Today we are very pleased to be able to welcome Jamie Babbit to the site in order to catch up with her about her new film Addicted to Fresno, starring Judy Greer, Aubrey Plaza and Natasha Lyonne. Jamie has made a name for herself as both a writer (But I’m a Cheerleader) and as a director (Gilmore Girls, The Quiet) and now joins us to give us an insight into both the new movie and her working process…
First of all could you provide an introduction to Addicted to Fresno for our readers?
Addicted to Fresno is a comedy film about two sisters who work as maids in a crappy city called Fresno. One sister is a lesbian and the other sister is a sex addict and the film follows the sisters as they cover up a crime.
In our experience a lot of directors describe very varied approaches in how to direct their actors within comedy, perhaps because of how unique a genre comedy is. To what extent do you guide their comedic performances? Do you allow for a lot of improvisation?
We had a great funny script written by Karey Dornetto who wrote on South Park. We also had great comedic actresses who were great at improv so we allowed it all! The final edit of the film stays pretty close to the script but some of my favorite lines were improvised.There’s a sc. where judy Greer gives a coworker advice on how to give a great blowjob. That sc. was almost entirely improvised and it’s very funny. Karey the writer is a lesbian so was kinda rusty on the subject so what the actors did was so much more specific and hilarious.
When directing comedy how do you work on balancing the laughs with ensuring there is an emotional core to the film?
When we were developing the script I kept reminding Karey to go back to her and her sister to keep the emotional core in tact. Kareys first love is black humor (South Park) but she has such a complex interesting dynamic with her sister so o think the film nicely balances both. In the editing room we also had to keep an eye on both things. The voiceover at the beginning and the end was added to help this balance.
It must be a unique experience to direct your wife’s material, how does that relationship to the material shape and inform your directorial decisions?
I’ve always worked with my significant other so I’m not sure what it would be like to not work that way. Making Indie films is such a long intense process and I enjoy sharing that intensity with my romantic partners. It’s a high we share.
I was very involved in the writing of the script. Karey was on set too and was able to throw things in there. We were both in the cutting room and sound mix so it was definitely a shared experience. My ex wife Andrea was our producer so it was actually a full on lesbian codependent triangle! And since that’s a big theme of the film I think the process helped make the film better.
Do you have an issue with how films which focus on LGBT relationships are often labelled queer comedies and queer dramas rather than simply being dramas or comedies? Or are such distinctions useful and positive?
Labels help empower communities and sadly with no labels we women queerdos fall to invisibility. I don’t like being invisible and I’m not afraid to claim a label and than stretch the definition as far as I can.I like labels although I’m not afraid to constantly change mine–mid western, feminist, lesbian, thespian,bisexual, queer, outsider, queerdo, wierdo–I run the spectrum.
You’re seen by many as a queer icon, does that status have any effect on your work? Does it come with a certain sense of responsibility?
That’s a funny concept. I feel a responsibility to make work that interests me. That’s about it.
I’m interested in lesbians and queers and women and the contradictions in all of that–so I do consider it my responsibility to follow those stories.
And so what can we be looking forward to in the coming months and years Jamie? What are you thinking of doing next?
I’m developing a comedy lesbian TV show based on the awesome web series F to 7th. Check out the web series because it’s so irreverent and hilarious and exactly the kind of comedy the TV world is waiting for!
And that’s all folks! Addicted to Fresno opens tomorrow (9th), will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!