A childhood spent exploring every corner of Ridgefield serves as inspiration for one of the movies premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival this week.
Director-screenwriter Liz Garcia, a Ridgefield native, puts a little bit of her hometown in all of her movies, and her newest production, One Percent More Humid, continues that trend.
“Just like my first film, this one is set in a New England town that feels like Ridgefield,” Garcia told The Press Tuesday. “I can’t think of a better place to set a film.”
Her directorial debut, The Lifeguard, starred Kristen Bell and was about a New York City reporter returning home to Connecticut.
“I know it backwards and forwards. I love Ridgefield’s nooks and crannies. It’s the backdrop of my imagination.”
While The Lifeguard was released through online streaming services in 2013, Garcia believes a renowned festival like Tribeca — a venue for independent films to be seen by buyers and distributors — will give her newest movie a bigger push.
“Premiering at a prestigious festival like Tribeca is really cool for a little film like ours because it gives us a little stamp of approval for buyers who are considering it,” she said.
Grief and coming of age
The movie is a coming-of-age tale about childhood friends, played by actresses Juno Temple and Julia Garner, who reunite over a break from college and deal with traumatic events in their past.
“I wrote this film 15 years ago. I wasn’t long out of college, and therefore, not long out of Ridgefield, and the stories of growing up were quite fresh in my imagination,” said Garcia.
“I was impacted by how many peers we lost in car accidents. When I was in high school, a tragic accident killed two boys, and the driver, their friend, was sent to jail, which always seemed like tragedy on top of tragedy. I had a few other ideas floating around that fit well with an examination of this kind of thing — the mix of grief and coming of age. …
“I want [the audience] to sink into the experience, and feel tied to the characters. I want them to seek out more great performances by the actors,” she said.
Not all movies are as easy to write.
Garcia finished the original script for One Percent More Humid in two weeks.
“Every script is different. Some scripts are painful, torturous and seem not to want to be written,” she said. “One Percent More Humid was the opposite.”
Garcia said the films she wants to write takes years to grow from ideas she carries around.
“I muse on the ideas, but I don’t rush them. When they’re ready to be written, it’s because I know where it starts, where it ends, and I’m agitated by the idea of writing the main character out of a dilemma,” said the screenwriter.
She usually writes in her home office, unless she’s on a tight deadline.
“Then I go to a coffee shop swarming with busy people and let the adrenaline take over,” she said, “I use a technique that sounds strange, but I know other people do it, too — I listen to the same song on repeat literally hundreds of times. I discovered this by accident while in college. Apparently, the brain grows used to the song and stops listening to it, but the music effectively blocks out all other distractions and allows the writer to focus.”
Garcia said that graduating from Ridgefield High School — Class of 1995 — gave her a big advantage in her career.
“I had teachers who recognized that I loved to write, that I had a knack for it, and they encouraged me,” she said. “This includes Bob Cox and Jim Ginty in the English department.”
The students at RHS were also a source of inspiration for Garcia.
“I went to school with utterly brilliant, focused peers who were fierce in the classroom environment,” she said.
“I learned to hold my own in debate, to defend my opinion but to do so graciously, and that is a huge aspect of my career — defending ideas, pitching ideas and feeling good while doing it.”
Her history teacher taught her to speak her mind, which can be difficult for a female, she said.
“I credit Ms. Valerie who taught AP History for forcing me and the other reticent female students out of our inhibitions and into the fire,” she said.
“Learning to hold my own in a room of brilliant, arrogant boys, who I love and adore still today, could not have been better preparation for a career in Hollywood.”
It’s a different world than it was 20 years ago.
“Things are changing for the better, and more and more girls and women have the confidence to say, ‘I want to make art, and I want to be the boss,’” she said.
“Nothing would make me happier than knowing that my film, and seeing my name in the credits, encouraged a young woman in Ridgefield to step into her desire to direct.”
García has a few projects coming up. She’s currently writing the third installment of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a movie adaptation of the young adult book series starring Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, and Amber Tamblyn.
“I’ve got some more indies I want to direct. I’m working as a writer/producer on a USA show called The Sinner. I’m developing some TV shows with my husband,” she said.
“It’s a freelance life, so I’ve got many irons in the fire at all times.”