When I was at the Tribeca Film Festival, I had the pleasure of interviewing writer-director Dolly Wells and stars Emily Mortimer and Grace Van Patten prior to the world premiere of their film Good Posture. With the help of my friends at Sheridan College, I was able to share my interview far and beyond – but to say the least this was also some of the most fun that I had talking with the talent behind an equally wonderful film too. You can listen to my interview down below (the actual talk starts 13 minutes in).
Jaime Rebanal: Dolly, I just want to say congratulations on the effort behind this debut film of yours so I want to know, for you, since I’ve always seen you in front of the camera, what was the most terrifying thing about having to work behind the camera?
Dolly Wells: I would say that it was definitely the technical sides of directing. So I was incredibly lucky with my cast and really brilliant actors, that felt, almost not really like a stretch. It felt confusing, and I had such a brilliant DP, but it didn’t turn into being terrifying. But I was frightened about the language, like “what do I say if I want to go closer or crossing a line, or any jibs” – I didn’t know the language for technical side of directing. So there’ll be moments of feeling like an impostor.
JR: But eventually it turned into a good learning experience for you?
DW: Very much so, absolutely.
JR: And Emily, since you’ve been working with Dolly for such a long time, what was the most exciting thing about being directed by her this time around?
Emily Mortimer: It was just so cool seeing her in this new role I’ve never seen her before. And I’ve always known that she was so brilliant and has been so brilliant in everything she’s put her mind to. But I just never had seen her direct people before and her being in charge of a room of, crew of fifty people or so. It was incredibly impressive and beautiful, really, to see somebody that you know stepping into this challenge and it just came so easily to her, she was so good at it. She’s really good, she’s very natural as a director and I feel like this is just the first of many movies that she’s going to make.
JR: And Dolly, have you always wanted to direct?
DW: I don’t know. I think I probably did but I would be too scared. Jamie Adams is the reason why we’re all sitting here. He makes improvised films, and he just kept coming to me. I said “no,” the first time, and then I started to do a play with Grace called The Whirligig. I said, “I can’t, we’re doing a play,” and I’m so pleased that I said I couldn’t, because if I didn’t do the play, I wouldn’t meet Grace. And if I hadn’t met Grace, we haven’t gotten much of a family, I wouldn’t know her and be able to have a star in my film and that’s such a beautiful thing. So timewise it all worked out, but yes, I think I probably did always want to direct. But I didn’t want to admit it to myself because it feels like a frightening thing and it also feels like a male thing. So, I thought “I wouldn’t be good at that,” I don’t know.
JR: It’s always awesome to see more women behind the camera because in a world where I know so many male filmmakers are pretty much everywhere, it almost feels kind of boring – like I’ve seen the same movie almost all the time.
Grace Van Patten: And we were talking about how all the men in the movie do have a real sensitive, kind of feminine side to them – which is probably because they were directed by a woman.
JR: I love that! So for all of you, I want to know, what was the most rewarding thing about working on this movie?
GVP: Probably getting to work with my friends, it was the most amazing experience because I’ve never felt so free and confident and trusted, so it really gave me the ability to just go for it and try new things and not feel judged. It was a really supportive atmosphere, and that felt better than anything I’ve ever done.
EM: I feel like it was so rewarding being able to work in such a relaxed environment, where you felt really trusted and trusting of everybody and everything that was happening, and it was totally down to Dolly; she created that atmosphere. It made you feel really free and you could sort of be your best self, and I think that’s very rare. I’ve never had that feeling so much before.
DW: I would love to take responsibility for it, but I don’t think I really can. Like they said in Rolling Stone, you can’t really take your eyes of Grace – and Grace is the film. You’re being taken by Grace through all these feelings which are very relevant to your age or anything, or whatever pain you’re suffering, and you go through this journey. So, for me it was incredible to have that doing this, and then to have this relationship between these two (Grace and Emily) was like a joy to watch that doing this.
JR: And for many actors-turned-directors, I know that some of them also say that directing in a way is kind of like acting, would you agree with that?
DW: No, I knew that I didn’t want to be in the film. I knew my limitations. I think directing is like really watching and really loving something, so you really want to concentrate completely on what these people are doing. Whereas acting, I mean, I love acting just as much in a different way – but I think they’re different things. I think with acting; you can’t get help with your priorities yourself: “Have I learnt my lines?” “Does this all look okay?” “Was I really bad in that scene?” With directing, it’s kind of a relief, and it’s not your fault. You’re just thinking of only telling the story properly. And I think the thing that’s lucky as an actor, and with people you love, you want every take, you want them to be just brilliant. You want it to be them doing their best job?
JR: For all of you, I do want to ask you, what’s the best thing about getting the chance to work together again?
EM: We realized that from doing Doll & Em together, I think when you collaborate with people you know and love, you already have a common language with them. You know that you have similar sensibilities, and it’s really artistically fulfilling and fruitful. So I feel like we all knew each other in various ways and felt already so safe, and Dolly brought together this group of people that all had connections and it was A: really fun but B: very creatively fulfilling.
GVP: Well, I’ve never worked with Emily before, but she is my next-door neighbour. So we know each other in that way and I was so excited to work with her. And Dolly played my mom in a play, and I’m so excited to be able to work with her as a director and see that side of her?
DW: Well, I’ve worked with both of them and they’re both really talented actresses, and they’re both really wonderful, cool people, so it was nice just to be with them.