Reitman interviews directors of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ in speaker series

By Ester Khachatryan

Two directors who cater to a young audience were guests at the second installment of Jason Reitman’s ‘95 three part speaker series on Jan. 8 for a student, faculty and alumni audience.

From the hour-long MTV show, “The Cutting Edge,” which hosted bands and soloists of alternative music, to commercials and music videos, to a feature film, “Little Miss Sunshine,” spouses Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have made their careers entertaining youth.

“We form a united front!” Faris said.

The two directors trust and rely on one another in all stages of the filmmaking process, from selling their ideas to clients to directing on set, Faris said.

Their Oscar-winning film, “Little Miss Sunshine” portrayed social and psychological problems that face youth and family relationships through the story of a girl and her family’s pursuit of her dreams. The film consists of a series of the most ordinary evolvement of events that trace the triumph of family over the status quo. By speaking in the language of youth, Dayton and Faris expose the “next-door” family with eccentric but plausible problems.

“We love our films, we love our family. So many of these balance in [the film],” Dayton said.

To maintain realism, certain scenes were altered for the screen, Faris said. The hospital scene, in which the family kidnaps the grandfather’s body and stows it in the trunk of the car, was changed to a less gory version in keeping with the director’s real-world vision of the film.

In preparation for production, Dayton and Faris enrolled in acting workshops where they were exposed to director-actor relationships that helped to coordinate their “performance driven” film, Dayton said.

The directors met in UCLA where Dayton, a film student, was asked to make a film with dancer Faris. A strictly collaborative relationship turned into romance and a marriage with three children.

Dayton and Faris said that they try to work as little as possible, but work hard when an extraordinary project presents itself.

“Passion is one of the greatest tools of film,” the three award-winning directors agreed.