LAFF 2012: 3 Female Filmmakers Stake Out Their Turf at Festival
Unlike Cannes, which drew flack for leaving out women directors, the L.A. Film Fest has a female-heavy lineup that includes movies from Lorene Scafaria ("Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"), Rashida Jones ("Celeste and Jesse Forever") and Lauren Greenfield ("The Queen of Versailles").
This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
In May, the Cannes Film Festival drew flak when it failed to include any women directors in its elite competition lineup. LAFF doesn't have to worry on that score. It is screening more than 30 films directed by women throughout its schedule, from its galas to its competition slates. And there are even more films written or produced by women. "It's bizarre there were no women at Cannes," says the festival's David Ansen. "There are so many women making movies these days."
Even before Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, which she wrote, was released in 2008, Scafaria sold a pitch for her current movie, with herself attached to direct, to Mandate Pictures. She'd come to realize that with "infinite" in its title, the love story she told in Nick could go on forever. But what would happen "if you took forever off the table -- what would that do for a relationship?" She imagined an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, and that led her to the title Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Steve Carell plays a man ready to give up on life until his neighbor (Keira Knightley) coaxes him into a road trip. "It's an intimate story about relationships told against an epic backdrop," the director says.
The Parks and Recreation actress and her friend, actor Will McCormack, had been talking about collaborating for several years before they finally sat down to write together in 2008. Their premise: Flip When Harry Met Sally on its head. Instead of a man and woman who try to be best friends but instead fall in love, start with a couple who married young and are heading for divorce but are determined to remain pals. "Will and I grew up loving romantic comedies," Jones says. "We wanted to pay tribute to them, but with a slightly modern twist." Jones ended up playing Celeste, Andy Samberg came on board as Jesse, and Lee Toland Krieger stepped in to direct on a budget so tight that Jones drives her own car onscreen.
Greenfield was working as a photographer, shooting Donatella Versace for Elle, when she was introduced to one of the designer's best clients: Jackie Siegel, a Miami Beach socialite whose husband, David, who specialized in selling time-shares, was building what the couple billed as "the biggest house in America." Greenfield was immediately drawn to Jackie: "She has a generosity of spirit and is very charismatic." Several photo sessions led to a documentary, and when the family's fortunes went bust, they had developed enough trust in Greenfield to let her keep her camera rolling. The resulting film, a winner at Sundance, says the director, "is really a metaphor for our choices and also our national situation."