For our first episode, we brought Barry Jenkins and Greta Gerwig together for a conversation on what it's like to make a movie about the place you grew up.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker: Hey, and welcome to the first podcast from A24. Thanks for listening. Today we bring you a conversation between two A24 filmmakers whose names you know well, Barry Jenkins and Greta Gerwig. From Moonlight and Lady Bird, Barry and Greta went all the way home to tell two deeply personal stories about the places where they grew up. For Barry it was Liberty City, Miami. For Greta was Sacramento or the Midwest of California, as Lady Bird would say. We thought they have a lot to talk about.

We're new to podcasts, so we'd love to hear your thoughts. Send any ideas or feedback of our podcast at a24films.com. You can also follow us on Instagram for the latest at @a24 now Barry and Greta.

Barry Jenkins: I guess we'll kick this off talking about hometown movies.

Greta Gerwig: Let’s talk about place.

Barry: Yes, because Moonlight is such a Miami story, but it's kind of weird because Miami is a place that a lot of people know. I think I was telling you, I lived in the Bay Area for eight years and I never went to Sacramento. It was like 90 minutes, two hours away. So, when I saw your film I was like, "Oh, this is-- Sacramento is a place." So just talk to me about what came first? "I want to make a movie about Sacramento," or, "I want to make a movie about high school, I want to make a movie about my mom"?

Greta: Yes, I think the first thing was, "I want to make a movie about, that takes place in, Sacramento," I knew that. I also had this idea of like, I tend to make proclamations out loud that might become public because I feel that then I'll feel the pressure to deliver on them. It's a very silly way of going about it, but it works for me. I'd like to make a total of four films that take place there. I would like to do a quartet of Sacramento films.

Barry: A quartet of Sacramento films?

Greta: It's inspired by the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan quartet. She wrote these four books that took place mainly in Naples. They were so great and I thought, "Oh, I'd like to do that," because it's-- this was one part of Sacramento, but there's a lot of different parts of Sacramento that I'd like to explore too. I feel like I have the privilege of being from a place, and I am really from that place.

My family didn't move and my family is still there, my friends are still there, and I feel like I can actually speak to it with some feeling. I don't know if you felt like-- because I felt like at Moonlight, it was like-- what it felt like to me was like we got a passport to a world. It was a world that we think we know Miami, we think we know Florida, and then it’s a part of it that we didn't see or we didn't get a privilege to see.

Barry: One of the really lovely things to me about Lady Bird is I'm like, "Okay, is this California or is it Nebraska or is it Iowa?" There's something very different about this. I want to talk to you about Sacramento and Lady Bird, which is there were times where I was writing Moonlight where I knew exactly what the light was like. I knew exactly which corner that it needed to be sent on. I know exactly the feel, the flow about the atmosphere.

So, when you're building a movie like Lady Bird in Sacramento is, and this is cliché but it's true, it's a character. It's a character. I think when you put your director's hat on, that idea of place being character takes on a whole another meaning. Talk about that little bit.

Greta: That's exactly the feeling when you are describing-- I know Moonlight was first a play and then you adopted it into the movie, but you're both writing from the same understanding of where the place was. When I was writing I just had certainty about what I wanted it to look like, down to little things. Like there's a scene where Lady Bird and Danny are sitting on a ledge. I knew I wanted this ledge where their legs wouldn't touch the ground because I love it and also to me it looks like childhood. It's you're not quite there yet, you're still a kid. I think your legs dangling is such a kid thing.

The way that the interiors of the houses have this very specific light. Also, the differences, for me, about like the different houses. Like a house that had been just built in the '90s versus a house that was built in the post-World War II boom, and what those different things mean and they're very specific. Yes, I would see all of that in my head.

Then of course, when you're actually looking and scouting, I don't know if you had this, the weirdest thing for me was I had written about this dream house that these girls love, and I was so sure that in this one neighborhood, and everybody knows the neighborhood, it's called the Fabulous Forties, I was like, "Well, there is a million houses like that." The thing was that my memory had kind of made a house that didn't totally exist. Then I found this blue house which was perfect and did everything I wanted it to do for the movie, but I realized that I'd made an amalgam of something that wasn't quite true.

