Thursday, January 6, 2011

Miranda July on "Me and You and Everyone We Know"

Where did the idea for the script come from?

MIRANDA JULY: I had the idea for a while that I would eventually write a feature film and that I'd make it. I didn't really know anything about the industry, but I figured that if I'd made a half-hour movie I could make one that was an hour and a half.

The way that I write anything is pretty free-associative and magical. Usually I just start with a structure. The idea was to have these multiple story lines that converged in surprising ways. That structure gave me the freedom to write from where I was each day and add characters as I needed to.

Did you know where you were headed with the story and the characters when you started?

MIRANDA JULY: No, but I had a strong feeling, an emotional touchstone in me. That feeling was in me from the beginning and I knew when I would write a scene that would be filled with that feeling or when I would write a scene that was irrelevant to that feeling.

For example, one day I wrote the scene that was eventually the ending -- the tapping the quarter thing -- but I wrote that probably a year before I actually finished writing the script, so it wasn't like I wrote chronologically or anything.

What is your writing process?

MIRANDA JULY: At the very beginning, I just sit down and write dialogue. Writing dialogue was very familiar to me, because I'd been doing that for performances for a long time. Then I act out the characters as I'm writing that dialogue.

But I usually start with some really irrelevant detail, seemingly out of left field. Like, "I know she has a powder compact in this scene." So I'm starting with that, rather than starting with, "She needs to connect with this man." There's something about the irrelevance and the physicality of something like that. And often it’s humor that gets me into a scene, because I'm enjoying myself when I'm writing something funny. And in enjoying myself, just as hopefully the audience will, you kind of open up and then other stuff can come out, maybe deeper stuff.

So it's never starting with the big idea; it's always something physical or quite often something visual. For example, a little door peephole that a girl can open in the door. Sometimes I'll write a scene and I won't know until later why that little door will be opened. It seems very magical to me, like, “Oh, Richard knocks on the door because he's looking for his son,” but I actually already wrote a version with a girl opening a peephole, without any clear objective.

At what point do you start to connect these disparate scenes?

MIRANDA JULY: Pretty quickly there are characters. And characters have intentions, whether you're conscious of it or not and pretty quickly there's a set of problems. So then much of the scenes come out of trying to solve problems. Like, how can the audience be reminded that she's thinking about him? And that becomes the scene with the "Me" and "You" shoes.

There's a certain point where there's just enough stuff where you establish problems and at that point you start solving problems.

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