Anna Margaret Hollyman is a powerhouse actor who has forged a full and varied career in independent film. In Movement + Location, Anna Margaret plays Amber, the skeptical roommate of the film’s mysterious subject, Kim. Unbeknownst to Amber, Kim has arrived from a bleak world 400 years in the future and is unfamiliar with the technological and social norms of the modern world. In a film where almost everyone seems to have secrets, Amber is not afraid to put everything on the table, balking at Kim’s trespasses, and calling out the unusual behavior escalating around her.
Here, Anna Margaret discusses finding community in the independent film world, working with friend crush Bodine Boling, and her pro-female filmmaker agenda.
Interview by Maura McNamara
I kind of fell into acting accidentally. We were required to do sports at our high school, and I’m one of the least athletic people in the United States of America. If you did the play in the fall and spring, it meant that you got out of at least two seasons of sports, and not unlike when an athlete starts playing a sport and they’re naturally good at it, I had an experience with acting where I felt like, “Oh! I could actually do this!”
So I went to college and I dabbled in the drama department, because I could never really accept acting as a full time pursuit. I would do a play, freak out and drop out, and take a world economics course. Then I’d join again, drop out, and take a course in existentialism… as one does. And then after graduating, I ended up studying the Meisner technique with Susan Esper and just pursuing it full time, doing student films and a lot of off-off-off Broadway theater.
Bodine was the star of this play called Evanston: A Rare Comedy in New York back in 2009, and she was one of the few people that you meet in adulthood where you’re like “Yes! Awesome. I will continue to make really cool friends throughout my life!”
I remember sitting on the subway with her, riding from 125th Street all the way downtown, and I was just trying to play it cool with her, which meant I was just so painfully awkward. I kept asking her about every aspect of her life, then I said, “Oh this is my stop! I gotta get off!” And I got up prematurely and stood at the door, but when the train finally stopped the doors opened on the other side. I was just so nervous, because I wanted her to be my friend so badly.
I totally had a friend crush. And we’ve been friends ever since. When she told me she was writing Movement + Location, I wasn’t surprised because she’s one of the most productive human beings I’ve ever met in my entire life. She wrote and produced and starred in the movie and made it look so easy, which is just, of course, Bodine. She makes everything look so easy.
Definitely. I know it sounds like such a cliché, but it was such a labor of love down to the fact that Bodine’s mother would cook for us sometimes for craft services. And Bodine was just operating on a different level than all of us. She’d be sitting there picking out my wardrobe and talking to me about the character, and then running into this super emotional scene five minutes later. It’s so nice as I continue to work in different forms of film and different budgets, scales, producers, and directors, to have worked on something that was coming from such a pure space. Artistically, creatively, and intellectually.
I had it easy, but Bodine and her husband Alexis, who directed the film, worked so, so hard. The beauty of it is that they came out with something that’s so personal, and they did it their way. The struggle is real, but the luxury of the creative struggle when you’re doing it yourself is that you get to have your vision fully realized, and that’s what was so great about this project.
Amber’s definitely a little ridiculous. She acts as a foil to Kim in a way that I definitely read as comedic, but when we were actually shooting it, I didn’t actively think of it that way. I kind of just played it straight. I also had one of those great February colds at the time, which made me sound even more morose and just over it. It’s funny because Bodine was way more sympathetic to Amber than I was. After a take, I’d say, “Oh man, I’m so mean!” And Bodine would say, “No! Amber is the audience. Amber is the way the audience can access and say, ‘Yeah, this is really strange,’ and we need you to be the Greek chorus.”
I think the thing about Amber that was fun to play is that it takes a lot for me to speak up if I’m being railroaded, but she would just speak her mind if she felt the slightest bit violated. Whether she was calling out someone writing on her really expensive recipe cards or judging about “I can’t believe your mom never let you paint your nails,” she just makes all these brazen comments that I’m too afraid to make in my personal life.
I do feel that I find the most compelling and multidimensional roles, particularly for women, exist in the independent film world. Now, I say that fully acknowledging that there could be and there need to be more. And that is happening, but I think it’s happening in the independent film world on a greater scale than it’s happening any other place. That’s something that I didn’t recognize initially. I used to think that if you continued to work on a bigger scale, the roles would continue to be as complex and meaty, and you would just work on a bigger budget movie and make a little bit more money. That’s just not the case.
