Elizabeth Wood, an Oklahoma City native, moved New York City to study writing at The New School. After a few years of making experimental and documentary films, Wood received a screenwriting fellowship to Columbia, where she received her MFA. One of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” in 2016, Wood makes her narrative directorial debut with “White Girl.” (Press materials)
“White Girl” will premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 23.
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.
EW: Summer, New York City. A college girl [Leah, played by Morgan Saylor] falls hard for a guy she just met. After a night of partying goes wrong, she goes to wild extremes to get him back.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
EW: It’s a personal story.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
EW: I had to cut 35 pages a week before shooting, so we could afford to make the film in the time we had. Now I’m thrilled I had to do that then and not while I was on set or in editing.
I also had an 11-month old breastfeeding baby during production and completely underestimated the complications of pumping on set. But I somehow did it, and having a kid actually kept me really grounded. When everyone else was freaking out, I was like, “Whatever, this is nothing: I have a freaking baby.”
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
EW: I want people to think about the film. I know there are plenty of times I walk out of a movie theater and am just thinking about what I want to eat, so if the film is on their mind, it was a triumph.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
EW: I read about women feeling like they are punished for being emotional, crying, etc., and I just don’t think that is something anyone should worry about. You cry? You get emotional? Who cares. It’s powerful to show how you feel, and anyway, men are emotional and cry too!
I simply don’t think we can think too much about the fact that we are women. Sure, you may show up and the guys are all talking to themselves over you, but don’t worry: Let them settle down and get to work. Once it’s showtime, it will quickly become clear whose film it is.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
EW: We thought the film was going to be funded fairly traditionally, from a financier. When that fell through at the last moment for mostly unknown reasons, I was ready to push the film to the following summer.
We ended up cutting the budget significantly and piecing it together from a number of private investors. It is certainly hard to get traditional funding as a first-time filmmaker without a mega-star, so any creative way of funding is a good idea. The most important thing is to make your film in any way possible.