Jamie Babbit


by Joanna Orland

Jamie Babbit is an American indie film director, known best for her debut feature But I’m a Cheerleader.  With a list of prominent TV shows under her directorial belt, she returns to the big screen with her latest feature Addicted to Fresno.  We spoke to Jamie about her latest film, her career, indie film in general and what advice she has for female filmmakers:


Where did the idea for Addicted to Fresno come from and what inspired you to make it into a feature film?

The film was inspired from two ideas. The first impulse was to do a story about two sisters based entirely on Karey (our writer and also my wife) and her complicated difficult sister. The other idea was to do a story about an addict and a codependent based loosely on my sex addict grandmother and my mother.


Why did you decide to cast against type with Judy and Natasha as characters who the other is more frequently associated with?

My favorite ice cream is salted caramel. The sweet vanilla with the salt. For Natasha’s character, I needed an actress who could play a happy optimistic upbeat type with deep dark sadness underneath. Natasha has that complexity. For Judy’s character Shannon, I needed a dark self-destructive energy with an underlying desire and neediness to be good. Judy has that combination. Natasha gave the peppy cheerleader type an edge, and Judy gave the dark bitter pill something to root for.


There’s quite an amazing supporting cast in this film as well.  How did you go about casting the film?

I mostly reached out to friends or friends of friends. I’m lucky to have worked with some insanely talented women and men in my TV directing career.


Why did you change the name of the film from Fresno to Addicted to Fresno?

I was forced to change the name to a title that starts with an A so when people see it listed on their TV, it comes up first.


Fresno premiered at SXSW – a festival better known for its music, but recently the film stream has come into its own.  Why do you think the film aspect of SXSW has exploded and what made it the right place to debut Fresno?

Austin Texas is such an amazing community of film lovers, and the motto of the city is “keep Austin weird”. This movie is a black comedy and the Austin audience really embraced its biting comedy.


What are some of the benefits of being an independent filmmaker vs part of the studio system?

We can write anything we want in the indie world, and cast whomever we want. I would not want to cut out the biting satire or cast Barbie dolls in these parts. Thank god movies can be made outside the system!


These days a lot more Hollywood stars are turning to independent cinema for work.  What does indie film offer an actor that Hollywood doesn’t?

The parts for women are much improved in indie cinema. Judy Greer was doing Jurassic World right before our movie and Ant-Man right after, and in both movies her parts were so tiny. She’s able to spin gold out of nothing — she’s an acting genius — but thank god this movie gives her a real part to show how good she is!


At the moment, indie film in general is giving Hollywood blockbusters a run for their money.  What is it about NOW that is making indie film more accessible and appreciated?

Indie films having been making good profits, so more investors are willing to put their money into interesting stories with amazing actors that aren’t on those ridiculous actor lists that foreign pre-sales require. Those lists have ruined countless movies. World audiences are always ready for good stories and are tired of the sameness of Hollywood.


Do you think Hollywood needs to be worried by the rise of the indie?

They need to join! They need to start embracing more risky storytelling and casting.


What do you think the future of independent film looks like?

Indie movies are getting more and more interesting — I’m excited by the future.


Gender issues in the film industry are at the forefront at the moment.  What are some of the challenges of being a female filmmaker, and what advice can you give to other female filmmakers?

Take your own initiative! Especially in Europe, I feel likes there’s this over reliance on state funding and proper channels. It’s time to take matters in your own hands and by any means necessary making your films. There’s plenty of wealthy Europeans that you ladies need to convince to invest in your movies!


What’s up next for you?

I’m developing a lesbian TV show based on the web series called fto7th.com.

Check it out!

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