It's an interesting thing. It made me think a lot about the movie Amarcord, that sort of like the faultiness of memory, the faulty in the sense of feeling more true than the thing itself. I don't know if you had things where you were like, "I know the street corner," and then actually you discovered that the better street corner is-

Barry: Not even that, like the opening of Moonlight is not in my head, in my writer's head, and in my memory, in my history of Miami, It’s not meant to take place on the block that the actual film opens. Just like you, we were scouting and I'm like, "Oh, turn left here, go there," and people would be like, "That place isn't there."

Greta: Isn't there, yes.

Barry: It's not even like, “it's not there anymore.” That place isn't there. For me, personally, I'm not a documentary filmmaker, so I'm not looking for that particular house. It's more like the feeling of this structure or the feeling of this corner or this neighborhood, whatever it is. The feeling of this light, has sort of inspired this imagery. I think the beauty of making film is that you're not doing it by yourself. All these other people come in and they help you.

Greta: And the beauty of film is the moment when the thing that was in your head doesn't work out and something better comes through. I think that that's actually one of my favorite moments, is when it alters from what was in your head and all of a sudden, this thing that you couldn't have anticipated ends up being the thing that's right. It sounds like it's not like you have a set plan that you absolutely have to execute. It's more like that your compass is pointing you in the right direction all the time.

Barry: Talk to me about the look of Lady Bird. You just said sometimes you see things in your head one way and then as you make the film it becomes what it wants to become. Watching the movie, I wasn't sure if it was a motion and there was shot on film or celluloid or if it was shot digitally. Talk to me about the process. Did you originally intend to shoot it on celluloid and you ended up shooting on the Alexa Mini, correct?

Greta: Alexa Mini, yes. I had an idea wanting to shoot on film on Super 16 initially, because it loses something and gains something. I like the way the image breaks up. I don't like things that are overly sharp, they make me uncomfortable as a viewer. I think that's just particular to me, but I think sometimes you have to lean in to the things that are weird or a little different about you because that's what makes you a voice and not just anyone. Yes, I wanted to shoot on film, but because of budgetary constraints it didn't work.

We worked really hard to establish the look of the film. With My DP, Sam Levy, and Alex Bickel, who did my color, who did your color-

Barry: Also colored Moonlight, yes.

Greta: He is great and he is relentless, which was important because I had this very clear concept of what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to feel almost like a Xeroxed photocopy. Like a color copy of a painting where it almost loses a layer but gains a layer and there is something about the way the image is reproduced that you'll feel the paper. Alex and I would always have this thing like, "I want to feel the paper more." I wanted every frame to feel like that.

Barry: I can hear his voice saying that.

Greta: Yes, yes. Exactly. He is so patient. I think for me, too, I knew very much I wanted everything to feel pretty static. I wanted it to all be in sticks. I wanted it to feel like everything was a painting, a still life, and I didn't want it to be handheld or catching things that way. I wanted it to feel very composed. I think that a lot of it was just instinct, and then just as you're figuring out your instinct, you discover why you were drawn to it. I think for me, it was a lot of medieval triptychs and stain glass windows and the way a story can be told in single frames.

In moonlight, the camera's moving-- like the very first shot is just like-

Barry: It's a live movement.

Greta: - we're moving. The camera's a dancer.

Barry: For us, it was, one, we started working with Alex Bickel pretty early in the process and we knew we were going to shoot anamorphic wide open, we wanted to be really aggressive with the image. So, we sent Bickel a few reference stills before we went into production, and then as we were shooting we would get these still images as thumbnails from him as well just to make sure that we weren't pushing things too far.

What I loved about working with him was James and I, James Laxton, my cinematographer, we framed the movie as being in the consciousness of our main character. We felt like that would allow us to do some things aesthetically that you wouldn't associate with the genre of film remaking, the social realist kind of coming of age movie.

Bickel, I remember, was really, really wonderful about taking certain scenes and sequences to a place that was appropriate for the character, but maybe not particularly appropriate for the genre you're working in. When I look at your film, I remember speaking to you about the colors blue and the colors odd. Also, too, your grain is different than—because we used the same colorist—is different than the grain that we have in Moonlight. No doubt about it.

