Interview: Amy Goldstein (Director “Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl”

William: First thing. Amy thanks for joining us. I appreciate it. So we’re talking about your phone, which is called Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl

Amy: Yep, for sure 

William: And this documentary is about pop singer-actress and general plucky British gal. Kate Nash, right?

Amy: Yeah, I think of her as an indomitable spirit. You know? It’s pretty hard to get her down.

William: That’s a great way to put that after seeing this. 

Amy: That’s facts. That’s what drew me to her from the beginning. I didn’t know what was going to happen but Kate just figure a way out of every situation and you know create something kind of magical out of it. So like this is supposed to be a great ride.

William: Can you give the audience who maybe haven’t seen it and wants to see this a little bit of insight about the film itself was you know what they’re going to see maybe if they don’t know who Kate is. 

Amy: Yeah sure somewhere (in there) is a very intimate film. We gave Kate a camera. So if she wakes up in the middle of the night and is freaking out or is super optimistic, she films. If she goes into a rooms where they wouldn’t allow a camera crew, she films. So you really get a sense of what her experience is and she’s someone who went Platinum at 17 in the UK and that’s a lot for a young girl from a working-class family. There’s a lot about music she didn’t like but she loved writing songs. So the film is really about how she can make music and not feel mistreated and not feel, you know, underestimated and it’s not an easy thing to go in on your own and when we started filming with her, she’s gone it on her own. She made a Punk album been dropped by her label and was starting to play a bigger venues. She played Coachella where she put giant Pink vaginas on the stage and she was really, it’s really hard business to make a living at. She’s just really really talented as she was trying to figure out how and then, you know the music business presented her with some more difficulties; her representation was misappropriated, you know her finances, she you know, she struggled in a lot of ways and really had to start over and she figured out how to do it. It’s like watching a young entrepreneur reinventing themselves. She’s really willing to let you see how she does it. 

William: That is a very very nice description of this film and especially what we’re seeing in that. One of the things I really liked about it is that it is as no BS as possible. It’s very I don’t want to say base level, because that would take away from the hard work that goes in but it’s very intimate I guess would be the word

Amy: Yeah. It is very intimate, you know, a lot of people wouldn’t let you into the degree Kate was willing[ and you really feel like you’re hanging out with her. And going through what’s she’s going through and it is not all bad. Kate makes a crazy audition tape and gets on Netflix GLOW and get to hang out with all these girls and learn to wrestle and I think physically working out like that and getting strong actually played a really important role in Kate’s life and helped her stand up for herself more that’s a really people are like this stuff really happened while you’re filming, you know, and yes, we were one of those very very lucky documentary filmmakers where the really awesome things actually happened while we were filming.

Will: Yeah, I I love GLOW I’m a big fan of Kate herself. What I really like is how it doesn’t try to rely on just how unique her presence is musically especially like you mentioned she comes off as almost like a Riot Grrl from that nineties movement, but in a more modern sense and I appreciate that as a lover of the punk rock genre. I love that you left the things that happened that were negative in the film and I’m not going to go into them because I want people to see it and some negative stuff that happens to Kate and she doesn’t let it stop her and in fact, she uses the camera as a weapon to fight this the sort of thing, you know.

Amy: Yeah, no question I absolutely agree, its funny I think that’s a very strong theme in all of my movies. And I think she really does use it as a weapon to force transparency and to put people on their mark. It also gives her a voice went at moments when she isn’t having one, you know, and she uses social media that way to you know, Kate got discovered on MySpace, she wanted to be an actress she didn’t get into any of the acting schools she applied to she broke her leg and she was stuck in bed and her parents got her guitar. She’s 17 years old and she wrote songs and she put them on MySpace and she blew up, you know what I mean, so she’s not like waiting for someone to discover her, you know, she’s making shit happens and it’s really really powerful and her songs have always been the soundtrack of young women’s lives because they are so honest. It’s amazing how many people know who she is, even though a lot of her career she was on her own.

Will: I’m really glad you mentioned that because we initially saw the movie at the Los Angeles Film Festival back in 2018. I had one of my female writers watch the movie initially because I thought to myself this is going to be perfect to get a female perspective on a movie about a woman who I feel is very very much a great example of a modern feminist and that’s exactly what happened. If you read the review. 

Amy: I really really appreciate that. I read the review!

Will: Thank You! I’m glad someone did! I’m kidding plenty of people read it.

Amy: I’m sure we’ll be reposting it on Social media now.

