Having spent the last decade-plus multitasking performance art, short films, fiction, journalism, video art installations, Web-based presentations and the grassroots film distribution network Joanie4Jackie, Miranda July is a little flummoxed to have devoted the past year concentrating on one project. Whenever the self-trained experimental artist would emerge from an editing room in Los Angeles, where she cut her first feature film, “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” she wouldn’t know what to do with herself.
“If I had a spare hour, (I’d think) what should I do? Maybe I should write a short story,” she says. At one point, she jumped headlong into writing a new script. Then she stopped and said to herself, “You’re crazy.”
Making a full-length feature is harder than her other media, she admits, even if it’s not that different aesthetically or conceptually from her other creations. “People who know my work will recognize it in the film,” she says. “There are characters that are the same, and the whole story deals with themes I’ve been working on, like, all my movies have children in them with a certain kind of power you don’t always see.”
The main difference is that instead of playing all the parts, as is customary in performance art, she took on the not completely unfamiliar role of a shy performance artist only. Other actors play the philosophical shoe salesman she falls for, his two children and their neighbors.
Although July has been showing her work since high school (and is practically a cult figure in Portland, Ore., where she spent most of her adulthood), the film promises to widen her audience. A planned release from IFC Films would likely reach more people than the rest of her work combined. Her film also unspools in Sundance’s Dramatic Competition.
“It’s exciting to have somebody coming squarely out of that experimental world make her way into a more mainstream independent film community — but with those sensibilities intact,” says Ruby Lerner, president of the Creative Capital Foundation, which has funded July’s work. “I love that. I think that’s the future.”
July says she’s ready for the explosion of interest in her, and she’s also not afraid of any backlash from her underground fan base.
“When I moved from punk clubs to fine arts spaces, the same sort of thing happened,” she says. “All those kids just came to the Whitney and other places like that. All those venues said, “this is really different from our usual ticket buyers.” So hopefully, the same thing will happen again.”