Last week at I got a chance to chat with Hatboro, Pa native and Director of Ingrid Goes West, Matt Spicer. Matt had a pretty unprecedented transition to Hollywood after three short films; the director landed Aubrey Plaza for his directorial debut that tackled the story of a troubled young woman who becomes obsessed with an Instagram influencer. It’s a film that surprised me by really showcasing Plaza with a role with some real dimension to it, while still delivering a very engaging story that wasn’t simply about the horrors of social media. Ingrid Goes West was a strong start, and I can’t wait to see what this exciting young director has in store next.
Definitely give this a read and check this great film out when it opens in Philly this week!
Being from Hatboro, Pa and Ingrid being your first feature how did you make the jump going from local shorts to Hollywood features with a project like this?
You know I really wish I knew what the secret was. I think tonally the short is a good match for this. It was just one of those things. Maybe it was the timeliness of it, because it’s about social media or whatever. But Dave and I, we loved the script and we were planning on making it no matter what, whether we could get stars and a bunch of money or had to scrape together some money ourselves and make it that way; the uber independent route.
I’ve been writing for 10 years now, so maybe just the process of writing all those years and working on different projects you just kind of just hone that craft of writing. That was just the best way for me to break in and sort of really learn about storytelling. It really helped in the directing of it to be able to fall back on that if a scene wasn’t working, to just sit down and fix it and write something different.
But it just so happened that Aubrey read it and liked it, and wanted to do it. I think she kind of put it in a different level and attracted a higher level of talent. It enabled us to make the size of movie we wanted.
I think everyone on social media now lives these dual lives, the one in real life and one on our feed. Why do you think it took so long for a film a film like this to really tackle something that is so ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives like it does?
I think Dave and I felt the same way when we were talking about it. We thought, I mean it was two years ago and we sat down and were writing it, we were like “how come no one has done this yet?” It was something we were really passionate about and when you’re passionate about something and no one’s quite done it yet that’s always a good sign, maybe you’re on the right track. We wanted it to be the first, so two years from writing to production for a movie like this is really fast in Hollywood terms.
I think there was a Black Mirror episode that came out when we were filming, that kind of deals with it in a futuristic sense. So there have been other things, but its been interesting hearing people online talk about the differences between this and Black Mirror; where they overlap and deal with sort of separate things.
The Talented Mister Ripley was probably the first film that came to mind for me after watching it.
Yeah, that’s pretty obvious, but we both loved that movie and that character is such a great character. The themes of identity and not knowing who you are and wanting to be somebody else, that is kind of a timeless thing.
So you perfectly sort of hone in on these totems and mantras of millennials and twist then just enough to turn in them into parodies of themselves, how did you choose them and what kind of research went into this film?
We consumed a lot of Instagram. I think you just start to see kind of the ven diagram, right where there’s that overlap where you start seeing these hashtags pop-up and certain images pop-up on a lot of different feeds. You start to understand, okay this is a trend and this is something that has become a thing.
We ended up tweaking some of those throughout shooting, because we want them to be as current as possible before the movie came out. So they didn’t already feel dated. We tried to distill it down to just kind of the perfect things that anyone would see on any instagram feeds.
Did you know any influencers? What do you think of that whole subculture?
I do know some influencers, and some great ones. There’s a friend of mine Kate, we use her as an influencer, we use her photography in the film as Taylor’s photography; and I think her photography is beautiful. I think the images are very seductive and great. I really feel like she is herself and presents her life “as-is”, but I do feel like there are some people who hide things; so there’s that side of it too.
We didn’t want it to be like “oh social media is evil”; its how people are using it. And are you being your authentic self?
Ingrid is for me is the first film to really get Aubrey Plaza and give her some real dimension not just using her as the weird, creepy girl. Did you write the script with her in mind for your lead?
We didn’t necessarily write it with her in mind, but not because we weren’t fans of her, but because we weren’t expecting to get her. We didn’t want to write it for this actor and then not get them and be super disappointed. Obviously once we finished the script we started talking about who could play this character and I think she was kind of the first person who came to mind.
But it’s cool, because I think she gets to do things she doesn’t get to do in other projects. There’s a crying scene, and there’s more dramatic stuff that I think she could sink her teeth into and I think just as a fan of hers I was like I want to see her do this. I want to see her stretch in that direction. So it was fun for me being a fan on set seeing what she was giving me. It’s a great feeling to know you cast the right person, because I couldn’t picture anyone else.
That’s I think the thing I come up against when discussing the film with people is they get so hung up on the trailer, but I really think this is Aubrey Plaza like you haven’t seen her before.
I mean even some of the negative reviews, I feel like give it up for her performance, but that makes me happy. I at least feel like her work is being recognized, because she’s really great in it.
Did the film always have that sort of happy ending?
We never thought about her actually dying. There was always that plan at the end to sort of get what she wants, but knowing what we know about her at that point in the film to say, well is this a happy ending, or is this the worst thing that happened to her? I think that’s the question we want to leave people with is, more of a question of hopefully they are leaving the theater thinking about it and how it applies to their own lives and their own social media habbits.
We were giving her what she wants and needs, which is Dan, this person you could tell cares about her, but what does that mean for her going forward and knowing what we know. I like films that end where you sort of keep thinking about the characters and the world and where does it go; its just my taste.
We always knew we wanted to land people there and it’s been interesting to see the reactions, because its been all over the map in how people interpret it. I heard someone say yesterday, that she definitely dies at the end, “because its too perfect, its all in her head, she’s like in heaven”; and that totally works. I love that fans can create the ending they want, it more about people, how they use social media and how they interpret the ending.
Since your from the area I have to ask, what’s your most Philly-centric summer film memory?
Well I don’t know about Philly-centric. There use to be a $1.50 movies theater around the corner from my house and I would go watch A LOT of movies there. It would be like two or three months after it came out, but I saw so many movies just because for like $3 you could see two movies. So during the summer I just lived in that movie theater and they had an arcade in there and it was perfect. I could walk there with my friend, we didn’t need gas for a ride.
They don’t have those around here anymore.
Well they have one in LA actually, weirdly enough that I go to sometimes. It’s like $3 and the movies has already come out on DVD, but if you want to see something on the big screen you can go see it there.