Hallie Meyers-Shyer's first feature as a writer and director is Home Again, which stars Reese Witherspoon as a freshly separated woman who opens her home to three young filmmakers who need a place to stay. Meyers-Shyer is only 29, but her film lineage goes back decades. Her parents, Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers (now divorced), worked together for years on films including Private Benjamin (1980), Baby Boom (1987) and the updated versions of Father Of The Bride (1991) and The Parent Trap (1998).
Nancy Meyers later became known for domestic comedies like Something's Gotta Give (2003) and It's Complicated (2009). She most recently wrote and directed The Intern (2015), with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway.
Meyers is a producer on her daughter's new film. She and Meyers-Shyer joined NPR for a discussion about working together, why they both gravitate toward stories set in homes and why Meyers-Shyer made this film independently, when her mother had spent her career making studio films.
On what it was like to make a film together
Nancy Meyers: I loved working with her, and it was really a joy. It was a joy to be able to watch her as the director, and also to help her. You know, I think it's a great feeling to be able to share with your offspring things that have taken you decades and decades to learn. So we could make a lot of shortcuts on this movie because of that. ...
Some of it's about logistics of movie making. There's a lot of people on a set there to help you and a lot of people there to do their job. And you have to do your job, and your job is to tell the story the way you see it in the day you have to do it in. And when somebody's standing over you staring at their watch, purposely staring at it so they know you'll see them, you kind of have to not let that interfere.
Hallie Meyers-Shyer: They position themselves in your rearview.
Meyers: Yeah. You have to be mindful of your days and your budget, but you also know this is your one day to get this one scene. You know, I tried to help Hal stay focused on that and I pulled those people away.
Meyers-Shyer: Yeah, I think that was like one of the biggest assets of having her there was to have another person who cared so much creatively about the film and less about the day to day of getting this by this time. She was so on the ball with getting what we need.
On making Home Again as an indie film, and how that's different from working with a big studio
Meyers-Shyer: Well, I'm a first-time director, and, you know, I think that that is more welcomed in the indie space than it is in the studio world. And the genre is not a popular genre at the studios right now; it is more of an indie genre. So I didn't even think of taking this to a studio because I thought, you know, it seemed like an independent film to me. ...
Thank God for the indie world, you know, because that's where so many of the great character-driven stories are. But I do think, you know, if you build it they will come. And if you have an audience then maybe you can get through to the studio system. Not that it's better to make a movie there, but sometimes more time to make your film is helpful. More money and more time helps you on a set.
Meyers: Netflix and Amazon are so great because they're willing to make filmmaker films. ... I'm interested in them as an audience viewer. I really feel I'm kind of done, to be honest. I honestly do, I feel I've sort of come to the end of something. But if I were starting out, if I was Hallie ... I would go there, because it's very hard to compete.
Like, we're coming out against It, a Warner Bros. horror film. You know, they just have such a larger scale promotion of their film than we can afford. You look at the numbers every day and you see, wow, you see how many people are aware of that movie compared to our movie. ... Studios want to make big, giant movies that get your attention away from your smart phone and away from your TV. And we are a human movie that's a comedy, that's an original kind of — Hal calls it a modern romantic comedy, which it is. And it's just hard to get noticed.
On using sets to world-build when their characters are mostly at home
Meyers: I write movies about people and relationships and mostly those things happen in your bedroom, in your kitchen, your living room and your hallway and your bathroom. This is where you talk to people mostly. ... Your home is where your personal life is. And if you're going to write an authentic movie about what somebody's really like, your home's the place. ... So when you meet with production designers and set decorators and people who are going to help you design the house, you just have to get into the mindset of your character.
Like, I remember in Something's Gotta Give, I very much wanted her desk in her bedroom because romance was no longer a part of her life, so I wanted her to work in her bedroom. That was really, really important to me. And I remember in It's Complicated, with Meryl [Streep], she's designing a house and she only wants one sink in her bathroom. And I know Steve Martin has this line where he says to her, "You don't think maybe one day you'll want two sinks?" So it's a reflection of the characters.
And in Hallie's movie — you can speak to this, Hal — but she wanted a lot of pink because this was a newly separated woman who wanted to feel like herself again. And she was, I think, bringing out her feminine --
Meyers-Shyer: -- feminine environment. I wanted a lot of pink in this house because I thought it was her first house without a man and that's the color she would've — you know, I think it was almost, like, bold. You know, like, I am a woman having a home and I am going to make it very pink and my two daughters are going to live here. And I also thought it would be funny to put these three millennial men in this sort of pink house.
Oh how Meyers-Shyer feels about being compared to her mom
Meyers-Shyer: I feel very good about the comparison. I mean, I think, you know, when you read a review of any romantic comedy, they often mention my mom because she's a household name, in terms of romantic comedies, in a really positive way, and she's a female filmmaker. So obviously the comparisons are probably because I'm her daughter, mostly, but I also think that she's synonymous with the genre and I think it's been a positive influence. You can always feel the producer in the film when they are also a filmmaker, in my opinion. You know, you can kind of feel some Jim Brooks in Jerry Maguire. That's the name of the game, I think.
Jessica Reedy produced the audio of this interview, and Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.