[Video Interview] ‘NOMADLAND’ life: Honest vandwellers, author on the beauty of life’s stillness


Preston Barta // Features Editor

Life hasn’t changed all that much for real-life vandwellers Bob Wells and Charlene Swankie, who both portrayed versions of their nomad lives in Nomadland. As they showcase in Chloé Zhao’s patient and tender drama, they remain very much a part of the peaceful, quiet life that’s free from “the messiness of civilization.”

Now screening in theaters and available to stream on Hulu, Nomadland is dominating the award season with over 120 wins among critics’ groups and national organizations, including best picture recognition at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards—and for a good reason. It authentically captures the beauty that can be uncovered through tragedy and being surrounded by a community that’ll run to the rescue with love.

Frances McDormand stars in Nomadland as Fern, who gets laid off from her manufacturing job following her husband’s death. In response, she decides to sell most of her belongings, buy a van, and hit the road. What follows is an emotional journey as Fern finds seasonal jobs and meets fellow nomads (including Swankie, Wells, and Linda May) who help her survive her new lifestyle.

Fresh Fiction recently sat down with Nomadland author and journalist Jessica Bruder as well as American vandwellers Bob Wells and Charlene Swankie to discuss their collaboration on the award-winning film. They share their experiences and Zhao’s vision of the nomadic lifestyle on screen. Watch the video interviews below!

Bob Wells, Jessica Bruder on what viewers may miss in ‘NOMADLAND’:

Swankie shares how she helped with the development of McDormand’s character:

Nomadland is now playing in theaters and available to stream on Hulu.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.