As the premise of ÉCU is to encourage and promote those who pursue their dreams in independent filmmaking, we are spotlighting the rising star, Greta Gerwig, the American actress and filmmaker who began working in ‘mumblecore’ films. Micro-budgets and amateur actors are key elements of the ostensible ‘mumblecore’ independent film movement of the early 2000s in the US, as well as the loosely-strung, mumbling dialogue which led to its nomenclature. Gerwig has featured in a large number of films from this movement including LOL, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Baghead, Yeast, and Nights and Weekends (of which she was also co-writer and co-director). It has been claimed that ‘mumblecore’ is responsible for the renaissance of American indie films.
Recently, high-quality independent films have been reported to be holding up the US box office, as indie films have burst into the top 10 ahead of films produced by major studios. As a preeminent figure of ‘mumblecore’, 29-year-old Gerwig exemplifies how indie actors and filmmakers can break into more prominent scenes. Of her mainstream movies she can boast working with Oscar-winning Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached (2011) and the esteemed Woody Allen in To Rome with Love (2012). In her roles she seems to nonchalantly pull off the illusion of spontaneity, yet she was admittedly daunted by the opportunity to ad-lib her lines as Allen casually advocated.
She underlines that she “always idolised him as a writer” and so felt uneasy about deviating from Woody Allen’s script, despite her talent for natural dialogue. A writer herself, she co-wrote and starred in Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007), with no training in film, fresh out of university, and no clue of how she would earn a living. The story revolves around Hannah, who drifts between relationships as she interns at a production office in Chicago, and tries to figure out the direction of her life after university. There is something very raw and unaffected about Gerwig’s acting which is inspiring. She also co-starred with Russell Brand in the inimitably quirky Arthur (2011), and seems to be relentlessly drawn to eccentricity.
Gerwig worked with director and renowned eccentric, Whit Stillman, in the comedy Damsels in Distress (2011), starring alongside Adam Brody. She plays Violet, who is the leader of a group of girls determined to turn around the bleak state of affairs at their college and tackle student depression and general boorish behaviour. It is certainly a unique film. Gerwig admits to being a complete eccentric herself, claiming notably that she never “placed a high value on fitting in.” This is an integral component of indie filmmaking: opting for personal integrity and idiosyncrasy rather than conforming to the notions of major studios. ÉCU is dedicated to providing a platform for those who, like Gerwig, aren’t preoccupied with crowd-pleasing and are willing to take risks.