Soft-spoken super-creator Miranda July has published books, recorded music and released interactive and performance art to appreciative audiences. She’s also written, directed and starred in short films and features, including 2005′s celebrated Me and You and Everyone We Know. An ensemble film about the intersecting lives of people in a community, the film won accolades including Cannes’ Caméra d’Or prize and Sundance’s Special Jury Prize.
Following such a beloved work of cinema was a task July accepted, with her sophomore film The Future premiering earlier this year at Sundance to glowing reviews. It stars July as Sophie, a woman in her mid-30s who, along with her boyfriend Jason (played by Hamish Linklater) decides to adopt an ailing cat. Paw Paw the cat—for whom July also offers her voice—needs a month to recover from an injury, though, and during that time Sophie and Jason begin to re-evaluate their relationship and their lives’ directions.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Miranda following the film’s recent screening at the Sydney Film Festival about The Future and the future.
PORTABLE: It’s been six years since you released Me and You and Everyone We Know. What have you been working on in the interim?
Miranda July: I wrote a book for short stories called No One Belongs Here More Than You, a sculpture garden called 11 Heavy Things for the Venice Biennale and a performance piece called Things We Don’t Understand And Definitely Are Not Going To Talk About, which eventually evolved into my new movie, The Future.
The Future is a much more insular and contained story than the multi-faceted Me and You and Everyone We Know. What made you want to narrow down your scope and focus on just a handful of characters the second time around?
With an ensemble cast you only get so much time with each character, I wanted more time with my people, to go farther with them. And I think it’s pretty common to avoid doing the same thing twice.
Your work has canvassed such a variety of media—you’re a filmmaker, author, actor, musician, artist—what occupation do you use on your census form?
I generally use “writer” because it’s more boring than “filmmaker”. I don’t want people to ask me questions. Yesterday when I went through customs the customs guy asked me to describe the whole plot of my movie—this wouldn’t have happened if I’d put “writer”.
Is there anything you’ve wanted, but not yet had the chance, to do?
Lots of things—piano, tap dancing, painting in a serious way, to sing. But these are not things I’m naturally good at, I would have to do them in private.
Many of your art projects—from Learning to Love You More to Eleven Heavy Things—involve participation and interaction from your audience. What do you get from inviting others to take part in your work?
I get to remember that there are a million simulataneous stories happening at the same time as mine. Sometimes it’s an alarming, awakening feeling to be jolted out of your own tiny world, but it almost always leads to something good.
What response have you got from these projects?
A good one. People like to be invited in and everyone has a story to tell. Ten thousand people participated in Learning To Love You More.
The Future premiered at Sundance earlier this year on a program filled with other incredible films. What were your highlights from the festival?
I wish I had seen the other movies, I spent the whole time doing press. Later I saw Attenberg, a Greek movie that screened there, and it was wonderful.
With The Future wrapped up and being released all over the world, what are your plans for the rest of 2011?
I just finished a non-fiction book called It Chooses You and now I’m working on a novel.