Miranda July

We have seen The Future, and it is forlorn yearning and time-warping magical realism, with Miranda July and Hamish Linklater as a Los Angeles couple whose life together changes a lot when they prepare to adopt a cat.

Subjects under artful scrutiny in writer-director July’s much anticipated second feature include artistic paralysis and the limits of its maker’s own adorableness, a hot topic since her 2005 feature-film debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know. 

The Future opens this August. But here she talks about it right now.

How do you feel about watching people watch your movies?

I never watch other than the first time. I mean, I haven’t seen the last movie since Cannes.

Is that a rule for you, or are you just busy with other things?

Ha, no, I’m not that busy. It’s just not desirable. Not that the audience isn’t important. It’s like it’s so important that I’d rather just let it happen without me. I think I’d be tempted to just run up and be like, “Let me just redo that scene.”

That might be fine: You’re in friendly territory.

I think the audience here is smart, interesting, Bay Area weird, and it’s very familiar to me. But there’s also a little more baggage, like I’m more exposed or something.

Because you’re from here?

Yeah. I grew up in Berkeley. In high school, I wrote a play that I put on at 924 Gilman. It was based on my correspondence with people in prison. It was called The Lifers. I was 16. To my mind, it was my first professional thing. I put an ad in the paper for auditions, and hired adult actors to be in it. I cast a Latina woman in her 20s to play me. It somehow didn’t seem professional enough if I played myself.

How did that correspondence start?

There was an alternative magazine that my parents subscribed to and somewhere in the back there was a prisoner penpal section with a list of addresses. I just picked a name, and we wrote for like three years. It was the first thing I couldn’t really process just through normal channels, just by talking about it. It kind of forced me to make something to try and describe what it meant.

Is that a criterion for your creative work: something you can’t process otherwise?

Maybe. But it’s tricky because I think there also has to be something that can’t even be articulated at all.

Which artists do you admire and for what reasons?

I think it’s my friends a lot of the time. Because there’s a lot of work I like, but I’m also always wanting to know how people do it — how they make a life out of it. I have a friend, Khaela Maricich, who performs under the name the Blow. I’d be a fan of her anyway, but I’m especially fascinated to see her figure out how to do it, day by day. Agnes Varda is someone I admire, and she also was married to a filmmaker. With her work, it’s really mixed right in with her life, and it’s pretty transparent. I love that.

Your husband, Mike Mills, most recently the writer-director of Beginners, seems to share your penchant for personal films about creative people. Also, you and he both have new movies that involve talking animals. 

Yeah.

You’ve probably noticed a lot of people noticing that.

Yeah.

Can you talk about if or how you work together?

Well, we don’t work together literally. We didn’t meet at that time in our lives when we were still figuring out who we were, as many people do. So in some ways I think I see him very clearly as a person I admire. And it’s intense to live with someone you admire! It sets a high bar on what happens each day. I mean, I did not choose someone who was gonna make me feel like I was working too much, you know what I mean? My main mirror in life is even harder-working than me. So it’s like a funhouse or something. But it can feel like we’re very fiery, or alive. He brings in a lot more than me. He’s always discovering new things — new music and new movies. And he’s more of a cinephile. Just by virtue of living in my house, I get to benefit from that.

Sarah Silverman has a memoir called The Bedwetter. Tina Fey has one called Bossypants. Bearing in mind expected feminist critique and girls who look up to you, what might be some good memoir titles for you?

Oh, that’s great because I have one. I mean, I don’t have a memoir, and I probably would never name it this. But in my mind … this isn’t gonna be funny the way Bossypants is, but if you knew me it would be funny: It would be called Jumping to Conclusions. (And the word “jumping” would be actually jumping somehow, like the letters, which would make it sort of corny.) Because that’s what I do all day long. Like, if someone has their hand in their pocket, I just assume they have no hand. And I’m fine with that. I treat them as if they did have a hand, so as not to make it awkward. But then it turns out that they do. Which is great.

That might set you apart from those of us who would jump to different conclusions when seeing people with hands in their pockets. 

Right. That’s true. And I think it’s a funny thing. I really do often believe my own misconception — to the point where I almost don’t even care what the real thing is.

But it can be useful sometimes.

And what about being a role model?

I don’t walk around thinking of myself as that. But I do have a hard time finding women role models. I don’t have TV so I don’t watch 30 Rock, but every time I see something that Tina Fey wrote, I read it avidly, because she’s a woman with power and she’s handling it in a really interesting, feminine way. She’s not going about it in the way a guy would. The model for smartness is sort of like a male politician. But she’s resolutely being herself in her own way.

What can you tell us about the future? 

I only know about what I’m doing for the next few hours. Beyond that I can’t predict.

So you prefer to take your own future in hourly chunks?

I think right this second I’m going hour by hour. This is making me remember that we had buttons that I asked Roadside Attractions to make, saying, I’VE SEEN THE FUTURE. And right now I’m thinking, “Where are those buttons?”