Some people toe the line between drama and comedy. Paul Weitz plays hopscotch over it. He’s the writer/director of such dark comedies as “About A Boy” and “American Dreamz,” as well as a producer on the not-so-dark “American Pie” franchise. This year at Sundance he returns to sardonic form with “Grandma,” a wry look at a difficult day in the life of a difficult family. Starring comedy masters Lily Tomlin and Judy Greer, “Grandma” is sure to hit that laugh-at-the-pain sweet spot.
What’s your film about, in 140 characters or less?
Lily Tomlin breaks up with her girlfriend (Judy Greer) and then goes on a one day long road trip with her granddaughter (Julia Garner) who is trying to get enough money to pay for an abortion she has scheduled at the end of the day.
Now, what’s it REALLY about?
Tell us briefly about yourself.
Work-wise, I started out as a playwrite, and I still write plays, which are mostly done at a theatre called Second Stage in New York. I’ve gotten to write and direct a number of films. My father was a fashion designer, and he said he became an atheist when, as a German-Jewish soldier in the American army in WW2, he was one of the first people into Dachau after it was liberated, and he went into the room where they operated the gas chamber, and he saw a camp guard’s picture of his smiling kids taped to the wall. He impressed upon me the thought that everything is a charade. His nihilism, aggressiveness, and tender heart informed my depiction of Lily’s character in the movie.
What was the biggest challenge in completing this film?
What do you want audiences at Sundance to take away from your film?
The left armrest of the chair they were sitting in.
Are there any films that inspired you?
So many. Most recently, Oslo August 31st and Starlet.
What’s next for you?
What cameras did you shoot on?
We shot it handheld with a 1930s technicolor film camera.
Did you crowdfund?
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 2015 festival. Click here for more profiles.