Interview With Donna Deitch

AE: So will the original actors be in it?
Well yes, the original actors will be in it, but the sequel is not meant to simply follow those two characters, though they will be in it. There are going to be others in it. It’s going to have an organic branching out into the era and geographical location in which it’s going to be set.

AE: Do you think you’re going to go back to Nevada ?
No, it’s not going to be Nevada; it’s going to be elsewhere.

AE: New York?

AE: It’s going to be in New York in the ’60s? Seventies?
Well, you’re getting close. It’s going to be late ’60s, early ’70s.

AE: That’s an exciting time.
And that’s why I’m doing that. That’s exactly why I’m doing that.

AE: Great. Do you have any sort of idea when you’ll be finished with the screenplay?
I think my screenplay will be done by the end of the summer.

AE: Before you did Desert Hearts, you did a lot of very creative fundraising. How are things now for getting money to make a lesbian film? Is it better?
Well, I think for me it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the money for this movie. That’s my perception, because — I mean, here I have this movie that is 21 years old, OK? And when the rights reverted back to me, I had several companies that wanted to buy it. Right there, that’s unusual.

And then, here we are, it’s May the 12th, and it’s in pre-sales at Wolfe Video’s website. It’s already climbed up to number one. And it’s not delivering until June the 5th, and it’s moving at Amazon. So I think because the film has done well all these years … I should be able to get the financing for the film for the sequel, and people have already approached me about it.

So I don’t think I will be on that grueling [laughs] fundraising circuit again. That was tough, that was very hard, because it went on for … two years, and I don’t think it’s what I’m best suited for even though I did manage to raise it. It wasn’t the part I most enjoyed, and I think others are better at that than I am, but I think I won’t have any trouble getting the financing for the sequel.

AE: Obviously Desert Hearts became a huge touchstone for a whole generation of women. Are there any recent lesbian films or films about lesbians that you can see having that kind of appeal to a younger generation these days?
I’m probably the wrong person to ask about other people’s movies, ’cause I think that’s the job of a critic, so that’s hard for me to comment on.

AE: That’s interesting that you say that, because I remember reading an article in the LA Times in which they asked you whether you thought a gay director, rather than a straight one, would have a different perspective on directing a film like Desert Hearts rather than a straight one, and I think you said a similar thing, like that wasn’t your realm of expertise.
I think what I said was — cause people do ask that, and they also ask the question, "Is it different being a woman director than a man?" And it’s like, well, how would I know? I mean, I don’t really know.

First of all, directors typically have very little contact with each other. Directors have a lot of contact with everybody — actors, writers, cinematographers, editors, producers, everybody but other directors. And the only time that you are really in contact with another director is on series television: You might be prepping and somebody else is shooting. But other than that, it’s very rare to be on a set with another director.

When people say, "Well what’s it like being a woman director?" You know what, I don’t know what it’s like being a man director. I don’t even know what it’s like being a man! And in the same way, you know, is it different being a straight director, well, I don’t know. I’m not straight. So it’s hard for me to know.

AE: Did you ever do a coming-out interview?
I don’t know if I did or not.

AE: Was it always something you were just comfortable talking about?
Yeah, I mean, I was out from the beginning.

AE: Did you get asked about your sexual orientation a lot when you were being interviewed at that time that Desert Hearts was originally released?
Desert Hearts crossed over really well between straight and gay and lesbian audiences. There was always a mixture in the theater, and … I had a tremendous amount of straight, establishment press. And I think that in all the gay press … they just spoke about me as a lesbian director. And in the straight press … they didn’t seem to address that. I think they assumed I was, but they didn’t write about that much, but the gay and lesbian press just spoke about me that way. It was normal.

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