by Hogan Short
VANCOUVER – At only 34 years of age, Greta Gerwig already feels like a veteran of the film industry, having been nominated for Golden Globe Awards for both acting and screenwriting. She is also a successful producer and has just made her first solo venture into the director’s chair with her new script, Lady Bird. The immensely talented artist has consistently been a strong female voice in a male dominated industry. Lady Bird, already in every major award conversation, is Gerwig through and through. The film is an honest and moving coming-of-age story set in the early 2000s that celebrates the millennial generation in a refreshing light. These are not just whiny and entitled brats (they’re still there) but kids who dared to dream big because they could. They aren’t simply expecting opportunity, but because of their parent’s sacrifices have the option to actually ask for more. Greta Gerwig is the result of dreaming for more by participating in the creation of bold, stark and honest films like Lady Bird, Frances Ha and Mistress America. She is a leading voice for our generation and continues to be a voice that we love to listen to.
Greta Gerwig spoke candidly with BeatRoute about her new film, her career and her personal journey as an artist with a unique voice in Hollywood. There are many similarities between Gerwig’s high school years and Lady Bird’s (Saoirse Ronan). However, despite the fact that they both attended Catholic School, both desperately want to flee to New York and are both from Sacramento, CA, the film was not exactly autobiographical. “I knew I wanted to make a movie about home. Home only comes into focus as you’re leaving. I also wanted to shoot a whole movie that took place there. I was not Lady Bird; I was nothing like Lady Bird. I was a rule follower, a teacher pleaser. I had a lot of trouble rocking the boat and I wanted very much to fit in. I think writing this is an exploration I didn’t have access to as a teenager,” she says.
Coming-of-age films address the exploration into adulthood, but where Gerwig has crafted something wholly unique is the reflection on what the idea of home really means once you’ve left it behind. Not only do we reflect on our own ideas of what home means to us, but we also remember that time in our lives at the turn of the century. “I wanted it to be set in a post 9/11 world, in a period when we were getting into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All these things were happening so close to home and so far away at the same time. Personal history happens in two different categories. It gave me the ability to talk about what we are doing now — the erosion of the middle class, shifting of global policy — and also I don’t want to shoot smartphones, they aren’t cinematic. You can’t include movies about teenagers now without Snapchat.”
Since her directorial debut with 2008’s Nights and Weekends, Gerwig has had enormous success in other roles in the film industry. She has starred in Oscar nominated films (Jackie, 20th Century Women), as well as written Golden Globe nominated scripts, which she also stars in (Frances Ha). Making career moves is always a risk, especially when you are swimming in success, but Gerwig saw her Lady Bird script as an opportunity to do just that.
“I always wanted to write and direct but I didn’t go to film school. I learned on the job, I learned how films are put together, in front and behind the camera. As I started to develop as a person with a cinematic voice I knew the kind of films I wanted to tell. To move into highly scripted stories that don’t rely on improvisation with actors who were trained and skilled and create character for themselves. As I co-wrote with Noah Baumbach, I developed this voice and this style, and working on Lady Bird I thought ‘I have always wanted to direct’…I thought this is the moment.”
With each project Greta Gerwig created, it became more apparent just how unique her cinematic voice was. Her fingerprints are all over her work, so much so that she helped create an entirely new style of filmmaking. Mumblecore is a sub-genre of indie filmmaking that focuses heavily on naturalistic acting and the conversations within a less plot driven narrative. As the genre evolved, so did Gerwig’s work. The hilarious and heartbreaking dialogue-driven Lady Bird is a clear testament to her time making mumblecore and indie films. “I loved the community that I met, I learned so much from them. Initially I had always been quite a language driven person as a filmmaker, and visual person. I just started to desire to get back to something that was paced and planned. You don’t have to be one thing or make one kind of movie. I hope to make films when I’m 70 and I hope to grow and change as a director.”
To the viewer, Lady Bird might be a perfect representation of the combustibility of mother/daughter relationships. Maybe it reminds you of the disillusionment we all felt after 9/11. Or perhaps Lady Bird just reminds you of how you felt the first time going home wasn’t really going home anymore. With heart shattering moments that are always quickly replaced with hilarity, this film is an expertly crafted balancing act for today’s twenty-something generation. “I just want people to see the film. It will make people feel warm, connected, less alone…call their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, connect them back to their own lives. Cinema is a deeply empathetic art form and this movie has the ability to hopefully make that happen.”
Greta Gerwig continues to be a pillar of feminism in a male dominated industry. Gender pay gaps, commonplace sexual harassment, absence of quality roles – these issues are at least now finally being addressed thanks to talented voices like hers. She is a part of a growing number of talented female filmmakers finally getting the chance to have their own voice. There is a tide turning and Greta Gerwig, by virtue of her work, has made herself a clear and confident voice to represent that generation.
“I think what’s amazing about this moment is there isn’t this feeling of being the only one in the room where a lot of females before me felt…Nora Ephron, Kathryn Bigelow…there was just none. At all these different film festivals, there’s just such a community. I’ve worked with Rebecca Miller…there’s Dees Rees for Mudbound, Angelina Jolie directing First they Killed my Father. It feels like there’s a lot less scarcity.”
Greta Gerwig is one of the defining voices for our generation. She is just happy that finally so many more of those voices are being heard. “They have to let us in because there are just too damn many of us.”
Lady Bird opens in theatres November 24.