Eliza Hittman brings the gritty back to the girls in IT FELT LIKE LOVE

Posted by Valentina Valentini on November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Eliza Hittman brings the gritty back to the girls in IT FELT LIKE LOVE

In Eliza Hittman’s freshman feature It Felt Like Love, she aimed to craft a character that everybody could relate to in some way or another and she wanted to show those intimate contradictions between who we want to be seen as, and who we really are. In addition to accomplishing that, she created a sincere and honest film that looks at both the internal and external pressures of sexuality and society in modern-day teenage girls.

Where did the genesis for the story come from?

When I was at Sundance in 2011, with my short film Forever’s Going to Start Tonight, I had a few meetings with managers and agents and I kept hearing the same question: ‘Will you write us a romantic comedy?’ I went home and was annoyed with that request, so I began writing this script as my retaliation. It was my version of a romantic comedy, [she smirks].

What was it about the awkwardness of adolescence that you wanted to capture?

Like I said, I think there’s that side of us that wants to be perceived in a particular way and that’s something that exists at any age and at any point in our lives. Like when I freelance and I’m not working, if someone asks what I’ve been up to I gush about how busy I am. There’s always a pressure to represent yourself as being happy, successful, in love…and I think that starts in adolescence.

Tell me about the dog. What role did Lila’s dog play?

Growing up, I had a mother who was ill, [in the film, Lila’s mother has died from breast cancer], and I remember having all these power struggles with my father about taking responsibility over this or that thing that neither of us was willing to be accountable for. Also, the scene with Lila trying to get her dog to sleep in bed with her was supposed to go into a much darker direction, but it got cut because I wouldn’t have been able to cast the film. Although, I think it was for the best, because if that happened, that’s all that people would have taken away from the film.

You had a hard time casting Lila’s role anyway, yes?

Gina [Piersanti] came in for a cold read and I knew she had something really captivating. I brought her and her mother in a room for an interview and I laid out everything that happens in the script and they just sat there, very stiff. Gina’s mother read the script and said that it was not for them. She was even hesitant to have Gina read the script at all.

I had this casting Tumblr going online, where I was posting images of my ideas, of teenage girls and how famous photographers framed teenage girls and how teenage girls framed themselves. I knew Gina was following the page, so I started writing posts that were directed very much to her, but generalized, about my intention with the film and what I wanted to accomplish; how when you’re a kid you always admire actors that take on darker roles. And they bit. [Even still, a whole email correspondence went on before Gina became comfortable enough to take the role.]

How did the micro budget affect your decisions as a filmmaker?

The biggest restriction with a tiny budget is always on time. We had to work much faster than any human would want when making a film. We shot five or six pages a day and had only 16 days to shoot in. There are definitely parts of the story that I wished I had the resources to expand. The relationship with the father is something that ended up being elusive because of those restrictions.

But my support system included a really incredible DP, Sean Porter and other than that I had a volunteer gaffer for four or five days. We had three lights and Sean came with his own RED and a great set of vintage Cooke lenses. We had a sound person and a script supervisor to make sure we didn’t miss anything, because of the pace we were moving at. And then I had my exceptional producers Laura Wagner and Shrihari Sathe.

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