‘Frances Ha’ director Noah Baumbach on going very low budget

Filmmaker Noah Baumbach's latest is the low budget comedy "Frances Ha." Credit: AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s latest is the low budget comedy “Frances Ha.”
Credit: Axel Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Noah Baumbach goes lo-fi for his latest feature, “Frances Ha,” shooting the NYC-set film — about the twentysomething growing pains of the titular Frances (Greta Gerwig) — in beautiful black and white on a Canon DSLR camera. As for that other recent development in indie filmmaking — using Kickstarter to get fans to help fund your film, like Zach Braff did — Baumbach admits he’s not as up to speed on the idea, but he’s open to it.

Can you talk about what went into the decision to shoot this in black and white? Because doing that today is a very distinct, bold choice.
A lot about the production of “Frances” and my general approach to it, I wanted to sort of almost boil a film production down to its barest bones. I feel like in this day and age, with technology as it is, not all of the standard film production is necessary to make certain movies. Obviously it’s necessary for effects movies and things. I’ve been wanting to shoot black and white for a while, and I felt like this material would be enhanced by it in some way.

There’s always something when a contemporary movie is shot in black and white, there’s a kind of like instant nostalgia — because it’s both rubbing against it and also artifact-ing it at the same time. It’s like old and new at the same time — as opposed to when you see “The Artist” in black and white it’s evoking the time of the movie. I felt like with such a contemporary story and such a contemporary character and putting her in New York right now that the black and white in some ways almost gives it a history. It’s both a looking back and it’s an immediacy.

So not a huge VFX budget on this one?
No. [laughs] Although to make it look black and white the way we wanted it to look, we did do a number of tests, and it took a while to really get it. Because we shot it digitally, my thought was that if we’re going to do it in black and white I want it to be as beautiful as possible — this lush, romantic thing. I think we’ve found a way for it to evoke film but kind of almost look like something new.

How much have you been keeping up with Zach Braff and his Kickstarter campaign?
Somebody told me that he raised some money.

What do you think of the development of better-known people using crowdfunding?
I don’t know. I do think technology is at a point now where you can kind of decide to make a movie. I think there are fewer excuses now. You still have to be talented and know what you’re doing and you still have to raise money, but I think it’s good ultimately that both the technology of shooting a movie and the also the technology in helping people raise money for movies does seem to be developing.

Is it something you would consider for a future project?
I don’t know, maybe. I’m so not part of any social media. I mean, I have email. (laughs) But I wouldn’t necessarily know how to go about it. But sure, I mean, it seems like a cool thing. I’ve definitely had people who I know and respect who have sent me Kickstarter things, and that’s sort of how I first heard about it. So how many investors does it take to earn that much?

I think the Zach Braff campaign has close to 40,000 backers. Lots of small donations.
It’s a donation, it’s not an investment?

Right. Which might come as a surprise to some donors when he sells the film at Sundance.
Oh. That’s interesting. Well I suppose the other side of it would be to give people skin in the game.


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