Greta: No doubt, yea.

Barry: How did you come-- because when you start a motion but you end up with the Alexa, the quality of the grain is super important.

Greta: One of the things that was really important to me was that I didn't want to use film grain on top of the Alexa image. I think it can work, but for me, I was like, "This movie has to be true to what it is through and through." It's shot on Alexa, we have to give it that--it's not grain exactly, but it's a noise. So, we shot gray cards in low light and turned up the contrast and used that as a layer so that Alexa noise is part of what's coming through in the image and what the sensor is actually picking up and what the imperfections, if there are, imperfections of the Alexa, but there are little things.

Something that's interesting about digital too, is like in low light you can-- not the Alexa Mini, but in some of them you can see the grid which I kind of like, because it's like that grain. It's like the way that this is the thing. I like knowing that a machine captured it. I don't know any other way to describe it.

Barry: Well, like a machine or an analog machine or?

Greta: It's not life, it's constructed. I like seeing that there was a mediating thing in between it. I don't know-

Barry: No, no. I know what you mean.

Greta: It's hard to talk about it exactly.

Barry: The picture I'm getting in my head is when we did Medicine for Melancholy, you're creating this abstraction between the lens and the characters. It's another thing to control in a certain way.

Greta: Now you're editing your third feature film. Do you think that every project to you has a way that it cinematically wants its story to be told? Meaning like, do you have a style or do the stories have a style in way?

Barry: I think the stories have a style. I'm looking forward to whatever you do next because the other film that you co-directed that I've seen, Nights and Weekends, is nothing like Lady Bird. This movie that we've just made, Beale Street, is nothing like Moonlight. The language of the film is completely different. I do think the stories have a style that they-

Greta: Medicine is so different from Moonlight. It was like obviously you're interested in stylistic things and changing the images and playing with color. I remember the color from Medicine being so specific it almost felt painted, and that was such a-

Barry: Well, there are few places where we allow color into the imagery.

Greta: Yes. It felt like the painted frames of like early color films like those Isadora Duncan movies where she would paint her skirts. Do you know what I’m talking about? It looked painted in that way.

Barry: I do. That's one of the things I want to talk to you about with Lady Bird. I have this joke that I like to say to you which is, I've known you for I guess like 10 years now and I'd heard that Lady Bird was autobiographical. As I'm watching this film I'm like, "This is not the Greta Gerwig I know. I don't see where the autobiography is, unless I just don't know her very well." I think going along with that, people assume that this film is just a construction of a life that you lived.

What I see are just all these choices, is why I'm glad we're going to talk about, wanting to shoot on film and then you decide to shoot on Alexa but in a very particular way shooting on the Alexa Mini. This notion of the Xerox. There's just so many choices. Just talked to me about building the world of Lady Bird in a certain way.

Greta: For me, the character of Lady Bird is really this person that I wasn't. I was almost the opposite of what she was.

Barry: Oh, so that you wished you were?

Greta: I wished I was. I wished I was that cool and that kind of brave in the way that she is, even though she's flawed. I just read something someone recently said, I think about a novel, they said that it's the most personal and the most imaginative at the same time. I think it's not autobiographical, but it is deeply personal. All the choices are really specific because I care about these characters. Also, I just think as a person in the world, you pay attention to these things-- like little things that are not little things. Like what are the plates? What are the drinking glasses?

She has this when she gets her birthday, she has this red plate that says, "You are special today," which is a plate from the '70s that a lot of people I knew had, but I wanted that plate. I didn't want a different plate. I wanted that one plate, the you are special today plate. A lot of it's not mine, some of it's mine, but I think I just believe in details mattering. Film is such a limited amount of real estate, but I feel like you had a thought and I cut you off.

Barry: No, I think we're kind of just riffing at this point. One of the things that I did want to talk to you about that's very similar, that Moonlight and Lady Bird are very different films, but they're very similar in the sense that I assume that Laurie Metcalf is playing some version or some collection of memories or remembrances or oaths to your mother. In Moonlight, Naomi Harris is playing the sort of like amalgamation of my mom and Tarell McCraney's mom. I'm going to speak from my personal experience.

