An Interview with Brit Marling
Published: Friday, May 11, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 11, 2012 15:05
Brit Marling is quickly emerging as one of the premiere faces in independent filmmaking. After exploding onto the scene with last year’s microbudget indie “ANOTHER EARTH”, she reappears with today’s release “SOUND OF MY VOICE”. The film, which premiered at Sundance 2011 and has been building buzz ever since, is a cult conspiracy thriller sure to boggle the mind of any and all viewers. Her reputation as one of the more daring voices in independent film solidified; Marling was kind enough to speak to us about “VOICE”, her career, her background, and her ambitions.
The Voice: First of all, 2011 was quite the year for you. What was the experience like coming to Sundance with “ANOTHER EARTH” and the “SOUND OF MY VOICE”, and leaving with all this hype surrounding you?
Brit Marling: Gosh, it was incredible, obviously, in that Mike and Zal and I had been making films together for a long time in a bit of a vacuum. So for both films to be—and we all met in college, we all met at Georgetown, and we made short films on campus, and I don’t think any of us ever thought that we would make a living that way, or attempt—try to do that.
And then to find ourselves out in LA and making these movies much in the way we made them when we were college students—which is very like micro-budget, guerrilla filmmaking style. And then to see this when … actually get to enter the world is actually really breathtaking. It’s a great deal more than we ever hoped for. So, I feel very fortunate.
The Voice: What inspired you to write in conjunction with acting?
BM: You know, it—I really, I was doing a very different thing in college. I was studying economics and I thought I would go into finance, and then I just—spent some time in that world and didn’t—wasn’t for me, you know? And I had always been attracted to acting and I had been doing that in short films and stuff in college, and I felt like life is short. Like, I was want to just go—I want to just go try to do the thing that I love for a living instead of not.
And I started, you know, trying to go out on auditions in LA, going on auditions for some things, and I found it impossible and overwhelming, like it was impossible to get an audition. And then if you did get one, usually the material was like—I mean appalling things for girls in their early 20s. You know, you’re always a victim. You’re always a second-class citizen. You’re always someone’s girlfriend or the wife or the daughter, you know? And then just the violence against women in like the horror films or whatever you’re expected to do when you’re paying your dues. Like, wading through the swamp, you know, around this town.
And I just couldn’t do. I really just—I would sometimes get to the point where I was about to and I was just, you know what? I can’t. Like I don’t care—I don’t love this enough to do it this way, you know? And that’s when I started writing.
And Mike and Zal were, you know, incredible filmmakers, fiercely talented directors, and they wanted to make their first films and I wanted to act. And it was like okay, let’s just start writing stuff so that we can do the things that we actually want to do. Spent a long time trying to teach ourselves to write, which was much harder than I thought, you know? Crafting a good screenplay is tricky. I’m still befuddled by it. But that was sort of where it came from, you know? It was the desire to try to do the work I wanted to as an actor and just not being able to find a way to begin, other than just the attempt to do it on our own, you know?
The Voice: Do you consider yourself more of an actress than a writer, or is writing something you want to really pursue or maybe write something for someone else?
BM: You know, the way that I know I’m really an actress and not a writer is because I could never write something solely for somebody else, at this stage anyway. At this stage, like—my curiosity is for the craft of acting and I’m so compelled and challenged by it that I really—it’s just like I can’t get to the bottom of it.
It’s such a fascinating thing to do, like what’s being demanded of you is so complicated. Like, you have to be so deeply imaginative and innocent and vulnerable and you have to do that, like in front of all these people all the time. And there’s no rough draft phase, the way there is in writing, you know? Your rough drafts like happen and they’re filmed and recorded and it’s a fascinating experience, and it’s sort of like a heightened way to live life.
The experiences you’re going through and these stories are always cataclysmically climactic and, you know, that doesn’t happen so often in like day-to-day existence, but in the land of storytelling it happens all the time, sometimes three or four times a day, so I love that work. But I do think that I’ll continue writing, … because I think there are so many talented female actresses—obviously actresses are female. Female actors. Actresses. Actors. There are all kinds of talented actors around, and not enough great storytelling for all of them, so it’d be nice to try to get to be a better writer to make work for myself and for all the talented people whose work I admire.
The Voice: You studied economics in school – do you think that helps you as an independent filmmaker?
BM: Yes. The economics background was useful for producing, in that like you—everything is problem solving, really, in producing. It’s like, okay you have no money in “SOUND OF MY VOICE”, how are you going to shoot on a plane? Like there’s a scene that happens on a plane and we couldn’t afford to shoot on any planes in LA and so we just bought—Zal came up with the brilliant idea of buying three round-trip tickets from LA to San Francisco, and the DP, him, and the actor got on the plane and they were shooting on a 7D, which just looks like a nice SLR, and they shot the scene. And they flew to San Francisco, landed, ate some french fries, turned around, came back.