The Maidstone. East Hampton, NY.
Interview: Rob DeStefano

In the Maidstone’s back garden, IF had the pleasure of being introduced to Lizzie Gottlieb, a Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker. Attending the festival to discuss her recent endeavor Romeo Romeo, Lizzie sat down with us to share her passion for documentaries. While originally planning to work in fiction, Lizzie found that the only true way to express her knack for storytelling was through non-fictional observation. Be sure to check out her earlier work on Netflix.

IF: Have you been to this festival before?

LG: I have. I came with a short film, I think in 1998. That was an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story called “Why Don’t You Dance?” And they lost the film! There was a big article in the paper about how they lost our prints. But then they found it, and it all went well.

IF: And now you’re back with a feature documentary?

LG: Yes. It’s a film about two women, a young lesbian couple. It follows their long, and often painful, and sometimes funny quest to have a baby. There are almost seven million American women with infertility problems. This film is both the story of a gay marriage and what happens to a couple emotionally, financially, and logistically when they cannot get pregnant and have the baby they’ve always wanted to have. I would say that the fact that they’re a gay couple is sort of secondary. I think what happens to them, to their relationship, and to them individually is very specific to the circumstances they’re in, which is facing the possibility that their life long dream may not come true.

IF: How did you break into documentary films?

LG: I grew up in Manhattan. I was a theater director and producer for many years. I made a couple of short films and a feature documentary that was on PBS. I spent a couple of years traveling around speaking about Autism, which is what that film was on. And this [Romeo Romeo] is my second feature doc.

IF: How did your experience with those shorts build up to your feature doc?

LG: Coming from theater, I thought I would make narrative features. I have a younger brother who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of Autism. I was struggling with how to make a fictional film about him. I really had a moment where I sat up in bed one morning and thought, “Wait, it should be a documentary!” And then it was all lucky chance. I was working with a Broadway producer, and we were up late one night having a drink, and he said, “I really want to change my life and start producing documentaries.” And I said, “Let’s do it!” And so we did it. He asked how long it would take me, and I said six months. It took me six years!

IF: Did your brother take part in it?

LG: Oh yeah. It’s called Today’s Man. I followed him for years. It’s on Netflix.

IF: What true life stories are you interested in telling next?

LG: I’m in the process of starting something. I’m not sure if I’m fully ready to talk about it [laughs]. It does have to do with a cult. I’ll say that.

IF: What do you personally find compelling about this cult idea?

LG: A friend of mine actually grew up in a cult and has some pretty amazing stories and feelings about it. It’s about what happened to the people she grew up with.

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