Interview with Jeff Lipsky
Writer and Director of “Twelve Thirty”
Dallas , Texas , May 20, 2011
Presbyterian Outlook: Isn’t being the writer and the director two very different functions?
JL: Yes, very much so, but while it’s a cliché that filmmaking is a collaborative art, my movies really are. Except, you know, you can’t buy a script at an Apple store.
PO : So tell me about this script.
JL: What would you like to know?
PO : How did you come up with this?
JL: Out of the 4 films I’ve made, I’ve written the scripts for 3 of them, and what they have in common is that they are about love, and relationships, and human sexuality, and I try to imbue all of that with a certain honesty and flair that accompanies specific stories. What spurred me this time was that I was inspired by two other films, one a 1980’s Russian comedy called “Adam’s Rib,” a lovely movie, which was about 3 generations of Russian women who lived under the same roof, and their lives and loves. I have 3 women of two generations who don’t really know each other, and the other inspiration was “The Graduate.”
PO : Ah! I thought I detected an echo there.
JL: Yes, and there’s a specific homage, actually, when Jeff asks Vivian what she studied, she answers, “Art,” and that exactly what Mrs. Robinson said to Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate.” And in addition, I’d promised Karen Young, a very good friend, that I’d write a part for her, and I did. I wrote the role of Vivian specifically for her.
PO : And I’m sure there are other “bookmarks” in this film.
JL: Yes, for instance, the 3rd line of the movie, when the viewer is just catching up to the cadences of the dialogue of the characters, Mel says to Jeff, “Don’t worship me,” and that of course, is exactly what he winds up doing, which becomes his undoing in the film.
PO : That first sequence is so close, and so intense.
JL: Yes, and I designed it that way because this film is all about intimacy, and different kinds of intimacy, and the best way to do that visually is with extreme close-ups.
PO : The most difficult scene in this movie, for the viewer, is Jeff in the dark closet with Maura. We only hear their voices---we can’t see anything---but we shuddered.
JL: Yes, and the big question there is “Was she or wasn’t she raped?” Interestingly, 50% of my target audiences said “Yes,” and 50% said “No,” and there wasn’t even a gender divide. I pride myself in writing genuine female characters---it seems like most male writers write like they’ve never met one---a real one----and I pride myself in having a lot of key female crew members. And they themselves disagreed over the answer to that question. And I do have Maura saying to her mother, later, “I can’t decide if I was raped or not.” And I tried to create, delicately, an ambiguity.
PO : And you did.
JL: And Mel’s sexuality, like her mother’s was very much in her control, and not all about the man---it was about her meeting her own needs. In fact, I wanted to train the camera only on her during her sex scene with Jeff, to show that it was about what she was feeling, her pleasure, her control, but I lost that battle with my female film editor, who wanted to show Jeff’s face, as well. It’s maybe the only thing I would change about the whole film. But the important thing was that she was meeting her need, not in same fake loud, over-the-top orgasmic way like “When Harry Met Sally,” but real and genuine.
PO : And when she’s done with him, the next day, she just discards him.
JL: Because she’s so comfortable in her own skin. But she does show compassion elsewhere, for the older visiting British ladies, with the key museum, because they’re so full of life. She finds her happiness in lots of places. Sex is just one of them.
PO : I have to ask you about The Church of the Open Door being locked, so she goes and pees in its bushes.
JL: Yes, and the bookend to that was the British ladies with the key museum, the ability to open any door.
PO : What about Maura’s revulsion at her friend Irena’s self-professed Satanism?
JL: I think most non-Satanists would be put off, and I actually intended it as a sort of comic relief. But go back to the first line of their conversation, which the viewer drops in right the middle, “Why am I your friend?” Moira needs to surround herself with people who have something wrong with them, so she can fix them, and then feel better about herself.
PO : How was it directing Meryl Streep’s daughter? Are you now aiming for Meryl herself?
JL: I don’t even know the answer to that question. But until one of my movies makes $20 million, I can’t think about that anyway. But as good as Moira was, in my 4 films, I’ve worked with 120 actors and 200 crew members, and Portia Reiners (Mel) is someone who has a great future. Maybe I’ll even cast her in my next film!
PO : That was my next question: “What’s next?”
JL: It’s called “Molly’s Theory of Relativity.”
PO : I look forward to seeing her in it! I have so enjoyed this time with you.
JL: And I have so appreciated the time you have spent on my film.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas