The Year of Spectacular Men takes you on the emotional millennial journey that is Izzy Klein’s life. She’s experiencing the frustration of post-grad life all the while dealing with familial complications and an unusual dating life. Maddie Deutch wrote, scored, and starred in this incredible film and is here to talk to us about it. Warning: Spoiler alerts below.
Nora Henick: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! We're so excited. We loved the movie so much.
Maddie Deutch: Oh my god, you're so nice! Thank you for watching it!
NH: Before we started watching it, Cori and I, we said to each other, "We're going to cry during this."
Cori Futrovsky: And then we did cry [laughs].
MD: Oh my god, really? I'm so glad. That's so sweet. I'm so glad you guys liked it. Thank you for telling me. That means a lot. I can't tell you how many interviews we have where people either didn't watch the movie or they didn't like it and they don't say anything – which is completely fine, it's just, you're always like, "I wonder what they thought, you know?"
CF: Oh, we absolutely loved it. We related.
MD: Well, I'm honored. Thank you!
CF: We heard you say before the screening about millennial women needing content. It really stuck with us. You said, "Women in Film and TV, they go from high school to 35 and married with children. And I don't know what happened to the decade in-between." It was like, the greatest thing we had ever heard. Honestly.
MD: I'm glad you identified!
CF: You said that you were kind of going through that, too. Talk to us about how that impacted the film.
MD: I think the interesting part of making a film is that you learn a lot about yourself along the way. When I wrote it, it was a lot more organized structurally, in the sense that it was probably what I wanted my life to be like. I think I want to get my life a little more organized. And when we got to the end of the movie and we finished shooting and we realized, that's not authentic and that's not [Izzy’s] story and that's not my story either. It's messy. So, we had to alter the end of the movie to try and reflect that.
NH: I think when a lot of people talk about films they talk about character development throughout the process of filming and how the characters in the film actually grow throughout the entire process. Since these characters relate to you and who you are as a person, I'd love to hear about your personal development in relation to the filming process.
MD: Izzy... I love Izzy. Izzy is not really like me, but I love her regardless. I carry her with me. She feels like a shadow sometimes. I learned a lot more about myself through playing her, and I learned a lot of things that I would like to fix about myself through playing her. She has a quality of openness that I don't always possess. The thing about Izzy, or the mission statement that I carried in my heart about her while playing her, was that she approaches every situation with the best intentions and I wanted to keep that when we wrapped. I was like, "[Fake sobs] I want to approach every situation with the best intentions!" Because Izzy did. She taught me that and I didn't really anticipate that.
CF: That's amazing. I think everyone wants to be able to take away something valuable like that from their own work. You wrote the film, starred in the film, scored the film, and you had your family in it. How did it and how does it feel, to have something so personal released into the public? I mean, it's your baby.
MD: It's funny, it was much more personal for me than I think it was for my family. It's exhilarating to have this movie be in the public, but it's also terrifying. I think artists, whether they want to admit it or not, are like adrenaline junkies in a sense. I'm flattered if somebody liked it and I'm flattered if they hated it, because it meant that it made them feel a certain way and that I think is ultimately the point of making art — to affect people. I think the only thing that would be truly terrible is if it didn't affect anyone and so far, I think people that have seen it have been affected, so that’s the most I can hope for. I’m really grateful for that.
CF: Building on that, what do you want people to take away from the movie? How do you want it to affect them?
MD: You know it's funny because people ask me this question a lot. And for me, there wasn't anything I wanted them to take away — and I don't mean that in a trite way, I mean it in the sense that my answer to it is a little wobbly because I am less interested in what they take away from it, from the point of having gotten the film made. It's more important to me, like the question you asked me before, which is like, why don't people make content for women in their 20s? That is the thing I want people to take away from the movie. Aside from that, I hope they interpret the movie per their experience. Having a rainbow of reaction, to me, is super gratifying. Having people get different things from it is the thrill.
NH: [Cori and I] definitely had a lot of emotions running through us when we were watching. There were parts that we completely related to and parts that made our jaws drop! Spoiler alert - when your mom's girlfriend hooks up with your sister's boyfriend —
NH: Things like that. We were like, that's not where we thought this was going and what's gonna happen next? We felt that range of emotions when watching. I took different things from different parts of the film and saw how it compared to my life and related it to similar situations that I have in my life as well.
