In Conversation with Amanda Kramer: A Talk About Female Perspectives on Cinema

CONTENT WARNING: The following conversation includes talks of sexual assault and toxic masculinity, which may be potentially upsetting for certain readers and listeners.

Following TIFF Next Wave, I had the chance to talk with Ladyworld writer-director Amanda Kramer about her creative process and her many influences. What soon followed was a long conversation about the state of the film industry and how important it is for female voices to climb higher up within in a male-dominant field. You can listen to the conversation below and also read it down below.

Jaime Rebanal: I want to ask you a little something, first off, what was it like spending time in Toronto compared to something like Fantastic Fest, especially when your film was showing here for TIFF Next Wave, which is, of course, dedicated to audiences under the age of 25?

Amanda Kramer: So, TIFF was, I mean, no trash talking on any fests, all fests – they’re really wonderful, and they all have amazing things about them, and I’m grateful to be at any one of them. But TIFF was probably one of my favourite experiences. The city of Toronto was absolutely incredible. I feel very close to the city when I’m there, I don’t feel like a tourist, I feel like I fit in, which is such a nice feeling especially when you’re travelling so much with a film. But especially the audiences which felt so alive, aware, present, so mauch questions, so much eye contact, just people who seemed like either loved movies, or loved movie making, or loved movie makers, and that is hugely an honour to screen at a place anywhere you have a direct connection to your audience. Fantastic Fest is wonderful, it’s a genre fest in large parts, so people are there to see super bloody stuff and gory stuff, they’re there to see real shocks and surprises. I never quite fit in, even though I love it. At TIFF, it just felt so natural.

JR: When I saw Ladyworld, I was thinking to myself, “How would a Midnight Madness audience would react when they saw something like this,” because when I saw it, I was like, “This is really, really stressful in a way I did not quite expect,” you know?

AK: I think that the movie is just very stressful and that’s a different thing from being scary. It’s still very tense and still has suspense to it, but it’s a different type of fear sensor than a traditional scary movie.

JR: Going back to the TIFF Next Wave Q&A, you mentioned that Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a major influence on your film, in particular The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, can you run me through how Fassbinder films have affected your creative process?

AK: Honestly, it’s really a life philosophy. I think of him as sort of a film philosopher, which not all directors are, he’s a person who in an era where he was like a young man in Germany, just decided that he was going to be an artist and sort of take art for himself, then began making films with a theater troupe and friends behind the camera with no money. To me, that’s a philosophy I share, and certainly a way that I led myself into filmmaking. I didn’t go into film school, I was just someone who wanted to do it and sort of had a burning desire and very little cash, but really great artists surround me: actors, cinematographers, costume designers, and editors. I sort of looked up to him, as someone who wasn’t stopped by the system or the business and throughout his career, made films that cost a lot and a little, and was able to maintain his artistic integrity, which I have a lot of respect for. So on that level, he’s a hero of mine. But aesthetically, I love his camera movement, I love his wide shots and his framing, and the posturing of the actors. I love how unnaturalistic it is and unrealistic, I think it’s really phenomenal, he makes work that feels like subtle opera. It’s very overwhelming to watch acting like that now, because that kind of acting is so out of vogue. It’s not what’s popular in acting style now, so I love returning back to that, it has that timeless feel that has a Rembrandt quality, it seems like paintings, and cinema could use more painters.

JR: You know, it’s funny enough when we’re mentioning Fassbinder being a hero of yours because he’s been a hero of mine since I was in high school because one of my old film teachers back then said he’s oddly enough never seen a Fassbinder. But he told me that just like a lot of New Wave filmmakers, he always found a way to break boundaries, which is something I admire so greatly.

AK: That’s a perfect way to put it, he really cares about his subject matter which is always a certain type of love story whether that’s between two men, a man and a woman, or two women, or just a person and themselves. He deals so deeply with loneliness and fear of loneliness and connectivity, yet in every film he’s, like you said, breaking a new boundary and leaning into taboo. And I just love that about him.

JR: That reminds me, I was also considering buying Berlin Alexanderplatz from the Criterion flash sale, but I just didn’t know if I could take that in right at the very moment.

