One look at the camera ready Brit Marling, and it’s easy to assume the blond actress must have had an easy path into the industry. Interestingly enough her story is a bit more unique. The 29-year-old beauty did what some actors are only now learning to do; she paved her own way by creating roles for herself. Gaining major attention from Sundance hits like Sound Of My Voice, and the sci-fi drama Another Earth, Marling has found the tricky medium of finding her voice while also being heard within the industry.
A graduate from Georgetown University with a degree in economics, Marling has written incredibly strong women. Her characters have distinctive passions that represent modern women more than anything one is bound to see in a good chunk of the top 10 box office films. It can be argued that if the industry had more women writing the type of roles Marling features in her films, the conversation about women in the industry would be far different.
Marling’s latest film The East is with her like-minded collaborators Zal Batmanglij, and Mike Cahill. The two classmates often trade off on directing Marling’s features. For her third feature she pairs back up with director and writing partner Zal Batmanglij. The East sees Marling as Sarah, a former FBI agent turned spy, whose job is to protect big corporations from eco-terrorist groups retaliating. In order to do this, Sarah infiltrates the latest collective “The East” and in the process her moral compass and beliefs shift.
For Marling it’s a complex story as she and Batmanglij tell their experience of spending a summer freegan-living, and embracing their gained perspective of the modern world.
The Inquisitr’sNiki Cruz sat down with co-writer, producer, and actress Brit Marling to discuss the environmental issues featured in The East, and her experience with freegan living.
THE INQUISITR: What’s your perspective on the balance of the group you created? They consider themselves anarchists and yet in many ways the group can be oppressive. There’s a certain amount of conformity, and yet they believe in individualism.
BRIT MARLING: I guess it’s true that whenever people come together in a group, there is this kind of group dynamic that takes over. Even if you’re a fringe group and you think you’re promoting freegan behavior you still assimilate to the people around you. I think it also stems from their politics. I think what’s interesting about these anarchist movements is that some of their activism is in the way they live their lives by being off the grid and not using the same energy sources. It could become its own rulebook. Part of it comes from the focus and persistence of their mission. They’re all there to wake people up and part of that is living in a way that keeps them awake.
THE INQUISITR: You and Zal [Batmanglij] immersed yourself into that freegan lifestyle for a summer. Did any of that carry over to the present time? Do you do any of those practices? Like dumpster diving?
MARLING: Yeah I think that when you have an experience like that it changes you. I don’t think we ever went back to the people that we were. It opens your perspective and you can never really close that again. It’s a hard thing figuring out how to live an accountable life where your existence isn’t imposing on all these people all over the world that you haven’t met before. It’s hard to break away from that. I think we all think about it all the time, and are frustrated about things. I think that’s why we wrote the movie.
THE INQUISITR: Did you have any specific scenarios in your real life adventures with that freegan life that made it into the movie? Were you tested in certain ways in terms of your authenticity?
MARLING: It was very hard. You can’t romanticize it, but there was also so much meaning in it by living in a tribe and sharing with everyone. I still think about it. Modern life can be really alienating. It’s funny, The East was totally made up. We never met anyone like The East, but we were certainly inspired by the philosophy from what they’re doing and how they’re living. Things like harvesting food and train hopping – we did all these things, but in terms of the culture jams that’s all made up. What isn’t made up is all the corporate crimes that happened in the movie.
THE INQUISITR: When you were writing Sarah did you devise her moral compass first and then work from the inside out as far as creating that character?
MARLING: Yeah I think what’s interesting is that there is a desire to get to the top. Sarah looks up to Sharon [Patricia Clarkson] for having the same tunnel vision and persistence to get to the corner office, and to get to the head of the company. I think that’s where her mind is set and then I think her moral compass is set in a different direction.
THE INQUISITR: Some people will take away from The East by saying it’s an issues driven film.
MARLING: I don’t think we could make something that’s didactic because I don’t think we know any of the answers. Sometimes I think when you’re making an issues movie it’s because you have an idea for a solution, and we don’t have one. It was nice to make a movie that promotes a dialogue that we’re all having. If knowledge is some sort of mechanism for the cure, then you kind of have to have that knowledge to be talking about it first. That’s what we were trying to do. We wanted it to be about emotions.
THE INQUISITR: How about the material dealing with the pharmaceutical companies and the lack of testing they’re doing with these medications?
MARLING: That portion was actually pulled from a PBS special. People were taking these medications and were having a very adverse reaction to them. This woman took it as a preventative thing post sinus surgery and is now in a wheelchair. It’s complicated. It’s not like we’re against all pharmaceuticals. A lot of drugs save peoples lives.
THE INQUISITR: You get to develop the projects that you make and not a lot of actresses get to do that. You have the ability that if you don’t like the script you can just sit down and write one.
MARLING: It’s so competitive. There’s so many fiercely talented female actresses. It’s a necessity. You feel like you got to write not only to get yourself a job, but for all the women whose work you love. There’s so many great women and not enough women writing for all of the great women that should be doing really challenging, cool stuff.
THE EAST HITS THEATERS ON MAY 31.