OMG, I've rarely done anything as difficult as direct just a powerhouse actress performing essentially this character that is based on my mom. What was it like working with Laurie?

Greta: For me, especially because it is something that's personal, so much of what I feel like I have to do is give them the flame of the character and say, "I don't know more than you know. It's not for me to--" because I feel like, especially if you're a writer/director and especially if it's personal, you don't want the actor to feel like they're being like watched all the time or that they can't make a decision that's theirs. I just feel like the minute that they inhabit that character, they know I'm not playing them. They bring their whole life history to it.

So, as much as I have an idea of how I think it's, I want them to be empowered that they can take it over and make it their own. For me, again, it's almost the same thing with the locations. It's like, let go of what the thing is in your memory and let it be as it exists in front of you and it will probably be better and more interesting. For me, with Laurie, as anyone who knows my mom will tell, she's actually not like my mom. Although my mom did say the funniest thing anyone's said to me after she saw the movie.

Barry: Which words?

Greta: She said, "Oh, Greta, you wish I'd give you the silent treatment?" I was like, "That's so true." She's-

Barry: I could totally see Laurie saying that.

Greta: Yes, but she was like, "Oh no, I would never." I was like, "No, it's true, she wouldn't do that." You let go and you find a new thing. I don't know, how was it-- Was it surreal for you?

Barry: It was insane. The stuff Naomi does in the film, she was only with us for three days. So, it was like a very just intense three days. She was in every scene for three consecutive days. Some of the things she's doing in the film were just intense. Just intense. But this really beautiful thing happened for me which was, as you said, it's deeply, deeply personal. The scenes with Naomi playing essentially my mom were more personal than other aspects about the film for me. There were occasions where that personal connection, it took the craft to a place that it couldn't get to otherwise.

The scene I always think of is in the second chapter when Chiron comes home and she's waiting for him in the courtyard. She's essentially about to ask him for money. It just seemed like it hadn't gone far enough. That was the first time that we had the actors look directly into the camera because I wanted the audience to literally have to inhabit Chiron's body to feel what that felt like. Sometimes those things happen and it's something you can't plan for.

I think it's why making work that is personal, and again, there is a difference between being personal and autobiographical, but making work that is personal can sometimes take the craft and elevate it. Question for you-

Greta: Wait, no, I had a question for you while you were-- this is-

Barry: Give it.

Greta: I think one thing I'm always interested in, because there's this process of making the film, the actual-- like you're on set you're making it, and then when you're cutting it together, what's interesting to me is because Moonlight is so delicate, what the story is and how story comes out and it's so-- the way it unfolds is so deliberate but so just--it doesn't broadcast anything. I wondered for you in the editing process two things. The first thing is, did you ever go through a panic of like, "Will people understand this story?"

Barry: Yes.

Greta: Did you?

Barry: Every damn day. We did edited that film in a room that's like maybe a third the size of this with two editors sitting back to back. That's it. No assistant, no kitchen, no nothing. It was as small as small could be. It was impossible to not be just completely immersed. As you said, this very delicate process. There were several times where I turned from one monitor to the other, literally just spin half a foot and be like, "I don't know if that's going to connect with that."

Because we had three different actors playing the same character, it was really tricky to hope and-- Three different actors who don't necessarily look physically like one another to make sure they were carrying the same energy.

Greta: When did you know that people were able to follow? I'm genuinely asking this because I feel like--

Barry: I'll be honest, and then I want to ask you this question because your movie is so-- Actually, there's a thing you do that I want to talk to you about. I'll say the first watch is just so well done. It just feels like this just beautifully chiseled sculpture in a certain way. I mean, the beats just link up in this way, they almost like sneak up on you, which I want to get to in a second. Whereas with our film, I remember the first time we screened it for the producers, it was a very different movie than the movie that ended up going to theaters.

Man, the delicacy you're talking about, the delicateness, I should say, it wasn't there. So, a lot of these things were just clanky.

Greta: Interesting. That's so interesting.

Barry: I haven't watched it ever again since that day. It's funny we're coming up on the anniversary of that first screening for producers. It was like late January, early February. There wasn't balance. I think a movie like Moonlight needed balance from chapter one to two to three.

