Through the imaginative waters of independent cinema, it’s always intriguing to watch a new movie from that front. You take in a voice, a vision from a director you might not have checked out yet. That’s what makes cinema a thrilling experience. You never know what kind of viewpoint or story you’re going to get until you sit down in that seat and take it all in.
Ry Russo-Young is one of those filmmakers who takes you by the hand and brings you into her own cinematic world. She’s been on the filmmaking scene for years, writing and directing her own projects. Now she presents to us “Nobody Walks,” a tantalizing tale on the vulnerable state of relationships and families in the middle of the Hollywood landscape. We got the chance to speak with the filmmaker about the creative process, working with talented individuals and being a voice in a changing environment pertaining to women in cinema.
First question that we should get out of the way is what it was like collaborating on the script with Lena Dunham?
Ry Russo-Young: Yeah totally! I mean she’s super fun, friendly and collaborative. She’s warm and cuddly to be honest.
She sounds like a teddy bear.
Ry Russo-Young: She is like a teddy bear! It’s even funny to hear you say it just because when you’re around her she has such a warm, exciting presence. I felt extremely lucky from day one and this was before she made “Tiny Furniture.” I’ve just always felt that Lena was completely brilliant and was really happy that the rest of the world totally sees that to be true cause she is. She’s just so delightful and is such a force.
And I always like to come under the belief that people of great talent flock towards others who are the same.
Ry Russo-Young: I feel like a dummy [laughs] kind of like Salieri to the Mozart but in a good way. The way where I’m like honored to work with them. You want to be the least smartest person in the room. You want to surround yourself with, especially as a director, actors you’re flabergasted with and you think are incredible, riveting. Then writers that are brilliant and cinematographers that blow your mind. That’s the whole point of doing this. It’s this collaborative art form where you put everyone together, you get a chance to work with incredible people and watch them work their magic.
Yes, come to mention it the cinematography in this is gorgeous.
Ry Russo-Young: Thank you. Christopher (Blauvelt) and I did a lot of tests. He’s from LA originally so I think Los Angeles is in his bones. For me as a New Yorker coming to Los Angeles I was really inspired. To be honest, the first thing that struck me was the light. I know that’s an obvious thing to say but I believe we take advantage of it in the movie. It’s incredible, the weather, the softness, the colors and the architecture. They really dominate a certain tone, mood, finesse and the way that I think people live in Los Angeles that nobody tried to capture.
Earlier you mentioned how you surrounded yourself with crazy talented people which is what your cast is for this movie. What was it like just wokring with everybody, getting them together especially with folks like Olivia Thirlby.
Ry Russo-Young: It was incredible to work with each actor. A lot of them responded to the script well and then seeing what each actor brought to the character, the way they interpret the lines, the nuances and the texture that they add was great, especially Olivia. In terms of the depth and the deep character development, she’s so wise and beyond her years not only with the character but as an actress. The way she interacts with other actors and the kind of presence she has on set is really important. All of our actors were extremely great including John Krasinski. They were just giving in terms of creating and helping to create an awesome working environment where we all felt fun and safe, playful and intimate in a way that we needed to be in order to make this movie. And Olivia is like.. I think she’s fascinating to watch onscreen and as a person. When Olivia gives me a hug it makes my day. It really makes me feel so special and in a way you always want to earn her hugs. She makes you want to be a stellar person for her.
Another thing that really stands out for this movie is how this is a collaboration of women like yourself, Lena (Dunham) and Olivia (Thirlby) just together making a film that stands out. It’s a great thing to see. [laughs]
Ry Russo-Young: It’s so important for me to make that and to be a part of that because I remember being a little girl and really looking for that. Being a little girl and wanting to be an actress or involved with movies in some way, shape or form then seeing a movie that meant everything. Even if it was “The Parent Trap” with Hayley Mills. There it was two strong female girls my age who were doing their thing and dealing with their parents’ divorce. Those are like your role models and that’s what you look to have like nuance portrayals of our lives. The way we experience the ambiguities, sexualities and what it is to be a young woman I think is really important.
In those movies it feels like there’s a newer wave when it comes to the independent front portraying twentysomething women. Obviously one of the leaders of the pack right now is Lena (Dunham) with “Girls.” What are your general thoughts on that especially since you tend to focus on twentysomething women in your films too.
Ry Russo-Young: Well I think we have a slightly different perspective on that or styles but in a great way in the interpretation. The work out there speaks not only to the experience of being a young woman, but there’s those who speak to being a woman in her thirties or being a sixteen-year-old for the better. I think that’s awesome.
In the film we’re dealing with many themes including the balance of family and relationships. What themes do you hope stand out the most for everyone when you see the film?
Ry Russo-Young: Well one of the things I’ve always been interested in is that there’s no villains in the movie but a lot of the characters aren’t necessarily bad guys. A lot of the characters are dealing with morality and they’re struggling with their daily lives. They’re just good people who make mistakes. I feel like that’s how human beings are so hopefully it’s a realistic portrayal of people who mean well sometimes but don’t make the best decisions.
“Nobody Walks” is out in limited theaters now.