AK: I think that was a good call on your part.

JR: I do want to get it at some point, but I watched it while I was still in school at the time and to say the least, it distracted me even as I was studying for another class too.

AK: That’s the thing about his work – it’s so captivating, and really pulls you in. Have you seen Ali: Fear Eats the Soul?

JR: That reminds me, I do own a copy of that at home and I have seen it obsessively too.

AK: I love it, I think it is absolutely stunning, and I think it is so underappreciated. I hope if anyone goes back into his catalogue, they see the merit in that one because it is just stunning.

JR: I don’t know where to begin, because I love his work so much.

AK: Me too, me too.

JR: I want to know, where exactly did the inspiration for Ladyworld come from, especially since when we were talking Fassbinder at the Q&A from after the film, I want to know, where exactly did the inspiration come from?

AK: I do really love The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and I do feel like to a certain extent, the biggest thrill at the time that I was writing Ladyworld was the idea that I would get to be in the room with so many great actresses. That was such a potent image in my mind, could I write something where great actresses could act greatly off of each other and a bit untethered to male characters older or younger or the same age. Or could I get a group of girls together and really let them go wild to a certain extent. So that was the motivating factor to write a story like this, I kind of worked backwards and I asked myself, “what would be the dream directing scenario,” and it was a situation like this. Beyond that, I like thinking about classic literature, like Lord of the Flies, these old school didactic stories of man versus self, man versus nature, man versus man, and I definitely don’t think that many women get to enact stories like that so I wanted to take a deep dive in and see where I could go. Beyond that, I’m always thinking about rape themes and friendship themes, and those came secondary but came on very strong. That was lesser of my inspiration, but I immediately got there once I started writing.

JR: I think having been familiar with so many of these stories, the moment I read Lord of the Flies in another one of my high school classes, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve said to myself, “I’ve seen too much of this” and it’s usually by men, obviously. And I’m kind of bored of just seeing the same stuff over and over again.

AK: Absolutely, I feel the exact same way.

JR: And when we were talking about the themes of rape, it’s nice to see how your approach to such a subject especially in a film like this doesn’t ever sensationalize that, you know how stigmatizing it is for someone who’s experienced that sort of feeling.

AK: It’s a hard subject to tackle, I have very strong feelings about images of rape – I don’t believe in them. And I don’t stand behind them. I think there are very few successful films about rape, I think it’s too gratuitous and fetishistic, and people want to see a woman raped more than they will admit, so I stay away from it almost completely. But I think the idea of being afraid of rape and afraid of men is certainly worth talking about, and definitely worth showing in a film like this. When it doesn’t even seem like a man is the problem, because they’re all just dealing with each other, it’s wonderful to show the fact that in the back of our minds, we’re always worried about our body and the perversions of men and that’s the problem with being a woman. I don’t need to show rape to explain to people that that’s a part of the daily fear in a woman’s life.

JR: And you already did it so well by building up all that stress as we were sitting down there. It’s stressful enough to the point where it becomes scary, when you just have an idea what’s about to happen. And I was about to bring this up, but I’m not so sure how to approach it, and it reminds me about Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, and we already know how I feel about Polanski himself.

AK: Absolutely, I love Roman Polanski and regardless of his personal life, I love Repulsion. And I think it is a classic, and one of the great parts written for a woman.

JR: Since we’re talking about that right here, when it comes to approaching such subject matter, there’s one thing that always caught me about how men approach it, and it’s a lot more fetishistic than it really needs to be. Of course, there are scenes like that one from Straw Dogs, for example – and I love the film, but that scene is a little too much for me.

AK: It’s heartbreaking, and it’s so difficult to watch, but Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible is so terrible to watch. There are so many films like that that are in our film lexicon, they’re beloved films, and there’s good reason for that, but I have to ask, what is this doing for the film? I have to ask, what are the filmmaker’s intentions. For me, a film like Deliverance for instance, the rape in that film is all about toxic masculinity, and it’s about ownership, and it’s about a certain type of violence that just comes from power. I think it works perfectly in that film, and I completely understand it, it’s so thematically heavy, it doesn’t seem so empty. It feels very intentional, but in other films, I get so turned off by it and I just don’t want to look at it.