Greta: Yes. Then also it's just because of the-- again, I just keep using this word, but it is so true. In the final chapter when he shows up, and that song and the way and you got to build that right because you got to care. You have to be so clear, oh, and you have to be on hanging like, "Oh, that's his kids. Is he-- oh, wait, no. they're not toge--" You have to reel them in in a very classical way.

Barry: It's beautiful you used the word delicate because what happened with the edit of Moonlight, which is-- I'd say like the last third of that edit would be like making three or four cuts a day. Literally, just like watching the same things and be like, "A little bit this way. No, no, no, a little bit that way." It was always just-- You find this one little thing you'd be like, "That's it."

Greta: I know. It's such a revelation. It's just when you're sitting in the editing room at the beginning it does just feel like possibly just a giant bad mess. [laughs]

Barry: In Lady Bird, and we talked about this before, there's this really lovely thing that happens where as you start off you're watching a Coming of age film. It's got this nice pace and rhythm and there's all these beautiful like mise-en-scène. The scenes are constructed in a way that you're right, you're not handheld finding one piece and going to the next. It's like everything is very deliberate and appropriate. The pace and the way the beats are being delivered to the audience, you get into this rhythm. Then something happens about a third through the second third. I don't know how to describe it, Robert McKee sort of finding that-

Greta: I know! Have you read that?

Barry: I went to film school, so yes, I have read it.

Greta: Yes, me too. I've read it. I have it like underlined in my house like “rising action.”

Barry: Your film, it seems like it's going that way and then it just completely jumps off the damn rails. You're watching this movie and I remember seeing it at Telluride  for the first time and everybody is laughing their heads off the first 45 minutes. Then you start to hear a few people sniffling in the back and on the side, and then you realize, oh, I'm watching a very, very heavy sad film. It all coalesces into this very hopeful thing that film's earned. Tell me about building this piece that shifts so smoothly from one tone and tenor to another.

Greta: Well, I tried to do it in the writing. I think the writing I've done with Noah Baumbach, the two scripts that we wrote together. I learned so much writing with him. One of the things I learned is he's absolutely relentless and brutal with himself. He cuts, he cuts, he cuts, he rewrites. No line that ever ends up in one of his movies is not vetted a million times. It was this sort of precision that working with him was drilled into me, and when I was making my script I tried to do the same thing. It's a cliché, but it's cliché for a reason. They always say like “films are written three times, the writing, the shooting, and then the editing.”

Really, honestly, the movie that's on the screen is not very different at all from what was on the page, but what it is, is almost like getting all the rhythms right and getting-- I don't know. For me, it's almost like I can sing along with it when it's working. If I can't sing along, it's not working.

Barry: Now, the first draft of this film, I know the page count so I'm assuming it's tougher than that. The first draft was-

Greta: 350 pages.

Barry: The film that you shot was-

Greta: 120. I know my dialogue was faster than-- I also learned that from writing with Noah and shooting with Noah. 120 pages of dialogue is not 120 minutes for me.

Barry: Yes, it's cool watching Sasha and Laurie take some of this dialogue. It’s almost like you're watching this film from the Golden Age of Hollywood. People were just throwing these lines back and forth, back and forth.

Greta: I like talkies. I like them. I don't know, I've always liked fast-talking ladies.

Barry: I know, but it's cool because now I'm going to go way back. You come from being the queen of mumblecore, where there's not a lot of like this super-fast talking or back and forth. I'm saying that because you have all these years of experience as a performer in front of the camera as an actor. How was it being on the other side? When did you realize you wanted to be on the other side?

Greta: I think it took me-- well, I loved being on the other side, I'll say. It made me-

Barry: You loved being in front of the camera?

Greta: No, No, No. I loved being behind the camera. That was the happiest I've ever been. I knew right away. I loved it so much that I think I said to my DP, I was like, "If I'm terrible at this, I'm just going to Florence Foster Jenkins my life and not know it and just keep making them." The worst thing that happens is I makes some bad movies [laughs].

Barry: I'll say you've done pretty damn well.

