”: TiffGreta Gerwig
’s acting credits include “Maggie’s Plan,” “Frances Ha
,” and “Mistress America
.” She co-wrote the latter two features, and alongside Joe Swanberg
she co-directed the romantic drama “Nights and Weekends
.” “Lady Bird
” is her solo directorial debut.
” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
Gg: It is about grace, wholly unearned and mysterious. It is about how home becomes most vivid when you are leaving. It is about Sacramento, California. It is about mothers and daughters and dances and religion and musicals and memory and grocery stores and parking lots and sex and messing up and realizing that whatever childhood was, now it’s over.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Gg: I wrote it, and it had been building inside of me for a number of years — 10 or more. I never know exactly how long it takes me to write a film. I think I’ve always been writing it.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
Gg: I want them to call their mothers.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Gg: Every step of the way was both a challenge and a grand adventure. The challenge was part of what made it so thrilling.
Losing our second location manager two weeks before shooting was a “challenge.” But the hardest part was sitting in the editing room and realizing that I couldn’t use every brilliant take my genius actors gave me, because then it would be a nonsensical film. Making decisions of what not to use felt most painful to me.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share
some insights into how you got the film made.
Gg: I am eternally grateful to Scott Rudin
, Barry Diller
, and Eli Bush
for producing and financing my film. With my producer, Evelyn O’Neill, I had been trying to cobble together funding through other means, but Iac [InterActiveCorp] asked for the script and then signed on to make it.
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Toronto International Film Festival?
Gg: It is an enormous honor to be at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is an incredibly wide-ranging festival that truly feels international.
I wish I could just watch movies all week. I know people who come here just for that, and I think they’re right on the money.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
Gg: Best advice, which was about being a first-time director: “Never try to be ahead of where you actually are. You only get to not know what you’re doing once, so make the most of it. You’ll never be so foolish and so brave again.”
Worst advice, which was about what I should go after, professionally: “Women don’t really have the right personality traits to be directors.”
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
Gg: Make the film. Just start the steps to make it. One foot in front of the other. Because we need your films. I need your films.
More practically, I think a lot of women wait for permission. I used to do that. I still do that. I think it’s the curse of being the “good student” — never wanting to get out of line or be disruptive or deviate from the assignment. But making art? There
is no assignment, there is no teacher — you must give yourself sovereignty. Never wait for permission. No one will ever give it to you.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
are far too many to name, but “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels” by Chantal Akerman
is the one that I think about most often.
have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share
any thoughts you might have on this topic.
Gg: I am not necessarily optimistic about existing power hierarchies granting women equal opportunity. What I am optimistic about is women themselves.
The women I know are so creative and powerful and interesting that they are undeniable and inevitable as directors, writers, producers, executives, cinematographers, sound mixers, etc., etc. But as Maggie Nelson wrote, “If we want to do more than claw our way into repressive structures, we have our work cut out for us.” I think we’re ready for the work.
Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Greta Gerwig
— “Lady Bird
” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.