Interview: Talking ‘Spinster,’ Knitting, Film, and More With Andrea Dorfman

Image courtesy of Andrea Dorfman's Website

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The movie Spinster follows Gaby, beginning on her 39th birthday as she goes on a journey of self-discovery and figuring out who she is and wants to be. Finding herself newly single, she puts herself back on a dating app hoping to find someone that she clicks with. But as it can be with online dating, she hits some snags. It may also not help that as a caterer, she gets lots of weddings. With this new time on her hands, she spends more time with her divorced brother and her young niece. Gaby and her niece’s connection ends up being beneficial to both of them for their self-confidence and ends up being one of my favorite relationships in the movie. As you meet more of her family, you can see where Gaby’s shaded views of romance may have blossomed. Despite those around her having an opinion on what she needs or should do with her life, Gaby is determined to find her happiness but on her terms.

The movie was filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – you can even see Gaby wearing an East Coast Lifestyle shirt. It is directed by Andrea Dorfman and written by Jennifer Deyell. Spinster stars Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Susan Kent (This Hour Has 22 Minuets), Amy Groening (Backpackers), Charlie Boyle (Mr. D), Bill Carr (The Mist), David Rossetti (Trailer Park Boys), Nadia Tohen (Mr. D), and more.

Nerds and Beyond was fortunate enough to be able to speak with Andrea Dorfman (Heartbeat) about the film, knitting, gender roles, and more.

Image courtesy of Sea Green Pictures – Corey Isenor

Nerds and Beyond: To start, I was wondering if you can give us a little bit of a background on Spinster – how the script came about, for casting and things like that.

Andrea Dorfman: Sure. So this is a script that my collaborator Jennifer Deyell, who’s the writer of the film, had in development for, I honestly think it must be 10 years. We really wanted to make a film to tell the story about someone who is single in their 30s and is an ordinary, relatable person using the rom-com sort of tropes to lead people in but not necessarily deliver through the rom-com sort of usual happy ending route. And we really wanted, like I said, for the person/character to be relatable. Not extraordinary in a sense that they are fantastic at their career or celebrated, but as a person we could all relate to. And I guess it must have been a few months before we were casting for the film I had seen Chelsea Peretti’s stand up show that was on Netflix. She had a really great, funny special, and it was just, I thought it was so smart and engaging and kind of offbeat at the same time but relatable and I just really loved her. I hadn’t actually been a Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan. I hadn’t really watched it at all, and that had lead me to watch the first season, and I thought her character was hilarious and well-crafted and executed. So we had come up with a list at that point of actors for the lead role of Gaby that we’d love to get the script to, and we were working with the casting agent in LA, and so at that time, we got the script to her. It just, I mean, it was just like all of these serendipitous happy accidents happen. She happened to be between Brooklyn Nine-Nine seasons and also had a bit of time at the end of her, she had a baby, so she’d taken some time off. And I think she was just curious and itching to do something new. So she read the script and loved the script and loved that it was a female-driven project and loved what it was about and could relate to it through circumstances that she was in, in her 30s. So she got back to us, and we took it from there we started to talk. And it eventually led to her accepting the role of Gaby, which she came all the way across the country from LA to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to be in a film in a place that she’d never been without any of her usual supports around her and to be in literally every scene of this film. So kudos for her for taking on all of that.

Nerds and Beyond: In the majority of your films there is knitting. What is the reasoning behind that?

Andrea Dorfman: That is so funny that you asked that question, because you’re right, like not many people actually know that. Okay so when I was in, it’s so funny, I was in art school I did a semester at a school in New York City called Cooper Union, and you could do off-campus exchanges. I went to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. And when I was there, it was the early 90s, really influenced by conceptual art, and there were very few women artists. There at the time, there was a feminist art collector called the Gorilla Girls who were trying to get women and pointing out that all the major institutions like museums didn’t have women representation. Anyway, this one woman came in, and she told us at school she…essentially said that women just aren’t as great artists as men. It was a really bizarre talk, but one of the things she sited is that you will never see knitting in art. At the time, she said if you put knitting in art, it’s not going to go very far. So ever since then, just a point of spite, I’ve just always put knitting in everything I make. I don’t even know why. I should probably just stop. It’s ridiculous, but it actually did make sense for this one.

Nerds and Beyond: What is one thing you keep in mind when creating a film, especially where you have created different various film styles and in multiple roles?

