Interview with Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell - Directors of Small, Beautifully Moving Parts

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by Melissa Silverstein
May 11, 2012 10:03 AM
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Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell
Women and Hollywood: How was it directing a movie together? How did you divide the work?

Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell: In short, it was a very satisfying experience. We found that two brains worked better than one and that bouncing ideas back and forth tended to improve the work. The conversation that might have simply been internal was just happening live between two people. We divided the work in the moment: "Okay I'll take this part, you do that." There was no firm designation of duty as we both basically like it all.

WaH: Why did you make your lead character a freelance technologist?

LR & AH: Technology has infiltrated not only our day-to-day experiences but also our imaginations and relationships. We loved the idea of a character whose identity is based on fixing things, having answers, also having to face the mysterious biological process of pregnancy, which is filled with unknowns. That was just an irresistible juxtaposition.

WaH: Sarah is so connected technologically, yet the most important connection she yearns for is her mother who cannot connect and who lives off the grid.  What does each of them say about who we are today in our culture?

LR & AH: Humans everywhere obviously need to connect, and have for ages either succeeded or failed at doing so (or in most cases, both!). Now that we have these tools of convenience in communication, the contrast between communicating efficiently for practicality and communicating for resonance and understanding is not only more stark but also more ironic and even comic. We were most interested though in utilizing this new technological landscape as a texture or a way to get to meaningful drama and comedy.

WaH: Talk about where the title comes from.

LR & AH: We found it spontaneously during the writing phase and never let go. We like how it embraces both technology and the tiny "parts" growing in Sarah’s body, but most of all we like how it can be read in numerous ways.

WaH: You basically were a couple of women in a van making a movie.  Talk about how that worked for you and any lessons and advice you can share with other filmmakers.

LR & AH: Yes, we often joked about how we were a "movie in a van," as our picture vehicle was also our production vehicle! We would expand our cast and crew when we arrived in a city, then shrink back down and get back in our van. It was an intimate experience, and lucky for us, our actress Anna Margaret Hollyman seems to have a GPS built into her brain. Overall it was both a pre-planned and seat-of-our-pants experience as we were truly on a road trip ... making a road trip movie.

If there's any advice we can give, it would be to go ahead and make a movie and stop waiting. There are great tools today that can help filmmakers take control of their own projects.

WaH: What was the most challenging part of making the film?

LR & AH: As mentioned above, our approach was a little non traditional. This could be extremely challenging, but ended up providing parameters that helped shape our aesthetic and approach in interesting ways. We also had to manage 100 plus degree weather in Arizona that overheated our camera (and cast and crew), rainstorms during our one day at the Grand Canyon (which we ended up incorporating into the scene), and drunken revelers in Vegas.

WaH: What do you want people to get out of this film?

LR & AH: We want people to experience a light movie that still engages serious, universal issues: difficult relationships; big life transitions. We also want the audience to connect (speaking of connection) to the characters and feel satisfied that they might offer something seen less often -- a female protagonist who might bust a few stereotypes.

WaH: You both teach at film schools.  What do you say to young women who want to be directors in light of the dismal statistics for women directors?

LR & AH: Just go do it. You have to.

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts opens today in NYC. 

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