Claudia Weill, the director of the landmark independent film Girlfriends (1978), first knew she wanted to make movies in college, after a summer job on a set opened her eyes to the fully immersive process of filmmaking. But it was only after a decade of making documentaries (including codirecting, with Shirley MacLaine, the Oscar-nominated The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir) that Weill began to hanker for the freedom of fictional storytelling, as she says in this clip, taken from her introduction to the wryly funny, deeply perceptive Girlfriends, now available to stream on the Criterion Channel. Undertaking to make her first narrative feature, Weill secured a grant from the American Film Institute and with a portion of that money hired her friend Vicki Polan to write a script about a young New Yorker cast adrift after her roommate moves out to get married. As Weill also explains above, Girlfriends—which has gone on to inspire countless movies and shows about young women trying to make it in the Big Apple, Lena Dunham’s Girls among them—gave her the opportunity to center a type of character most often relegated to quirky-sidekick status (“the person who doesn’t get married right away, the person who’s not living the dream life”) as the protagonist.
Nellie Killian and Jenny Slate Unpack the Politics of “Listening to Women”
The programmer of the Criterion Channel series Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women’s Stories talks with her longtime friend about the impetus behind bringing these works of feminist cinema together.