Andrea Dorfman: Something that I keep in mind, I think every artist, every filmmaker, tends to make the same thing over and over again. And not just the knitting that I put in the films, but I think at the heart of all of the films I make is this idea that even though we are on a path that lots of other people are on, there is a uniqueness to every single human and in embracing the uniqueness is when we find our freedom. And any time you feel compromised as a person, I am convinced it is usually because you are subscribing to some kind of stereotype trope of pressure, social pressure, but when you liberate yourself and really embrace who you fundamentally are, there’s a freedom. But there’s also a feeling, and this is the other side of that coin, that is tricky and difficult is the loneliness. Because I think there’s an understanding that we are truly alone. So all my characters it seems like, and I’ve only come to understand this in the last few years to be able to articulate this, because at some point you know you kind of go from working unconsciously to more concisely that all my characters have this grappling within them. And the endings tend to be bittersweet. They tend to be about people who blossom in some ways and in other ways have to contend with a disappointment.

Nerds and Beyond: For Spinster, do you have a favorite scene in the movie?

Andrea Dorfman: Oh, I really just love a lot of different scenes in the film. It was so fun to watch Chelsea. She brings so much humor and so much of her own sort of offbeat deadpan sense of humor that, I mean, I could just watch all she brings to the film and she’s in every scene, so it’s hard to choose. But there is defiantly the tenderness that she and her niece have towards each other and watching through those moments, watching her grow as a character, to me they are really beautiful.

Nerds and Beyond: Do you see Spinster also as an anti-gender conforming film, since usually in society for women it’s usually “oh, you’re going to get married and have kids. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Andrea Dorfman: I mean, it’s funny because I think that I feel like the world is becoming more gendered in a way, and so it’s hard for me to have a perspective on this because I grew up feeling actually quite free gender-wise. But in other ways definitely in my 30s, there’s this idea that women get married have kids, or to me, it was just an idea. So to me, it was just you can take the bait or not, but I guess, yeah, it’s hard to say. I mean I think women do feel this unique pressure compared to men. I did a bunch of interviews with men so far who have also felt that same pressure and appreciate seeing an example of a person who didn’t, of any gender, who didn’t go for that. So I kind of feel like the pressure to find romance is universal. It’s something that we’ve been sold. Especially if you look at it historically in the last century, and I think capitalism is always going to make us feel like there is something we can buy in order to attain this goal eventually. So in a way, I can only speak because I tend to create female characters from that place, but I feel like it’s actually a universal story.

Nerds and Beyond: One thing I did enjoy was that in a lot of the scenes when there was dialogue, there was no background music. So, the focus was on what was being said. Was that intentional?

Andrea Dorfman: Oh yeah, I mean, we had the music composer Daniel Ledwell, who created just such a gorgeous soundtrack for the composed music. We have lots of songs supporting the soundtrack most from the East Coast. But because I think that the heart of the film is a person whose grappling with being alone and what alone means, you know sort of the tension between lonely and being alone and what the difference is. I think it was important to create space around dialogue to allow for us really to not be manipulated emotionally to really see where the main character is at in that moment, and then we do come back, like the montages and the transition scenes return to the music.

Nerds and Beyond: So, for my last question, here at Nerds and Beyond, we do embrace our nerdy side. What is something that brings out your nerdy side?

Andrea Dorfman: My nerdy side, oh my God, I am such a nerd. I have so many passions, I think is what I would call them. And I mean, I don’t even know if this is nerdy, but I have a fascination with evolution, and hunters and gatherers in particular. So I’ll read everything I can about prehistory, so that I guess could be considered nerdy. I have this fascination with this breakfast that I eat every day and have for like a bizarre length of time, like 20 years, that I call mush. It was devised by a scientist in Germany named Johanna Budwig, and it’s just all these natural ingredients. Like certain grains and seeds yogurt and lime and berries, etc., but it’s supposed to balance the chemistry. Also, I’m fascinated with socialism and economics and behavioral economics. I do a lot of reading about certain things that I’m very interested in.

Thank you to Andrea Dorfman for her time. Spinster is now available on iTunes Canada and Vimeo On-Demand. You can watch the trailer for the movie below.

Sarah

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As a Ravenclaw and introverted tattooed cat, Sarah enjoys reading, writing, and watching hockey (Go Leafs Go). You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @WyldeFandom

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