Austin filmmaker Andrew Bujalski was once known as a guy who made a mess of the improvised-looking-yet-scripted, lowish-fi movies lumped into the hideously-named “mumblecore” movement (which really has to be the “emo” of subgenre names). But his most recent films have been altogether different.

From the shot-on-vintage-video-cameras “Computer Chess” in 2013 to the actually star-studded “Results” (Colbie Smulders and Guy Pearce) to this year’s “Support the Girls,” starring an excellent Regina Hall and chronicling a long day at an off-brand “breastaurant,” Bujalski’s films have become distinctly unlike one another in a way that’s exciting to witness.

We sat down with the 41-year-old director to discuss researching “Support the Girls,” TV versus movies and, hello, writing for Disney. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

JG: Tell me about the origins of “Support the Girls.”
AB: About five or six years ago, one of my agents said, “Everybody’s doing TV, you should do TV.” So there was a TV notion of this that I pitched, and it didn’t go anywhere, which ultimately ended up being like a blessing inasmuch as my brain doesn’t work in a TV way. I don’t really know how to tell a story that I’m not allowed to end. A few years later, I kind of dusted it off and thought, “Maybe I do know how to make sense of this as a finite thing.”

JG: You usually shoot in Austin, and “Support the Girls” shows a side of Austin that you never see on film, but you never identify it as Austin. Frankly, I was kind of hoping that you would call it Austin at some point, because it’s like the other side of cute Austin is the strip malls, six overpasses at a time aspect of the town that people never talk about.
AB: I think I didn’t call it Austin in part because that has its own set of associations and baggage. And for me, that highway world of Austin is pretty much the same as the highway world of Houston, the highway world of Dallas. I’m from Massachusetts, it’s not that different than the highways up there. You’re kind of nowhere when you’re off the highway, and that’s what it’s about, the ability to go somewhere else but not be there yet.

JG: Was the project always centered around Regina Hall’s character?
AB: Yeah, I think so. Going back to when it was a TV idea, it was still always centered on the general manager. There was no way I could write this story as an insider. I’ve certainly never worked at one of these places, nor am I really the target market. It helped me to have a character who also could fall in love with the place and could become integral to it but didn’t necessarily “belong” there. And that was also my way into the character. She was someone who maybe, when she first thought about applying to work there, was not that into the idea, but has to come to discover that it isn’t really about the raunchiness … that she can, as a kind of incurable optimist, spin her way into only seeing the best in it. And if anything, can say this is the opposite of a strip club. This is where we tame these desires and control them.

JG: How much research did you do?
AB: I can’t pretend to have gone too, too deep, but I did have many a lunch. I’m vegetarian, which is a bit of a challenge, but ate a lot of fries, a lot of mozzarella sticks. There’s one or two places that produced an edible salad, but I didn’t want to stick out by ordering the salad too often. I did have the opportunity also to talk to one owner and to talk to a couple of managers, general managers, shift managers. That was all usually helpful.

JG: Was the lead always written as a black woman?
AB: Not necessarily, but I always thought if we could get a great African-American actress, to me, that made it all the more interesting. We were very, very, very, very lucky to get Regina.

JG: She’s carries the film. She’s in virtually every scene.
AB: Yeah, there are very few shots that don’t have her in them. And I think it’s very important for Lisa to think of the place as a mainstream experience. Having not spent her career in that industry, she doesn’t want to think of herself as having downgraded to sex trafficking. And I’m always fascinated by the willful optimist character. It’s a character that I seem to come back to a lot and that I like a lot. It’s crucial to her to, not to be naïve and not to put out of her mind the underbelly of it, but to say, ultimately, we are providing a good service, and a lot of this is about people being comfortable, people feeling like they belong. And in some cases, reaching out to very lonely people. I think in Lisa’s mind, anything that is distasteful to her in there is kind of a vaccine that she’s like saving these men from doing something really nasty.

JG: It was great seeing Lea DeLaria (best known as Boo in “Orange is the New Black”) as a regular customer.
AB: That was also lucky. I always want to bring in somebody who can bring as much of their own life and experience to a character as possible. That’s always more fun and interesting to me than saying, “Let me get 10 Daniel Day-Lewises to transform themselves into whatever.” I wanted an out butch woman to play this out butch woman. And Lea’s name is kind of the first one that comes up. Lea, she lives in Brooklyn, but I think she is a well-known frequenter of her local Hooters, so we got on the phone and she knew this world inside and out.

JG: Where in Austin did you shoot the interiors?
AB: We didn’t have the kind of budget where we could top-to-bottom build our own restaurant, so we found a place that was a former chain restaurant that had been shuttered, and the building was still empty. It happened to be literally next door to a Twin Peaks near I-35 and Stassney, a real live operational one of these places.

JG: Seriously?
AB: Yeah, there’s a few shots where we had to put up fake shrubbery so you didn’t see the Twin Peaks sign in the background. It was daunting to be next door to the real thing. They were very good to us, and in fact, Haley Lu Richardson and Dylan Gelula actually, we were amazed they let us, but they went and shadowed a shift there. They worked there for eight hours, and it was amazing.

JG: That’s great.
AB: It really was. As a dramatist, I want movies I make them to feel as textured and as grounded in some version of reality as we can make them, but it set a very high bar to have the real thing next door. Because no matter what elements we put in place to make it feel alive and vibrant, you could always walk next door and go, well, this is perfect. You can’t compete with these guys.

JG: What are you working on now?
AB: I’m trying to get back into writing. I’m trying to write something which I don’t think I can pull off, which makes it hard to get through it. I also wrote a few drafts of a live action remake of “Lady and the Tramp” for Disney, which was a great gig. They’re shooting that next month. Other writers have been hired on it since I had it, so I have no idea what it’ll be, but that was great. I’ve seen some of these movies, but it’s not my native tongue. I certainly was not the only voice on “Lady and the Tramp,” but I was surprised at how much input, how much I was left alone writing those drafts. Of course there were notes, but for the most part, it’s like, “You guys really trust me with this? This is like already a valuable property.”