April 2, 2013
We did an interview with high school student Madeleine Nesbitt for Tangerine Entertainment. Here are some highlights!
Madeleine Nesbitt: Was there an event in your life that kindled your interest in filmmaking, and how did it make you interested in filmmaking?
Eliza Hittman: I’ve always been passionate about storytelling. When I was in elementary school, I joined a storytelling group that met during lunch. We picked books, memorized them and performed them in front of the entire school. That experience was very powerful for me. I stood up in front of hundreds of kids, and I realized I had the innate ability to communicate and connect with people. The kids in the audience laughed and gasped and I went on to win several competitions. Later, I studied theater, acting and directing in high school and college. But I couldn’t get past the ephemeral nature of it. It was like building sand castles only to watch them wash away before I could even appreciate what went into it. I always loved American independent film. It wasn’t until much after college that I really became confident enough to want to do it. I was intimidated by it. There was so much technical knowledge that I felt I didn’t have and wouldn’t ever have. A lot of my mentors were pushing me to go to grad school, so I bought a camcorder and decided to try and make something to see if I could at least get in. Getting past that first something was the hardest part.
MN: “It Felt Like Love” is your first feature film. What was an experience in the making of the film where you really felt confident about your film and how it was turning out?
EH: The process of making a film is really difficult in an emotional sense. Every step of the way I was filled with a profound sense of doubt. I wrote the script and everyone hated it. I kept revising it and revising it until people seemed to hate it less. I really loved the main character I had come up with and felt she was truly an extension of all my demons and insecurities. That’s what kept me going. I knew the character had soul, because I’d injected her with so much of myself (in a fictional context). Then, when we started casting all the young actresses I saw were so scared of the character! I didn’t know what to make of that! It was a long process of getting to know Gina Piersanti and her mom Jill Armus before they agreed to do it. I shot on HD for the first time and having access to the dailies while we were shooting threw me off. I doubted every choice and felt everything we shot was wrong and that it was going to be a giant expensive failure. But I have a really amazing boyfriend, Scott Cummings, who is also a talented filmmaker and after the first few days, he looked at the footage and told me I had nothing to worry about and keep going! The nice thing about a feature, is that you really find your stride which had never happened to me before on short. With shorts just when you get comfortable, the shoot is over. But with “It Felt Like Love,” the cast and crew really gelled and we had a really positive environment, and after the first few days, we found a stride together and with that came confidence. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel 100% confident, maybe that’s what keeps me going, aspiring to be confident.
MN: Eliza said that there had been a lot of discussion about the sexualization of girls and women in the media during the casting process for “It Felt Like Love.” How do you feel the sexualization of girls in the media affects you, as a young actress and as a teenage girl, and are there any unique pressures you face as an actress?
Gina Piersanti: There’s definitely a lot of sexualization in the media, TV shows, advertisements, music videos, you name it. Especially in the digital age when everyone is constantly plugged into something. It seems so many young girls are exposed to it younger and younger. The first step of course is noticing it and calling attention to it and I’m seeing that done more and more.
I think there’s pressure for actresses and everyone for that matter to look a certain way. whether it be an actress being told to lose weight for a role or someone looking at a magazine and saying “I don’t look like that,” not to mention that most things in print are so retouched they are not even real. It’s an important issue.