JR: Can you name a few examples where you feel that way?

AK: Well, I can tell you one that I love, my favourite film that deals with rape is Ms. 45, which I think is absolutely powerful. It’s not just because it’s a rape and revenge film, because I don’t think all rape and revenge films are feminist at all. It’s because of the way that it’s shot, and it’s because of the way that the actress is playing that character. It’s just pure psychology and she’s this mute, and the fact that she doesn’t speak and she’s just a constant victim means that she’s not a real person and that we can sort of view her as an icon and we can see rape as terror. What I don’t like is the fest of a woman’s soul in a movie through rape, I think that’s very chaotic and I think that’s a very dark tunnel to go down. And I think you are right, Straw Dogs is one of those, but I love that movie. But there are some movies where it’s just impossible to get through, and I can’t watch them and I have to turn them off. There’s a famous movie from the 80’s called The Accused, for which Jodie Foster won an Oscar for, and the rape in that film is just awful. I think there are some times where I understand why filmmakers do it, and sometimes I think it’s just for dramatic effect and that’s where I get very angry.

JR: I even find it hard to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for that very reason.

AK: Yes, that’s a great one to reference. That’s so hard to watch.

JR: Since we mentioned toxic masculinity, being a part of what makes the scene from Deliverance as powerful as it is, with the lack of a male presence in this movie, did you ever have it in mind that it would still convey something about how toxic masculinity has affected these girls the way that it did in the film?

AK: I don’t think we needed a man to understand a fear of men. That’s prevalent in everyday life. You can be someone who doesn’t interact with men that much and still feel the tension of them. Men run the world, and we are all under the patriarchy. Even if you are a man, you fear men, that’s how it’s set up. So I never thought I needed a male character to prove that, I know that girls and women are thinking about men constantly and all day long. And I think it’s enough in their psyche, that they don’t need to face men to be concerned with their power.

JR: That’s the one thing I love about how the characters in your film talk about “the man,” because it almost feels like an entity surrounding the girls.

AK: It’s the Boogeyman, you know? It’s the thing that they use to manipulate each other and use to scare each other and use to scare themselves, and I find that to be really sad. I think that that’s a way in to understanding our genders, so it’s a daring thing to try in a film like this, because I do think that a lot of women right now want to see films where women band together and don’t pull apart. But I think that this is a way that women do interact, though, an extreme way, and I’m interested in that. I’m interested in the dramatics between women as much as I am in the bond between them.

JR: It’s a lot like Lord of the Flies, in terms of how these isolated girls inside this one scenario all start finding their own ways to survive, even if it means they’ll have to break apart friendships. So I want to know, what was the most difficult part about working with these actresses, and what was the best part about that too?

AK: They’re not difficult people at all, they’re eight incredibly giving, incredibly exciting, wild, cool, smart, hard-working, diligent, emotionally mature individuals. So it was incredibly easy to explain to them what I was looking for and needed. Also, it was incredibly easy to see them working off of each other, and grow their characters off the page. I would say the main difficulty there is I wish I had more time with them. We threw them into that situation so quickly, very little time for rehearsal, very little time to bond between the eight of them, so they had to do that so fast and they did it. But it would have been amazing to have more time with them and to really work through scenes. It was a very fast, dirty production. We were incredibly small as a team, which made it super intimate, which was also wonderful, but it also meant that everyone was carrying a lot of weight. I was sweeping floors and moving sandbags. In a certain way, it’s very romantic filmmaking because you’re overwhelmed every second, you’re very emotional, you’re very attached to everyone. You’re not at all detached, you’re so much in it that every single thing every actor does is so meaningful to you. So I’m really appreciative for that, but it definitely meant that every night at the end of the night, the day had felt like a blur and I wasn’t ever sure if we got everything we needed to get. I was so involved with them and I was so caught up in them, I was kind of whisked away by that. So when I got all the footage at the end of the film, I was like, “Okay, this is my movie,” because I was so deeply enchanted by them, I was kind of hypnotized.