Will: That’s awesome! I’ll tell you when I stepped into the film it came to me from a different place. I looked at, because I you know, I’m a dude. I still appreciate “Pumpkin Soup like the rest of us. When I heard that song I was in a much different place then our writer was because she’s a lot younger than me. My age is more in line with Kate’s. So when I stepped in “Made of Bricks” back when it came out I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Now it made her whole back catalog make a lot more sense.

Amy: She’s just an amazing songwriter! That’s why we really focused on the lyrics. She was writing songs about what was happening to her as we were filming. I think of this film in a weird way as a modern musical. You really get insight into what she’s really going through and again that’s why she doesn’t just absorb the shit. She gets it out of her. It’s shared with many of us who’ve had these kinds of experiences. I think artists are often asked to stay within one genre of music. It often really starves them and I think Kate, her most recent album. She said explores many genres. There’s absolutely no reason why you know, you know that your fans will enjoy all kinds of different music that you make and I think it’s great that she continues to fight for that and I think more artists you’re starting to stand up and say yeah, I don’t want to just make pop music or folk music. I also think she blends punk and pop in a way and that’s great.

Will: There’s definitely a middle finger stuck in the face of anybody who tries to get in the way of this young lady I’ll tell you that. I appreciate that. Now we talked about Kate and talked about this really amazing documentary that you have crafted. But let’s talk about you and the really fantastic job you did on this film because it’s not easy making a documentary.

Amy: It’s honestly like really really hard to make a documentary. It is. Most of them don’t get finished and it takes forever. It’s like you’re finding all these little pieces of a puzzle and you have to go out, and I’m the one who filmed it and my producer recorded the sound at some of the bigger concerts I had helped. I’m running around with a backpack full of cameras and at some point, we got an editor we had two acts. We didn’t have the rest of the film and Kate was having a rough time and it didn’t make sense to bother her. It was like “Do we have a movie”? “Will Kate get out of this mess”? We really weren’t sure for a long time there would be a film. It takes great patience and kindness to make a movie. Especially a movie that doesn’t have a ticking clock or a contest to win a kind of feeling. One that’s more of a portrait they’re very difficult movies to make. I’m a narrative filmmaker. It’s a story there’s a three-act structure you have to find it you know. You know what I mean.

Will: Yeah, there’s a destination unknown about documentaries. You make a narrative film you know where your midpoint is, you know your endpoint is but we’re making a documentary you just say “well the shit hit the fan. let’s see what happens.”

Amy: I mean if you make a Ken Burns documentary you know what happens. You’re going to get really deep insight that people maybe haven’t thought about. 

Will: No offense to Ken but it’s going to take like 30 hours to get there. Although I do love Ken Burns.

Amy: Agreed. What’s really crazy is the new film I’m making is ABOUT using film to solve a problem. It’s about a college, it’s called Hampshire College. Last year it almost went under and the kids took cameras they followed around. They took over the office of the President of the school and they filmed all the meetings and they used film to get this woman to resign and make their school go independent, they literally used cameras to do it. It’s called “The Unmaking of a College”. Yeah, it’s a really interesting time to do a film about a college.

Will: Yeah. I like that! I like hearing stories. That’s one of the things that’s intriguing about documentaries. Is that anything that happens in them is real.

Amy: Not in all of them.

Will: Well, yes. Haha. I just saw a great documentary that had a similar scene to what you’re saying about somebody taking over a building. I saw the wonderful documentary Crib Camp 

Amy: Oh! I can’t wait to see that!

Will: It’s wonderful! So there’s a scene where they literally take over a government-funded building so that they will get hurt and that’s what that reminded me of when you said that and what are the things that I love about music docs. In particular, is the fact that there is music because I’m a huge music fan and I want to commend you because this film is gorgeous. Most of you don’t talk about the cinematography in it in a doc, but there are some concert footage scenes and some snippets that if you were to clip those would look really nice in a frame.

Amy: Thank you! It really did end up being a beautiful film. All the music in the film is by Kate. She asked us to do that. So she gave us sounds she gave us little pieces of recording so it’s to start editing a movie and have this kind of drove of music is insane. So I commend our editor and our mixer who managed to use all these little pieces to sort a movie and I don’t know if any music from has ever been like entirely scored by the music of the artist, and I think that also makes it feel very much of a whole But you know, there’s not a sound in it of music that Kate didn’t make. 

Will: Now while we’re talking about that. This is not your first foray into filming a musician.

