After a lengthy and successful career as a screenwriter, Maya Forbes goes one step further by personally bringing her latest story "Infinitely Polar Bear" to the screen. The dramedy, starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana, manages to bring out the dark humor and inspiring warmth derived from even the most heartbreaking of subjects, in this case the mental illness that plagues a financially-troubled family.
What It's About: 1978. Mark Ruffalo plays a manic-depressive man recovering from a breakdown. He tries to repair his family by taking responsibility of his two young daughters while his wife becomes the family breadwinner.
So What It's Really About: Love. And mental illness and gender roles and race and class and difficult choices and the way children and parents take care of each other in unexpected ways. It's about what it's like to be part of a family, the highs and the lows, and what it's like to love a person who is troubled.
Tell us briefly about yourself. I started my career writing for "The Larry Sanders Show" and spent a bunch of years writing television comedy. I started writing with my husband, Wally Wolodarsky, after our first daughter was born in 1999, and we write mostly screenplays. I wrote this script on my own because it was guided by memories and feelings I'd had -- and when I was done, I knew I had to direct it. It took 5 years to get it made. This is the kind of movie I like best; some will see it as a comedy, while others will experience it as a drama. I wanted it to be entertaining and authentic and emotional at the same time.
What was your biggest challenge in completing this film? Maintaining perspective! It is easy to lose your way as you watch a
film again and again. You need to remember your initial reactions and
your original intentions and stick to them like a road map. The other
tremendous challenge was the fact that Wally and I have three children
and it was hard to balance that with the demands of directing,
especially since he produced the film and was on the set with me every
day. The movie is in part about a mother leaving her children to pursue
a career, so I guess it was inevitable.
What do you want the Sundance audience to take away from your film? I want the audience to feel like they piled into a car with this family and laughed a lot and sang some songs and heard some good stories. I hope people are moved and that they connect, through the film, to their own family memories and relive some of the feelings they experienced as children.
What cameras did you shoot on? The Alexa and a Bell + Howell Super 8.
Have any films inspired you? The 400 Blows. Melvin and Howard. Small Change. Terms of Endearment. The Bad News Bears. My Life as a Dog. All those movies have a lot of warmth and a love for humanity. They are all funny and heartbreaking.
What's next for you? Writing and directing more movies! I feel like I will be a better writer now. Directing makes every decision count more.
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2014 festival. For profiles go HERE.