MM: She’s so much the actor of the moment right now, in all these festival films, but I think she’s really good at sort of not being

KR: She’s a discovery, because you first know her from Twilight. And all of a sudden, in The Runaways, I was like, wait a minute. I had never seen a Twilight. I just had an idea of it. And then when I was working with Dakota [Fanning on Night Moves], I watched a Twilight. I watched the wrong one; Dakota wasn’t even in it. [laughs] Okay.

But then Kristen starts doing all this other stuff, and she’s doing it really well. Usually, the thing is you’re in these small films to sort of get started. Kristen’s doing it all in reverse. You know, after people are in big movies, you don’t know if they can do smaller, or more vulnerable, or just mix it up. And I think everyone at once is realizing she’s got a lot of untapped area in her, and she’s game. So yeah, okay, that’s pretty cool.

MM: In Night Moves, you worked with the three different actors who had very different approaches to it. Was it similar on this?

KR: Everybody has such a different approach. There’s no mastering it, because everyone is different. Just like every relationship is different, right? Laura Dern isprobably from making that TV show, or from making movies for so many yearsI realized like, oh, she’s thinking about where the cut is. She’s not just thinking about where the camera is. She knows where the cut is going to be. She should just direct, because she knows.

By the time she came, it’s 18 degrees. I’ve been standing in the cold. She’s fresh. And she’s just coming, and it’s getting harder to get through the days, and I’m like, “Something’s not working in this area…” She’s like a laser. She’ll be like, “It’s when he says this,” and she’s right. That’s the moment. I never worked with someone who felt so much like a filmmaker in their own right. So that was really interesting and fun. And fortunately, she’s smart [laughs]. She’s really right, so it’s like, “Thanks, Laura.”

With Michelle, it’s easy because there’s a shortcut language with her. Now she’s so confident, too. It’s better. Between Le Gros, Jared and Rene it was a great cast. I felt lucky with all of them.

Laura Dern in a scene from Certain Women.

MM: You shot on film. Can you talk about why that’s important to you?

KR: We originally thought we would shoot on film, and then we thought it just wasn’t practical, because it would take so long. We’re in Montana. By the time I get dailies back, that actress will already be gone, because we’ll be onto the next section. We don’t have the money to bring them back for reshoots, so we can’t shoot film.

So then we did a test shoot digitally. There was a ton of snow that day. (I thought the whole movie was going to be snow-covered, but now there’s no such thing as snow anymore.) But in that snow-covered day, in HD, the snow just has no texture. It’s just like, a blue sky and a white line. There’s just no depth to it. So at the last second, we were just like, “We’ve gotta shoot film. We don’t have time to test our lenses. We don’t have time for any more tests. We’re just going to go for it.”

MM: Must have been nerve-wracking.

KR: It was nerve-wracking. It was hard, because we did have some lens issues. It took us a while to figure out. I thought I was going to be able to talk everyone into it, but [producers] Neil [Kopp] and Anish [Savjani] and [DP] Chris Blauvelt, everyone wanted to shoot film. I mean, the loader’s hands… Day one, it’s like negative six degrees and by lunch, she was crying. Crying. Film is hard, but it’s nice. It’s really nice. MM

Certain Women opened in theaters October 14, 2016, courtesy of IFC Films.

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