Writer/director Miranda July made a splash in 2005 with her debut “Me and You and Everyone We Know” at the Sundance Film Festival, picking up a Special Jury Prize at the event and later that year, the Camera d’Or and other nods in Cannes where it had its international debut. Admirers have long contemplated this tour de force’s follow up, and the first U.S. audiences packed its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January for her sophomore effort, “The Future,” starring July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshovsky, Isabelle Acres, Joe Putterlik in addition to a surprising four-legged narrator.
The story centers on a thirty-something couple who begin to change their perspective on life after adopting a cat, which will need around the clock care. The couple live in a small Los Angeles apartment and work in jobs they’re not fond of. They’re aprehensive about caring for the feline because it will drastically alter their freedom. With one month before the adoption is complete, they decide to quit their jobs and the internet to pursue their dreams. Sophie (July) wants to create a dance and Jason (Linklater) wants to be guided by fate. As the month charges on, Sophie becomes paralyzed. In a moment of angst, she calls a square fifty-year old man, Marshall (Warshofsky) who lives in the Valley. Surrounded by suburban bliss, she is able to escape herself. As long as she’s there, she’ll never have to face failure.
Miranda July will join the festivities marking indieWIRE’s 15th anniversary this week at the 92Y Tribeca, with clips from her latest film, which Roadside Attractions will open beginning July 29. She will also take part in Q&A and even some performance art. For more information about iW’s 15th anniversary events, click click here. July spoke with iW about “The Future” back in January…
What was the original impetus behind “The Future”?
It started as a performance, and the performance was also about a couple and the woman has an affair… I guess I wanted to do my style of horror movie, which would involve someone forsaking themselves to such a degree that they were really physically haunted. So it wasn’t like, “I want to make a movie about an affair,” like so many other movies. It was more about a loss of self.
Would it be fair to say that there was sort of a pre-mid-life crisis situation going on for you?
There’s a time roughly between 30 to 35 that if you’re not having some crises you’re probably not turning into an adult. You’re getting to the point where the future also means the end a little bit. You suddenly have a sense of finite time.
At some point you realize your mortality…
Not in any “I’m consumed with death,” sort of way but more just like, “Oh, this is it. Right.” And if I spend it with this one person then that’s going to be my main experience in this life.
I noticed that the working title for the film was “Satisfaction” and that could have been very appropriate for this film as well.
Yeah, I liked it but I realized it could be the title of a totally different movie. In fact, it is, I think there is a girl band flick from the ’80s titled that. I wanted something a little more wide open and harder to know what exactly that would mean.
The narration is an unconventional mention. How do you think fans of “Me and You and Everyone We Know” will react to that?
It kind of depends what they liked about the movie. I think a lot of people connected to things that maybe to me weren’t as essential, like the comedy. I use humor a lot but maybe some of the sadder things felt more crucial. If they were down for that strange emotional terrain then this is the next step, I want to go further into that.
This film incorporates our reality with Youtube and the availability of media to be at our disposal. Do you think this film could have been made a couple of decades ago?
Yeah, I think so. I think the desire to be watched is nothing new. Things like Youtube respond to that desire, so it’s more of a convenient, modern way to show something that is pretty human, especially for young women.
What would your character, Sophie, have done to get attention before Youtube, if this were 1980?
What did people do back then? I think all you could do was wear a mini skirt, go to the mall and hope for the best.
What do you admire about Sophie?
That’s hard. I think I put all my good qualities into Jason. I guess I admire that she takes the wrong path all the way. I would never do that, but sometimes you’re curious. It’s not the best parts of yourself that are keeping you from that and there’s something about that boldness that I admire.
So what do you admire about Jason?
He is me on a good day, which is very open and curious and also trusting of fate and having a lot of blind faith. Not that that’s not tested, you know, not that he doesn’t have long periods of doubt, but I think you gain a lot when you can keep believing in things you can’t see.
During your post-screening Q&A [at Sundance] you said your father would say, “Isn’t sadness kind of interesting?” Can you expand on that? How did you take it when he told you that, and how do you reflect on that now?
I think at the time, as a kid, you just want to be told everything is going to be okay in one way or another. So its not a very emotional response in a way, but it’s pretty expansive. On a creative level if you can run with that, sadness isn’t just one thing, it’s not only “bad,” it’s not even only “sad,” sometimes it’s more interesting than “sad.” That’s how I would look at it now. And now there’s times when I’m sad about something and I kind of treasure it a little bit. It’s one of life’s more refined emotions.
Where do you place filmmaking in relation to your other art? How does that fit in?
It was the thing I wanted to do first. When I was in high school I wanted to be a director and I didn’t know it was going to take this weird path and end up also thinking of myself as a writer and performer.
So to some degree it has a “living the dream” quality that the other things don’t. It’s really the hardest thing and also the most spectacular. I can’t believe I get to do this. The other things are a little easier to do, more within my control and thats what is great about them, I dont need as much permission.
How is it coming back to Sundance?
It’s great. I was really nervous, especially as it got closer. I would have these sort of shaking fits out of the blue. I think when I left last time, especially being one of only two women in competition, I was like, “As God is my witness, I will make another movie! I will be back here!” That’s not enough inspiration to build a movie on, but now that I’m here I’m like, ‘wow, I did it.’
Your film is in competition in Berlin. Do you suspect or have any inclination or speculation as to how audiences will react differently to “The Future” there?
I wasn’t thinking about it at all, but my German producers are here and they were telling me about the pre-press and their opinion is that it’ll do even better there. In their mind that audience is more inclined towards poetry. Of course, I’m partial towards this audience that I can communicate with in my first language. I’m excited and it’s also kind of nice for the actors to get the red carpet thing.
Do you ever foresee directing films you are not in, or is that something that you feel is very important for your work?
I’ve had ideas sometimes for movies where I’ve been really into it and then realize there is no part for me – no woman my age or body type or whatever. And that does make me pause for a second, because it’s so integral to how I conceive the whole thing. But I can see doing it, especially if I get to perform in other ways. Then I’d be satisfied because there is a part of me that needs that.