Sundance festivalgoers might recognize Carrie Preston from her film and TV acting in "The Good Wife," "Duplicity," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," "Towelhead," and "Desperate Housewives," and of course as Arlene on "True Blood."
But at this year's festival, Preston is attending as the director of "That's What She Said," screening in the "Next" slate. She and writer Kellie Overbey developed Overbey's play into a feature film starring Anne Heche, Alia Shawkat, Marcia DeBonis, Kellie Overbey and Kate Rigg that explores the comic and heart-felt misadventures of women in and out of love in New York City.
Preston talked with The Tribune about the complicated female characters in "That's What She Said," the experience of returning to Sundance, and the attraction of directing.
On Overbey's script • "I fell in love with Kellie's script years ago when it was a play, and I directed it in New York City. It was adapted into a screenplay because Kellie and I wanted those women and everything they stand for to be on screen. These characters are not the standard Hollywood issue: preternaturally gorgeous, wedding-obsessed, fashion-focused, sexed-up child-women. They are real women, comically portrayed, who are wrestling with the very expectations of womanhood that Hollywood movies propagate. And it's a movie not afraid to be dialogue-driven. The characters talk honestly, crudely and frankly. And that's refreshing to me."
Sundance • "The last time I was at Sundance was around 13 years ago. I was an actor in a film called 'Guinevere,' and what I remember was how amazing it was to be surrounded by so many talented people. I was pretty new to the film business, having spent my whole life doing theater. So it was eye-opening, overwhelming, familiar and alien all at once. If you had said to me then that I would return over a decade later as a director, I would have thought you were insane. I am going to do my best to take in every moment of it."
If the name of the film is specifically taken from the frequent use of it on "The Office" • "No, it isn't. The title works on two levels. First of all, it's definitely a punch line that dudes like to say a lot after something unintentionally sexual has been uttered. It's funny and sophomoric and right in line with the ubiquitous bro-mance films and TV shows that have made their way into the pop culture dialogue. Our movie is the chick's answer to those films, so I love it that we are giving a nod to them in our title. The other level is that it literally is a dialogue-driven movie about what women say to each other, what's true, what isn't, what's really going on inside of them. The 'she' in 'That's What She Said' [is] any of the women in the film. No men even speak in the film."
The best question that could be asked during a Q-and-A after the film is screened • "Who can I talk to about purchasing this film and distributing it to a wide audience?"
The attraction of directing versus acting • "Acting is my first love, and I have no intention of giving it up. With acting you are responsible for getting inside the skin of one character and breathing life into it and figuring out how you relate to all of the other characters and the situations in which they find themselves. And with directing, I get to get inside all of the characters. I get to figure out how to paint the whole picture. It feels like I am exercising all of my creative muscles."
'That's What She Said' screenings
Friday, Jan. 20, 5:30 p.m. • Prospector Square Theatre, Park City, (waitlist only)
Saturday, Jan. 21, noon • Salt Lake City Library, Salt Lake City, (waitlist only)
Saturday, Jan. 21, 11:30 p.m. • Prospector Square Theatre, Park City (waitlist only)
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2:30 p.m. • Library Center Theatre, Park City (waitlist only)