SXSW Interview: Jamie Babbit and Karey Dornetto Talk Fresno

Post-rehab, sister Shannon shacks up with Martha and they both work as maids at a nearby hotel. Shannon, not completely over her sex addiction, ends up having sex with a perv in the hotel and accidentally kills him. With a dead body on their hands, the two sisters decide to bring it to the local crematory to get rid of it. But it’s not that easy, the couple at the crematory asks for ransom or else they’ll tell the cops, so it is up to the sisters to get the money in time or else.

The idea came from Dornetto wanting to write a film about a “fucked up relationship between two sisters.” Pepper in some extra crazy like addiction and sibling crime inspiration from the film Bottle Rocket and Fresno was born. 

Babbit is known for creating films revolving around women simple because she relates to it. “It’s natural for women to be interested in other women,” said Babbit. Dornetto agreed saying although minor characters surely could’ve been men it’s just “first instinct to cast women.” 

The cast is a great group primarily consisting of women. From the leads to even the minor characters, everyone has their moment to shine. There’s Kelly (played by Aubrey Plaza) an aggressive but sweet fitness instructor determined to become Martha’s girlfriend. Kristen (played by Jessica St. Clair) the front desk associate of the hotel that has a certain ignorance is bliss sweetness about her. Eric, the almost boyfriend of Shannon who’s sarcasm nearly wins her over. 

Babbit has a way of casting the underdog actresses and giving them their time to shine. She’s done this with Lyonne previously in “But, I’m A Cheerleader” and again for this film. She also cast Judy Greer against type which was unique and ended up working perfectly. When explaining her decision to choose Greer, Babbit explained, “Audiences could turn their back on that character because she is so flawed and you can never turn your back on Judy. She has inherit likability.” 

When asked if there is any difficulty being female filmmakers they both said no. Babbit explained they’re blessed to be successful women. But she did have advice for female filmmakers out there. “Just make your work,” Babbit explained, “I have noticed a difference with men and women in that men will make a terrible short and think it’s good and keep going, even when they get rejected. I feel like women can be more sensitive and make a terrible short just like guys in their film class and be like ‘oh I’m not good so I guess I should not do this,” Babbit went on, “The truth is you should make a ton of terrible shorts because you’ll get better at doing it. Just keep going, celebrate your failures, keep putting yourself out there.” Those are geet words to live by. 

The film overall is a very entertaining farce, there are so many laugh out loud moments that you aren’t expecting. Babbit and Dornetto excel at bringing a crazy crime comedy to an oddly relatable level and you feel for these characters and especially the sibling bond.