Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Oct 9th, 2012

Director Noah Baumbach discusses his new film Frances Ha

Courtesy of Pine District Pictures

Noah Baumbach’s well examined look at love blending in both it’s disappointment and joy in relationships, can be found in his latest movie Frances Ha, screening October 10th at the New York Film Festival. Baumbach’s career started at the festival, which is celebrating it’s 50th amazing year. It was there he showed Kicking and Screaming, the first film he wrote and directed at the age of 26. He continues to write and direct his own hand crafted unique films with stellar casts. His film in 2005 called The Squid and the Whale was a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about his childhood, for which he got an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. This was followed by Margot at the Wedding, which examines his favorite theme marriage and families and the fascinating challenges they bring.

This movie is so different from your other movies yet covers the subject of the complexities of relationships.

This movie was less about budget. It was more about approaching it in a new way. When I did my first movie there wasn’t the technology that there is now. I also felt like if I was going to do something differently with a studio film, I wanted to reinvent how I made that movie a little bit. So with this film it was less about budget and more about the philosophy of shooting I guess.

So what was your approach?

I was comparing it to making a record by creating a big sound yet personal, like Paul McCartney did after he left the Beatles. I wanted to make this movie like he made his records, like in his basement with his wife. To me, they sounded very personal and intimate. There is a traditional way of making pop records. I thought that’s what we did (with this movie), make a record version of a movie. We can put a small group of people together and make it homemade in some ways but just like a great pop album.

You write your own screenplays. Please explain how you give the material to the actors?

On this one there was something interesting happening, in that I gave them just the scene, not the entire script. By having actors just read their scenes, not the whole script, that was the experiment. Most actors figure out where the scene is in the whole flow of the movie, like this scene must be near the end when they read it. I think when you know too well where everything is going, it’s not as interesting. So I just wanted them to focus on the scene they were in and not tell them the whole movie.

So what was the challenge in shooting it that way?

There are turning points throughout the movie. Sometimes I think it’s shared over the course of a long shoot for an actor to either forget where the scene falls or as I said, you know too well where it falls as the director. With this movie, I shot it chronologically. With the structure of the script I realized more consciously while I was writing it, less so when I was directing it, where everything is. It has a lot of little scenes in a row, and each moment is like a punch. Then you get to a long scene like on the subway and it goes to real time and that goes through the whole movie . So the movie is structured by different locations because she keeps going to different places. I came at it with that in mind I think. I also came up with specific shots and themes that way also.

So did this help you with the editing process?

Yes, by structuring it that way it’s a continuation of what I did on The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding. It’s a big part of my editing. I generally know what I want to be in and out of the scene during the editing process. Sometimes it means cutting someone off in the middle of a sentence or whether you should let the sentence go into the next shot. Or something like that. I guess it’s more of a kind of feeling you get.

You shot this movie in black and white which very few directors do these days? Why?

Shooting in black and white allowed for a feeling I wanted to convey. It’s something I have wanted to do, shooting in black and white in New York. There is something so clearly cinematic about black and white. I wanted to shoot this in a very formal way. There is no hand held camera for example. The music is grand and romantic. It’s very difficult to shoot anything commercially on black and white film. We shot digitally in color but I never saw it. I was at the monitor that was in black and white then edited in black and white.

The Film was shown at the New York Film Festival celebrating its 50th Anniversary and screens on October 10th.

Called by the festival as a love poem to his co writer and star Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha also stars Mickey Sumner who turns in a command performance. She is the daughter of Sting and Trudi Styler and plays the best friend of Gerwig.

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Director Noah Baumbach discusses his new film Frances Ha