JR: Did you ever have moments where you wanted to show them the sort of films that inspired you as you were making this, or did you not have the time?

AK: I didn’t show them whole movies, but I showed them certain performances that I really loved. I showed them Isabelle Adjani in Possession, which is hugely influential on me, and it was a great starting point for me to say to the girls, “this is the kind of performance I’m looking for.” This is the kind of loosening of joints, this is the kind of wild an ecstatic behavior I want. I don’t want self-consciousness, I don’t want shyness, I want extroversion, I want to go crazy, and they just immediately got it.

JR: Possession is amazing. I’ve been trying my best to show that to as many of my friends as I can without even revealing a slight detail, but the moment they see Isabelle Adjani’s performance, they were asking me what exactly they were in store for. To which, I don’t answer that at all.

AK: It’s one of the weirdest performances, it comes from such a crazy personal place, it’s absolutely mesmerizing, and it’s such a blessing to watch an actor do that. I can just watch it a hundred times, because it’s just so giving of a performance, over and over again.

JR: Working in a really small set, John Cassavetes was another person that came to mind because I know he also worked with a lot of really small sets. Did you ever take any inspiration from him as well?

AK: Another scene I sent them came from A Woman Under the Influence, where she’s out on the street asking about the time and she’s running around, it’s so powerful. He’s such an incredible filmmaker, and his spirit has been so lost over the years. He truly was a one-man band, and absolutely personified independent filmmaking. But he’s also clearly an artist and not a workman. He does things with friends and significant others and that to me is beautiful, but he puts faith in them, and allows them to do their wildest performances and that is really why I am so compelled by him. He invigorates actors to do some of their very best performances in their entire career.

JR: This is where I want to ramble again, because I was rewatching one scene from Opening Night, and the way he captures Gena Rowlands onscreen – I’ve never seen a director feel like they’re working so closely with their actors in that sense.

AK: That’s my favourite one. For me, with Opening Night, I feel it’s very difficult to make a film about actors and ask actors to play actors. They’re so close to that, and that’s so much intrinsically what they’re thinking about and what they’re living. But sometimes, it’s so hard to be authentic because it’s just their true self and they don’t know how to tap into that. That film is one of the few where just the idea of acting and the idea of being onstage comes off as being so lonely and terrifying and alienating, that’s where that film is so successful because it is so damning to the human psyche. You can see her loneliness and you can see her abstraction from life, and it’s just beautiful. And the moments where she’s onstage, breaking down, are so powerful. It’s crazy to watch, it’s totally beautiful.

JR: I also wanted to ask, what was it like trying to create the perfect ambience for this film, especially when it comes to the score and the sound mixing? The way the sound mixes in with the imagery, in a way, it kind of does throw me off, but I don’t mean that in a bad way.

AK: You have to imagine that the girls are acting up this movie in total silence, and the silence is deafening. It’s certainly a scary film to make in silence, and I know that when it comes to getting into post and putting music into a movie like this, you have to make such elite and perfect decisions because you could lose everything. You could lose all the tension, you could lose all the fear if you don’t get the right sounds. I spent so much time with my editor and my sound team and my composer, just making sure that it felt really alienating and strange, and I wanted that to happen. I wanted people to feel discomfort, and I wanted the soundtrack to the film to be something that is super jarring and gets people out of their skin and makes them feel uncomfortable. That, I think is where you sort of build inevitable tension, and that’s a thrill for me, it’s one of my favourite parts of my job.

JR: I was starting to think again of the first scene where Annalise (Piper) takes Dolly’s (Ryan Simpkins) toy away from her, and she starts banding her own legion within these actresses, it’s like after this you can feel a break coming by.

