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Sundance Her Infinite Variety Panel: Women Writer-Directors Talk Turkey

Thompson on Hollywood By Valentina Valentini | Thompson on Hollywood January 24, 2013 at 6:14AM

“I couldn’t find the things going on in my life up on the screen, so I wrote this to fill that void,” said Oscar-nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner ("Running on Empty"), who made her directing debut 20 years after writing "Very Good Girls," which premiered at Sundance Wednesday night.
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Very Good Girls
"Very Good Girls"


“I couldn’t find the things going on in my life up on the screen, so I wrote this to fill that void,” said Oscar-nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner ("Running on Empty"), who made her directing debut 20 years after writing "Very Good Girls," which premiered at Sundance Wednesday night.

Her Infinite Variety panel at the Filmmaker Lodge this week was about bringing the personal back to the screen. Each filmmaker on the panel wrote and directed her own film, many of which concern intimate relationships and sexuality.

“For women, there’s a conflict between what I see as the exquisite selflessness of being a parent and the exquisite selfishness of being an artist," said Foner. "When I was doing one, I constantly felt like I should be doing the other.
Women want to see up on the screen people like them going through stuff like them. I think, I hope, that what we’re doing up here is connecting with a generation of women that want to see people like them on the screen. We need to validate each other’s existence.”

Lake Bell, wrote and directed her first feature, "In a World": “I used this – my first film – as therapy…unabashedly. I wanted to inject the personal into my movie.”

Writer-director of Touchy Feely, Lynn Shelton: “My first film was about exploring something I hadn’t seen on the screen, like Naomi. But my second, third and fourth films were from the outside, an observational approach where I used my actors as writing collaborators. This film is like a return for me. It was a film that was very personal and inside of me and had to come out.”

Stacie Passon, writer-director of "Concussion": “The epiphany was when [my wife, son and I] moved to Montclair, New Jersey. I had my ‘F#$k this!’ moment. I mean, I was supposed to be gay, I was supposed to be punk rock and hanging out with Kathleen Hanna. I wasn’t supposed to be wearing a mom sweater in New Jersey. And I wanted to make a movie about that.”

Eliza Hittman wrote and directed her first feature, "It Felt Like Love": “I think coming of age stories are usually portrayed in this really romantic way. But I wanted to really show all the false steps I took when growing up. I remember how much hysteria there was about having sex at 13 or 14. For me it was much more truthful to tell the story this way.”

Jerusha Hess, writer-director of "Austenland": “This was pink vomit on the stage every day, ace of base playing loud. And if that’s not a girl movie for the girls, then I don’t know what is.”

This article is related to: Festivals, Festivals, Sundance Film Festival, Women in Film, Very Good Girls


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.