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Kristen Stewart Talks Directing Her First Film: ‘I’ve Never Been Happier Doing Anything’

At the New York Film Festival, the budding director explained how going behind the camera opened a whole new world to her.

Kristen Stewart arriving at the “An Evening With” event in New York City


According to Hollywood lore, as a kid, Kristen Stewart never imagined she’d end up an actress, instead hoping to get into writing and directing, something behind the camera that still allowed her to actively explore an industry she’s loved most of her life. Nearly twenty years later, Stewart’s finally getting to do just that.

While being honored at this week’s “An Evening With Kristen Stewart” event, thrown in conjunction by the New York Film Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, a giddy Stewart spilled a few more details about her first short, a project that was announced back in May as part of Refinery29’s female filmmaker-focused Shatterbox Anthology series. The film is entitled “Come Swim,” and Refinery29 will release it sometime later this year. (You can check out some of the other short films that have come from the Refinery29 and Shatterbox initiative, including a new offering from filmmaker Meera Menon, right here.)

For Stewart, who has been acting since she the tender age of 8 and grew up in a family that was always closely aligned with the entertainment industry — her father is a stage manager and television producer, while her mother is a script supervisor who has directed in the past — making her own films now seems like the natural progression of a career already in its second decade. And it seems like it’s already panned out.

READ MORE: Kristen Stewart On Choosing Her Roles and ‘Making Good Sh*t’ – NYFF 2016

“I’ve never been happier doing anything, [I] found the next level, so excited,” she told the crowd.

Despite her affection for her new career path, Stewart isn’t leaving behind acting any time soon. In fact, she’s already eagerly finding parallels between her work in front of and behind the camera.

“I don’t draw a distinction between the two positions — they felt so similar to me,” Stewart said. “One is more sporadic and sort of like impulsive and flippant in a way, because once it’s done, it’s done. It’s a super lightning in a bottle thing. And you can’t take credit for it, it’s something that happened, and you’re like, ‘That was great, I’m appreciative of being a part of it, and I’m proud that I was able to.’ As a director, you can hold something so close to you.”

Stewart admits she didn’t take any huge risks with her first short, as she explained to the audience, “It’s kind of expressionistic, it’s pretty painterly. I’m not hiding behind anything by doing a slightly avant garde first thing.”

Still, she does seem particularly attuned to the specific limitations — and freedoms — of working with a short format, elements she happily embraced.

“What I want to do is just make sure that everyone stops thinking until the very end,” Stewart explained. “When you’re watching a short, you’re always trying to figure out why the short’s been made, because you only have not that long to figure, ‘What is this about? I know. I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it.’ I wanted it to feel like something that washes over you.”

For the budding director, the element of collaboration seems to have been a major draw to stepping behind the camera and she relished the opportunity to assemble her own team of all-stars. “I batted for the fences in terms of crewing up,” she said. “Some people were really young and hungry and ambitious and so talented and innovative and weird, and then some people were just people that I am a huge fan of.”

READ MORE: Kristen Stewart On Her Acting Process: There’s One Thing She’ll Never Do

By way of example, she shared a bit of the process that went into working with her editor, remembering, “I saw him kind of get it, because I was excited, and he caught that and it was contagious. And he was like, ‘I’m excited because you’re excited.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s great, but what I really would love is like if you got excited because you got selfish and you had this desire that I gave you.’ And it happened, it was the coolest thing.”

Sharing her vision — really sharing it — seems to excite Stewart the most right now, and she felt that in a big way while crafting her first film.

“That is the most satisfying thing I have ever done,” she said. “As an actor, you’re like a little thing that can help everyone feel this, but when it comes from you — it’s like validation in the most ultimate. You’re not alone. Like, ‘I see you, girl. I see you, and I get it.’ It’s like, ‘Yes!’

As for the final product, Stewart couldn’t help but throw in some of her trademark self-deprecation.

“It’s probably shit!” she laughed. “No, it’ll be good. I really like it, and that’s a huge pleasure. You can maybe not like it, but I don’t think you can say it’s not well-done.”

The New York Film Festival runs September 30 – October 16.

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