Director Julia Hart Navigates A Different Crime-Drama Path In "I'm Your Woman"
Julia Hart
Genre takes on a female protagonist's POV; film starring Rachel Brosnahan makes auspicious debut at AFI Fest, set for Amazon Prime premiere
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The 34th edition of the AFI Fest opened in October with the world premiere of the Amazon Original film I’m Your Woman. For the first time, the AFI Fest went digital as have many events due to the pandemic. Yet that didn’t prevent I’m Your Woman from making a major splash, bringing a new perspective--that of a female-centered story--to the crime-drama genre. Following a limited theatrical release early this month, the film makes its streaming debut today (12/11) on Amazon Prime Video.

Directed by Julia Hart and written by Hart and her husband, Academy Award® nominated producer (La La Land) Jordan Horowitz, I’m Your Woman is a 1970s-set crime drama which follows a woman who is forced to go on the run after her husband betrays his partners, sending her and her baby on a dangerous journey. The film stars Golden Globe® and Emmy® winner Rachel Brosnahan, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Arinzé Kene, James McMenamin, Marceline Hugot, Frankie Faison and Bill Heck. Horowitz and Brosnahan produced the film via their production company, Original Headquarters. Brosnahan also served for the first time as a producer.

Michael Lumpkin, director of AFI Festivals, said of the film, “Julia Hart takes us on unexpected journey that speaks directly to the current state of our world and the real meaning of friendship, love and family.”

I’m Your Woman adds to an already diverse filmography for Hart who co-wrote and directed Stargirl, adapted from Jerry Spinelli’s novel of the same title. Starring Grace VanderWaal, the love story was released by Disney+ back in March. 

Hart previously directed Fast Color, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lorraine Toussaint, which made its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Festival, earning Hart a nomination for the Gamechanger Award. The film later screened at the 2019 Palm Springs International Film Festival where Hart was nominated for the New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize. 

Hart’s directorial debut, Miss Stevens, premiered at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival, garnering her nominations for the Game Changer Award and the Grand Jury Prize. Miss Stevens was also co-written and produced by Hart and Horowitz, and starred a then-unknown Timothee Chalamet alongside Lili Reinhart, Rob Huebel and Lily Rabe. The latter’s performance won Best Actress distinction at SXSW.

Hart and Horowitz’s production company Original Headquarters currently has several irons in the fire including a series adaptation of their film Fast Color for Amazon and Juvee, Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s production company; Damien Chazelle’s as-yet-untitled series for MRC and Apple; an untitled Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen election comedy for Amazon; and the Rashida Jones, Will McCormack and Ben Queen series Museum of Broken Relationships for MRC.

SHOOT connected with Hart who shed light on different aspects of I’m Your Woman. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

SHOOT: What inspired I’m Your Woman?

Hart: Five or six years ago, Jordan and I were watching a bunch of crime dramas--some that we re-watched, some for the first time. We saw Michael Mann’s Thief (1981) for the first time. The movie goes one way and the female character goes another. As much as I loved where James Caan’s character goes in the end, I wondered what happened to Jessie, Tuesday Weld’s character, and her baby. What about what Jessie feels and is experiencing? 

So instead of women getting kicked out by male protagonists, we wanted a story that followed the woman.

SHOOT: You’ve assembled an ensemble of filmmaking collaborators who again were brought together for I’m Your Woman--including DP Bryce Fortner, production designer Gae S. Buckley, editors Shayar Bhansali and Tracey Wadmore-Smith. Would you discuss the value of piecing together this kind of ensemble and what each artist brought to I’m Your Woman?

Hart: My first collaborator is obviously my husband--Jordan, my producer and co-writer. Our filmmaking starts from a place of family, love and trust. We would dream of building this out further--the crew being a family. It’s so important to work with talented people who share your aesthetic and vision. You spend a lot of time together during high-stress days, long hours, having little time to accomplish a lot. You have to pick wisely who is on that journey with you.

My first film with Bryce was Stargirl. The collaboration with Bryce was too good to not figure out how to get together again. We have a lot in common, share a certain aesthetic sensibility about the role that the camera plays in narrative and that narrative plays in camera. We’re both perfectionists but like to move quickly. To be a perfectionist without being precious about everything is hard to find in anyone working in film. I hope to keep getting to make movies with Bryce.

We hired Tracey to cut Stargirl. Shayar started as her assistant and by the end of the film, they were a team. On I’m Your Woman they started out as partners. It was great to have them start the film as a team. Jordan and I worked with them to edit the film. We had too much fun in the edit room. With COVID our time together got cut short and we had to finish remotely. Having four brains may sound like a lot but there’s a balance we’ve found as our different talents help it all come together.

We’ve made three films with Gae--Fast Color, Stargirl and I’m Your Woman. It’s a relationship that is incredibly important in my life. We met and fell in love immediately. We share such a specific vision for how things should look and know how they should feel. She has a relationship with color like the one Bryce has with light. She works beautifully with Patrick Cassidy, her set decorator. I pray I never have to make a movie without them. They are kind, hard working people. The worlds of the three films couldn’t have been more different. They make each world feel entirely authentic. Often you see a period film in which everything looks like the year it was set in, which in real life isn’t the case. They authentically represent (in I’m Your Woman) what real life is like without being tied to the idea that everything has to feel like it was the ‘70s.

SHOOT: What was (were) the biggest challenge(s) posed by I’m Your Woman to you as a filmmaker?

Hart: I’m a mom. Being a mom is incredibly important in my life and my work, telling stories about motherhood. I wanted to take the risk of a baby being a main character in the film. A baby can only work four hours a day so you’re limited. I was most anxious about having a baby in the film but also the most excited about it. It’s scary but also thrilling. We were so lucky to find twin brothers to play the baby (Harry). The baby is portrayed as a real person. They are constantly learning. I hate it when it’s clearly a fake baby in a film. It’s a creative challenge to have a baby as a real character. It keeps you in the moment and on your toes.

SHOOT: How was it having Rachel Brosnahan, the star of your film, also serve as a producer? 

Hart: It was the first time I’ve had the lead actor also be a producer. Now I never not want to do that. It has to be the right person, of course. Rachel turned out to be an extraordinarily committed producer. She and Jordan were a (producers) dream team. Actors are not often involved in certain elements of prep or the post process. Having Rachel--who’s practically in every frame of the film--wear both of those hats made a positive difference. 

SHOOT: What was your biggest takeaway or lessons learned from your experience on I’m Your Woman?

Hart: The team I carried with me from the previous film was able to do something completely different successfully. Being a filmmaker and a writer, it’s good to know that you can come up with completely different ideas and still achieve what you want within that genre and with limited time.

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