AK: I’m very sure this is true of boys too, but very true of girls, but when girls are children, they have dolls and they’re given dolls and they’re given toys. And those toys represent all different kinds of things. Sometimes they’re little unicorns, sometimes they’re ballerinas, but the majority of toys for girls are doll-like toys, where you see yourself in that image, and it’s the idea that it’s your own little baby. Which is super messed up, and it gets women starting to think they’re mothers from right off the bat, which is a damaging thing for psyche. It’s really unfortunate because there’s nothing wrong with being a mother, but when we’re children, we should be able to be children. And I just knew so many girls who were super attached to their dolls, and wouldn’t let go of them, and became these safety blankets to a degree that they couldn’t live without. If it was taken away from them, they would scream. Even when we were ten or eleven, some girls maintain that relationship with dolls for way too long, and they don’t develop at the exact same time as everyone else. And those were the girls that were picked on, and seen as being weak. So I really thought that was such a potent and sad image from childhood, the last girl who’s still playing with dolls and being picked on. I think that’s such a tender and sad thing, only a few years later, you won’t want them anyway for the most part. And so, it’s sad that girls mature so fast they want to shame other girls for it. Annalise’s performance in that moment is so sad to me and so striking because it is a performance about taking away something very safe to another girl and scaring her by kind of leaving her alone without her safety.

JR: You see, that was something that resonated with me about this film because of course, being a person on the autism spectrum, it was not something to that extreme, but I could never concentrate without having films guiding me about the world. And when my parents were watching over me as I was doing my homework, I always had a film in the background as background noise, because it’s the sort of thing that keeps me motivated, you know?

AK: Yes, absolutely! We all have our things that we become attached to that make us feel right in the world and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I just think that in childhood, we become very misunderstood and it isn’t until later in life where everyone is dealing with their own psychology and everyone is dealing with their own motivation, and people become kinder and more understanding. But when we’re children, we’re very primal, we’re animals, and we’re learning how to work tribally and friendships in childhood are like apes, you take what you want and you tear things away from people. Yet you also protect them and you fear them and you love them and you’re learning in this very fast, but strange and filled with wonder way. I really do think that through childhood and the beginning of teenage years, we’re hurting each other quite a bit and we’re putting each other in a lot of pain, and we’re misunderstanding each other. But we’re also showing extreme amounts of love at the same time, it’s just a very delicate time to be alive. And if you can nail that emotion, you can make something really powerful. Unfortunately, most people that make media don’t give a shit, they don’t care about that and aren’t that sensitive. They’re not that responsible with their imagery. But teenagers, I think, especially need that kind of imagery. They need to understand how intense it is when you, I mean, “bully” is not the best word for it, but it’s the word that we all use for it. It’s like, when you become these bullies, it can really ruin a person’s life. It can really wreck them.

JR: That’s how I felt when I knew too many people who shrugged off my own love of film because, of course, they were always talking about the sort of films that are just trending at the very moment, and me, I always wanted to keep my taste a lot more low key.

AK: We all fall in love with different things, and for some people it’s sports, for some people it’s dance, and some people it’s novels, and some it’s film. I think that love affair is so personal and your reasons for it are so personal, and your access points are so personal. But much like you, I am an obsessive and if I like something, I’m infatuated by it and I care so much about it and sometimes I care more about it than it seems like I care about people. And that can be very frightening to other human beings, to be that obsessive, because not everyone feels that way. So sometimes, when you love movies that much or love novels or the thing that you know, really keeps you alive, it’s very alienating to other people because they don’t even feel that same obsession.

JR: It’s like somebody is already taking the words I wanted to say right out of my mouth!

AK: I feel the same way, I really understand.

JR: Here’s a little something else I wanted to ask you, were there any sort of fears running through your mind when you were showing this film to the audience much like that of TIFF Next Wave?

AK: Yeah, I’m always afraid to show the film to audiences. I never know what kind of reaction I’m going to get. And I never know if people are going to just not like it at all or find it to be very upsetting, or find it to be politically awkward. I never know, but I invite all of that. I like that kind of fear, I am fine with it. I welcome anyone’s attitude toward the film, and I know that it’s not for everyone, and that’s part of what I do, I make the work that I make, because it makes sense to me, and I don’t make work for everyone. That’s a hard thing to come to terms with especially when there are so many filmmakers who want really wide audiences and want everyone to understand their work. That’s just not where I come from, I make things that are very personal to me and every time I show an audience, I am afraid of their reaction.

