Frances Ha's Greta Gerwig, On Why She Loves Jaws And Why Acting Is Like Skydiving

By Katey Rich 2013-05-17 14:37:03discussion comments
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In the thing you did for the Times, about the anatomy of a scene, you go through every take and you can sit there and say, ďThis is how I felt during it.Ē I feel like a lot of time, for non-actors, weíre like, ďBut theyíre so in the moment. Theyíre in the character. Itís totally different,Ē but you seemed so aware of everything that was happening which is really a vulnerable spot to be in.
I mean part of my decision to write that piece for the Times in that way, the section is called Riff, which I donít know if youíve read many of these, but theyíre really smart and they get really smart, funny people to riff about something, like, ďIíve been thinking about this thing,Ē and then theyíll have twelve paragraphs about what they think about the world and I said, ďOh, yes. I would love to write something for The New York Times

You canít say no.
Yeah, no, I was like, ďThatís awesome,Ē and then I sat down and I was like, ďI canít riff,Ē because I feel like in some ways, I write fiction because I get to hide behind it. I get to give things to characters.

Or tell a story, not just riff on an idea.
I have so many theories and thoughts, but I give them to characters, because Iím a coward, because itís hard for me to say them as myself. So, I feel like if I can embed them in a narrative, itís almost like I donít have to own them in the same way, which is probably something I should get over.

Well, thatís what makes good fiction.
Yeah, I mean, or itís the way I feel comfortable, itís the way I feel most able to express myself. So, I wanted to do something where I didnít have to write my opinion for an entire thing.

So, you needed a structure?
Yeah, so I needed a structure. I decided I would watch [all of the scene's takes] instead of just making it up and I felt... I actually, it was interesting, because watching it, I felt like I was really, I really tried very hard. That sounds so silly, but I really tried very hard and I, and as I was watching it, I would have moments when I would think to myself, ďWhy are you laughing?Ē and then I would hear Noah from offscreen say, ďWhy are you laughing so much?Ē but when youíre doing itÖ

You donít think about it?
You canít really control it. I canít, anyway. I donít know. Maybe other people can.

So, itís less self-conscious than it seems when reading you going back and watching it?
Iím not comparing this, because I could never do it, but when you watch Olympic swimmers or something and itís happening so fast and itís totally happening at the brainstem level of like, theyíve trained this into their bodies, but itís also almost happening in slow motion and theyíre aware of every little thing and theyíre also aware of nothing. Itís kind of like that. Or if youíve ever played an instrument and really know what that feels likeÖ. or dance. Itís like, itís some feeling of you know it and itís muscle memory and then youíre also hyper-conscious of every little thing. I think thereís an element of, you know, fear that makes the experience more vivid, which is why I think acting is so addicting, because thereís fear in it.

And thereís fear in every take?
Yeah, every take.

And even when youíre doing 42 or 52 takes of everything?
Never goes away.

Thatís terrifying.
Itís like sky-diving every minute.

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