Amy: I’m really a fiction filmmaker and I’ve always used music a lot. My first documentary was called The Hooping Life where we follow six hula hooper for six years and Basement Jaxx scored it. We went to England, we went to Brixton and we locked ourselves in a little studio with them, they’d never scored a movie and we scored a movie I don’t know if you know who Basement Jaxx is but it was the most exciting musical experience of my life. So the film ends at Burning Man. I’d say “No! It can’t feel electronic!” and they’d go “Oh we got it, man!”. So they’d take a producer into a little shed with a guy that has fifteen different kinds of things he hits on and the producer holds a mic everywhere and this guy does all this crazy stuff for hours and I’m working with the other Basement Jaxx guy and they come back and they score it with just this guy hitting on things. It’s fantastic. It was so exciting. My thesis film at NYU was a lesbian vampire musical. It starred an underground singer in New York and it was just fabulous. So music has just been huge. I did a film called East of A it’s a feature film that’s scripted with like David Alan Grier, Adam Arkin, and Mary Louise Parker really cool people. I don’t know if you can see the cast list and it takes place over 10 years and I called music companies and I got a hit song of each year so that when that steam started it would make you remember that time and it took me like six months clearance. It’s about an alternative family in New York City. We’re trying to get an apartment and by the end of the film they’ve adopted in HIV-infected baby and our soundtrack songs went to a caring for babies for AIDS, which is a little helpful in clearing music, but it was very hard to clear music. I’ll never do that again.

Will: As it always is! You would think they’d want their music played. 

Amy: It’s complicated. The artist wants it it’s the labels that aren’t always okay with it there like “no we think we can get this much for this song we’re waiting.

Will: Well, you know, that never comes back to the musicians and it always comes back to the record label. That’s part of the discussion of your film. Now while we’re on the subject of yourself. I’d like to have a little bit of fun. I feel like you know, it’s all fun and it’s all business. But then sometimes I like to be a little bit of insight into these wonderful artists that we get to talk to. So let’s say you’re stranded on a desert island and you had only a TV and two films to watch with you what two films would you take and why.

Amy: That’s really hard! 

Will: I know that’s why I asked it!

Amy: I’ll get back to you. It’s too early for me to answer that question. (EDITORS NOTE: She did get back to me) 

Will: It’s too early for me to ask that question so I agree. Now, one of the other things I like to talk about is who are some of the influences because sometimes when you see a movie you can think, man that looks nothing like I’ve ever seen. I wonder who inspires that artist and so I always asked you just directly. Who are some of your influences, people you respect whether it be other directors, cinematographers, actors, singers?

Amy: I think my influences are probably more from the script again, I went to graduate school at NYU. I definitely of late watched a lot of documentaries. I’m not trained as a documentary filmmaker when I made The Hooping Life I thought ultimately your just telling stories. So Rainer Werner Fassbinder is one of my favorite filmmakers. He’s so playful and so magical. Before I went to film school, I had not studied film and I got into NYU so I quickly took classes and there I can go in there all Fassbinders movies and I just really love his movies. I think that people who love his movies can tell that I’m really inspired by him. So my class at NYU we had some really interesting filmmakers and I think they’ve greatly influenced me and one is Cédric Klapisch, and I don’t know if you know who he is, he’s French and he made a series of movies about us in school. There’s a character based on me and it’s called L’auberge Espagnole that’s The Spanish Apartment and he made three and the third one is 10 years later and that one’s called Chinese Puzzle and his films are so pop cultural and so young and the way you meet your characters. I got to learn to make movies with him and he really has influenced me. Juan Campanella from Argentina who is up for an Academy Award for one of his movies in the United States was in my class. He cut some of my films and I learned so much from him. He’s a wonderful filmmaker. So it’s my contemporaries that in part, learning to make films with these people that’s just greatly inspired me. Penelope Spheeris’ series of films about punk rock.

Will: You mean The Decline of Western Civilization?

Amy: Yes! It’s just woke me up! Seeing those movies I thought “I have to make documentaries!” Seeing someone like Penelope who’s able to make all kinds of different movies…it’s crazy! She just remains really authentic. She’s really special. I met her when I was really young and she said: “You must have ten projects always or you won’t work!”

Will: I love her movies even the ones when I was a kid. She has some movies right around that time that was not critically loved but they were loved by me because I was a kid. 

Amy: I mean Wayne’s World! I think that one is so good!

Will: I mean I was about five when that came out. I mean more like The Little Rascals, The Beverly Hillbillies I mean that sort of thing

Amy: Those are actually great movies! 