Greta: I loved it. I absolutely loved doing it. I think it took me actually a long time to fully admit to myself that it's what I wanted. I heard a little voice in me that was like, "That's what you want to do," but I think it was not--it felt like a too big thing to say. It felt arrogant to me to say.

Barry: Why is that?

Greta: I don't know. I felt like saying like, "I want to be a writer-director," felt like, "Okay, and I also want to go to the moon."

Barry: You know what's funny? I went to film school with no intentions of becoming a director. Same thing as a like, "Oh, I'll be a writer." For me, it was because I just didn't know-- I'll be honest, other than like Spike Lee, I didn't know any black people who made films. I thought, "Oh, but I can write them, because I was already in the creative writing program. Thankfully, at my film school, you had to do everything. So, I was forced to direct, and thank God, because I can't imagine doing anything else with my life.

Greta: I honestly think that that was a big part for me was I didn't know-- I knew about Sofia Coppola, I knew about Jane Campion. I think that’s pretty much where my list stopped. When I was at South by Southwest, I think my senior year of college, I went there and I met for the very first time Ry Russo-Young. I’d never met a young woman who said she wanted to be a director. That's actually true. I'd never met a young woman who said she wanted to be a director. That was true at Columbia and it was true in--

She had a short film there, an experimental short film based on Psycho, and it was really great. She was just really passionate. She knew a lot about movies. We talked about other female filmmakers, I got a list from her of other people. I had fallen in love with film, but it just still felt out of reach and then all of a sudden it was like, oh wait, are we allowed to say we want to do this?

Barry: - so young it's like, yes.

Greta: Yes. I'm so excited for whoever's 15 right now because I think that maybe it looks like there's more opportunity-- Kids might have a dream they wouldn't have otherwise.

Barry: For me, a 15-year-old black kid right now, you got-- you can look at me, you can look at Ava, you can look at Ryan, look at Justin Simien. You look at John Singleton and Spike Lee. You look at Julie Dash, there's just so many people you can look at right now. Dee Rees, it's amazing.

Greta: That's why my favorite thing to do right now-

Barry: Jordan Peele, that's amazing.

Greta: It’s like this year of women in film and I'm like, "Not only do you have like Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow, you also have Maggie Betts, Andy Reiss and Valerie Faris and me and Patty Jenkins and Angelina Jolie." Those are all very visible films.

Barry: Exactly. There are like thousands more.

Greta: There's thousands more. That is an extraordinary moment, I think. Those are all such different films from each other. It's not like, "Here is the kinds of films women make," it's like, "I can't think of two films more different than-- from Battle of the Sexes to Mudbound to Wonder Woman.

Barry: Yes exactly. Wait, I want to take it back to Greta Gerwig. What was it that made you realize, No, I'm actually going to say this out loud, I'm going to go and do it. What was the breakthrough?

Greta: The truly embarrassing thing is that I was at the YMCA in New York and I was taking an aerobics class that was also inspirational. It was like off-brand Zumba type of thing, but it was great. I was there and they were like, "Just scream what you want as loud as you can." I honestly screamed out loud, "I want to be a director." I didn't know that I was going to say that, and I said it out loud. That was the first time that I said it out loud. Then I was sort of like--it still felt impossible to me. Then I think I was on enough sets and I was around-- I'd been paying attention and I'd been around a lot of people and I just-- there just reaches a point where you're like, "Even if what I make is terrible, it's scarier to have not made it than to make something terrible."

I don't know if you've felt like that either before your first film or in the gap between?

Barry: I felt like that in the gap between, because there was an eight-year gap between Medicine for Melancholy and Moonlight and Tarell's play came to me. It was the last thing I ever ,in a million years, thought I would make. One, it wasn't a story that originated with me, and then two, it featured a character whose sexuality I did not share. I was like, "This is--" I even had a friend say to me, "Are you sure you want to make this film as your follow up? This sounds like it's career suicide." I was like, "I want to make a movie, man."

At that point, I'd never made anything set in Miami. Never. My whole film life was from Tallahassee to LA to San Francisco. I did a few little things in New York, but I'd never gone home to make anything. I was like, "You know what? I'm going to do this." Because one, I thought I'd become really jaded and I just thought, similar to you, it's like, "You know what? This just isn't ever going to happen. It's just never going to happen. I'm just not meant to be a filmmaker. I made this one little tiny $15,000 film and that's all I get."

