Greta Gerwig on Writing the Script to ‘Frances Ha’ and Her “Mumblecore” Origins


greta-gerwig-frances-haIt seems like Greta Gerwig has been promoting Frances Ha forever — it premiered back in September 2012 at the Telluride Film Festival and finally is being released to theaters later this month — but everywhere Gerwig and co-writer/director Noah Baumbach have gone with the film they’ve been welcomed with rave reviews.  In an interview with Time, Gerwig talks about co-writing the film and how her earliest years acting in “mumblecore” films prepared her for her current work.

Gerwig has written or co-written a few of the films she has starred in, including Frances Ha.  When asked what it’s like to write her own scripts, she says, “It’s hard to think about yourself playing it, if you’re trying to write more than one part, so I kind of didn’t think about playing it [while writing]. I actually thought maybe I didn’t want to play the part for a while, because I was scared. Also, I wanted it to be clear that I co-wrote it. And I thought if I acted in it, maybe people would think I was improvising it or something, and got a writing credit just as a token. But my agents were, like, ‘That’s insane. That’s a totally weird way to go about things.'”

When asked why she felt scared, she answers that she only wanted what was best for the film, saying, “I had this feeling that I need to make sure I’m the best choice for this role. It meant so much to me, that I didn’t want to do it badly.”

Many of Gerwig’s earliest films fit in the style of filmmaking that is referred to as (for lack of a better name, I guess) “mumblecore.”  Though Gerwig has since moved away from the style, she points out that working on such films were an excellent learning experience.  She explains, “It was useful in that I’ve always had a very factory-floor feeling about movies and filmmaking, because I started in something that was so minimalist and so hands on. I’ve never had a real division-of-labor approach to it or a sense of hierarchy on a set. I’m always kind of put off by that in films.”

On the other advantages, she continues, “The difference is—I learned a lot about acting; I got very used to the feeling of having a camera there and I got to work out a lot of ideas, and that was really great—that I became much more interested in things that were written. I stopped being interested in improvisation and I continue to not be that interested in it. Comedians can do it on a different level because they have a goal, but if you’re improvising something that’s dramatic there’s not that much to be good at. It can be really helpful in developing things and I think there are tremendously exciting moments of improvisation on screen in movies that I love, but I always think that I want it to exist in something that has bones.”

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