Amber Tamblyn Directed Her First Movie In Just 21 Days
Perhaps you remember Amber Tamblyn from her roles on “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Two And A Half Men,” or “House.” For me, she still sticks out as Tibby from the “Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants” movies that gave us all the feels 10+ years ago.
Either way, the actress has been up to a lot since then. After more than ten years in front of the camera, not only is Amber shifting towards darker films, she finally took a stab at directing (and she’s great at it). In her new film, “Paint It Black,” she explores grief and the aftermath of suicide with a cast including Alia Shawkat from “Arrested Development” and Janet McTeer from “The White Queen.” The most insane part? The whole film was shot in just 21 days.
Galore sat down with her to hear more about the movie, what being a first-time director was like, and where she plans to go from here.
Was this the first time that you wanted to step into a director role?
I hadn’t really planned to do it, it sort of happened organically. I loved the book so much and I really saw such a unique story in what Janet Fitch had written, which is to say characters who were deeply flawed, women who were deeply messed up, and those are the type of characters I gravitate towards. I liked their violence, their viciousness, and I thought that could make for a really compelling film.
What was the process of bringing this novel to life like?
It was a slow process, but it was a really wonderful one. I had originally started out wanting to star in it myself and had written it for myself, and then it sort of grew from there and became something that I knew I was too old to play anymore. And I needed to find a really fantastic cool punk rock actress to play Josie, and so I found that in Alia Shawkat, who is amazing.
Janet McTeer is just extraordinary and somebody who I had wanted to play this role so badly. And I thought, oh god, if she reads it and she says no, then I don’t even wanna do this movie ‘cuz she’s so amazing, I can’t see anyone else doing it. I was very lucky that she responded and said, “Oh yeah, I could definitely play this role and I would love to.”
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What challenges do you think you encountered as a first time director?
It wasn’t fully smooth but that’s only because we shot the movie in 21 days, which is insane. If there’s anything I wish independent films could have, and I’m sure any director would agree with me, it’s just more time. One of the great things about acting and the great benefit of being on so many sets over decades, is that I’ve been able to really see how time is managed on a set. And I’ve worked with really amazing directors and not really amazing directors and I’ve seen how directors use their time, either in a good way or a bad way, so I knew I had to be really quick on my feet and that if I was making decisions, they had to be bold ones. So it was really about thinking about what exactly I needed to say, not only in the scene, but where that fit in the body of the film I was trying to make.
What aspects of womanhood were important to capture in this film?
I wanted to create a film that shows women’s grief in a different way and shows that women can be many things at once, all at once, and that’s hard to convey on screen without having actresses talk about that or having characters merely talk about that. I wanted to make a film that felt like an experience of grief as opposed to watching two women grieve on screen, if that makes sense. So the former is more experimental, certainly, and the film does flow into the experimental category, but not very much. And so to me, those are the types of movies I love about women. I like when they’re combative and sort of raw and wild, just unpredictable.
Are you hoping to step into directing more? What are your next steps?
I’m working on a novel, which also has a very upsetting female protagonist so that’s the next big thing that I’m working on and that’ll be out next year, but I will always want to direct now, that’s part of who I am.