Molly Gordon is a multi-talented storyteller, comedy trailblazer, and actress best known for her roles in The Bear and Booksmart. Here, she talks us through the contemporaries she admires and explains how acting inspired her to switch roles on set.
Shots: Who are three contemporaries that you admire?
Emma Seligman – I got to work with her on her first film and was so electrified by her work ethic. She made that movie for only $250,000 but somehow it felt like we were entirely unconstrained.
A.V. Rockwell – she just made her first feature as well, and it’s so unbelievably brilliant. It was one of the most confident first features I’ve ever seen.
Christopher Storer – I recently worked with him on The Bear. He creates a set that I didn’t think was possible — where every single person feels like they are wanted and supposed to be there. From hair and makeup to the actors to catering, everyone is having a great time, which is unfortunately rare. He’s a genius.
Shots: Please share 3-4 pieces of work that exemplify great direction, and explain why?
Anatomy of a Fall – this is my favorite movie this year. The first scene in that film is one of the most inspiring ways to introduce a character offscreen that I’ve ever seen. Without hearing him speak, you feel like you know so much about his personality — from just sound design.
The dishwasher scene in Rachel Getting Married – it’s one of the best-directed scenes in film history. It starts out unbelievably celebratory and happy, and ends in pure devastation. The way that Jonathan Demme commands that journey is masterful.
The Sopranos – I recently rewatched it. The opening shot is incredible. It tells you exactly what the show is going to be about. It’s a great example of “show don’t tell.”
Shots: What do you like most about the work that you do?
The thing I like most about getting to do this job is collaboration. If you don’t want to collaborate then you shouldn’t work in film.
Shots: What was your journey to becoming a director?
I have been acting professionally for 10 years, and have always carried this wish of directing as well. I got to use every experience as an actor as my film school. It took about six years to get my first feature made, but it came at the right time, when I was ready to make that jump (though when I was actually going through it I didn’t feel that way). I wanted to create a set that emulated every positive experience I’d had.
Shots: As an actress, did you meet anyone on set who particularly inspired you to get behind the camera?
Working with Olivia Wilde was incredibly inspiring. It was clear that she was born to direct from the first day I worked with her. Working with Chris Storer and Ramy Youssef on Ramy showed me that the kind of collaboration and set I wanted to have as a director was possible. I (annoyingly) have been obsessed with every different stage of the filmmaking process, and I’m sorry to every director I have not left alone. I feel incredibly grateful that every set I’ve been on, people have been generous enough to answer my questions and give me that space to learn.
Shots: What is one thing every director needs?
Shots: Who was the greatest director of all time? Why?
I couldn’t begin to answer this question. I hate that in a creative life, we have to sometimes pick “best of,” because there are so many exceptional filmmakers and creatives.
Shots: Did you have a mentor? Who was it?
I didn’t have one specific mentor. I think my mentors were the crew members and filmmakers I’ve gotten to work with as an actor.
Shots: What’s changing in the industry that all directors need to keep up with?
Everyone should keep up with the new voices that are emerging in the industry. There are so many incredible films coming out with a variety of budgets and marketing capability. Nowadays, people can shoot something on their own, on their iPhone. We need to seek out the films that might not be as widely known or publicized and be sure to use our platforms to amplify them, because this is how extraordinary new voices are discovered.