Greta Gerwig

On Finally Becoming a Writer-Director with Lady Bird

It’s hard to know exactly when I started writing Lady Bird. I know I had a draft of it at the end of 2013, which was very long. It’s sitting on my computer, it’s 350 pages, it’s called Mothers and Daughters, and it’s extremely boring. I tend to write to hunches. I don’t know what the thing is going to be until it’s completed. I think part of that mystery keeps me interested in what it is. I knew I wanted to make something about Sacramento, I knew I wanted to make something about a mother and a daughter, and that was really all I knew. Soon, I had a draft that was a reasonable length–around 120 pages.

I’ve always wanted to direct, and because I didn’t go to film school, I spent a lot of time doing anything I could to be around film sets. I wrote, I acted, I produced, and I had this moment where I was like, “I don’t think you’re going to learn any more by not doing it, and I think now is the time. You either jump or you don’t.” I think when the fear of not having tried becomes greater than the fear of failure, that’s when you decide to do it.

On the Possibility of Acting in Her Own Films

I actually have no interest in directing myself. I’m amazed at the people who can do it. I am not the kind of actor who could accomplish that. I really think I would be bad at both things at once. Also, one of the greatest pleasures I have ever had is watching great actors make my words come alive. They’re just words on a page, and now they’re people living inside me. From a selfish standpoint, I wouldn’t want to rob myself of that experience.

Director Greta Gerwig at the Outstanding Directors Award panel during The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Photograph by Rebecca Sapp


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