I hope—I hope—that my home base is always in the independent film community, just because there’s space there to explore different kinds of characters that we may just never see in the commercial world. You can kind of buck up against the statistics game, which right now is still firmly against women in all aspects. I did see a marked amount of change at the AFI (American Film Institute) festival recently, in that there were a legitimate number of women directors being represented, so it was cool to turn the pages of the guide and go, “Ok! Another female voice. This is exciting.”
It’s funny, at a certain point everyone in the independent film world has to self generate in order to make something that they want to see made. But at least when I first started, there was a really strong community, and we all kind of met on the festival circuit. It was kind of like a traveling road show where if you were with a film, you would be at various festivals together, kind of traveling the country for a year. And so you start to get familiar with different filmmakers and styles, and eventually collaboration starts to happen pretty organically. You have the middleman removed and you just have contact with director and actor, or producer and writer, or whatever combination, and it comes relatively easily. I know middlemen can become necessary once a lot of money is involved, but I do think that this kind of collaboration is really liberating. Bodine’s a good example of that: a friend saying, “I’ve written you a part!” I mean, that’s just dreamy. It’s so amazing.
I’ve worked with a bunch of great filmmakers recently who I’ve always wanted to work with, which is really fun. I’ve also worked with a lot of female filmmakers, which is something that I aspire to do more of; kind of like my political agenda. I worked with Leslye Headland on her movie Sleeping With Other People, and shot a short with my friend Yen Tan, who made one of my favorite movies at Sundance a few years ago called Pitstop, so that was really cool. I’m also in development right now writing, producing, and acting with a bunch of other collaborators on a web series.
Bodine and Alexis are just two of my favorite people, and I feel so lucky that I got to work with them on Movement + Location. I’m really excited that their film has taken off in this really great way, and found its own path. People at film festivals would come up to me and say, “I saw this great film that you’re in!” And I’d say, “Oh yeah? Which one?” And they’d say, “That awesome sci-fi one where you play a total bitch!” And everyone would say it’s so refreshing to see this movie because it takes the parameters of a movie about people in their late-twenties in Brooklyn and spins it on its head. They really took this traditional independent film framework and blew it wide open.
“I wish that one day I will be able to have my own little epic adventure in creating art.”
The nicest note I’ve ever gotten came from a 15-year-old girl in Minnesota. So I got in touch and suggested we interview each other over Skype.
Many, many thanks to Josey for being up for this joint interview. I had so much fun.
And don’t forget we have a screening coming up at the Woods Hole Film Festival in Cape Cod! Movement and Location will screen Tuesday, July 29th at 9pm in Woods Hole, MA. If you have family or friends in that area, please let them know!
Thank you to everyone who came out and saw our premiere and listened to me rapid fire babble at our Q&A and then ate tacos with me under the stars. There is no way the screening could have been better. It was a full house, and so many members of the cast and crew were there, and friends, and family, and total strangers who read our synopsis in the film festival program and thought it might be fun. The energy in the room was magic.
What an honor and a joy, seriously. Probably the best night of my life.
Alexis and me with the unbelievably talented and beautiful Catherine Missal and Anna Margaret Hollyman. Photo by Pete Demas.
And I’m so excited to share more festival news! It’s coming very soon. Stay tuned!
(There are still some tickets for our second screening at the Brooklyn Film Festival on Sunday, June 8th at 8pm! You can get them here!)
We have our two screening dates and times for the Brooklyn Film Festival! Cast and crew will be in attendance at both and I suspect we’ll have some fun post-screening Q&A sessions.
For more details and to buy tickets to the premiere, CLICK HERE.
And keep your eye out for info on an after party the night of May 31st!
Since I last checked in, I picture locked the movie. Can you believe?? I’m finished with the edit. I feel like I’ve been running a marathon for so long, I forgot mid-race that it might end, making the first hint of finish line a total surprise. Now it’s being sound designed and scored and we’re about to submit to festivals.
The wonderful musician scoring the film, Dan Tepfer, got a killer review in the NYT about a performance he just gave at Le Poisson Rouge. Dan is an amazing composer and performer and also a very good friend. I feel really honored that he’s part of this project. If you can catch this guy live, dude, I’m telling you, do it.
But so I meant to hand over the picture locked cut to my unbelievably kind and talented sound designer, Hollis Smith, on my birthday, August 16th (thirty oneDERFUL), but the delivery technically took place two days later. Revising the edit was a very fun phase of this project. Having a full cut, being able to look at it and see a movie, but then going in and doing these tweaks that so deeply resonated throughout the whole of the thing–that was delightful. A nice change of pace from the initial edit, which often felt like throwing myself into a wall. A moment of darkness in particular descended after I had been editing for a few weeks and was only on scene 42 (out of 124). But I guess the lesson there is if you throw something at a wall enough times, you’ll drop the wall eventually.
