Television writer Liz Garcia (“Dawson’s Creek,” “Wonderfalls,” “Cold Case”) is brings her debut feature “The Lifeguard” to Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition. The film, about a woman (Kristin Bell) who needs a change, is one of the record-breaking number of female-directed features in the festival.
What It’s About: A woman on the verge of 30 abandons her adult life as a reporter in NYC and returns to where she last felt happy: her hometown in suburban Connecticut. She gets her high school job as a lifeguard at a pool and starts hanging out with a group of teenagers. Her rebellion against adulthood wreaks havoc in the lives of her hometown friends and family.
What It’s Really About: The film is about what it is to become an adult. How frightening it is when you realize you have only this one life, that the limitless possibilities and the freedom of childhood are through. And particularly, how frightening it is as a woman to realize what being a wife and being a mother, and being a mature woman in the eyes of society will mean. It’s a comedy on some level, but it’s also an existential drama about how we respond when we realize we’re only human.
What’s been your path to filmmaking? I was raised in suburban Connecticut and that’s the setting that inspires me the most. Something about the seasons, the light, the false sense of immortality that comes along with growing up in an unsophisticated environment where you can’t get real drugs — that suspended innocence and how reality leaks in – that’s all stuff I’m working through in my writing. I’ve been living in LA since I graduated from Wesleyan in ’99. I only live here because it’s where I work as a TV writer and screenwriter. My heart belongs to New England. My husband, actor Josh Harto, is my creative partner. We develop television together and he produced this movie. He’s my coach – my biggest supporter but also the person who’s not afraid to push me ’til I get real mad. And then further.
Were there challenges in bringing “The Lifeguard” to the screen? It should’ve been more difficult to make this film. But I had brilliant producers who got the financing together in under a year. I had a great cast who helped make that happen. Once the pieces were in place, when it came to actually shooting the film that most difficult factor in our path was time, or the lack thereof. The short window before the pool opened to the public in the mornings. The short window of nighttime in Pittsburgh in the summer. The number of shooting days. All these things meant that there wasn’t much margin for error each day. Thank goodness the cast came prepared and that they were all brave, because they had to jump into the deep end each day and make it work.
Are there more films in your future? Writing and directing more films, god willing. I’ve got a pipeline of ideas I need to bring to fruition before I die.
What’s the film that most inspired you? “Fish Tank” by Andrea Arnold. It’s a perfect film.
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 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.