'I'm Your Woman' Director Julia Hart On Crafting A Female-Led Thriller And The Challenges Of Pandemic Post-Production [Interview]

We've seen a number of gritty crime dramas about criminals on the run. But rarely do we see one starring a woman – and a mother, at that. With I'm Your Woman, director Julia Hart turns the entire genre on its head with its focus on the female perspective.

Hart, who frequently co-writes with husband/producer Jordan Horowitz, made her directorial debut with Miss Stevens in 2016. Two years later, Hart followed up with the brilliant Fast Color. This year, Hart directs both Disney+'s Stargirl and Amazon Studios' I'm Your Woman.

I'm Your Woman, which stars The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan, is a thriller with a different point of view. Hart, who believes we need original stories told from new perspectives, was inspired by the 1970s thrillers like The Godfather and Thief. The film's title owes itself to a line that Tuesday Weld tells James Caan in Michael Mann's Thief. But instead of following the men, Hart wanted to explore what happens to the women when they are no longer on screen.

During the course of our phone conversation, Hart spoke about the writing process behind the film and collaborating with Amazon. The filmmaker also talks about working with Brosnahan, who was producing a film for the first time. Moreover, she speaks about the challenges that come with working on post-production remotely during a pandemic. Hart also opens up on pandemic life in general – both Hart and Horowitz have been able to write two screenplays during the pandemic.

I'm Your Woman played at AFI Fest in October and one of your quotes from the Q&A that stayed with me is how we have seen every story that can be told but we need them from new perspectives. Was that on your mind as you were writing the screenplay?

It's on my mind when I watch pretty much every movie, especially older movies. It's on my mind whenever Jordan and I are writing. I think it's so important to remember stories are as old as time but certain people got their perspective to be the priority. I just love the idea of going back into stories that didn't represent massive parts of the population and finding those stories within them.

How collaborative was Amazon as a partner?

They were amazing. Everyone at Amazon not only let Jordan, Rachel, and I make the version of the movie that we wanted to make but they wanted to make that version of the movie, too, and really just supported us. It was a tricky movie to make because it has a baby as the main character, which is really challenging to coordinate, and then, also, obviously has all of these big set pieces like the car chase, and the shoot-out at the nightclub. They were just amazing. They really helped us and supported us in figuring out how to make the best movie we could.

What was the most challenging scene to shoot?

It's funny because the car crash and the car chase, I guess, technically. But you have all of these amazing professional stunt coordinators, stunt drivers, and stunt people who are guiding the process and helping you make those choices as safely as possible. But then there's shots of a sleeping baby, which seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world to shoot but actually the hardest because stunt drivers can learn the path and safely execute everything that you want them to. They're trained professionals and you can prepare for that and rehearse that but the baby is just going to do what a baby wants to do. It doesn't care that you're shooting a movie and that you need a shot of it sleeping.

It's funny because some of the bigger stuff that should be harder was actually a lot easier than getting those shots. There's two shots in the movie of the baby sleeping and those things I'm the most proud of because they were the hardest to get. You have to get a baby sleeping in his costume on the set or in Rachel's arms with a whole crew of people trying to make it quiet enough that the baby can stay asleep. It's funny because I feel like you watch a movie and you see a shot of a sleeping baby, you don't even think about it but it's actually a really hard thing to achieve.

Can you talk about directing Rachel Brosnahan and working alongside her as a producer?

She's amazing. She was such a pleasure to work with in both capacities. She really pushed her sleeves up and produced the movie alongside Jordan. It was incredible because she'd be there in her full costume and hair and makeup with the fake blood on her head. She would be talking to Jordan about schedule and then she'd turn around and go do another take. She really took the role of producing seriously and did a beautiful job producing the film.

In terms of directing her, it was such a pleasure because we both love to do our homework. She did a bunch of research. I did a bunch of research. We did a lot of rehearsal. We had so many conversations where she would ask me a million questions about Jean and Jean's history and her life. We would sit and we would talk about it. It was just such a pleasure to work with someone who is so willing to put in the work that it takes to do something like this because it did require so much of her and she was really willing to jump in and do it all.

How long into the post-production process of Stargirl did you start on I'm Your Woman?

It's funny. The first time I actually spoke to Rachel when she attached to the script was when we were in production on Stargirl. We wrapped the final sound mix of Stargirl in June of 2019. We were already on a pre-scout for I'm Your Woman in Pittsburgh later that month. The two films really rolled into each other—we finished the final sound mix on Stargirl in June of 2019 and then we were in pre production on I'm Your Woman in August. It was a really fast turnaround.

What were some of the challenges that came with finishing the film during a pandemic?

Everybody just had to get really creative about how they did their job, because so many of their jobs just had to be completely transformed to be achieved remotely. I was just so impressed with everyone for just being willing to adapt so quickly and so effortlessly. We showed my Director's Cut to the studio in February and then lockdown happened mid-March. Thankfully, we had gotten through a lot of the editing process and the studio seeing the first cut of the film, which is a huge part of the process. We finished editing remotely and then did the sound mix and the DI—the color correcting—on the film remotely. Aska had written a bunch of the score while we were in production so thankfully, we had already done a lot of that work as well. She had to record the score remotely, which I think was probably the trickiest part of the process—just having the musicians all be separate. And then finished it remotely. Jordan and I got to see the final film on a big screen—just the two of us to approve everything at the end. That was nice. We at least got to see it on a big screen even though nobody else did. It was challenging but it was everyone was so great about it, which obviously always makes it a little bit easier.

I was just thinking earlier today how Stargirl was one of the final films that had a world premiere in LA inside a theater before the shutdown.

I think we might have been the last one because it was March 10. I'd be curious if there were any after that but it was really down to the wire. (Note: Stargirl and Bloodshot both had their premieres on March 10.) I remember everyone being a little bit nervous about it. I wouldn't hug anyone, which made me really sad because I love giving hugs to the people I work with and celebrating. We felt really lucky that we at least got to have that moment together before all of this took over.

A lot of the films that are getting released now, I'm not so happy they had their premiere at Sundance or Toronto last year.

Totally because it is. It's lovely to get to do these remote premieres and still get to share your work but it's not the same as getting to see it in movie theater and getting to celebrate together. It's very different but I think it's better than the alternative. I think it's so important to share new movies right now instead of holding them back.

Has the pandemic made creativity easier or harder in terms of focus?

I feel like I'm really lucky because I have found it—not the lockdown itself—inspiring. Being a writer and being stuck in your house is kind of a dream. I often feel like when I want to be stuck at home writing, I can't be. I also think I'm lucky that I have a writing partner in that regard. It might have been a lot harder if I was on my own doing it. We've definitely found inspiration in each other and taken advantage of this time to write and create.

How many scripts have you written?

Two, which is a lot, I think. In between finishing the film and doing all the press, we've written two scripts, so we're feeling very proud of ourselves for that.

What do you want people to take away from the film?

I hope people get a little bit of escapism from all of this. I know that it's been a really hard time for a lot of people and I hope that they get lost in the film. I think, ultimately, it's a hopeful film and a film about how we need each other. We need to connect. We need to take care of each other. We need to lift each other up in order to survive and so I hope that's what people feel when they finish watching the movie.


I'm Your Woman is in limited theatrical release now and arrives on Amazon Prime on December 11, 2020.