Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

SXSW Rerun: Interview with Hannah Fidell, Lindsay Burdge and Kim Sherman of A Teacher

Women and Hollywood By Kerensa Cadenas | Women and Hollywood September 6, 2013 at 11:00AM

A Teacher is a tense, unflinching piece of film that gets under your skin and refuses to let go. It's the tightly drawn portrait of Diana (Lindsay Burdge), a young high school teacher who is having an illicit affair with her all-too-appealing student Eric (Will Brittain).
0

WaH: Do you think that if the gender roles were reversed that there would be a similar criticism? If it was a male protagonist, would they say, "He clearly has borderline personality disorder," as he's Facebook stalking?

HF: No, absolutely not. They would just be like, "oh, he's cold, or something."

LB: "Aww that's so sweet, he likes her." But, I do hear what you are saying. So quickly, the crazy card gets pulled.

HF: Okay, I get that she acts a little bit crazy, but she's not crazy. She's complex.

WaH: Working in the film industry and working in entertainment women obviously isn't the easiest thing. Do you all have female mentors or filmmakers, people who have helped you in your careers or people you have looked up to as an inspiration?

HF: Filmmaker-wise, if I'm going to mention female filmmakers, Catherine Breillat of Fat Girl. She is fantastic and doesn't shy away from, even as a woman filmmaker, putting women in a negative light because women aren't always positive. I also like Joyce Carol Oates, even though she's in a different field. I just admire not only her work ethic but also her incredible mind and her incredible storytelling ability. She is just a complete inspiration. There are some producers who I very much admire like Jules Daly. She runs a company called RSA Films, where I worked at the front desk right out of college. That's where Lindsay and I met. She's a force and I just sit there in awe of everything that she was doing and how she organized her business.

LB: As an actress Liv Ullmann and Gena Rowlands and all these woman who really throw themselves into things and aren't afraid to look ugly and scary. They just go there, which is awesome. Just watching their performances is so inspiring. Also, people who have contemporary careers like Cate Blanchett. She just does everything. She always gives 100%.

HF: I think, Lindsay, that you are not afraid to look not your best or to have your character make the wrong choice.

LB: Yeah or be a shitty person. Anyway, all those women I think as actresses are amazing. I'm really excited and in awe of like the women more in our immediate scene, our independent film scene. Obviously, like Hannah and Kim, Amy Seimetz. She's an amazing actress and has been producing for a bunch of people. She'll just hustle and make a movie happen and then go and act or whatever. Sophia Takal writing a movie, then just making it, then making another one.

WaH: Kim, what about you?

KS: I feel like I've been very lucky, especially coming up through the ranks of horror films which can be inherently sexist. I worked with men who were very respectful of me. So, I didn't experience that as much as women who have come before me, for sure. I have had a lot of help from various women at the Sundance Institute. Eden Wurmfeld, she was a producer on Swingers and a bunch of bigger independent hits in the 90s. She was actually a mentor of mine through the Sundance Institute. Rebecca Green, Anne Lai and Michelle Satter all from the institute, were really great and so knowledgeable about all aspects of production.

Amy Seimetz, I should say that more importantly. Watching her [Sherman worked as a producer on Seimetz's Sun Don't Shine] --she's so well-rounded in all aspects of production, but also we talked a lot about the things that we are able to do because there wasn't this kind of alpha male competition the entire time. There was something about the way that we were working that was different from the way that we had worked in the past. We didn't have to butt heads and bully our point-of-view across in an aggressive way. It just worked differently.

Something that Hannah and I talk about a lot is that we had really strong women in our families who raised us. Because of that, we never thought there wasn't anything we couldn't do. There is nothing that's off limits to us. I think that that is one of the strengths of being a woman in our generation because women who came before us had to fight really hard and they had obstacles and were able to push them down to a certain extent for us. So, we are able to do a lot more, more easily because of that.

WaH: Back to the film, the music really stood out for me.

HF: From the start I told Brian, our composer, that I wanted to have a horror film score. We did that by using very sparse drumbeats and single notes. Brian is an incredible force. I like to imagine that this film is like a female horror film.

WaH: Kim, I saw that you have a music background. I wanted to know if you had any input.

KS: I think Hannah had a very clear vision of the film from the beginning. I definitely wholeheartedly supported that decision. She's worked a longtime with Brian from Dirty Projectors and Brian McOmber, who actually composed the soundtrack. And I think that in talking to her that was one of the elements that brought me to her project. She did want to add horror elements and my background is horror. The way that she wanted to treat the film was very much in line with what I had done in the past and a sensibility that I could relate to.

WaH: What's next for all of you?

HF: I just finished a script called That Girl on TV and it's a critique of reality television and specifically a girl who becomes famous for dating a reality television star. I'm really excited about that. My goal is -- it's not going to happen -- to make it this summer and go back to Sundance because it was so much fun.

LB: I just wrapped a film up here in Austin called the Sideways Light which was directed by another female director by the name of Jennifer Harlow. It is a mother/daughter film. And, I'm going back to New York finally. I have a film that's playing at TriBeCa called Lily that I cast and play a supporting role in it. Another film that I cast last year called Gimme the Loot is premiering in New York. I'm doing a small role in Lawrence Levine's upcoming film Wild Canaries, which should be awesome.

KS: So, I have many projects coming up. I am in production now on Wild Canaries, written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, and am in development on Sophia Takal's Always Shine.

This article is related to: South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), Women Directors, Women Writers, Women Producers, A Teacher, Lindsay Burdge, Kim Sherman, Hannah Fidell