It’s a pretty daunting task to make your first feature-length film, and even more so when you’re the screenwriter/director behind the project. Oh, and Reese Witherspoon is starring in it.
But that’s the challenge Hallie Meyers-Shyer took on, and totally championed. Her first film, Home Again, hits theaters on Friday, and follows the story of Alice (Witherspoon) who — you guessed it — returns home after some time away, only to have her home, and life, thrown upside down when three young filmmakers move into her guest house.
And when you’re making your first film, you obviously want to surround yourself with the best possible people to help you succeed. Thankfully, Meyers-Shyer didn’t have to look far as her filmmaking mother, Nancy Meyers — who’s responsible for such classics like Something’s Gotta Give, The Parent Trap, and Father of the Bride — was on hand to help.
HG: I saw the movie. It was great. I cried, so thank you for that. I’m just going to go ahead and state the obvious. You are a young, female filmmaker. How does that make you feel? You’re part of a very small group of ladies right now.
Hallie Meyers-Shyer: Very small. I know. Too small. I feel good to be contributing. I think there should be more female filmmakers, more young filmmakers. It’s a natural job for a woman, so more girls should have it.
HG: Not even just a director, but also a writer. You wrote the entire script, and I’m going to guess some of it was based on your own upbringing, just with Alice’s returning home to her father, who was a filmmaker.
HMS: Yeah. I mean, obviously I share that similarity with Alice. But for me, the reason why I made her a filmmaker was more [inspired] by 70’s L.A. movies. I was trying to find a way to infuse that in the story, so I was watching a lot of movies like Shampoo, and I kind of wanted to show L.A. in that cool light that those movies show. That’s how I decided to put it in the story. I thought, oh, maybe if Alice’s father made those movies, then I could put some of that energy into the film.
HG: Did your mother know you were writing the movie, or was it a surprise when you gave her the script?
HSM: She definitely knew I was writing it. I was playing with a few different ideas, and I told them all to her, and she was, “What was that one about the three guys that moved into the woman’s house?” I played around with it a lot, and she was making The Intern at the time, and she was like, “There’s this boy in the movie who’s so terrific,” and it was Nat Wolf. That was really great because I knew him a little bit, and I wrote the part with him in mind.
HG: I want to talk about the guys for a second because I currently live in L.A. Did you realize you were writing the three guys as the three main types of guys I find on Tinder?
HMS: You’re having that sort of luck on Tinder? I never knew that. They’re such great guys. You’re in a good place.
HG: It was shocking, though, how they fit all of the types of the guys I will find in L.A., right down to George’s cardigan. I was like, oh my gosh.
HMS: Well, you know, the boys are in my age group, so I think that that helps with writing. Three of my peers.
HG: Did you base them off of anyone, or even your own experiences?
HMS: They weren’t based on anybody in particular, but yeah, obviously I know a lot of young filmmakers. For me, actually they were more, even though they are really modern types, I found them to be kind of old school, in a sense. They’re not really the kind of guys you see on film anymore. You know, young guys aren’t really portrayed always in such a good light, and I think these are three really cool, smart, passionate guys who are really great with their family. Especially the Harry character, was a throwback for me. I pictured a lot of young Warren Beatty-type stuff.
HG: I want to go back to talking about you and your mom. Of course, I love all of your mom’s films. They make me cry too. What is the best thing she taught you about filmmaking?
HMS: The best thing she taught me…I think she taught me to really persevere, and make sure I get what I want. When you’re shooting a movie, there’s a lot that can go wrong, and a lot that can happen weather-wise, time, and all this kind of stuff. You get pulled in a lot of directions, so it’s really important to know that you are making something that’s going to last forever. You have to really look out for the movie at all times, and have the end-game in sight. Constantly be thinking about what’s best for your movie and the characters. She really taught me to just make sure I got what I wanted.
HG: Now, what’s the worst piece of filmmaking advice she’s ever given you that you just completely ignored?
HMS: I did not ignore any of it! I really took everything she said and ran with it. No, there was no bad advice coming from her.
HG: Do you trade interior design tips, back and forth, because the staple of a Meyers’ movie is just everything looks so gorgeous. I want to move in there.
HMS: It’s nice that you say you want to live there because I think when you’re writing a movie that takes place mostly in one location, you want that location to be a place that people want to spend their time. They have to spend an hour and a half there.
For us, it comes all from character. You know it’s not just for the sake of having a beautiful location. Everything is really carefully thought out, and I think also makers really pay close attention to making sure their sets reflect their characters. For us, it’s just the house is an extension of Alice, and where she is in her life. She lives there with her two daughters, so it’s a really feminine space.
Yeah, I have an interest in interiors, so that’s an act of a director. Which fabric, which color, which this? If you’re interested in it, it really gives you an opportunity to design.
HG: Can I ask you what your kitchen looks like?
HMS: It is white. I can’t wrong with a white kitchen.
HG: I especially loved the plates in Alice’s kitchen. I just thought they were perfect.
HMS: Oh yeah? Pottery Barn!