Women and Hollywood got the chance to speak to Liz W. Garcia, writer and director of The Lifeguard, which opens in theaters on August 30th. The film is also available on ITunes now.
Women and Hollywood: Are you excited for the release?
Liz Garcia: I am excited. It's proof that we actually made this movie. I still can't get over that little fact. We actually made a movie.
WaH: Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for the script? Why did you want to see a woman revisit her adolescence or the end of her adolescence?
LG: I guess there were a few key puzzle pieces that existed independently of one another all in my imagination that I wanted to write about. The movie is the result of all of those things coming together. I knew I wanted to write about the job of being a lifeguard in that setting because that was the job I had in high school and college. I was able to spy on people and look in on their lives because you don't do a lot of actual lifesaving while you're a lifeguard at a pool, you do a lot of eavesdropping. I had a lot of nostalgia for that job and that feeling of being that age and working a job where I grew up in suburban Connecticut, getting out of work at 7:30 and knowing that there were still 2 more hours of beautiful daylight and this incredible feeling of freedom that I would have in the summer in the evenings. That feeling is something that I feel quite nostalgic for. When I was around the character's age, turning thirty and getting married and I started to feel the longing for a more simple oblivious life. So that's when it clicked for me.
WaH: Do you think that Leigh had realistic expectations of her life or were they just expectations that society places on women?
LG: I think she had the same sort of expectations that we all have about what life would be like and feel like when you are an adult. I think she thought life would feel vibrant and exciting and that she would feel relevant and part of the world. You are anonymous, like a cog in the wheel. You don't anticipate anxiety and depression, normal feelings that come with being a young adult trying to find your way in the world. In that sense, I feel that the movie is about something universal, about waking up to your life.
WaH: Do you think it's harder for women or is it hard for everybody?
LG: I think it's hard for everyone to find their way as an adult and to match up their expectations from their youth to what their adult life looks like. But, I was interested in telling a particularly female story because that's who I am and what I love to write about. I see the world as a woman. You are starting to see more of these stories, but there still aren't that many" important films" about the simple journeys that women take the way there are simple journeys of the male experience. To me, there was a legitimate and important story to be told about the existential crisis of a woman in her late twenties. I think its very real and not talked about so much that women reach the age where they know that soon they'll be married and soon they'll be mothers and its terrifying because you are expected to be independent and have fun and work towards your dreams in this modern age when you are a woman in your teens and your twenties and then there is sort of a model of what it looks like to be a mother and what it looks like to be a wife that is not as enticing. Your dreams are supposed to be satisfied by having the greatest day of your life--your wedding. Then, by having the second greatest day of your life when your kid is born and then the story has stopped being written after that. That is scary.
What that means is that the images that are out there to become independent or have a self-realized life, those images stop after women enter their thirties. Then, you become scared that you are not going to have a life after that. Or that you won't have yourself anymore, your identity will get all wrapped up in being a wife or being a mother. I think that makes growing up particularly scary for women and people don't really talk about that. They talk about how men can be scared of getting married and you have to sneak off to Vegas because that's the only way you can get any freedom anymore but there is no equivalent of that sort of story for women. You're just supposed to be happy about it and not terrified, but it's a little terrifying.
WaH: Did you write the film for Kristen Bell?
Liz Garcia: I didn't write it for any for any actress in particular except maybe I was thinking of my husband, Josh Harto, to play John.
WaH: I feel like this August has a couple of movies of women trying to find themselves and I don't want to say its a trend because anytime I say it's a trend about women, people always say it's a fluke. I was thinking what does it feel like having a film coming out at the same time as with Lake Bell, Jerusha Hess, Jill Soloway.
Liz Garcia: It feels really awesome to be a part of this Sundance 2013 slate of female directors. One, it's an honor because these women are so talented and they have specific voices and I admire all of them. Two, it feels like an exciting shift. I feel like independent film has become such a great space for women, people of color, and people with alternative stories to view their work. I felt that making the movie. I felt like you don't have to look like a traditional Hollywood director to make a film. The crew is a bunch of scrappy outsiders and they just want to make a movie and keep working. If you are a director and you know who you are and what you want, that's a really exciting feeling.