By Craig Phillips
Artist-actress-filmmaker-writer Miranda July is so hyphenated she's hard to keep up with, and has had to rev herself up even further with the release of Me and You and Everyone We Know. Her debut as a feature director, the film is startling in its assuredness and acuity, and even more startling, won the Camera D'or at Cannes this year, as well as the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, where it also caught the eye of Roger Ebert. The critic called it "delicate, tender, poetic, and yet so daring in some of its scenes that you sit in uncertain suspense." As I wrote in my review after seeing it at the San Francisco International Film Festival, as good as the film looks, it's July's easy way with the actors, who range in age from senior citizen to 6 years old (the astonishing Brandon Ratcliffe), that is the real revelation here.
July's been making film for years, with her short film Getting Stronger Everyday a particular treat, while also wearing the hats of performance artist, writer, musician, collaborator, producer and visual artist. She was long a part of the art and music scene of the Pacific Northwest (although she grew up in the Bay Area and now lives in Los Angeles), but with Me and You and Everyone We Know slowly releasing nationwide (appropriately enough, in July), the hope here is that her multifarious work will find the wider audience it deserves.
She speaks endearingly with a lilt that modestly adds a question mark to the end of many of her sentences, giving off the impression of being reticent to speak too much when not performing or "on," which has the interesting effect of making the interviewer feel like the one doing the confessing. We spoke in San Francisco in May. For anything not covered in this interview, I highly recommend her insightful and amusing blog.
When you were at Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival with other directors, when Me and You and Everyone We Know was selected, did you think, "Oh, yeah, I'm officially a director now" - or has it not quite hit you? People like John Sayles were there...
And I'm easily - it doesn't take John Sayles to make me feel nervous and alienated. I mean, he's a nice guy but in a group situation it's often harder for me than one on one, or in front of an audience. I was in front of 1,600 people later that night and was somehow fine.
And you can be prominently on screen, on film, and feel fine?
Right, that's the same sort of performance kind of energy.
Miranda July in Me and You and Everyone We Know
As a woman filmmaker do you feel it's still a challenge to break in, get films made, even in the indie world?
You know, it's funny, I did sense when I was pitching the movie and trying to come up with financing that there might have been a little bit of prejudice there. Although you can never really tell why people are passing when they're passing. Probably more likely they were passing because of its lack of stars - I didn't want to put stars in it. But once I was making the movie, it seemed completely normal - I was the director, of course, it's my world. But once I was done, and got to Sundance, and was one of two women out of sixteen movies in competition, I was kind of stunned. And then I looked around me, realized, wait a second, wow, this is just so insidious. And you look at all these different points and ask, "Does it happen here? These people don't seem sexist. Is it here?" It's really kind of everywhere, but in ways people don't like to talk about because they're all struggling to move up. So it definitely seems something's gotta change, but I don't know what or how...
It's weird, because on the surface you'd expect "indie film" to be more progressive on that issue.
Well, indie film is only "indie" until you're done making the movie, and then you're selling it and it's no longer indie film. And all the agents are the same agents, for everyone.
Who were some of your role models - for filmmaking or acting or art - when you were coming of age?
Growing up, my biggest influences probably were friends of mine. I had a best friend who went on to be in a band and we had a fanzine together. We became artists together. I never went to art school. I was just very good at having mentors - I didn't like the idea of authority. It was very much about me and my friends, and for a long time it was girls in bands, even though I was always doing my own movies and performing, that was kind of the world I was in. And then meeting other artists. Harrell Fletcher, who I collaborated with on Learning to Love You More, was a big influence. And different women filmmakers through Big Miss Movieola, the distribution network I started when I was younger. It's much more about peers and finding people who were living life in a different way, a way I could relate to.
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