cutting and often destructive behavior, and his genuine motivations for what he does.

Spencer, person stereotyped on the societal fringe , operates as a foil to Harmon who Harmon expresses as the hero to his villain. The two share commonalities, but the differences flesh out Harmon as a person. The same goes for his often cutting relationship with Erin.

In a series of Martin Schoeller-like interviews, his friends and colleagues are asked to describe him. The answers vary as with Harmon himself.  He has been a figure of much intrigue and speculation due to both his off screen controversy as well as his ability to connect to others. Harmontown is an insightful look into the operations of a complicated man.

– David Tran