JR: When I make films in the future, I don’t know if I could tolerate a wide audience especially knowing the sort of crowds they’re going to be like.

AK: It’s intimidating, you just have to be stable in yourself and just believe in yourself, and know why you’re there and why you’re making it. And you have to maintain that belief in yourself, even in the face of criticism and rejection. That’s a really hard part of my job as a filmmaker, there’s a lot of rejection, and it’s a lot of facing the fact that not everyone is gonna like your work. And that’s difficult.

JR: Was there any sort of message that you also wanted to share through this film and through your presence over at TIFF Next Wave with audiences who love films so much or even want to make films too?

AK: Honestly, I think if you love making film and you’re obsessed with it and it’s meaningful to you, you shouldn’t let anyone stop you. I know that’s something a lot of people say, they say follow your dreams, they say don’t give up, I mean it more like, if you really understand how difficult this job is and you still want it, because there are many ways to be famous, and there are many ways to make money, filmmaking is hard. It’s deeply hard, and I think you have to have such a belief in the process and you have to release into the process, which is kinda soul-crushing sometimes. If you can do that, I think you can make something really beautiful and you don’t have to be cynical about fame or fortune, or celebrity. You can just make the work you want to make, and stand behind it, that’s the most important thing.

JR: I absolutely agree. I know it’s a message that has been often repeated especially when it comes to chasing your dreams, but I feel like it’s not repeated for bad reason at all.

AK: Absolutely! People say it because it’s very meaningful to say and it’s very meaningful to hear. This is a really hard time to be alive, it’s a crazy world, it’s a really dark economic time, it’s a really dark political time, it is incredibly difficult on a sociological level too, everyone is fighting for their human rights, and everyone deserves their human rights, and everyone deserves to defeat fascism. It’s a really dark thing that’s kind of being unearthed on the planet, so if you have something that you care about and love, and want in the face of all of this, and it’s that meaningful to you, then yes, your purpose on the planet is to do that, and some people help others through politics and some through education and some through art. And if you are someone who helps through art, you owe it to yourself to see that to its natural conclusion and to go for it.

JR: There’s something else I also wanted to say, I feel like film is a more radical form of political activism than people really give it credit for.

AK: If you take it there, it absolutely is. You can be as subversive as you want, you can be as radical as you want, and the power of the image, the power of the moving image especially is overwhelming. If it is something you want to do, change someone’s life through a story, then you actually can. And that’s really exciting.

JR: And then there are people like Jean-Luc Godard who want to change the medium as a whole.

AK: You can also be aesthete about it and just be there to talk about the aesthetic in the art form itself. I mean, everything is sort of available, even though it’s a 20th century art form, I think we’re learning ways to take it into this century.

JR: I absolutely agree. And I also want to ask you, here’s a little something to all the aspiring filmmakers and all the moviegoers who are listening in on this, I want to ask you a little something personal, and not exactly related to what it was like showing Ladyworld, I want to ask you, what are some of your favourite films so that the listeners can get an idea of your taste in movies.

AK: Sure, well we’ve discussed some of them, I think Fassbinder, like Querelle, Fear of Fear, and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, those are three films I think are just absolutely perfect, genuinely perfect. I do love Cassavetes, I would suggest Opening Night or Love Streams, I think those are just brilliant films. I love Whit Stillman, Barcelona, Metropolitan, and The Last Days of Disco, which I think are so flawlessly written, beautifully executed, and so meaningful to me from a writer’s standpoint. I also love early Atom Egoyan films, I think he’s phenomenal, of course, early Neil Jordan films as well, even all the way up to Interview with the Vampire but especially The Crying Game. I love Paul Verhoeven, I think that Basic Instinct is a perfect film, but I also think that Starship Troopers and Total Recall are really brilliant films about violence and cinema and art. Yeah, that’s just a bunch of stuff I like. And I also am obsessed with Peter Greenaway, I think everyone should watch The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, I think it is one of the greatest films ever made.