Will: They’re silly and funny and I mean Wayne’s World is amazing and anyone who touches that movie we’re good. You can see a lot of The Decline of Western Civilization here. Especially part two. This film works almost the opposite. Part two, the metal part is so sad. So bleak and your movie is so hopeful and it has such a punk-rock attitude about it like “eff this, I got this”! Whereas that movie is just sad. Anytime I can see a film that, for me has a middle finger…that’s what I want. I mean I was at it traditionally much more uppity festival earlier this year before everything got you to know shut down. There was a film that I knew when I saw it it was going to be my favorite films that that entire festival and I’m well I’m not going to name drop but…I’ll say it was very punk rock and I knew that audiences were going to hate it. I’m not gonna lie to you. They loved it. I was surprised that is very brash very loud. Typically at this festival, everything is very like pretty and nice and packaged well, you know they’re trying to sell it. This is this film is just like “Nah here’s what we got. Enjoy!”. I love that! Now I want to kind of move into a little bit of I guess housekeeping so that we can bring this sucker home

Amy: Oh shit now I’m scared!

Will: This is super easy. 

Amy: It’s a pandemic we all have to do a lot of housekeeping (This was genuinely funny!) 

Will: I like that you made a joke there.

Amy: Don’t you think this is a great film for a quarantine? You know like YEAH! BADASS! Get out there! 

Will: I think this is a good film for anything. If you want to have a good time, have fun. You want to have listened to some great music if you want to, you know, just be a riot grrrl and take yourself back to when Kathleen Hannah was just middle fingering everybody because that’s the attitude it has or if she’s just stuck at home and you want a really interesting movie to watch. This is where you start. This is the type of thing that you want to check out. So what I mean by bring it home is, what I want you to do is for all the people that are going to read this. Why should they choose your documentary besides the reasons that I gave?

Amy: Well Kate and I decided to do this film because there were all these films about women in music coming out Amy, Janis Joplin, Simone, and everyone died. It seemed like to be a woman in music and get a film made about you you had to die. We were committed that Kate was not going to die. That we were going to show another kind of path. Some way to be an artist. Some way to be an entrepreneur. Some way to do shit, man. It doesn’t matter what it is and like have a really good time and survive. So if you figure out how to do that you watch the movie.

Will: I think that’s as good a note as any to go out on honestly and that is the best bow that I could ever put on that. That I didn’t have to put on.

Amy: But I mean we were for real. We were like shit. Everyone has to die! She was having a rough time and we were like Kate “You can’t die!” You’re going to have to hang in there man! They were talking about the 27 club and she had just turned 27 when rock stars often kick the bucket. We were just like “NO”! No matter what happens you’re not going to take drugs you’re going to have a very positive lifestyle and she did it. She’s very committed to this way of life. 

Will: That’s all that’s all anyone can ask anyone else. 

Amy: Yeah, absolutely

Will: I just like seeing her pop up in things, because I remember being a 19-year-old kid checking out her first album thinking “man this girl is cute and she can play. All right we’re good!”

Amy: By the way, we didn’t talk about the star of the film…Kate’s mother! All of our social media has been going nuts over her. 

Will: Let’s go and touch on this a little bit because mama Nash is a baddie. 

Amy: First off she doesn’t just agree to talk to anyone. Ever. During Kate’s huge meteoric career…no way! She just got so used to me she forgot I had a camera. She is such an amazing influence and stabilizer on Kate. What mother says when you get offered a record deal “Are you sure you wanna do that? We can go home and watch a movie.” Life was tough for Kate. She’s like “Kate, I just want her to get a job teaching music”. She has great values. 

Will: It’s so funny because there are times in docs that are similar to this where the parents getting introduced, and sure, they’re interesting or you know, they say stuff but yeah, no, she’s a force of nature that woman.

Amy: Yes! And she works at a hospice, which I don’t think we get into in the film.

Will: That is some charisma you can see where she (Kate) gets it from.

Amy: No question. 

Will: There’s just this with magnetism about her and it shines through in the camera and it shines through when Kate is on camera. Yeah, that’s family has a magnetism about them. It’s really sort of powerful. I guess you could say it’s attractive like it attracts you to them. It’s so interesting to me when that happens because I look at it like, how do you even manufacture that, you can’t it has to come naturally, you know.

Amy: It’s only happens in the kind of documentary films where people are willing to hangouts for years. It doesn’t make that like you can’t just do that in a year, you really have to become part of the world. Those are just unique. They’re a certain kind of documentary. I think we shot for almost five years and that doesn’t mean straight. On and off but you know, you have to help people, you know feel comfortable with you and feel like you’re cool and safe and the right thing to do. 

Will: That’s such a long time.

Amy: It is a really long time. That’s what authenticity is. 

Will: You start the movie in one place and you end up in a different one by the middle. 

Amy: We definitely did not know that was going to happen. 

Will: You get shell shocked by that. 

Amy: We were all shell-shocked. Yeah. 

