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Tribeca: As the writer/director, what inspired you to tell this story?
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: The idea first came about exactly two years ago, the night my husband’s film Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench premiered at Tribeca. My old high school friend Lauren Fales showed up unexpectedly to the premiere, and I hadn’t seen her in over five years. After the screening, she told me her mother had passed away from cancer and that she’d been struggling. I was really touched by her story. I knew right then during that conversation I would make this movie, and when I returned to LA, I immediately began writing.
Tribeca: Can you tell us a bit about how you assembled your fantastic cast? I remember Judy Marte so fondly from Raising Victor Vargas. And Karen Black?!
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: I wanted to work with Judy ever since watching her in Raising Victor Vargas—a film that really sticks with me to this day. She is amazing in everything she does, and in particular, Vargas and On the Outs. Through a strange set of coincidences, we met and became friends, and when I wrote Maria My Love, I asked her if she’d play Ana. Despite having basically no money to pay her, she agreed!
Brian Rieger is an actor from Colorado who I’ve known since childhood, but who has only done theater until now. Lauren Fales was an obvious choice—because she is an extremely talented actress and the film is based on her life, I wrote the part of Grace for her.
And Karen Black was my mother’s wonderful suggestion. When my mom told me the idea, I thought it was brilliant. Producer Jennifer Glynn and I contacted her management, and after reading the script and talking with me, Karen agreed to do the film!
Tribeca: What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened during production? For better or for worse—something where you couldn’t believe your luck…
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: I couldn’t believe my luck when we stumbled upon the taco truck that appears during the scene where Maria and Ana meet. The crew will attest to how much I loved that darned taco truck. (Thanks, crew, for your patience.) It wasn’t written in the script, and when I saw it, I was struck by how vibrant it was and that it felt so authentic to the space. I knew we had to incorporate it into the scene, so I sent producer Jennifer Glynn to quickly get the man in the truck to sign paperwork so we could shoot him. Then Karen and Judy have that great moment of improvisation. They both have amazing instincts and worked so unbelievably well together.
Tribeca: What’s the biggest thing you learned while making Maria My Love?
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: That a film is truly greater than the sum of its parts. I couldn’t have cut Maria My Love without my editor, and she couldn’t have cut it without me. And so on and so forth. It’s about finding a talented team who supports your vision and makes it even better than you imagined. Spend a lot of time finding the right people. Then once you do, try to find a way to get what you need without sounding like a micromanager. (Perhaps I should really say without BEING a micromanager. But hey, baby steps.)
Tribeca: You and your husband Damien were at Tribeca in 2009 with Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. With the Festival success you’ve had, any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: Work harder than everyone you know, surround yourself with talented, honest, kind and generous people, keep your eyes open for opportunities, and don’t let unnecessary apprehensions hold you back from achieving your goals.
Tribeca: What do you want audiences to take away from Maria My Love?
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: I hope that people find a moment or image they find particularly beautiful, enjoy the performances, and appreciate the naturalistic, observational quality to the film.
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: I hope the film is well received and gets theatrical distribution. Equally important to me, I hope I meet people that will become future collaborators, and get my next project, The Fencer, off the ground.
Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: I hate having to pick just one, but I think I’d go with James Gray. I really love his work and think he’s one of the best living/working filmmakers. I’d want to pick his brain about every aspect of his approach to directing. I’d also use the opportunity to ask if I could shadow him on his next project. Anyone reading this who could make the shadowing gig happen, please give me a call!
Tribeca: What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: Hands down Black Swan. The film speaks for itself. It really shook me in the best of ways. It was utterly inspiring. I saw it four times in theaters and my BluRay arrived on Tuesday. When I recommend the film to people, I sometimes mention that Aronofsky went through the same film program that I did at Harvard, in the hopes that they’ll think I am somehow cooler than I really am. Anyone notice how sexy Aronofsky is? (Damien, husband of mine, please ignore this answer.)
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: “The Girl Who Liked to Eat Steak, Fence, and Make Movies.”
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle: Because the performances are powerful, it shows Los Angeles in a fresh way, and it proves you can make a film with beautiful cinematography on a micro-budget.
Find out where and when Maria My Love is playing at the Festival.
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Watch the trailer at Maria My Love's Official Website.