Man, though. Picture lock is a funny mental hurdle. It marked the first time I would show the movie to someone and not give my standard addendum: if you have any notes, let me know. Now I say, this is it. This is the thing I’ve invested my entire self into for two years. This is what it looks like, basically finished. Which is scary. That is a scary thing to say.
But when I watch this movie, which I have seen hundreds of thousands of millions of times, I still fall into the story. Catherine Missal’s performance still leaves me incredibly moved and Anna Margaret Hollyman still makes me laugh. I remain grateful and amazed that character conversations I had with David Andrew Macdonald and Brendan Griffin blossomed into performances that are worlds better than what I could have imagined hoping for. This cast knocked it out of the park and I am so excited for them to see themselves on a big screen.
We’re close, guys. Thank you so much for your interest and support and love.
I was going through pictures on my phone this morning and found some fun ones from production.
This shot, for instance, brings back a lot of feelings. It was our second day of filming, and two weeks after we shot there, the building burned down. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Notice that my script is a sheaf of loose leaf papers. I think by the time we wrapped I had 45 or so of the original 112 pages, and they were absolutely not in order.
I feel honored that we got to film this incredible space, even if our miracle-working production designer Sara Walsh gave it a very different feel.
The above was taken by Maeghan Donohue, who was gracious enough to come to set a few times and get some great behind the scenes stills.
David Andrew Macdonald is extraordinary. There aren’t enough nice things in this world to say about him. He was so easy to act with, so open, so generous. He gave such a nuanced and brilliant performance. Ah. The actors in this thing! They’re so good!
Speaking of which.
Brendan Griffin, man. I don’t even know what to say about him. We get into this industry to make movies with our friends, and when we get to, it’s the most fun thing in the world. It makes everything else seem worth it. Getting to act with Brendan is one of the aspects of this whole project that I most value.
When we went to the costume fitting for the uniforms, I was all IT WILL BE COLD. But Brendan and Casey wouldn’t let me get them these hats.
Their loss I think? The hats are cute! And it was really cold.
But my heart was stolen by Cat Missal. Best attitude award hands down goes to this girl. She nailed a really difficult role. She just nailed it. The film is so much better for her involvement, and the set was so much more fun because of her attitude. She was a joy to have around, and so epically talented. I also got to know (and adore) her mom, Karen.
Oh MAN was it cold. I’m getting a chill just looking at that picture. That day was long, but that scene turned out beautifully. Here are a few more from Maeghan of that day:
Haile! I miss you, Haile. Come back from San Francisco!
Any time Anna Margaret was on set, I was instantly 30% calmer.
She is hilarious and a treasure and a marvel.
Los Angeles took her from me a few years ago, but I’ll keep writing movies if it means getting this girl back on the east coast for a while.
And then OH MY GOD these three:
My key PA, AD and producer. Missy, Dan and Serena. This picture was taken on the last day of filming, and we’re all loopy and exhausted and so fucking happy. It was the first time where I let myself be like, okay. We’ve done it. This will be a movie. I still kind of feel like I’ve pulled off some sort of caper.
This was our wrap party. It sums up my mood well.
There was a karaoke party after the drinking-at-a-bar part of things, and Alexis got this great shot of my parents:
I love these two so much. They have been nothing but supportive for my entire life. What a gift.
Everyone said that when we wrapped filming, I’d get really depressed. I’ve just been working on it for too long. But production tentacles are still wrapped around my throat, so it’s a touch surreal for me. I’m editing the film, and there are a lot of details that just aren’t done with me yet. Location issues, payroll. It was an enormous and terrifying thing to just up and make the film ourselves. The analogy I kept coming back to in pre-pro was that it felt like driving a car that hits a patch of ice. You’re going so fast and the brakes won’t do anything but you can still sort of control the steering. So you guide the car into the skid and hope for the best. That was me, all January. On set, my AD pointed out that production felt to him like a very fast train, and we were all running in front of it to lay down track. The overlap in our analogies is interesting, I like that we both went to these nightmare vehicular catastrophes. So you go through that for a month or so and then it’s over! It just stops. I no longer have to think about scheduling, or hiring extras, or worrying about whether it’s going to rain when we need to shoot in the park. I don’t have to panic that I’ve brought the wrong costumes or lunch is late.
