What’s your prior filmmaking experience, if any?
My prior filmmaking experience is basically nill except that I worked at a commercial production company for two years... behind a desk. I came to the film completely naive about what it would take to pull a production together—but I think it was that same naivete and, well, unspoiled energy that got people excited to help make it happen. I had no fear.
What brought you to SXSW in 2009, and what’d you see there that inspired you to write your film?
I began going to SXSW when I was in college and it became a sort of ritual trip with friends. Over the years these friends and their significant others went on to start record labels or work for record labels so we kept coming back year after year. Since my tolerance for going to shows and standing in line and watching bands set up and break down isn't the highest, and also because I'm a huge film nerd, I gravitated to the film screenings where I fell in love with films by the Duplass brothers and Joe Swanberg. These guys are inspiring—not for the aesthetic value of their films, but really because they decided they were going to make a movie and then they fucking did it. And their early films are real. And human. And the concept of a narrative that isn't tied together at the end in a neat little bow was something I also really appreciated (and still do). They were the only ones at the time who were making something fresh.
In 2009, with the economic collapse, my job at the production company was really in question—and that meant that my future was really in question. I was told that I could be laid off at any time (I was permalancing) and the majority of my friends who worked in the creative fields (as well as other industries—my cousin is the guy holding a box walking out of Lehman Brothers in that iconic image from the day the banking world fell apart) were losing their jobs and couldn't find new ones. It was a really hard time for many of, us I think—also, working at a production company and seeing the creative process in action made me think, "Oh hey, what am I doing here behind a desk? Why can't I do this too?" Or maybe it was just "Oh hey, why don't I have health insurance?"
In 2009 at SXSW I saw a film by Joe Swanberg's wife, Kris, called It Was Great but I was Ready to Come Home. The film got me thinking that I could really do this. It was about the complexity of female friendship—and coming from a film theory background, I started wondering what would happen if all the key positions in production were filled by a woman. Does having a female director change the way that the story is told? But Kris’s film was also shot in such a brief period and for so little money that I thought, yet again, “What am I waiting for...”
Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy was probably the biggest influence in terms of the way I wanted the film to look and feel. In my opinion, Old Joy is the gold standard. I can't speak for everyone, but a lot of other filmmakers that I know feel this way as well.
In terms of acting, I tend to come back time and time again to Greta Gerwig in Nights and Weekends (that one scene where she' s watering her plants... incredible), as well as Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence (or really anything she did with her husband, John Cassavetes) and that last scene in Antonioni’s La Notte where Jeane Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni discuss the end of their relationship.
I’m reminded, in a superficial way, about another film about an aimlessly ambitious young woman who moves back home after school—though in Lena Dunham’s case, “home” means the city everybody else is struggling to stay in. Did you see Tiny Furniture?
I didn't see Tiny Furniture until it was out in theaters but of course I had been hearing about it since last March. I loved it when I finally saw it! And I think Lena is a comic genius... have you seen her Twitter? Hilarious!
But then again, it ain't New York.
I was going through a whole: What is success? Why do I want it? Do I have to live here in New York to get it? Do I have to be taken advantage of in a shitty job that i could lose any day? Are there other options out there? Those sorts of questions are ones that I think a lot of people can relate to, especially here.
Why screen at The Gutter? Aren’t you afraid of being drowned out by the sound of strikes and spares?
The Gutter seemed like an obvious choice—they have a new sound-proof back room and I wanted a place where people could drink and hang out and, perhaps selfishly, I wanted to go bowling (I have this newly rediscovered love of the sport) and figured why not do it all at one place... like, The Gutter.
What are your additional plans/hopes for the film as far as screening it? And what are you working on now?
The film has been selected to headline on March 2nd at the NewFilmmakers screening series, which is held at the Anthology Film Archives. Hopefully WGYH will be accepted into some of the other festivals that we submitted to. But at this point, I’m just so excited about starting production this spring on my next film: an adaptation of the story “The Gathering Squall” by Joyce Carol Oates. Its going to be totally different. And totally awesome.