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December 05, 2017 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Tuesday, December 5, 2017 — 5


Greta Gerwig talks ‘Lady
Bird’ and growing up

Greta Gerwig has hit the ground


debut in “Lady Bird.” A vaguely

drama about teen angst in 2002

a mother-daughter relationship
that has already captured several
awards, earned a record-shattering
100 percent ‘Fresh’ rating on Rotten
Tomatoes with over 180 reviews
and started Oscar rumblings. The
numbers don’t lie: “Lady Bird” is a
stunning film that takes everything
cliché about cinema and turns it
into something special. And it’s
been nothing but a success for
Gerwig, who has broken out of her
acting role (“Mistress America,”
“Frances Ha”) to prove that she
can really do it all. And how?
Well, those are the questions she
answered in a phone interview
with The Daily:


How long did you have the

story of “Lady Bird” floating
around before it was produced?
When did you start to convert
your vision into a film?

I spent a couple of years writing

the movie. It always takes me a long
time to write and it’s my process.
And it’s because once I’m on set, I
don’t do any improvisation. And
once I had a good draft of the film,
I decided to have it be this thing
that would be my directorial debut.
And then after that, it took another
year to get financing and get going.
So it was really, from the first
time I started writing it to being
in production, about three years.
And then it took a year after that to
finish editing it and bringing into
the world. So filmmaking is a long
process, but it’s a very rewarding

One thing that really warmed

my heart was that “Lady Bird”
was a very mother-daughter

of-age cinema influence the
development of Lady Bird?

Well, I was thinking about a lot

of the different films that deal with
both coming-of-age and growing
up and occupying personal identity.
And I wanted to make a film that
was both one person’s coming-
of-age and another person letting
go. And I wanted it to be as much
about the adults as it was about the

And in particular, I guess I was

thinking about the films that to me
have to do with not just childhood
but also memory, like Fellini’s
“Amarcord” or Truffaut’s “400
Blows.” Films that are both about
childhood and about the loss of

Do you think “Lady Bird”

will have that same effect on
someone that feels they live in a
place of cultural insignificance
and they need to leave — that
their life will start once they go
to New York or L.A.?

I hope it does. I hope that it

connects to people who are from
the cities that are less documented
than in a New York or L.A. or San
Francisco, or Chicago. Because I’m
interested in those cities and those
stories and those places. I think
there’s a lot of richness there and a
lot of things that we don’t get to see
and that’s what I’m always looking
for when I go to the movie theater
and hope that in a way someone
will watch this and feel like they

can make a film about the place
that they’re in and not feel like they
have to leave in order to make their
artistic statement.

The music in the film was very

influential to the entire story.
What went into choosing the
specific music that you did of
the time period and whittling it
down to the certain songs that
you actually ended up choosing
in the film for it?

Music is such an important

part of what I think it means to
be a teenager and how you form
your identity, and your taste, and
imagining an adult life for yourself.
And so I was very careful about
the music that I chose in the movie
because I didn’t want it to just
be music from the year 2002, I
wanted it to have music from the
’90s, because in 2002, it’s before
the streaming and all the other
stuff, and you really got your music
from the radio and people were
still playing the hits from 10 years
earlier or seven years earlier on
the radio. So that was important
to me. And I would be remiss not
to mention my collaborator (John
Brian), who wrote the music for the
movie; I wanted it to feel like it was
pop music at the time that teenagers
would listen to, and that it also had
this old-fashioned movie score.
That combination was something
that I was very interested in
capturing. I was so lucky that he
was willing to collaborate with me
on that, and then also that all these
artists gave their permission to use
the music.

2017 feels like the year of

the woman director — why is it
that this coming-of-age story,
that’s focused more on the
female experience, would be so

Well, I agree with you; I think

that this year has been an amazing
year for women in film. I think that
the directors who’ve had films this
year whether it’s a big blockbuster
like Patty Jenkins with “Wonder
Woman” or Angelina Jolie (with
“First They Killed My Father”), or
Maggie Betts with “Novitiate,” or
Dee Rees with “Mudbound”; it’s
just an extraordinary year and to
be part of that conversation is very
meaningful to me.

And I think in a way, the story

is a story that is so universal. But
because there’s been a lack of female
creators that it’s one that’s less
documented than male coming-
of-age. I love male coming-of-age
stories and I have nothing against
them, but I’m always interested to
see what the female version of that
is, like what is “Boyhood,” but for a
girl? What is the “400 Blows” but
for a girl? And I felt that I had not
seen that as much as I wanted to. So
I wanted to make something that
was about not only a young woman
but about a mother and a family
and a place.

As a female filmmaker, do you

feel like there’s an expectation
portrayed in this relationship,
and how do you portray these
relationships realistically for all
of their complexity and nuance?