The absence of that daily drama is to fall backwards in a warm bath. I am so relieved we got through it. For two weeks I’ve been feeling ALL OF THE EMOTIONS but mostly it’s relief. We shot it! It’s been filmed. That part is done. Editing, oof. I’ll have a cut within two months, probably, not one as previously desired. I already feel like I’ve been editing forever, and I’ve only cut 10 or so scenes. Out of 124!
But god. It’s complicated, you guys, because also? I got to spend a month listening to the best actors in the fucking world say lines I wrote. I got to watch my husband put together shots that are so elegant, so perfectly composed and gorgeous, that they break my heart. I got to hang out with my mom for a few weeks, since she was on set helping out. I got to watch Serena blossom into a role she was born to do and I cannot wait to work with her again. I got to operate at a level of sustained focus and intensity that was a beast to maintain but also wonderful. I’ve never worked harder in my life, and it gave my life a color that was new and sustaining.
So yes, I suppose I’m a little depressed. Well, not depressed. I feel crazy. I don’t know what to talk about when I hang with people who weren’t on set with me. I don’t know how to talk about this project, because how do you? Like, all of the above post – can you imagine if I said that to you at a party? Dude, I did that Saturday. Crazy is the word. I feel super crazy.
I’m working on a teaser trailer, something with a bit of the story and my favorite pretty shots. I recently edited one that’s too disjointed to work for promotion, but I like how it came out. It’s cut to a song we use in the film called Catch 22 by Imani Coppola. It’s off of her outstanding album The Glass Wall. If you want to see it, go here. The password is teaser.
Thank you for caring about this project. I am so enormously excited to share the finished film.
I admit I’d hoped to be better at posting to this blog while we film. But it’s so overwhelming! We’ve had six shoot days, and hit our schedule each day and come home with footage that I think is amazing. I want to devote
the rest of my life many blog posts to the talent of the rest of the cast. And the attitude and ability of the crew. I’m floored and grateful and having the time of my life.
I’ve already started cutting it because I literally cannot resist. Here are some stills I’ve pulled.
One of the main characters in the film is a police officer named Rob Sullivan. He’s one of the two love interests for Kim, and he represents the potential for what she can have in this time if she’s able to let down her guard.
Because I wrote this thing, Rob and his lines are super deeply etched in my brain. I feel like I understand him so innately—what he wants, why he pursues Kim, what that relationship brings him—that it would be a matter of finding someone to say the words in a way that matches how I hear it in my head. But that’s totally not it at all. What happens when you’re lucky, unbelievably lucky, is that during an audition someone walks in and nails it so perfectly that it rewrites your expectations and you get washed over with the feeling of, OH! This is who the character is supposed to be.
I present to you Brendan Griffin, our Rob:
Brendan is beyond talented, and he makes it look effortless. We’ve had one rehearsal so far and I left feeling elated. This guy! There’s no way this film won’t be awesome with him involved.
He’s done a ton of film and TV, but what really took my breath away was seeing him in Clybourne Park on Broadway. It was probably the most nuanced, moving and hilarious theater production I’ve ever seen, and that had a lot to do with him being part of its dynamic and amazing ensemble cast.
I could not be happier that he’s part of this project.
The central character in the film, Kim Getty, has a roommate named Amber Reynolds. Amber is a beautiful late 20s blonde who is funny and smart and happens to be living with someone who is sort of insane to have to live with. Kim is doing her best, but she would be a trial as a roommate. It’s a craig’s list matchup that works well enough but man, I have nothing but sympathy for Amber’s character. Her scenes are meant to be funny and break tension, and Amber was written with a very specific funny person in mind:
I’ve planned to include Anna Margaret in this film since the very first draft. We acted in a play together in 2009 that was written by the incredibly talented Michael Yates Crowley and oh boy it’s been love ever since. She’s going to kill this role and I am so, so excited to get to act with her again.
She stars in “Social Butterfly,” which will be at Sundance in a few weeks. Other wonderful projects you should absolutely see her in are the features, “Small Beautifully Moving Parts” (SXSW, Hamptons Film Fest), “Gayby” (SXSW, BAM Cinemafest), “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (SXSW), “Slacker 2011,” “The Romance of Loneliness,” “The Color Wheel,” “The Brave One,” and the short “Adelaide” (over 50 festivals, including Gen Art, Woodstock & Austin).
She is charming in everything without exception but I especially love the bumpers she did for SXSW last year.