The bad news? It’s damned hard to get into Sundance.

The good news? It’s also not impossible.

Sometimes it just requires you to do something that you’re terrified to do. Krieger adapted a series from a feature-length amount of material she had written. And while she had a huge learning curve directing for the first time, she didn’t just drum up the material on the spot –she’d been working on the characters since 2011.

When Krieg’s pilot for Delivery Girl, centered first around a fiercely catholic woman who deals drugs and has a secret gay lover, was accepted into the Indie Episodic program, she couldn’t believe it. She sat down with No Film School before the premiere to talk about directing in front of the camera, necessary hand-holding, and why being a little insecure is better than being on your high horse.

NFS: Especially considering you're going to be in front of the camera and directing yourself, I'm curious about how did you choose the right team and everybody else to help make that possible?

Krieger: I will tell you this, it was no small feat. I was very daunted early on about the idea of directing, not only myself in every damn scene, but also giving my actors proper notes. It's a hard task to be in the moment and also have to say, "Oh, let's try it this way." Or "Could you adjust that a bit?" Or "What if, let me give you this direction about your motivation."

It's tough, I'm not going to lie to you. But I will say this; I've had a lot of emotional support from my producers who said, "We believe you can do this. You know this character. You wrote this. This is yours entirely, this is not someone else's material." I worked out a shot list with the cinematographer, Oliver Lanzberg, who was terrific. I said to him, "I'm really going to need you to hold my hand through this, because I'm going to be in every scene and the acting is going to be paramount to me when I'm in the scene.” He really shouldered that.

I had a version of a mood reel. We worked all that out together before we started shooting, and then once we were on set, I trusted him and I had to trust my AD too, who was diligent and ran a tight set and knew how to shoulder some work if I was being an actress. Trusting your DP is really what it came down to for me. And Oliver is an incredible talent and a really nice guy. He says, "I'm a big believer in not walking out." And I'm pretty neurotic intense and he compliments me quite nicely. That was helpful.

VgzupeutIn this still from the pilot of 'Delivery Girl' director/creatoe Kate Krieger plays Trisha, one of six delivery girls, all created and played by Krieger.Credit: Delivery Girl

"...if you're high on your horse, you might be doing something wrong." 

NFS: Having cut your teeth already in your career as an actress [with roles in shows like Workaholics] was there something that you had learned having acted under other directors?

Krieger: It gives me an opportunity for me to trust my training and my work as an actress so that I didn't have to freak out like I'm not worth my salt. There's always a little bit of that because, I think, if you're high on your horse, you might be doing something wrong. So, there's always a little bit of insecurity. But because I have worked a fair amount as an actress, and I'm not a hack, and I'm not phoning it in, and I know the character really well, that was helpful. I could do my preparation and surrender to it and trust that it was going to be there.

The directorial part, that was a huge learning curve. It was my first time ever directing. I went to people that I trusted, and they said, "As long as you're persistent, and as long as you create a shot list, and as long as you prep your DP, it's going to get done and it's going to work out.". It was scary, and it was challenging. There were times when I was like, "Shit, I don't know. Do you think we need steady cam here? Should it be hand held? Is this going to be a funky angle? I'm not really sure." That's the stuff that you have to learn in the field, right? I went to my brother, Lee Toland Krieger, who's a very accomplished director, and he crash course taught me how to direct, over the phone essentially. We talked about how I wanted it to look, how I wanted it to feel. And then my DP and I went through and just did it together. But it was a learning curve. I learned a lot on the set. I'm a new woman.

NFS: How long did your production end up taking?

Krieger: Well from start to finish, in terms of pre-production, I flew out to the coast about a month before we started shooting. We started shooting October 6th. We shot the 6th, 7th and 8th. I was there prepping a month in advance. When I say prepping, I mean everything from working on how I wanted each scene to look and working on my version of a mood reel and the shot list, the preliminary shot list, to location scouting. We wrapped October 8th. We didn't have a rough assembly until November.

 And then we've been in post literally since then and it went to Fancy and did our Quality Control check as recently as like January 10th. So from September to January essentially. It's been such a whirlwind since we are doing everything down to the 11th hour, but it's been incredible too. To that end, my producer was really smart about saying, "I want to try to get this in [to Sundance]." And lo and behold, it worked out.

Xdcxcz8iA still from Kate Krieger's pilot for 'Delivery Girl' where she plays six different character thematicall woven together in this official selection of Sundance 2019 Indie Episodic section.Credit: Delivery Girl

"Know it’s going to be really hard, challenging, and scary...but that's the stuff that moves your life forward for the better."

NFS: You mentioned you had your own natural insecurities coming into this. When you sat down and looked at the footage that had been shot, were you like, "Oh good, this came out great."? Or was anything shocking because you hadn’t?

Krieger: I tend to err on the side of, I don't want to say being a pessimist, but like "Oh shit. I'm going to be terrible. We didn't get enough coverage." I think that this probably is most people's experience. There was stuff that I thought worked out really well and there was stuff, there were a couple of things that I went, "I would love to go back and re-shoot this." Or “We didn't rack focus here.” Things that you're going to deal with on any production set. As an actress, you come in, you do your job and you go home. And you don't get to call the shots in the editing room.

It was wild, having to watch myself for literally, by the time we finished, over a hundred hours. That's tough. And it was heartache to see that there were certain things that I didn’t quite get. But I will say that overall, I loved the way it looked. Again, my DP did a beautiful job and ultimately even though it's imperfect, and I have issues with things and I probably always will, I'm proud of it. I think it captures the heart that we've put into it. I hope people see that.

NFS: And clearly people have. Here you’re premiering at Sundance!

Krieger: I know, I know. It's a "pinch yourself" moment.

NFS: Based on what everything you’ve learned on Delivery Girl, what would be your advice to others?

Krieger: After this experience, something I believe in is taking risks, taking creative risks. Sometimes that comes with financial risk and emotional risk, life risk. That's the stuff that's going to get you to where you want in life. There's no question. So if you have an idea and an inspiration and you know in your gut, do it. I just knew in my gut I wanted to tell this girl's story. I just knew it. I had been wanting to do it for years. And you have to listen to that still, small voice. You just do. That's your intuition and you can't fake that. Had I not done this, I wouldn't be standing in this beautiful room and this beautiful home in Park City, a few days ahead of my premiere at Sundance. I mean, who would have known, right?

It’s scary when you don't know how it's going to turn out, and you don't know what's going to happen with it, or what the results will be. But if you don't take the risk, you know what you're left with. If you do take the risk, great things could happen. That's what I would say. It's about listening to the voice and going for it. Know it’s going to be really hard, challenging, and scary. There's no question. But that's character building. That's the stuff that moves your life forward for the better.

For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.


No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by Blackmagic Design.