If you hadn’t heard of Brit Marling prior to 2011, you’re like most people – she was still a struggling unknown, trying to build a career as an artist using a degree in economics, and not much else. But within the past eleven months, the actress, screenwriter and director has made inroads to Hollywood in ways rivaled only by Jessica Chastain and Michael Fassbender: two films she co-wrote, “Another Earth” and “Sound of My Voice,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and were quickly snapped up by Fox Searchlight for distribution, while as an actress Marling found work sharing the screen with Richard Gere, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, and Shia LaBeouf, for directors of no less stature than Robert Redford. And speaking to The Playlist about the DVD release for “Another Earth,” it seems like she’s learned no shortage of lessons she’ll take with her going forward.
Marling co-wrote “Another Earth” with Mike Cahill, who also served as the film’s director. When asked about the collaborative process on this microbudget film, she explained that Cahill’s contributions were integral to keeping its vision true and its execution coordinated. “I think that Mike has an incredible gift, and I think it’s because he controls so much of the process so intimately,” she said. “He’s not just the director, he’s also the d.p., but not only is he also the d.p., but he camera operates, and then he’s also the editor, and the assistant editor. His experience as a director is so connected to the technology that there’s no remove.”
Prior to “The East,” the film she’s currently shooting with her “Sound of My Voice” collaborator Zal Batmanglij, Marling worked with Redford on “The Company You Keep,” an all-star production scheduled for release next year. She observed that larger productions can place more obstacles in filmmakers’ way, even though they can also provide more resources. “It’s kind of like a telephone game sometimes I feel,” she said. “When you’re directing, you explain something to someone, who explains it to someone, and it finally arrives on screen and you’re hoping that in the telephone game that the message hasn’t gotten too distorted from the original vision. And I think with Mike, because there is no telephone game, he literally is just doing everything, it ends up being so visceral because it’s so true to exactly what he’s feeling. The message or the vision or the idea doesn’t get diluted.”
Marling has now enjoyed two enormously fruitful collaborations, one with Cahill and one with Batmanglij. With “Another Earth” being the first of the two to connect with audiences, and now to come to DVD and BluRay, she observed how that intimacy gave her easier access to filmmaking, much less film acting, as she orients herself in the entertainment world. “It’s amazing to work with Mike in that way, writing together, because what we write is so completely realized, because he’s so in control of it. And it’s also amazing to work with him as an actor, being directed by him, because the set is very small; the experience of making ‘Another Earth’ was so intimate. Oftentimes it would just be Mike and William and I in a room, like that’s it! It’s really different – it’s like the camera becomes your best friend, or your partner.”
When asked what lessons she learned from Redford, meanwhile, she indicated he gave her a larger perspective than merely on what to do in her filmmaking career. “The thing about working with Redford that was so amazing was that I learned so much from him, not just about acting and like storytelling, but about being a human being in the world,” she said. “Being accountable and being awake and aware of what’s happening in the world, and how much that becomes a part of your storytelling process and what you choose to do with it.”
She observed she already owed him a debt of gratitude prior to the collaboration, since it was his film festival where both of her first works were discovered. “The experience of Sundance was so tremendous for me and Mike and Zal, it allowed us to even begin sharing work with people besides our mothers,” she said, laughing. “It has been such a harbor for first-time filmmakers and for artists and actors who get to make their first work. So it was tremendous to get to be a part of a story of his after that, and especially one that he believes in so much, and that has so many great political ideas behind it.”
Meanwhile, Marling said she did also pick up a few tips from him about how to tell stories. “The thing that really blew my mind was that the simplest thing is the best thing – like, you don’t actually have to say that many words,” she revealed. “Especially when you’re young and you’re just starting, if you don’t fully believe in your ideas, so you oversell it or you overshare. And what’s amazing about his work is that he really understands both from the writing and the acting perspective that sometimes the simplest combination of words or fewest words or even no words is saying a lot more than trying to get it all. And I learned that again and again on that shoot, that it was taking lines away, or the spaces in between lines, or that were holding the weight of the scene.”
“It was incredible to work with him,” she continued. “He’s a tremendous inspiration to me, as an artist but also just how he lives his life, you know, and what’s the things that are important to him. So it was really cool.”
“Another Earth” is on DVD and BluRay today.