Well, I’ve made it a goal as a

writer and now as a director to
tell stories about women that the
primary emotional relationship is
one between two women. And in
this movie, it’s between a mother
and a daughter.

I don’t feel pressured to tell

those stories. If anything, I feel like
they’re stories that are somewhat
harder to get made or ‘green lit’
because they’re not — they don’t
have a genre. But I think they’re
important to tell because I think

that these windows into the lives of
girls and women, to steal a phrase
from Alice Munro, that we don’t
get to see if there aren’t female
writer, directors and creators.

So for me, I love doing it and I

don’t suspect that I will only make
films about that. I’m sure I’ll make
a lot of other films. But it was a
deliberate thing on my part. And
then in terms of making it realistic,
I think I never want to turn away
from the darkness, but I also don’t
want to make villains, ever, with
my characters. So I don’t try to
present perfect people, nor do I
ever want my filmmaking to take
my characters down. I want them
to be allowed to be flawed and to
be loved.

“Lady Bird” has been getting

so much media attention for
being so critically acclaimed,
with 100% on Rotten Tomatoes
and everything. What’s it like
to have such a personal film
that’s also your debut be so well-

It’s amazing to have it be

received like this. Because I know
how much love and care and effort
every single person who worked
on this film put into it, and that’s
from all of the casts and the crew
and the production team to our
distributors, A24. Everyone has
pulled so hard for the film and put
so much into it and to get that love
back is just extraordinary. It’s also
completely intimidating but it’s
great. It’s a good intimidation.

When so many films put

romance at the center stage,
what was it about friendship
rather than romance that you
thought was more interesting to

Well, I love romance just as

much as the next person, and I
certainly love romance in movies.
But I think romance, especially
heterosexual romance, has got a
lot of great movies. We’ve got a
lot of good ones about that. And I
didn’t feel that it was particularly
for me at that moment. It felt like
I was interested in emotional
relationships that were just as deep
and vivid and filled with love and
complexity, but that aren’t just
heterosexual romance.

And I like taking things that are

cliché and putting them in another
capacity. Like, for example, when
her mom drives back to see here
at the airport, everybody knows
the scene and the romance where
someone circles back and runs
through an airport to find someone
they love. That tends to be between
a man and a woman. And I wanted
to take that cliché but make it
between a mother and a daughter

MiC Columnist


‘Little Stones’ returns to
Ann Arbor with a twist

The University of Michigan’s

School of Education will be


directed by Sophia Kruz, an alum
of the University. The film finds its
way back to Ann Arbor, after being
released in March of this year, but
this time with an exciting twist.
Kruz, in conjunction with Darin
Stockdill, the design coordinator
for the School of Education’s Center
for Education Design, Evaluation
and Research, and the School of
Education, will host a workshop
for teachers to debut a curriculum
used in conjunction with the film
in both schools and communities

“Little Stones” is a documentary

that features four women in

who use the arts to fight against
gender inequality in their country.
Indeed, the documentary tells the
story of Panmela Castro, a graffiti
artist using her craft to speak
out against domestic violence
in Brazil; Sohini Chakraborty, a
woman in India who uses dance
to help victims of self trafficking
reclaim their bodies; Fatou Diatta,
aka Sister Fa, a Senegalese rapper
using hip hop and rap to speak
out about the practice of genital
mutilation in West Africa and

Anna Taylor, an American fashion
designer who gives impoverished
women in Kenya jobs making
high-fashion clothing. Kruz, in an
interview with The Daily asked,
“Who doesn’t like art? I think that
(there is an) inherent humanity in
art that draws people in a builds
community, and you can channel
that positive energy into fruition.”

This documentary strives to go

beyond a simple screening by giving
its viewers solutions and tools
to become more educated in the
matters presented in the film and
ways that its viewers can become
active in the dialogue against
gender violence internationally.

“I think it’s so important to tell

not just stories about the problems,

but to tell stories about solutions so
you can inspire people, and then
once people are inspired to find
ways that they can get help,” Kruz
said. “Everyone has something
that they’re good at. It may not be
graffiti, but it might be you’re a
really good chef and you care a lot
about refugee issues. So you could
be hosting dinners for refugees in
your community.”


announces their new addition to
the documentary: an educational
toolkit, which will be presented
during a teacher development

Education on Dec. 9.

The educational toolkit was

developed by Stockdill and a team
of two undergraduate students and
a high school student. It includes
three parts: a curriculum geared
toward high school students, one
geared toward a larger community
setting and a third section that
serves as a resource for those who
want to take further action.

