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Interview with Jill Soloway - Writer and Director of Afternoon Delight

by Melissa Silverstein
August 23, 2013 2:00 PM
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WaH: What did you take from being a writer into being a director?

JS: They're really different head spaces. I really got rid of my attachment to holding onto any of the words. It helped when I read that Woody Allen tells his actors they don't have to say the word. Now I think of the script as a starting place: it's a tool that is a map that tells production where to put the trucks.

I show up on set and work to ground myself so that I can connect with my actors emotionally. I think if you're concerned about getting your words right, you're in trouble. I instead focused on creating a safe space where every technician present could "yes, and" each other, where we could all enter our risk spaces and create something new in each moment.

WaH: Talk a little bit about the difference in writing for TV and in writing for film.

JS: At this point I actually feel very little distinction. Content is content. Viewers just want a story to resonate. It can be a ten-minute short or a two-hour movie or a whole season, if something can hold your attention in this age of constantly divided focus, it's a win. I aspire to create content with authentic comedy, sexuality and emotion. I think if you can hit all three in one space, you're on to something.

WaH: Kathryn Hahn has been in so many movies and TV shows yet never had to carry a film in this way before. Talk a little bit about Kathryn and what made you hire her for the role.

JS: My goal was to cast someone who could make me laugh so hard that my stomach hurts, then break my heart five seconds later. Kathryn is such a brilliant, fearless actress, she's an absolute master at embodying all parts of that divided feminine. She's beautiful, sexy, smart, raunchy, strong, vulnerable and so funny. I can't imagine anyone else in the role.

WaH: In your recent piece "17 reasons why chicks actually make better directors" one of the reasons was "the vagina's got a lot to say." You have been very vocal about the lack of opportunities for women directors. Do you think things are changing? What are the biggest challenges to come on this topic?

JS: I do think things are changing. I look at Orange is the New Black and Girls, at Nicole Holofcener and Lisa Cholodenko and Lake Bell, at The New Girl and Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler -- and I just see this incredible passion. I feel like there's an "Arab Spring" approaching when it comes to content and feminism -- women are ready to create their own stories and studios are noticing that people are buying,

I actually think the biggest problem is more of an interpersonal one. It's that thing I mentioned in one of those first paragraphs about my openness. In a world where are born into the notion of being seen -- through the male gaze -- as part of our value, I think we're overly available to negativity. Whether we know it or not, the question of whether we're likable or good or hot or beloved is always trying to jump out in front of urge to create art. The fact that the word ballsy is about men is proof that the thing that gets you moving has been incorrectly branded as being gender-specific. We need to change it to eggsy. Would that be weird?

WaH: What advice do you have for other women directors?

JS: If you don't resonate with some of the traditional notions connected to the idea of being a director, fear not. Sheryl Sandberg talks about leaning in within this context of a jungle gym instead of a ladder. We should reach in all directions all around us at once instead of climb to the top frantically. To this end, I guess, I don't feel like you have to deny what is feminine about you to be a filmmaker. Being able to multi-task while staying emotionally connected, receiving and allowing things to happen is what, it turned out, I was built for. Before directing Afternoon Delight, I think I had this fear that because I wasn't running around like Spielberg with my Super 8 camera as a child, I wasn't really a director. The truth is, I was building the directorial skills I needed when I was playing with dolls as a child, or being a community organizer, working on the board of the local JCC, and being a mom.

WaH: What's the biggest challenge in making this film?

JS: Going back to my real life at home where I didn't get to tell people where to stand, what to say, and how to say it.

WaH: We have seen many mega Hollywood films with male characters at the center in the early part of the summer and now in August we are seeing smaller, women centric and women directed films. How do we get people to take material about women by women more seriously?

JS: Box office. Women should get out there opening weekend and see these films. Convincing a mostly male industry to spend money on our stories to be nice to us isn't going to work. They have to see the profit. So invite a bunch of girls and go see this film as a group!

WaH: What do you want people to take away from this film?

JS: If one disconnected couple goes home and has an eyes-open-orgasm, I've done my job.

WaH: What's next for you?

JS: I'm super excited about making my first original pilot for Amazon called Transparent. It's about a Los Angeles family, gender, sexuality, secrets and food. I'm directing and we'll be shooting in September. I'm also writing my next film, and producing a musical and a web documentary about it! I'll also try to take a nap sometime soon.

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  • Peggy | September 2, 2013 8:43 PMReply

    I'm glad she stated that to really test your artistic ability takes making a film, not working in TV. I've been saying that for years. Directing an episode of CSI does not make you an artist.

  • Gregory J. Pollock | September 2, 2013 11:56 AMReply

    Ok. Holloway here comes YOUR review. U SUCK!!!! You stood there in your little clique' after the last showing and you all patted yourselves on the back. You didn't have the common decency to engage in polite conversation! I HAD to say HI and all I got back was as meek little "h . i. ." and then you just moved away. You wonder why your projects don't seem to go well with squeaky thank you types cast in your reads. It's because you don't have the proper people skills. Likely spend most of your time texto-ing, tweeting, blogging, blah-blah-blah?!!!! (did I put enough explanation points behind that question?) [It's explanation, yep not exclamation, you figure it out.]{If you could see me right now I'd be sticking my tongue out at you. } The decision makers above you. They introduce themselves. They shake hands. They engage in quick-witted conversations. They network the old fashioned way through face to face inter-personal engagement. The film - It's an ENGAGING GEM. BUT, _ _ _ _ you're going to have to SELL IT! and in this media blitz world of sound bites and visual communication overload it will probably get lost in the maze just like "The Sapphires". Got a CAN award . . . and the general public will never hear about it. (yeah, I misspelled that on purpose TOO!) It's in the can aka the digital cloud of digital movies that could just get deleted. My great uncle's three stripe process with an optical soundtrack can still be brought back so you newbies can still see "Gone With the Wind" and "The Sound of Music" and "West Side Story" etc. I wish for you Mrs. Holloway that just ONE of your projects ends up with those kind of LEGS. The actress you cast as the "Sex Worker" WHAT? The actual term is --> PROVIDER ---- and you would have known that if you or someone in your clique' had gone out there and physically engaged the talent pool and maybe interviewed a "Hobbyist" MAKES THIS digital video. Her mannerisms, portrayed behaviors, line delivery etc were spot on !!! SHE'S THE FR$#&KING GEM. :) WooF ! ! ! HOLY SH_ _T ! ! !

    (Do I have to fill in the 2 Ohoooooos 4U2?)

    Gregory J. Pollock

  • Star | August 25, 2013 6:46 PMReply

    "Box office. Women should get out there opening weekend and see these films. Convincing a mostly male industry to spend money on our stories to be nice to us isn't going to work. They have to see the profit. So invite a bunch of girls and go see this film as a group!"


  • Linn D. | August 24, 2013 11:58 AMReply

    Thank you for this post. So educational and inspiring. For so many reasons...

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