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LAFF Women Directors: Meet Amanda Marsalis (Echo Park)

Interviews
by Melissa Silverstein
June 12, 2014 3:06 PM
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"Echo Park"
"Echo Park"

California-born Amanda Marsalis' photography career began during her teenage years, when she would document punk shows held in her mother's basement and skip class to spend time in her high school's darkroom. She attended the California College of Arts and Crafts, and prior to graduation, began shooting for magazines and advertising agencies and exhibiting her work.

She finds inspiration in her home state -- specifically, the magic hour of Los Angeles and the intricacy of its landscape. Her imagery has been published in two books, Reproduction and Landscapes, and her debut feature film, Echo Park, comes out later this year. (Bernstein and Andriulli)

Echo Park will play at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 14. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the film.

AM: Echo Park is the story of Sophie, a successful young handbag designer, who's grown disillusioned with her surroundings. Seeking to jar herself free from her routine, Sophie abruptly relocates to an unfamiliar neighborhood in Los Angeles: Echo Park.

In Echo Park, Sophie meets Alex, a British expat and proud resident of the neighborhood. Alex, discouraged by a stalled career, has reluctantly placed his house on the market and plans to return to his native London.  

Sophie and Alex inexplicably find themselves drawn to each other as they explore and discover the warmth of Echo Park and its residents. As Alex's departure draws near, their growing intimacy forces them both to reassess where they belong.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

AM: Making this film was a really fortuitous opportunity. My friend Rebecca Walker emailed me, asking if I would be interested in directing a film. When Catalina Aguilar Mastretta's script was sent to me and the title was "Echo Park," the neighborhood where I live, it felt like fate. The story was about a young woman in a complicated time in her life, trying to find her way. I felt connected to the story of Sophie. It felt close to home, and that gave me the confidence to direct the film.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

AM: Limited rehearsal time and just time in general. The budget was tight, so there was no room for second guessing. I had to trust my instincts everyday.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

AM: Work with people that you trust, and believe in your vision.

W&H: What's the biggest misconception about you and your work?

AM: There isn't really a conception of me right now to my knowledge. This is my first movie, and until people see it, I am hoping people watch the film with an open mind.

W&H: Name your favorite women directed film and why.

AM: Obvious Child from director Gillian Robespierre. It's a wonderful, hilarious, raw, feminine film that I wish had existed in my early twenties. I immediately became a super-fan of both Gillian and [star] Jenny Slate.

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