“It’s a very powerful and moving

film. It has great potential to be
interesting and engaging and
entertaining, at the same time, it
is very educational and it has a lot
of potential to develop student’s
thinking about an important topic:
gender-based violence,” Stockdill


Daily Arts Writer

School of

presents “Little


School of


December 6th @

5:30 p.m.




I hope that it

connects to people

who are from

the cities that are
less documented

than in a New
York or L.A. or
San Francisco,

or Chicago.

and transform it that way.




but they’re not exactly the
same as your own story. Can
you talk a little bit more about
writing from your own personal

I always start from a place of

something that I know where it’s
close to my heart. And with this
movie, I wanted to write about
Sacramento because I’m from
Sacramento. And I wanted to write
about Catholic schools because I’ve
been to Catholic school for high

But I find this: It’s almost always

they (the stories) start with some
kernel that’s real and then very
quickly the characters spin out and
become their own people and the
events of the film have their own
shape and form that’s outside of the
events of my life.

And I think for me, it’s more,

the impetus is starting from a
place of familiarity and letting
that be the thing that allows me
to invent. It might not always be
that way in my writing, but that’s
sort of where it tends to begin.
But it takes very odd paths and
I think someone in the product,
people might think that there are
things that autobiographical that
aren’t, and they might think that
something is invented which is
actually autobiographical. Because
I’m not just writing one character,
I’m writing a lot of characters. So
sometimes I’ll hide a little piece
of something that I know is real
in a character that you wouldn’t
suspect and things like that.


personal, I like writing that’s
personal. And whether or not it’s
actually real is it’s not in my case.
But it’s never mattered to me as an
audience member, or as a reader,
or as a consumer of arts, what
the connection was to the actual
autobiography. It always seems to
be separate to me.

What advice do you have

for people that might feel that

same way as Lady Bird: not
directionless, but having so
many directions they’d like to go
but can’t decide?

I think when you’re 17, like Lady

Bird is 17, I don’t know that many
17-year-olds with a very clear
direction. I mean, they’re always
the ones who are great athletes or
they know exactly what they want
to do, but I think the vast majority of
17-year-olds are figuring it out. And
I don’t think that’s an indication of
they’re never going to do anything.
I think that’s an indication of being
open and curious and looking for
what the things will be.

I think in terms of picking a

direction, I think this is something
another writer said, Elizabeth
Gilbert, in her book about writing.
She said you’re always — you always
are going to be okay if you just
follow your curiosity. Sometimes
people say follow your passion.
But she said that’s a very difficult
thing to do. What if you don’t have
a passion? That’s a pretty tall order,
to follow your passion.

But if you follow your curiosity,

the worst thing that could happen
is you live a life investigating your
curiosities and even if you never
find a passion, it doesn’t mean that
you haven’t had a very interesting

What’s your process like in

creating all these characters
that felt so relatable?

I think one of the reasons that

I’m interested in dramatic writing,
in writing that is going to be said
by actors, whether it’s in theater
which is my first love, or now in
cinema, which is my adult love,
is that I’m always interested in
the way words fail us and the way
that we use language not to say
what we mean. I think people do
that all the time. And I think I’m
always interested in the language
underneath the language.

And so many of the scenes with

“Lady Bird” and her mom, I mean
her mom wants to tell her “I’m
so scared” and she can’t say that
because it’s hard to say what you’re
actually feeling particularly when

that feeling is fear. So you say a lot
of other things. You say that your
role is not picked up, or you say that
— you fix it on something else.

And I think so much of who I am

as a writer is a person who likes to
listen. And I think one of the things
that’s great about New York, is that
you’re always in this circumstance
where it’s very easy to listen to
people talk.

And mostly people use language

to not say what they mean at all.
And I’m always fascinated by that.
And I think one of the reasons for
me that the ending is so moving is
that “Lady Bird” is finally able to
use her language to say what she
means and she means that thank
you and she says thank you.

Are you surprised by how


experience seems like it is based
on how well “Lady Bird” is


extraordinary because I’ve always
been a believer in the more specific
you make something, the more
universal it will be. So I didn’t want
to make it any town. I wanted to
make it this town and this people
and these people. Because I think
the truth is that through that
specificity, people would have a
greater likelihood of connecting
to their own life and their own
hometown and their own families
and where they’re from and
where they’re going. And I didn’t
expect though how much so many
people would say to me I’ve never
been to Sacramento, but I have a
Sacramento in my heart. And it
makes me incredibly pleased and
also it’s also kind of incredible that
everybody can understand it.

But I think that, you know, that’s

always been this thing that I love
about movies, is they could take
you into world you’ve never been in
and you’ll never be able to go in and
you feel like you know it.


“Lady Bird” is playing now at the

Michigan Theater.

Read more online at

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