Oscar and Emmy award winning actress Helen Hunt (“As Good As It Gets,” “Mad About You,” “Cast Away”) has been a household name in Hollywood for years, and her career, which has expanded to including directing and writing in addition to acting, is still going strong. Her new film, “Ride,” follows Jackie, a New York City mother who chases her son to Los Angeles when he drops out of college to surf. Hunt wrote, directed and starred in the film and participated in a discussion about her filmmaking process in a 92Y Reel Pieces with Annette Insdorf talk.
Watch the full conversation above and check out a few highlights below.
Hunt wanted to change up the traditional mother/son dynamic.
When asked how she came up with her idea for the film, Hunt brought up the stereotypical concept of what a mother does. “It came out of hearing this phrase ‘soccer mom,'” she said. “There’s these mothers on the beach and in the stands and these sons and daughters out there playing, and I thought ‘Hm, [it’d] be nice to mix that up.” She based some of the film’s thematic material on an essay titled “The Bad Mother” about dangers that occur when parents become too “parental,” and unwilling to play with their children.
Romantic relationships took a backseat to familial ones.
Insdorf praised the film’s treatment of the older woman-younger man relationship as secondary and non-problematic and Hunt was quick to agree. “I wrote it as a love story between a mother and a son—mother has son, mother loses son, mother gets son maybe in a new way,” she said. “The romance was always meant to be second or third to that.”
The ambiguity of the film’s ending was purposeful.
Insdorf wanted to know what happened to Jackie after the final scene of the film, but Hunt wasn’t willing to give any specifics, explaining that it fit better with the film to have an ambiguous ending. “I think that was the thought; that really it’s been all so planned and dictated and controlled that she needs to not know what’s coming next,” she said. “I think there’s meant to be big spaces in the life of someone whose life had no spaces.”
Emotional whiplash in writing doesn’t faze Hunt.
When asked about the emotional tones of her films, which span everything from hilarious to heartbreaking, Hunt explained that she didn’t see it as a major feat or triumph. “I’ve been asked a lot ‘How did you deal with the tone,'” she said. “I don’t even understand that because my life is really funny and really terrifying and tragic in one hour a lot.” She went on to say that she’d rather have a movie follow a realistic emotional spectrum than stay in any one particular feeling.
Hunt’s desire to direct came out of writing.
Hunt didn’t initially want to be a director, mentioning that she never looked at the directors on her movies sets hoping to one day be in their shoes. “It just looked like a headache to me,” she said. But venturing into screenwriting changed her outlook on the job: “I began to feel that I didn’t want to make this story and then hand it to someone else. I wanted to make the story.”
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