'Bachelorette' Writer/Director Leslye Headland on Flawed Female Characters
It’s obvious that we are in a very male-dominated industry, so it’s refreshing to see a female filmmaker getting attention for breaking stereotypes with her work. In this DP/30 interview, Leslye Headland, writer for the cancelled television series Terriers, and writer/director of the Sundance comedy Bachelorette, talks about the support she received from some comedy legends and geeks out about film narrative structure — specifically the movie Back to the Future.
First, here’s the trailer for the film:
The DP/30 interview:
Headland’s persistence to stick to her guns and keep her characters real and flawed is admirable. The $3 million dollar budget certainly did not keep the Hollywood stars away – proof that well-written material, comedic or not, can still attract big-time actors. Though Headland has a strong theater background, she gives some great advice about screen-writing and storytelling in this quote from an Indiewire interview:
I think the perfect film is “Back to the Future.” It’s a perfect script. The A-story and the B-story connect at exactly the right point, and you’re never given a piece of information that you don’t need, and in the second part of the first act, they explain time travel for you in like two minutes. It’s so succinct, and it’s so fast, and you’re never wondering what’s going on in the moment, and you’re just with it the entire way. That’s something that was a big inspiration to me, even in writing this film, which, of course, has nothing to do with sci-fi or anything. I just kept thinking that you’ve got to keep going. I always said to the cast when we were filming, and I said to Will and Adam that we’re doing everything right if the audience isn’t sure if Isla’s character is going to wake up. If we’ve suspended the disbelief to the point that they’re freaking out that we might kill off a major movie star, then we’ve done our job.
Though it may seem like a knockoff of other films (specifically another female driven film, Bridesmaids) at first glance, these characters were first created to be on stage in the theater version of the story well before that film (which was also written by Leslye Headland). Characters designed to be on stage in my experience are rarely one-dimensional, and have many different layers beneath their exteriors. Having just seen Ruby Sparks (highly recommended for any aspiring writers out there — it will definitely hit home), which was written by one of its stars, Zoe Kazan, it’s interesting when a story and characters traditionally written by a male play a little with preconceived notions. In the case of Headland, female writers can be every bit as vulgar as their male counterparts, but they have the added advantage of actually being inside a woman’s head.
Who are your favorite female writers and directors? Are there any particularly interesting interviews you think we should share from said individuals? If so, please share below in the comments.