Frances Ha's Greta Gerwig writes out loud 

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I grew up dancing and I love dancing. We obviously made her a dancer, and I've never been a professional dancer, but I love it a lot. We almost wanted to treat her like a dancer, like the way Fred Astaire said you need to shoot a dancer from head to toe at all times. We were like, let's shoot like that as much as we can. That really influenced the look of the movie.

Another thing about the look of the film is that it reminds me that Orson Welles said that black-and-white was "the actor's friend." Do you think that's true?

I've heard that. I think one of the things it does is, it creates this sense of almost timelessness and nostalgia, which I think takes you out of something that feels really ephemeral and makes it seem like it's part of the tradition of film.

It's also so beautiful, and I think people look beautiful in black-and-white, too. Obviously, I love a lot of color films, and I think color can be very emotional and used very well. But there's something almost impressionistic about black-and-white because it makes you almost able to experience more the emotions of the film and the faces of the characters more purely because it's not literal to life. I think it gives the film this thing that Orson Welles is spot-on about.

Your education is in English and philosophy. Have you written anything for publication?

I've written a couple of things that are for the printed page, but I have trouble writing if I can't think of it being embodied and said out loud. I'm almost like I'm a prewritten-word human. I feel like my brain is engineered like those of people who listen to epic poetry. There's something about speaking things out loud that I just understand it more.

It's hard to totally explain, but I read out loud to myself even when I'm reading novels because I really like to hear the words and the way they sound. I think I've always veered toward theater and film because it's dramatized and it's performed. There's this performative aspect of writing that I just understand better. I feel that even if I were to write novels, I'd probably make it into some weird performance art where someone reads it out loud.

There's an autobiographical edge to your work and to Baumbach's. For example, when Frances goes home from New York, she goes to Sacramento, your hometown, and those are really your parents.

In some ways, I felt really safe doing it, and it was the right decision because it's so written and because it's so structured. Not a single word in the movie is improvised. It's all very scripted and tightly controlled.

Because of that, I felt quoting directly from my life felt that I was putting it in something that was real and built a fictional world around it. It felt like I was using it in a way that was more like the Al Hirschfeld drawings, where he did caricatures of Carol Channing and he always hid his daughter's name in them.

Oh, yeah. Nina.

You look for the "Nina" because it's in there. Obviously, everybody with the Internet can look it up and know that's where I grew up. But if you were just watching the film, and you had no idea — I just like having some ideas that are real, that are really, truly resonant for you. To me, the landscape for Sacramento is so specific.

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