The Movie Waffler Waffling With...Sarah Koskoff | The Movie Waffler

Waffling With...Sarah Koskoff

Sarah Koskoff is a former actress who made her screenwriting debut with the recently released 'Hello I Must Be Going'. She was good enough to take some time out to waffle with us.

The Movie Waffler: How did you first get into acting?

Sarah Koskoff: My parents are big theater and movie fans, so I grew up seeing a lot of movies and plays. From a very young age they took me to see everything -- from Shakespeare plays to 'Saturday Night Fever'. It was pretty inappropriate and really great. I was also in a lot of plays in high school and college, and I studied acting. It was a natural transition to working as an actress.

TMW: Your last role was 2004's 'The Clearing', have you retired from acting and, if so, what made you quit?

SK: Yes, I’ve stopped acting. When I was acting in plays and studying acting, it was always the good stuff -- Shakespeare, Pinter, Brecht, Chekhov, etc. I loved it. But when I started working as an actress it was mainly on television. The money was good, but the parts were... not very interesting. I didn’t enjoy it, and it didn’t matter how much I put into it. By the time I started getting parts in more interesting projects, I realized that I didn’t really like acting! I was interested in language and stories. My writing moved into the foreground, and I let go of acting completely. Happily. But the experiences I had as an actor continue to be enormously helpful to me as a writer.

TMW: 'Hello I Must Be Going' is your first produced script but, given its strength, I suspect it's not your first foray into writing. How long have you been writing for?

SK: I started writing stories when I was a kid. I always wanted to be a writer, and I continued to write all the while I was acting. I wrote some fiction, but mainly I wrote plays, before I ever even tried to write a screenplay.

TMW: The film is directed by your husband, Todd Louiso. Was it always intended for him to direct?

SK: I did write 'Hello' for Todd to direct. I wanted us to do a small project together. Something we would have control over, that we could build from the bottom up. It was a very D.I.Y experience. We were both frustrated with what was “out there” in terms of work, so we decided to make something happen ourselves, together, to re-engage with the process. It was an extremely challenging and very fulfilling experience. And I’m so grateful to all the people who worked on it and helped make it -- really, there’s no way to properly express it. People give so much of themselves to work on a small film. It’s heartening. And the reward is the work itself.

TMW: The title is a reference to the Marx Brothers. Can you tell us some of your other influences?

SK: I always feel uncomfortable answering this question, because it feels like I’m saying that I think I’m like these people -- so, just to be clear -- I don’t think my work is anything like Bergman! But 'Scenes From a Marriage' was an influence. It’s a simple, excruciatingly honest story --  utterly mesmerizing. 'Fanny and Alexander', too. I’ve seen it about five times, and I am completely surprised by it every time. Mike Leigh, as well. I’ve seen every one of his films. I love Woody Allen, too. And Mel Brooks. I know 'Annie Hall' and 'Blazing Saddles' by heart. Is that kind of sad? 

TMW: The use of songs by Laura Veirs is similar to how Hal Ashby employed Cat Stevens for 'Harold & Maude', another film based around a May to December (or, in that case, a January to December) romance. Was Ashby's film an influence?

SK: Yes, I love Hal Ashby’s films! They were definitely an influence as well. Again, simple, honest, raw and vulnerable and a bit silly, artful without being arty. But, yes, 'Harold and Maude'! I love it so much. It’s a movie that leaves me feeling kind of thrilled about everything. Totally panned by the critics, by the way. As was 'Rosemary’s Baby', by the New York Times, anyway. That’s neither here nor there. But... it is... somewhere.

TMW: Are there any elements of your own personality in Amy, the character portrayed by Melanie Lynskey?

SK: Yes.

TMW: With film-makers like Kathryn Bigelow, Andrea Arnold, and Lynne Ramsey, it's an exciting time for female directors. Why do you think we're suddenly seeing so many women behind the camera, and is directing something you've considered yourself?

SK: To me the question is really, why has it taken so long? It’s interesting, considering how women are in equal proportion to men in most other professions. 
I don’t want to direct at this point. I’m a bit of an introvert, and I think directors really seem to thrive on the... contact and connections with the other artists. I like to be able to follow an idea, when I’m writing, until I burn myself a new brain pathway -- it’s not a very social process. Movie sets are really very busy places. That said, maybe if I cultivate a strong enough, unwavering enough level of attention, I’ll be able to direct.

TMW: What's next for Sarah Koskoff?

SK: I’m working on a few scripts. I would be beyond thrilled to be able to make them  into movies.

TMW: Thanks for taking the time to waffle with us!

SK: Thanks! I feel at home. I’m a waffler myself.