JR: I have been waiting for a Blu-Ray release for that one for quite a while, maybe if someone from Criterion is listening in, maybe we can push them into releasing that on Blu-Ray soon.

AK: Okay good, if someone is listening, we want it!

JR: I know we’ve had so much fun talking here, but we might have to end things off a little soon, so can you also say a little something to the listeners who are on the autism spectrum who are listening in right now too?

AK: Of course! I want to say even though we touched on it a little bit, I think obsession and relationship and connectivity to objects, people, movement, art, anything really, is just a beautiful way that our minds kind of unfurl and unravel and fold and unfold, and I don’t think anyone should ever be afraid of that. I think it’s a beautiful way to release and to find release in this world, so if there’s something that you love or something that makes you feel comfortable or safe, and it’s your own, and other people are alienated by that, it doesn’t matter. Just do whatever it is you need to do to feel happy.

JR: My goodness, you know what it feels like for me, having grown up autistic, I never even learned about my diagnosis until I was entering high school and by the time I found out about it for my first time, I tried to imagine how afraid I was that people are going to look at me as a freak.

AK: Yeah, and that’s so unfortunate. That’s not you, that’s society’s problem, that’s other people’s problems, that’s not yours. Everyone has a hangup, and no one really understands how to talk about their own problems, and it requires a lot of emotional maturity and it requires a lot of personal sophistication to have respect for autism, and I think it is required by everyone. I think far more people should understand it better and care about it more. It’s some of the most incredible brain patterns and some of the most incredible ways of thinking any humans have ever shown. And we need to have far more respect for that and a deeper understanding of it as well.

JR: See, this is what I’ve been pushing for, for pretty much my whole life, and you’ve seen links to my own blog, which is dedicated to emphasizing the perspectives of people who are on the autism spectrum, and it’s like working with these writers, I’m just still taken aback by the way their minds work.

AK: It’s beautiful, and it’s so inspiring. We could all stand to learn so much from that kind of thought process and focus, which we have so little of these days, everyone is like a hummingbird, and can barely focus on anything. And I think it’s kind of beautiful to have brain patterns like that, I think it’s magical, actually.

JR: This also brings me to another point, for the longest time I have always wanted to make a film about people who are on the autism spectrum, and I don’t want to show them as being social outcasts, you know what I mean?

AK: I completely agree, I also think that’s the wrong way to go. It’s not about that.

JR: I don’t them to be exaggeratedly smart, or exaggeratedly dumb a la Rain Man, because I think you can imagine I would have a lot of things to say about that one in particular.

AK: Yeah, I hate that movie.

JR: Here’s the thing, I don’t hate it as much as I know many of my peers do, but I hate what it’s done to people like myself.

AK: It comes from a time when we had very little knowledge and very little understanding and it doesn’t hold up to the test of what we know now. It feels incredibly dated and immature, so it doesn’t necessarily resonate. And that’s a good thing, it’s great that we moved past that, and it’s great that we no longer see people with autism like that. It was a film that I think at the time believed that it was doing something good and kind and honourous for the autistic community, with the lens of time it is obviously not that helpful.

JR: Whenever I hear that title alone, I just kinda cower in fear already.

AK: Yeah, same, same.

JR: And it’s weird enough though, because I find myself relating to another Dustin Hoffman character in particular, and it’s always associated with Rain Man, is so… ugh.

AK: That’s obnoxious, it’s really unfair. I think that’s going to change soon, I hope it’s going to change soon.

JR: And the film I was obviously referring to was The Graduate, because what else was it going to be? It’s in my all-time top ten, so for those of you listening, it tells you a lot about my taste.

AK: Love The Graduate! And it really does.

JR: Since we’re going to have to end things off right here, I just want to thank you again, Amanda, for taking the time to show up on my show, because I don’t know where to begin, I am so thankful that you’re here with me, just helping emphasize how important it is to listen to perspectives of people like myself.

AK: Yeah, I think you have great taste, and I’m really lucky to get to talk to you. It’s very rare I get to be interviewed by someone who knows movies as well as you do, so thank you for having me, I’m really honoured.

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