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Just when you can’t decide if Lake Bell’s an actress who specializes in outrageous TV comedies like “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later” and “Childrens Hospital,” or intense film dramas like “Shot Caller” and “No Escape,” she goes and switches it up on you yet again.
“In a World,” Bell’s first film as writer, director and star, earned heaps of critical praise and performed admirably at the box office when it was released in 2013. Now, the filmmaker is back behind the camera again with “I Do…Until I Don’t,” a lighthearted, screwball exploration of the feasibility of the institution of marriage in the modern day, through the prism of three couples.
Bell admits that, when she began work on the screenplay, she was skeptical of the viability of long-term commitment –- until she met her now-husband, and settled into a long-term relationship. This gave her new project even richer colors, as she reveals to Moviefone.
Moviefone: Are you now a recovered anti-romantic?
Lake Bell: Yeah, that’s it –- I figured it out. My husband has everything to do with my faith in a committed relationship, and he is fearless and fierce about it. I started writing this movie before I even knew him, and with my very, sort of jaded point of view of a committed relationship.
So I just thought it was an archaic institution, and that marriage was something that was built around contracts and land partnerships and things like that. But, the movie is deeply personal for that reason. All of these characters are representing different parts of different relationships that have been meaningful in my life — or have caused me to think and investigate my own relationship.
I feel very proud of the movie — to put something out there that has a tremendous amount of hope. That’s not a spoiler. Because I want people to know that going into it.
You have mentioned that it was like therapy for you to write this. I’m curious: what were some of the results of undergoing that therapy?
Well, I’m happily married! And I do think of this movie almost like chapter one to my investigation to adult relationships. This is me now, talking about it and in my life – and I’m fairly young in my marriage, but I’ve been a staunch observer of my parents’ relationship and my friends, and all the relationships around me that are close. So it’s natural that you would utilize those experiences and those rapports in writing. So that’s the therapy aspect of it, I suppose.
As a writer and as a filmmaker, did you come into this with more confidence based on the response to your first film, “In a World?” Or was it almost like sometimes you have that like, “Oh, now I’ve got to live up to what I did before?”
I think it’s a mix of both. The good news about the, “Oh, will I ever live up to ‘In a World'” or whatever is I am an actor, right? So I have this job that I do and then I get to make movies over here in this other sort of universe. So I really kind of play in both, in two playgrounds.
And the other portion of this is that I’m a mom now. So it’s like my level of being caught up in what people sort of think has diminished a little bit. Because I just care about being true to myself, so that my children see me realizing my dreams, and my children see that confidence and that belief in myself. And then keeping my kids healthy and happy. That’s all that really matters, let’s be honest.
I know that people always say this, but I really do care more about people just seeing the movie so that they can laugh, have a good time, and feel really good as they walk out. That’s important to me, because I poured a lot of love into the movie, and I want to give that. That’s my way of sharing. And same with “In A World” – it was kind-spirited, too. I feel like that’s my job, to care about that more so than who is going to say negative things. I don’t know – I gotta change poopy diapers, that’s the poop that I’d like to submit myself to. I don’t need more.
So it’s like I’m not gonna seek out to get validation from people. But I think already the reception of this movie has been really kind. And I think people just need to laugh a little bit. They need to just feel a little love.
You entered into filmmaking at the sort of tipping point where finally women are getting to tell their stories on film. Tell me how you feel about that in general now, as opposed to when you made your first film. Do you feel things are gaining some momentum and traction and changing things the way things need to be changed? Or are we still way behind the curve?
I think both. Because I think that the thing I’ve really noticed in the past five years, for instance, is there really has been I think we are at the tipping point for female characters portrayed in their diversity and their versatility and the robustness of all these types of characters. I think that women are getting to play a lot of fun stuff.
That said, behind the scenes I think we have a long way to go. I think we’re far away from the tipping point. But I think that “Wonder Woman” was and is a huge step forward. It’s like at the end of the day in this town, money talks. We all know that. So the fact that it just is a wildly successful lucrative endeavor is just a huge stride for us.
And as a proud board member of Women in Film, I couldn’t be more thrilled with how that went down. And I’m excited to see how that affects the studio system. It might not, but I think it will. I’ve always been so confused that people don’t endorse more female filmmakers based on just a business standpoint, because if you just look at the demographics of the country there’s more women.
TV is very friendly to filmmakers like yourself, inviting them in to create television shows. You certainly had success in the TV work that you’ve done as an actress. Are you interested in exploring that medium, given all the heat that’s sort of on it and the exposure that it’s getting right now?
All I can say is yes to that. And we’ll see what happens with that. I think any medium or opportunity to kind of creatively express something with the support of a studio or producers in a way that feels productive is something that’s of interest to me.
I agree that the television space is a place where you can have a lot of fun. And obviously the turn around is quicker and it still allows you to be able to write a movie on the side. There’s something appealing about it. But, I’m still figuring it out.
How ambitious are you getting as far as the scope of the films that you want to make? Do you like the territory you’ve been in, or do you want to go bigger?
I have some bigger ones on the docket. Yeah, there’s one that I’m writing, an original piece, that will take me a couple of years probably to get off the ground. But that one’s bigger in scope, which is really fun. And I tend to do that: I want to take steps up and sometimes maybe I should jump a little bit further. Then there’s a project that I’m re-writing and will direct soon that is much bigger in scope. So that’s fun.
Are you like Orson Welles where you do the acting jobs to sort of fund your ability to make films?
Never been compared to Orson Welles but…
Glad to be the first one.
But a little bit. I think that doing my acting work is also part of my film school, because any time I get to arrive on a set and just say the words and do my job as an actor, it always provides an opportunity for me to be an observer again, and to observe another director and how they run their ship. And how he or she takes on different challenges. I always learn a lot.
Even Ric Waugh, who I was working with in “Shot Caller,” I remember picking up something from him. Obviously he does very serious dramas, but he had a way of directing us where he would say, “Take your time, you don’t have to rush through.” Especially with me, in comedy, I tend to move, pace it up. And he said, “Let me edit you later. You don’t have to pull in the reigns so much. It’s okay.” So he had to let me pull back and take the time to find things.
I learn from doing, from having different kinds of budgets and different limitations or different scenarios to depict. So it’s really important that I continue my work as an actor just because it’s part of my education.