Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 2, 2013

Filmmakers discuss how they achieved success

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Lauren Cavanagh received a jolt of inspiration as she heard filmmakers Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij discuss the unconventional paths that led them to make movies.

“I loved hearing people, my age, talk about breaking the rules, going against the status quo and doing something that they are passionate about,” said Cavanagh, of Detroit, who attended a Film Festival panel discussion featuring the pair on Thursday.

“Because of people like them I have hope for myself; sometimes it just takes hearing other people to really be catapulted into what I should be doing,” said Cavanagh, an artist who works in marketing.

Marling and Batmanglij spoke with Film Fest founder Michael Moore about their movies “The East,” “Another Earth” and “Sound of My Voice” and how the friends who met while studying at Georgetown University came to make them.

Moore said Georgetown is not typically where people go if they want to make movies.

“I have felt for a long time and have encouraged students that want to go into film to not go to film school. Take English literature, economics,” he said.

Marling, valedictorian of her class with a degree in economics, said she needed real life experiences to be able to make great films.

“I felt like, how was I going to have something to offer in making these stories if I didn’t have any other experiences,” said Marling, who met Batmanglij after seeing a student film he made with friend Mike Cahill.

“What they made didn’t look like a student film. It was so beautiful, raw and colorful, pulsating,” she said.

She said she was so taken with the movie, she stalked them all over campus until they agreed to let her work on their next production.

Batmanglij, who studied anthropology, said the friends made up their movie-making style as they went along.

“We broke all the rules. The movies we wanted to make, no one would make them other than us,” he said, noting it took six years of determination and hard work before the team had any real success.

Marling said the acclaim their films earned at film festivals, including Sundance, is a small part of the reason she is a filmmaker.

“Sometimes this work starts out as a whisper,” she said.

“The whisper grew between the three of us and the voice grew too loud, a wild child that had to get of of the house, we had to make the movie. We were shocked when it ended up at Sundance.”

Moore said following one’s passion is not always an easy thing.

“There is also an internal voice inside of all of us, in my case it’s a nun, going ‘shhhh, you know you are going to fail.’ You have to not listen to that voice,” he said.