Then this opportunity came up and it was like, you know what? This is not the ideal second feature, a triptych with no movie stars about a gay black kid trying to find a sexuality while his mom is wrestling with this huge drug addiction, but I've got to make this thing. I will never forgive myself if I don't at least leap and see what the experience will be.

Greta: I don't know. I feel like those years are valuable, where you're not doing the thing. I don't know. One of my very favorite playwrights is this woman Annie Baker who I know. She's now a friend. I was a fan before we became friends. She always talks about-- she takes a long time to write and she said, she was like, “this is something like—" I think there's such an addiction to productivity that sometimes you miss these moments where what looks like being lazy or a fallow period, or like you haven't done anything, a lot of important work can get done there, when it doesn't look like anything is happening on the surface.

I think sometimes those incubation periods, because then by the time you were making Moonlight you had stored up a lot. That's true.

Barry: Maybe a little too much. There's so much aesthetic inspiration in Moonlight, but that's neither here or there, the story has been written.

Greta: No. I'll tell you where it is, it's right here. It's here. It's here and there.

Barry: I want to ask you a somewhat dark question. Not too dark. I don't think it's dark, I don't think it's dark.

Greta: Ask it.

Barry: Was there a period where you either entertained or was a possibility that someone else would direct your script for Lady Bird.

Greta: Yes, sure, there was. Because by the time I had a script for it and I felt-- when the script was done, I thought, This is a good piece of writing. Like, I know enough about movie scripts. This is a good piece of writing. I thought, I know a lot of directors and I know a lot of really good directors. I thought, I could give it to one of them and they would make something good out of it and they could take care of it. It was really scary not to do that.

Then I went through a phase where I was like, I need one of them to officially bless it. I went through that phase too. Like, I need-- or maybe I should co-direct with them. I tried to abdicate responsibility a few different ways before I was something like, "No you're going to do it. You're doing it."

Barry: Tell me about that moment, and I hope you were at the YMCA again.

Greta: No, I wasn't.

Barry: What was it that made you really decide or what was the moment? What was the breakthrough?

Greta: I flung myself at it. I said it before I knew it to-- I told people-- I had a agent and I had said, "I have a movie. I'm going to make it. I'm going to direct it." They were like, "Oh you are?" I said, "Yes, I have the script." In my mind I was like, "You can back out. You can back out later. You're just--" I have to break things down that are scary for me into many steps.

I'm like, "You're not directing a film, you're just telling someone that you're going to." I just kept doing the actions over and over again. I built my lookbook. I had the paintings that I liked, I had the influences, I had my playlists, and I was like, "Just keep pushing the ball down the road."

Barry: It doesn't sound quite like pushing the ball down the road so much as like building a house. You're like in the foundation and then putting up the drywall. Speed rail real quick, what was the most magical day on set?

Greta: Magical day. I was directing prom because we all wore prom dresses and-

Barry: I was going to say I know from behind the scene skills that you also wore prom dress.

Greta: Also my crew wore tuxedos.

Barry: Classy.

Greta: So classy.

Barry: Then, if you don't mind, what was your worst day on set?

Greta: Worst day on set, any day where I felt like I couldn't help an actor, that was always hard. Because all you want to do is help them figure it out and you feel like you're failing and you feel like-

Barry: Well, and as an actor you know what that's like. So you're like, "I know that this giving should happen." There was a day on this film that we just wrapped that, because I'm freshly in the edit, and I walk in every day and I know the scene and I remember the day, I remember being on set. It was the same thing. I just couldn't give the crew what they needed to-- What that feels like to me is just this responsibility that we have. Part of that responsibility is about creating the work, of course, but it's also about creating the space in this atmosphere where people feel comfortable to ally with us in creating this thing. Mom, I hear you moving back there. Are we-

Greta: Are we done?

Speaker 2: Yes.

Barry: All right, cool.

Greta: We're done. Okay.

Barry: Have fun 

Greta: Bye!