Lisa Cholodenko on “The Kids Are All Right,” “High Art” and working on “The L Word”

 
 

In 2006, Cholodenko directed an episode of The L Word ("Lynch Pin"). I asked about her experience, and if she liked being on a set with a lot of other gay women.

"Truthfully, in any filmmaking arena there’s going to be a lot of people that are not gay because it takes a lot of people to make a movie or a TV show," she said. "So I didn’t feel like I was walking into an environment where the DP and the sound guy and the boom operator were lesbians. It was pretty guy-centric.”

"It was fun. It was fun to do something I didn’t write and wasn’t really involved with in a big way and I could go in and work with these actors and try to do something with the script I was given; get to be up in Canada for a few weeks and walk away. I like those experiences of just getting into it and not carrying it around as if its my cross to bear. That’s sort of fun. And there’s some fun stuff in that episode. I got to work with Jane Lynch — that was fun."

Obviously, working on The Kids Are All Right is much more involved for her, especially considering this could be her most personal film yet. And she’s been open about how her life has partly inspired the basic plot involving two women in a relationship who have utilized a sperm donor to conceive. I asked if Cholodenko had been faced with any awkward questions about that topic during her press rounds for the film.

"Sometimes, because it is kind of an intimate film, some people have asked personal questions about my thing or where certain things came from," she said. "Over time, I just learned to be like ‘Yeah, next’ or ‘You know it’s a movie — I am not doing a documentary.’ it’s hard because I understand people feel like with this kind of film they’re entitled to ask these kinds of questions. You learn how to negotiate through them that’s fair to the journalist and keeps my integrity in tact."

But when it comes to facing your audience, particularly those "right wing lesbians" that might take issue with parts of the film, Cholodenko said she does what she can to answer the questions they have, but they are "not that interesting to her."

"I’ve had a lot of Q&As and it’s kind of like how you talk to a kid: ‘I understand you’re frustrated.’ You know? What are you gonna say? That’s how I saw the film, that’s how I saw those characters, that’s how I see sexuality," she said. "It was a personal film, but I wasn’t making a documentary on sexuality."

So will The Kids Are All Right make way for future lesbian filmmakers and films to be available as widely as it was, with the attached funding, big names and Oscar buzz? Cholodenko said it’s all about the characters.

"The character comes first. If there’s an interesting character and that character has something going on that you want to watch in a narrative way, and they’re gay or black or whatever, then that gets integrated into the character," she said. "But if it’s like ‘Oh look, there’s a lesbian — wow there’s lesbians!’ it becomes stunt casting and it’s obvious and a little bit embarrassing."

It appears to be a matter of taste in these situations: Do you want the happy lesbian for the sake of having a happy lesbian, or do you want a flawed character that makes an interesting story? I guarantee neither are a portrait of every single gay woman’s reality.

Below is an exclusive clip from a featurette on The Kids Are All Right DVD:

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