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Greta Gerwig Talks Making 'Frances Ha,' Comparisons To 'Girls,' The Brewing Animated Movie With Noah Baumbach & More

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 12, 2013 at 11:04AM

In case you hadn't noticed by now, we really, really like Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha." The movie has stuck with us since we first caught it at Telluride last year, and with the picture officially landing in theaters this summer, it has placed on our list of 2013 Best Films Of The Year...So Far. And if that weren't enough, we drafted up 5 Reasons You Should Go See Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig's "Frances Ha," so needless to say, we're big big fans. But why has this film resonated so much with us?
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Frances Ha
Gerwig explains why doing forty takes for some scene was necessary
While the film employs a loose, energetic and seemingly shaggy aesthetic, don't be fooled. The spirit and heart of "Frances Ha" is both sincere and carefully crafted, requiring focus and extended takes to get it right. Earlier this year, Gerwig shared a clip from the movie and explained why it required more than 40 takes to nail it down, and speaking with us, she explained why so many takes were crucial.

"I think that if you can find the balance between that fantasy and put it in something that’s incredibly real and people can identify as real, then you’re Steven Spielberg."

"We shot for a long time...fifty 12 to 14-hour days. So it was a lot. We were shooting like thirty or forty or fifty takes per set-up. A lot of it was intricately blocked actually and it was about shooting it as economically as possible in terms of as few cut points as possible, so really making a shot work to tell the story, as opposed to a lot of coverage," Gerwig said. "So there were lots of things where it’s like this is going to play in one, so doing the scene forty times sounds like an extraordinary number of times, but actually it’s like we’re only going to pick one. So it’s not like we’re covering this from a bunch of different angles and can pack together the best performances. We just need to get it, the camera movements and the actors and all the lines and everything has to be kind of perfect and then the performances have to be up to par. And that takes time."

However, that drive energized everyone involved on the shoot, who strove alongside the actors and director to commit to getting it right. "It’s the best time I’ve ever had shooting something, because the crew and all of the actors. It was, now I’m going to use an analogy for something I also have never really done, but when you watch a professional athlete, someone playing tennis. It’s so absorbing, but it’s so fun that you’d never worked so hard and it feels like you’re firing on all cylinders constantly, and that’s how this shoot felt," she enthused. "It was like nobody asked when lunch was, nobody asked how long we were going to keep going for, everyone was just giving everything, and we had the 'no cell phones' rule on-set, no reading. Everyone was just there and it was like we gave ourselves over to this for a long time. I loved that experience."

Gerwig says her animated movie with Noah Baumbach might be a musical
Yes, Noah Baumbach has an animated movie in development at DreamWorks Animation, and of course, it's about "a woeful dog." It's not his first time dabbling in cartoons, racking up credits on both "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," but this will be the first one working he's working on with Gerwig. Earlier in the year, New Yorker revealed that the story centers on a Brooklyn dog named Freddy, who goes on a journey to Manhattan, when he becomes separated from a young girl named Heidi, after her parents get divorced. 

"It might be musical. It’s being put together right now and these projects take a long time so I don’t know how it will all shake down, but I really love it," Gerwig said, though she admits that trying to bring realism to the animated world, isn't an easy task.

"I mean it’s hard because I think both Noah and I have like a high standard for verisimilitude to life and not do anything that is totally ridiculously not life-like, but to try to figure out the realities of a dog living in Brooklyn Heights while also allowing him to go on a warrior-like journey," she added. "So it’s balancing those two things… The best example of a movie that does that great is 'E.T.' It’s a movie about an alien, but it’s totally about California suburbia and it’s a movie about divorce too, but it’s about an alien. I think that if you can find the balance between that fantasy and put it in something that’s incredibly real and people can identify as real, then you’re Steven Spielberg."

As the press obligations for "Frances Ha" wind up Gerwig and Baumbach will turn their attention back to the second feature they've shot, once again on the sly, and for now she's staying mum on the details. "I feel like its very different tonally, but it makes me scared to say that because probably other people will see it another way," she offered about the movie. "I feel like it feels very different to me as a film, but I also think I’m not the best person to answer that because I think probably critics and journalists do a better job of deciding how it fits."

And while she has these small handful of projects developing with Baumbach, Gerwig is also eager to strike out on her own, having written a script which she plans to direct herself. "It’s about people. I would love to make something that’s totally different and more of something in a genre, but I think I’m still in the middle of being in love with these kinds of films and with the person whose writing them," she said about the brewing movie. And we have to say, we're kind of in love with these kinds of films too. 

This article is related to: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha, Interviews, Interviews


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