Alison Eastwood on Father Clint's Top Directing Advice: "Get a Lot of Sleep"

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Alison Eastwood

The 'Battlecreek' helmer talks about acting, growing up in Hollywood and even a little politics (hint: she and her dad "just agree to disagree") as her sophomore film screens at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

You’re familiar with her father’s directing — he’s won three Oscars for it — but Clint’s daughter Alison Eastwood also is starting to build a career behind the camera. The 43-year-old former actress (“Acting hasn’t been in the scene for a while”) will screen her sophomore directorial effort, Battlecreek, on Feb. 6 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. A low-budget indie about a loner with a rare skin disease (Bill Skarsgard) who has a life-altering meeting with a young woman after her car breaks down, it’s exactly the sort of film Eastwood loves most. “I’ve always been kind of drawn to people who might be damaged or have issues,” she told The Hollywood Reporter on the eve of the screening.

What made you decide to direct Battlecreek?

A childhood friend of mine [Anthea Anka] had written it. We reconnected after growing up and I really liked the character Henry. I thought there was something really beautiful about the fact that he was so pure and innocent. I like that he has an A to B journey. I think I was really drawn to it because it made me sort of moody. Also, I’ve always liked films that take in place in the South, and the feeling of Americana, and the sort of backwardness of it sometimes ... the frozen-in-time feel. My co-producer is a woman and the writer is a woman and I'm very much for working with other women and trying to continue bringing women into film, to the forefront of this business.

Were you influenced by any other directors while making this film?

I mean, there's obviously directors that are great and I appreciate their films, but what influences me is trying to do my best to tell the story. I always appreciate it when you can watch film and not feel that the director has sort of imposed their ego onto it by being very gratuitous or keeping scenes really long, because they're so in love with their work. I just really wanted to step out of the way and try to let the story unfold, and the actors do their job. I always just try to let the story go where it wants to go, and do my best to run the ship, without being a dictator. My influence is directors who want to keep themselves in the background, as opposed to the forefront. I try to use that as my inspiration.

How hard was it to get this movie made? Did you get a green light immediately?

We finally got this movie after many years of struggling and having different budgets and different casts and putting the money together, having it fall apart, and actually having the trials and tribulations of putting together an independent film. To actually get it up and running and to be there making it was such a great feat; I'm hoping that kind of came across in a subtext in the project. It almost killed us to get [the film] made and we almost gave up. At one point we were like, "Forget it, we just can't do this anymore." How long do you try to put a project together before you move on?

Is there a certain type of movie you want to direct, or do you want to experience a whole range of genres?

I like to make films that I would go and see. I'm not into sci-fi or superhero movies. I'm really into sort of indie art-house films and small dramas and things that remind us of our humanity, as opposed to taking us out into another world.

What advice did your dad give you on directing?

He has a dry sense of humor. So his biggest piece of advice for me as a director was, “Make sure you get a lot of sleep, because you're going to need it.” That was his big piece of advice. He has a funny way of giving support through different weird ways of saying things, so that it's not so direct. He's just kind of encouraging in a different way, and has a funny way of passing on words of wisdom. I don't think he's ever discouraged any of the kids from acting or wanting to direct or produce, but certainly he really hasn't encouraged it either. But once we’ve gotten different roles, he’s definitely very supportive of what everyone does and tries to be helpful.

He did tell me when I was directing my first movie [2007’s Rails & Ties], “Make sure that you make a definitive decision about what it is you want to do, what you want from the movie, or the characters or the actors, and don't stray.” And then he made a somewhat funny, derogatory comment about women directors, saying that a lot of them can be very wishy-washy, not know what they want, and they end up shooting things all different ways and not really having a definite vision. If you want to represent your gender, be very specific in your vision, and stick with it no matter what. Believe in what you're doing, as opposed to changing your mind or being wishy-washy in the middle of production, because the crew and your actors are sort of looking for you to have a very clear path.

Has your dad’s involvement in politics influenced you at all?

We don’t share the same political views. We just agree to disagree. There’s two things we don’t ever talk about: politics and religion. I always look for somebody who I think can fight that David and Goliath battle and be honest. I'm a Bernie Sanders fan. I don't have a problem with the fact that he labels himself a socialist. I mean, I still believe in democracy. I like his message and the fact that he doesn't seem to be supported by big money and big corporations. But people like Donald Trump who just promote negativity and hate really frighten me.

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