Richard Linklater packs a mixed travel bag with ‘Up to Speed’

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Richard Linklater has always embraced narrative experimentation in his indie film features, and he’s continuing that tradition for his new Hulu project, “Up to Speed.” The six-episode travel series, debuting Thursday, stars Timothy “Speed” Levitch, the quirky New York City tour guide who was the subject of Bennett Miller’s 1998 documentary “The Cruise,” as he gives his own take on obscure parts of the American landscape.

Did you attempt to get this show on a TV network before going to Hulu?

We didn’t go to networks. Not that they’d even do it. I have a few friends in TV I showed it to, but we could have fallen through the cracks there. We’re too comedic to be on History. Too history-oriented for Comedy Central. We’re a mixed bag in that way. The great thing about Hulu is that you don’t have to fit the profile of a particular network or particular time slot or particular lineup for a night of the week. You don’t have to worry about the show before or after you. You can be your own thing without having to conform to someone’s bigger network agenda. People could come to it directly. I like the spirit of that.


Have you thought about releasing other projects online?

I don’t make a distinction between just online or doing a film for cable or a series or something. It’s project by project. I have a lot of film projects that can’t get going and I’m not alone. For every actor and director now, the first question is, “Could it be a series?” That just means there’s money there for a series where there isn’t really for film. I haven’t totally wrapped my head around it. I still think in feature film terms.

How long have you known Speed?

I’ve known Speed since the late ‘90s; we hosted a screening of “The Cruise” for the Austin Film Society. We started hanging out then. We did a short documentary in 2002 called “Live From Shiva’s Dance Floor.” It was a commissioned film about Sept. 11 featuring Speed walking around downtown New York City. That was the first time we started doing stuff like this, expanding Speed’s walking tours with a bigger subject in mind. Wherever he is, Speed can’t help himself — historian that he is, he’ll unearth the secret history of a place. Or his own metaphorical interests will find their way into wherever he is.

Speed is an interesting character. How would you describe your collaboration?

I think we were trying to take everything to its maximum. Don’t leave anything out. My job as Speed’s collaborator is to keep pushing him. I’m like, let’s push the outer boundaries of what’s possible. And then I’d get scripts back where inanimate objects are talking. Every episode has a different vibe, a different feel, a different take. I approached each one as its own film. If you add them all up it’s like one indie film.



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