Will: Whenever I see some stuff like that. It’s just like it’s like man, you could tell that would not be the intended direction of that. But what I love is when a filmmaker and when a subject fight against that sort of thing and if you guys are curious about the vague nature of that it’s because I don’t want to give you guys any plot points or any sort spoilers. In the movie, there’s an obvious plot that happens. You don’t plan for that and that’s what’s so different about it as opposed to like a narrative structure. Is like you can have any thought in your head any preconception and then one thing happens in your life and you’re like, well, I guess we’re going that way for a bit and you just gonna have to deal with it

Amy: You have to embrace it. You have to be really…agile. Really open to it and figure it out because it’s a gift. 

Will: That cinematic dexterity comes out here. It can be hard to pull off because often time if you shift focus too much it can throw the documentary through a loop of “I don’t know what just happened.”  Yourself and your crew you handle the nuances of that so well in your editing.

Amy: Caitlin Dixon cut this movie, she’s such a great editor, editing a documentary means when something happens that you don’t expect you have to go rewrite the movie and really integrate it. So it really feels part of the story from the beginning and you had no idea that that had happened. In documentaries the editor is huge. 

Will: I was just saying a documentary relies solely on its editing. It helps if you’ve got some good footage to edit. You really have to have a good director of which obviously you have some incredible talent and a good editor and so Caitlin helped you there and then you know an interesting focal point which we have. It feels like to me that all the elements came together to make a documentary that whether you’re familiar with her music or not really surmises the Kate Nash experience as best that you could do, you know. Also, rest in peace the Los Angeles Film Festival where we saw this. You are missed. 

Amy: We decided to play there because we’d done many of their programs. We participated in an editing lab there. We did fast track there. They helped us that organization helped us fund it. You know we read the review

Will: Really?

Amy: We love FilmSnobReviews. The work you do is awesome! We read the review and we’re so happy you’re talking to us. 

Will: I’m happy to be here honestly. Our writer Chai, who wrote the review she sends her love.

Amy: Thank her again (THANKS CHAI!), we loved that review.

Will: Thank you. I think she really got to the heart of the matter and when I read it, I hadn’t seen the movie yet. And so I really feel like I was able to step into that mindset that she had as a woman in her 20s. I was like, I’m more comfortable here now, okay.

Amy: In the film festivals a lot of older people attend because they’re retired or something. We went to festivals all over the world. So we did have some older audiences than we normally would for this movie and I was surprised how much they dug it. I was really happy. They were having really interesting conversations with me. Really delightful and if I hadn’t done the festival circuit I wouldn’t know that.

Will: That’s the thing about film festivals. The people that go to those things typically come with some knowledge. I remember I went to the San Diego film festival. I remember stepping into a film I knew would be a lighting rod and they were receptive as hell.

Amy: My prior feature was very…racy and it opens in Sarasota and they had to reschedule it like three times because the crowds went crazy. They were all older. They all got hula hoops and played the part. It was crazy. So fun. 

Will: That’s probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in Sarasota. 

Amy: It’s a very racy movie. 

Will: Yeah. I can tell I saw the cover and thought “well…this is a thing that’s happening. You got Shaq and Scissor Sisters. This is a weird movie let’s see where this goes”. Now I’m going to watch this! You sold me on it. 

Amy: It’s not about hula hooping its about hooping which is another subculture that really has nothing to do with hula hooping. 

Will: I dig that I would have to check that one out.

Amy: Listen it was so good to talk to you so early in the morning 

Will: Oh, yeah. I’m glad that we survive this. 

Amy: We did it!

Will: It has been my pleasure.

Amy: It’s been MY pleasure. 

Will: Whenever I get to talk to brilliant people I enjoy it. It’s even better when I get to speak with brilliant filmmakers who are women. Doing good work needs to be done. Getting more opportunities. 

Amy: They let us make documentaries because we don’t make any money. So there’s a lot of women in documentaries. 

Will: Women can make money if we let them! Period

Amy: Oh, yeah agreed.

Will: Some of my favorite films the last, ever are all directed by women. So we let them direct they’ll make money. I’m by no means a feminist but I am a firm believer that anybody should have the right to make a film. 

Amy: I think you might be a feminist. That word has gotten a bad rap.

Will: I’m like a secret feminist. Amy, you are fantastic, thank you so much

Amy: You are fantastic. I’ve enjoyed this and it was a great way to start the day. 

Will: It’s how I’m starting my day too. 

Amy: I really appreciate it so much! 

Be sure to check out Amy’s film Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl available everywhere on VOD now! Thanks to Amy for being the absolute best!

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