Ry Russo-Young is a Sundance Film Festival favourite, with her first film You Won’t Miss Me (2009) appearing at the festival upon release. It also won a Gotham Award for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, and her feature Orphans won a Special Jury Prize at South by Southwest. Russo-Young appeared at the inaugural Sundance London Film Festival to promote her latest film Nobody Walks, co-written with Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture, HBO’s Girls).
We were lucky enough to be in the audience for the UK premiere of the film, which was followed by a Q & A with the writer/director. We got out our paper and pencil quickly, as she talked about the casting process. We also made a point about asking her about the process of working with Dunham.
Thematically, Russo-Young feels the movie doesn’t have any heroes or villains. “People sometimes do bad things meaning well, and I don’t feel I see that enough on screen. Things are very simplistic sometimes”. Much of the film is about the relationships between people in the isolating atmosphere of Los Angeles, as a young film student (Olivia Thirlby) comes to live with a married couple (John Krasinski and Rosemarie Dewitt), disrupting the delicate balance of their relationship.
Russo-Young spoke at length about the process of going through the Sundance Labs as “a really inspiring process”. The Sundance Labs are the heart of the festival, a workshop that aids young filmmakers develop their scripts with seasoned pros. She said that the workshop “helps you walk out of the Lab…thinking about your film in a deeper way”. She spoke about scenes that were added between Rosemarie Dewitt and the character of her daughter that came out of this process.
The film was only shot in 22 days with a budget that was “less than Titanic“, and it was very much part of a collaborative process. We asked about one of these collaborations, that with filmmaker Lena Dunham, who was friends with Russo-Young going into the film: “Collaborating with Lena felt really effortless, which is really great because it is not easy to write a movie. I attribute most of that to working with her…and her talents and skills. She takes what exists with…every human being, those natural emotions that we all have, and makes them her own and makes them very specific and beautiful”.
Nobody Walks is playing until 29 April 2012 at the Sundance London Film and Musical Festival.