Coky Giedroyc sat down with Solzy at the Movies about How to Build a Girl during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
How excited were you upon learning that How to Build a Girl would premiere at TIFF?
Coky Giedroyc: Oh, I was so excited. It’s a brilliant city. I worked here before. I love it. If I’d come here in my 20s, I’d have stayed. It’s a great city. It’s a very welcoming festival, very enthusiastic festival. We had our premiere yesterday. We got a standing ovation and it was a packed house. It was wonderful.
When you first found out about the script, had you read Caitlin Moran’s book?
Coky Giedroyc: I had. Any kind of respectable young woman has read Caitlin Moran’s books, frankly. She’s a trailblazer. She’s provocative. She’s smart. She says all the things that really people don’t want to necessarily hear. She’s an absolute champion of young women and has been forever. I just have been the biggest fan so I was thrilled when I was asked to do the movie.
What thoughts do you have on the film’s reception at the premiere?
Coky Giedroyc: It was overwhelming. It was, as I said, a packed house. People bought tickets to come and see it, which made me feel humbled. We got a standing ovation and we got incredible positive response there in the Ryerson Theatre then afterwards on social media. Basically, Beanie’s brother, Jonah, was there and he said, “It could not become better.”
Can you talk about directing Beanie Feldstein?
Coky Giedroyc: Beanie Feldstein is a force of nature. She’s full of joy and optimism. She’s a very, very kind person and she’s incredibly hardworking. She arrived on set first. She was the one that knew all her lines. She was charming, polite—everybody raised their game around her. But kind of more than all of that, she’s a real movie star. She’s a kind of an extraordinary luminous presence who deserves a very, very big and great career.
What was the most challenging about recreating the early 1990s?
Coky Giedroyc: The most challenging part about the 1990s was that I wanted to totally create bands that you believed were playing instruments and were really from that period. It sounds really simple but actually, I had to cast bands that were guitar-based, that understood the music, and looked right. Recording them and filming them is extremely difficult. It’s easy to get actors to come in and pretend to be musicians. It’s not easy to find real musicians to do it and be brilliant on stage. That was the challenge for me.
What about the film in general?
Coky Giedroyc: The biggest challenge for me was to basically channel Caitlin Moran’s amazing writing. She’s extraordinary. She has big, bombastic, provocative ideas. The biggest challenge for me was to sort of harness those but also make it emotionally resonant, real, and truthful—big and loud and funny but also very tiny, heart-wrenching and affecting at the same time.
What do you want people to take away from watching the film?
Coky Giedroyc: I want anyone who’s been 15-16 years old, felt messed up, confused, didn’t know who they were, felt like they didn’t quite belong or needed to get out of somewhere—I want them to know that actually, it’s going to be right. You can reinvent yourself, you can unravel the things that have gone wrong, you can make mistakes and mess up and it can still be okay.
Female filmmakers generally have it harder within the industry. Have you noticed this in your own personal experience?
Coky Giedroyc: I’ve being asked a lot about this. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never really thought of myself as a female filmmaker. Sounds crazy. I just feel that I’m a filmmaker and I’m me. My kids’ generation talks about being non-binary and not gender-specific. Honestly, in my work life, I really understand what this is. This is a very, very interesting new kind of way of describing it because I honestly don’t get up in the morning and think, Now how am I going to direct this as a female? I just do it as Coky and I just send it out there. I hope that people love the film because of the film, not because I’m female.