'Off the Cuff' Podcast: This Is How 'Kelly & Cal' Director Got Juliette Lewis to Star in Indie Role

Philip Lott

Jen McGowan tells #pretapodcasts about nabbing big names for her first feature and why she still longs to make her own 'Ghostbusters'

"Juliette Lewis happened because she's awesome, and we asked her, and she said yes."

This is Jen McGowan's explanation for how her little movie that could landed one of the coolest actresses on the block, in a dramatic departure from the roles we're used to seeing her inhabit. Kelly & Cal follows the growing relationship between a frustrated, aimless new mother (Lewis) and the paraplegic teenage boy next door who falls for her. It's a May-December romance that toes a fine line between audience sympathy and disapproval — a line McGowan was very conscious of while shooting.

"One way too much, one way too little," is how she describes a particularly intimate scene between Lewis and co-star Jonny Weston. The film also has a lot of fun with Lewis' real-life musical chops, with a soundtrack that boasts some original music by the actress in all her Riot Grrrl glory.

Out in select theaters and VOD on Sept. 5, Kelly & Cal earned McGowan the Gamechanger Emergent Woman Director Award at this year's SXSW Film Festival (for context, that's the same award Lena Dunham won for Tiny Furniture.) She tells Off the Cuff how industry speed-dating led her to this script and why her love for independent cinema doesn't mean she wouldn't still like to helm a blockbuster some day.

"We need a lot of different stories," she says. "Otherwise we don't get the whole story of humanity, which is the point of telling stories in the first place."

Listen to McGowan's full interview in this episode of Off the Cuff, and be sure to subscribe to #pretapodcasts on iTunes for all the latest episodes.