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Profitable Personal Films: Nicole Holofcener’s ‘Walking and Talking”

Profitable Personal Films: Nicole Holofcener’s 'Walking and Talking"

In high school, I caught by chance Nicole Holofcener’s “Walking and
Talking” (1996) on cable. I would turn on IFC and get glimpses of these amazing
indie movies from the ’90s. I was a quiet child and often spent my time watching
films, drawn to what are often described as “talky movies” with “little to no
plot.” To me, the films of Nicole Holofcener have tons of plot! Tons! There
just aren’t any massive set pieces of the kind that frequent American
blockbusters. No explosions, no aliens, nothing supernatural. The drama in a
Holofcener film is more human, more relatable and therefore harder to
distinguish, because we’re surrounded by it on a daily basis. It’s personal.

Holofcener’s directorial debut, “Walking and Talking,” almost never existed,
and that kills me. On Indiewire she
talked about how it took six years to make the film, from script to screen. She
almost gave up. It just took six years for me to make my first feature, “Bread and Butter,” from
script to release. I kicked and screamed through the whole thing. On the last
day of shooting, I remember feeling at my lowest, convinced of all the mistakes
I had made. It happens. I don’t feel that way anymore. Holofcener said, “There
are lots of things in the movie that bug me, or I wish I could do over. Some
things completely embarrass me. But I figure it’s sort of like remembering a
guy you dated when you were young and stupid. That’s where you were at that
point, and you’ve got to embrace it.”  

When I first wrote “Bread and Butter,” I had just had a semi-breakup
with a semi-boyfriend, one of my semi-firsts. Now I’ve been in a long-term
relationship for over five years.  For
Holofcener, “When I wrote the movie I was single and related to the Catherine
Keener character.  But by the time we
shot it I was married, so I kind of became the Anne Heche character. I think it
inevitably helped the film that I got to be in both character’s shoes.” I
completely understand this. Our underlying message bounced around several times
from pro-single to pro-coupling to its eventual position of pro-personal
autonomy. There were many times the ending of “Bread and Butter” changed, based
on what me and my lead producer wanted to say about relationships, due to our
own ever-changing ones. It’s personal.

Shortly before we shot the film, our crew watched “Walking and Talking”
in my living room. It was required viewing and the movie I cited when people asked
about the tone of our film. Because “Bread and Butter” is my first feature and my
first long-form fiction project, many people took a leap of faith in working
with me. The tone was in my mind — this indescribable thing that I
felt at the pit of my stomach. But, when pressed, I would say our tone would be
like “Walking and Talking.”  It was and
is the only film I can think of immediately that reflects the type of films I
want to make. 

I’m a dork and have written a few fan-type letters to Ms. Holofcener,
and I even convinced her to watch “Bread and Butter.”  I am grateful that she exists. It heartens me
that she remains an example for those of us who still want to tell “smaller,” more relatable stories. Don’t discount us for telling these stories.  From “Lovely & Amazing” (2001), to “Friends
with Money” (2006), to “Please Give” (2010), to “Enough Said” (2013),
Holofcener’s films all perform well critically and financially, each grossing
$1 million or more and increasingly so with each new film. Holofcener’s work
proves that the personal film can be a profitable film. As Holofcener says, “I
still kind of can’t believe that I get to make these personal movies, and hope
I can keep doing it.” That’s
the dream.

Join Seeking Our Story on Friday,
August 28,
 for Nicole Holofcener’s “Walking and Talking” at The Los
Angeles Film School
. At 6pm @WomenNMedia hosts networking
and light refreshments courtesy of Stella Barra
. Film
screens at 8pm, free of charge. Parking is $5 cash off Sunset at Ivar.  

Director Liz Manashil’s first feature film, “Bread and Butter” is available for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes and comes out on VOD September 1. Follow her on Twitter @LizManashil and @BreadNButterMV.

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