By Danielle Mick
Every single Friday night, my mother and I used to sit down and watch a movie from the eighties. I believe it started with The Breakfast Club. (Big surprise, I know.) These movies mean the absolute world to me. These movies are my childhood. It was an absolute honor to sit down with Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless) and Martha Coolidge (Real Genius, Valley Girl) and Kevin Smokler.
The panel is titled after Smokler’s freshly released novel, which is something that I’m going to have to pick up now. Both directors are discussed and interviewed in the novel. I found myself fangirling the entire time. Amy and Martha were absolutely adorable together. They were very appreciative of the audience, the questions they received, and the support for more women in the film industry. They even gave out their information to a few female students after the panel to keep in touch. The chemistry that they had was unbelievable and it was just so cool to see the pair of them interacting right before my very eyes. Martha was having a hard time remembering the names of certain actors and bands and Amy was quick to come to her aid.
[about how they came to direct such iconic movies]
Valley Girl: “The writers came to me: we wrote it, but we don’t understand girls.” (Coolidge)
Real Genius: “They wanted to make a movie about smart kids and make smart sexy.” “The whole point is to have fun and we’ll have fun.” “I really did want to make smart people cool.” (Coolidge)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: “Wait a minute, so you like, want me to do this? So I told the executives and they said okay and then I was directing.” (Heckerling)
Clueless: “I proposed an idea to Disney and they said it was too smart, so I was like you want dumb, I’ll show you dumb.” “”Clueless! Okay, so I’m on my treadmill and I’m watching Aerosmith videos and she felt so real, but so beautiful, and I just cared about her.” “So I thought: Emma, that’s perfect.” (Heckerling)
The questions were mostly focused on their writing process. Martha was asked what it was she looked for in an actor and her answer was one of the best things I have ever heard: “When I get chilled to the bone and I feel like take the person home and feeding them and I want to know everything about them, but I don’t want to get too close. That’s a good sign.” This became a recurring joke throughout the length of the panel. They let us in on a little secret: most of the lines that stick with us are not the writer’s favorite. They come from little improvised moments, lines said on set that make the directors sit back and say “now, that’s good.” Amy informed us that she never had a moment in her career that was like “I just wrote the slogan for the eighties!”
They poked some fun about the lack of female directors in Hollywood today. Amy joked about how studios tended to have a “one per studio” rule, while Martha recalled a major production agency telling her that “we already tried a woman, it didn’t work out.” It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn into actual advice. Martha told us to look around the room, at the diversity of the audience. “The world does not look like executives in programming. The world is not all white, caucasian males.” She went on to talk about her love for indie films and “The life and the blood and the change comes from independent filmmaking. Nobody is going to say that it’s hard, but it’s so hard. Just fight.” The women were asked if there were any young directors that they were excited by. Amy was quick to reply: “Franco, Rogen, Apatow. What? They’re funny.” Martha agreed with her, but took a different approach, noting directors and specific movies that she was particularly fond of. Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) and Ryan Coogler (Creed).
The most endearing part of the panel came at it’s conclusion, with a young boy, no more than ten, asking what it was like to work with Paul Rudd during the filming of Clueless. Amy laughed and looked at Martha for a moment before responding. “For some reason, he’s not aging at all, so maybe you’ll work with him when you grow up.”
Both women were extremely inspirational and I wish Smokler the best on his new book. It’s now available for purchase in your local bookstore or most websites of your choice.