Celebrity Interview: Director Noah Baumbach Talks on the Making of Mistress America, Manhattan and Romanticizing

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Noah Baumbach, Director of Mistress America, recently released on DVD in time for the holidays, spoke during the media junket on the current project, his collaboration with Greta Gerwig, romanticizing versus reality and how particular elements of a place play into his films.

Baumbach who also co-wrote the film, talked on character development for the troubled, perpetually hopeful character of Brooke, and how her personality, and the events that shape it, took shape, not only with a comedic value but with depth that kept him engaged in the writing and collaboration process, "If it hadn't we wouldn't have explored it beyond that."

Collaborating with Greta Gerwig, who plays Brooke, on other projects Baumbach describes the character as someone with almost more integrity than is good for her. Her desire to be wealthy without actually earning wealth clearly and almost a centric New York idea.

Shooting in New York often has its own set of issues, to which he describes, "This is the third film I've shot in New York and I'm from Brooklyn. So it was a coming home of sorts."

Moving ahead Baumbach is working on his next film which begins shooting sometime 2016. No snippets or tidbits as he stated, "I can't really talk about it" when asked.

Below is our interview.

Janet Walker: Hi How are you?

Noah Baumbach: Fine, how are you?

JW: Doing well. Thanks. Okay. So we've heard from Greta, we've heard from Lola [Lola Kirke/Tracy], I'd like to ask you a few questions about the writing process.

The two of you seem to have this great collaboration going and I asked her a little bit about what I thought was the overriding theme of romanticizing the process of Manhattan as opposed to what Manhattan is and the idea of Manhattan, the idea of writing as opposed to what writing really is and she talked a little bit about that so if you could describe a little bit about how, as both, not only  as director capturing it but as the writer what did you bring into that collaboration process with her to develop this idea of imaginary, this romanticizing of what things are as opposed to reality.

JW: [laughing] Sorry.

NB: No, that's a good way to articulate it. I've never articulated it quite that clearly when we were working on it. I think because we started with Brooke, as she may have mentioned. The character was the first idea, in a way.

And what amused us about the character but was also compelling about her was this sort of not only she's got a romantic idea about who she but the idea that character is but even the character was certain kind of sometimes, and particularly in New York, somebody who's sort of as she refers to her at the end, 'A cowboy who is fighting some old fight' you know.

So I think that informed, in a lot of cases, the tone of the movie. It felt like it had an elevated comic tone in that and the second half of the movie goes further in that direction. But I think there was always this idea to of that kind of character coming up against certain kind of real realities, real aspects of the city, real aspects of her own character, and what happens when those things start to come apart.

And it's obviously like a joke she lives in Times Square but it's also a kind of old fashioned idea and slightly foolish idea of where you might live in New York City but in her reality she gets locked out of her apartment and it was always sort of like where romance and reality clash.

JW: I thought there was a lot of destructive maneuvering around her, the roommate, that she had had for some time and ended up stealing her idea, which is a very 90's or 2000's more this century  that the 80's or 90's where she is at, the whole idea of having this t-shirt idea that sells to J-Crew, or the Gap or whomever and having the huge house in Connecticut and all those things that are upwardly mobile or the five year plan after you move on to those things and she's still in this Manhattan-esqe – I can make it here, I can do it and all of those things that destructive maneuvering around here even with Lola character's to be noticed as a writer and how did you develop that kind of through line through that was that just an off shoot of the people around her or?

NB: Well Yea. I think that she's for all her maneuvering too, she leaves herself vulnerable to be taken advantage of because she doesn't have money she doesn't have,  another version her Greek boyfriend pulls the money out of her restaurant and gets her kicked her out of her apartment. Each thing that she is doing is the only thing she's got.

I think the difference in some ways with the betrayal she experienced with Tracy on one hand she experiences it as a betrayal but I think what we always felt in the end of movie is that it also in some ways gives her a chance. The fact is Tracy writes those things about her but Tracy loves her anyway. Tracy sees her and through her and loves her nonetheless. And that can be freeing in a way, I think to be loved beyond your persona and I think that's what we see at the end with Brooke.  She I always felt like she has a chance if she gets out.

Also Mistress America Review - A Charming, Madcap, Manhattan Adventure

JW: Tell us, describe to us a little bit when the screenplay was picked up?

NB: We didn't show it to anybody. RT Pictures who financed Frances, I sort of have/had a deal with them they were going to make it without showing it to them. I was just going to make it. They would know that it wasn't anything experimental that it was commercially viable to the degree that I do that and it would have these people in it.

JW: If you had a memorable moment throughout the process what would it be?

NB: Well I don't know if there is one particular moment. The stuff in the house, because there were so many elements that had to go right. So when all things kind of converge and the actors hit their marks, and the cameras hit its mark, the lines were all in the right rhythm and performances and just to get one those and feel like maybe this isn't so crazy. [laughter]

Mistress America is now available from FOX Home Entertainment just in time for holiday gift giving. 

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