Floria Sigismondi on Directing The Runaways and Sexism in Music Videos
It's no surprise that Floria Sigismondi would end up in the feature film world, as it's one of the only forms of media she hasn't conquered. The 45-year-old is best known for directing music videos for Marilyn Manson, the White Stripes, and Christina Aguilera, but she's also worked in painting, sculpture, and fashion photography. For a woman who's so steeped in artistic expression, what better film directing debut than The Runaways, where Sigismondi can pay tribute to two other sets of artists: Runaways musicians Cherie Currie and Joan Jett and their film portrayers Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart.
The Runaways comes out today, so Sigismondi sat down with Movieline to discuss her career arc, the frightening story she couldn't fit into the film, and her odd identification with Kim Fowley, the Runaways' unscrupulous Svengali.
You've made a name for yourself in a whole lot of different scenes: art, music videos, and now film. Do you see a lot of constant between those scenes? Are there Kim Fowleys in the film world, too?
There's nobody like Kim Fowley. [Laughs] There's nobody like him! He's amazing. Yeah, there's eccentrics in every scene, but for me, I don't know. This was a very unique situation because you're dealing with real people's lives and representing their lives. When I'm making artwork, I can put four breasts on a mannequin and there's no one to say, "I don't have four breasts!" "Well, you do now." [Laughs]
We talked to Sam Taylor-Wood a while back after she'd made Nowhere Boy, and she was so burned out on dealing with that sort of thing that she vowed that her next film would not be based on a true story. Do you feel the same way?
Sure, because it comes with a responsibility. As a creative person -- especially with the way I create -- I tend to go deep down inside and look around. All of a sudden, an image will pop up and I'll think, "I'll go with that and see where it leads me." Although I kind of use the same process to come up with some of the things in The Runaways, it's a different kind of journey. For me, it was a lot about research, research, research and seeing where that takes me, which is much different than going deep down inside. I think when you're dealing with something that's fictitious, you can go anywhere, so I'd definitely like to take a journey on that side.
It's interesting that Joan Jett was present on the set so much during filming. I know a lot of directors who would feel threatened by that.
She was great. She was real supportive and she really had confidence in herself and in me, I would think. The process went really smooth and it didn't feel awkward. She was there for support, although I'm sure that if something went way off-course, she would have been like, "Hey man..."
Having come from music videos, a music biopic seems like a natural progression for your first feature. All the same, were you ever looking to make your debut with something wildly different?
That's funny, because I always thought that if I did something dark, like vampires, I'd be nailing myself in the coffin. My [music video] work can be kind of dark, you know?
So I was steering away from that world. Who would have known! [Laughs] For me, though, it just felt like a natural progression. What I did like about it is that it was about all these girls who were doing things they weren't allowed to at the time, which called to the rebel in me. I'm always experimenting with new things and challenging myself to come up with new ideas, and I grew up in an environment where I was always encouraged with my art and never told "You can't do that." There's something that excited me about these girls going out so young and playing aggressive rock and roll.
Could you relate to Kim Fowley in a way because you, too, had to turn into the Svengali guiding these young actresses to get to what you want!
It was awful! I turned into Kim Fowley. [Laughs] Well, I didn't turn into Kim Fowley, but I felt like I was being interpreted as a Kim Fowley. It's funny that you say that, but I was like, "My God, because I'm bringing all this together, are my actions being interpreted as being like that person." I don't know. I didn't cause any conflict with anybody, so...
I guess I wonder because Fowley exploited these girls some, and in order to recreate those scenes, you have to dip into that territory. How do you walk that line?
I was careful not to do that. I don't think I exploited them at all in any way, but I'm telling a story, and certain aspects of that did happen. I was very careful about where the camera was and how it was approaching the imagery of the film.
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