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NYFF Q&A with Baumbach, Gerwig, Sumner: “Frances Ha”


Mickey Sumner, Noah Baumbach, and Greta Gerwig at NYFF Press Conference for Frances Ha. Photo by Godlis.

From early inspirations to the costume choice of clogs, director Noah Baumbach, co-writer/lead Greta Gerwig, and supporting actress Mickey Sumner discussed their experiences in creating the kooky and charming Frances Ha on Thursday for a press conference held in the Walter Reade Theatre.

With a desire to work together again after Greenberg, Baumbach and Gerwig channeled their compatibility as creative partners into Frances Ha—a witty comedy-drama that has the moods and tones of a cinematic past (Truffaut references emerging on an almost subconscious level for Baumbach), while relating to the struggles and emotions of the current 20-somethings generation.

As the two writers traded ideas, scenes, and characters in a back-and-forth dance, the Frances Ha script developed a rhythm and structure that was marked by fleeting, staccato moments, connected by seemingly real-time stretches of dialogue and character interaction. Even in the process of shooting the film, Sumner recalled only being given the scripts to scenes specific to her character, forcing her to focus purely on the character of Frances' best friend, Sophie, and the moment she was in.


Richard Peña talks to Sumner, Gerwig and Baumbach in the Walter Reade Theater. Photo by Julie Cunnah.

For Baumbach, this was all part of "finding a new way of shooting" that was less about budget and more about finding an intimate, smaller, and home-made feel. As Baumbach put it, "like a great pop album."  Running with instinct and the desire to make Frances Ha formally and clearly cinematic, Baumbach shed light on his decision to make the film digitally black-and-white, and this naturally spread to his choices in music and location. In comparing and contrasting Frances Ha to his past works (including his debut Kicking and Screaming—a past New York Film Festival selection that Baumbach attributes to propelling his career), Baumbach commented on the film as his return to lightness, and as an opportunity to present his feelings toward New York—similar to the way he expressed his feelings toward Los Angeles in Greenberg.

Baumbach's stylistic choices, however, emerged from the desire to make a film deserving of the female protagonist, Frances, who Gerwig plays with natural likability. Emphasizing the importance of words and understanding the motivations behind dialogue as her own personal approach to acting, Gerwig offered insight into the character of Frances and the difference between fantasy and the satisfaction of taking ownership of one's hard work—a major theme that shapes Frances' transformation.

Disarmingly delightful, witty, and boldly relevant to a young audience, Frances Ha is screening as part of the 50th New York Film Festival's Main Slate.

Watch full video of the press conference Q&A below:

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