MD: Good! One thing we really did on purpose with this movie is that we made a genuinely earnest film. I think earnestness is sort of like a dirty word in independent filmmaking. In independent filmmaking, sometimes people like to be cool and sort of withdrawn and we didn't want to do that. We wanted to make a sincere movie, so I appreciate you saying that.
NH: Well, you definitely achieved that.
MD: Thank you!
NH: We built our site around the idea of what would you want to be when you grow up if there were no limits? If you were looking back at younger you right now, did you have any idea that this is something you even wanted to do? Walk us through that process.
MD: Oh man, I mean I was extremely lucky in the sense that my mother worked as much as my father did, and so what was modeled to me as a child, was that moms and wives have jobs and work like their husbands. There's nothing wrong with someone choosing a different life, but this is the one that was modeled to me as a child. I grew up, and I consider myself incredibly lucky for this, never considering that I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I believed that I would be able to exist in this field as a woman because I watched my mother do it.
CF: I definitely had a similar experience. My mom worked out of my house with my aunt and the two of them worked just as much as my dad but from a different setting. It's inspiring to see movies that follow that pattern and to see other families that exemplify that.
MD: Yeah, that was my example of what it looked like to be a mom! I feel super grateful for that. As far as how to get started in my line of work... I mean, god, have you seen that meme that is a straight arrow pointing upward and it's like, what we think life should look like and then next to it is a really fucked up arrow with squiggles in it and it's like, this is what life actually looks like?
NH & CF: Yeah!
MD: I think it's all about taking it one day at a time and believing that you're doing the best that you can and then being open to being different than you thought! No matter what you do, it's not going to turn out the way you thought. I always wanted to be a musician and I didn't really make it work. There were elements of the profession that drove me nuts and I realized I didn't want to spend my life passing by in a van. I just didn't want to do it. I had to adjust. I turned my attention more toward filmmaking, but I wanted to continue to make music, so I would do it in a way that I felt comfortable with - which was scoring and being in a studio and not touring for my whole life, that kind of stuff. So, it doesn't look how I thought it would look, but at the same time, it's so much more amazing than I ever thought.
NH: Do you have any advice for our readers who kind of feel like they are going through that same sort of realization? Where there's something they might have always wanted to do, but it might not actually be the right fit in the way they imagined?
MD: The thing that I've learned is that sometimes you end up having to take streets to get there and not the freeway. I don't know if that makes sense, but sometimes it's the difference between no traffic on the freeway and getting there in ten minutes and taking Waze in rush-hour and going through all the back alleyways and maybe having a fender bender and your car running out of gas. [Laughs] It's just gonna look that way, but things end up so much better than you think they are going to if you just accept that you can't control the outcome. That sounds really hocus-pocus hippy-dippy.
CF: No, that honestly makes complete and total sense. People have to just give up control for things to work out how they are going to work. That's it. If you're trying to control everything, it's not going to work out.
MD: Yeah — and you're talking to the biggest control freak of them all. Me having to relinquish control over going and buying toothpaste is cause for a nervous breakdown. I am the biggest control freak there is and the biggest revelation is like, oh I am not the universe, I am a cog in the machine and if I just — and you know what else, when I was 19 or 20, I didn't have enough life experience or repetition or pattern to see that shit works out. When you see this in your 20s, you have a couple of extra years to be like, ohhhh, this has happened before. I've been here before. I recognize this introspection and it's gonna work out and I get it. But when you're in your late teens or early 20s, it's like you haven't lived enough years to physically see the pattern. I think just knowing it gets easier and that you start to see things show up again and that they do work out, it gets calmer.
CF: Speaking on the topic of high anxiety and being a control freak, what keeps you up? And what wakes you up in the morning?
NH: Keep in mind these can be very literal or they can be something like, for example, what keeps me personally up at night, aside from Netflix, is my phobia of getting in the elevator the next morning at work because I'm claustrophobic [laughs].
MD: What keeps me up at night... What gets me up in the morning... Feeling — this is so depressing and I'm trying to combat this - but feeling like I'm not doing enough. I would say that’s the thing that gets me up and, I would also say, that's the thing that stops me from going to sleep. That's the negative side of feeling like I'm not doing enough. The positive side of that is feeling super creatively inspired and rejuvenated, which will also keep me up at night and wake me up in the morning. There are two sides to that coin — it's like a positive version of it and a negative version of it.
CF: I mean, we definitely appreciate that answer because I think that the people reading this post want to relate and nobody is going to buy that, oh I don't stay up late and I wake up early, I have no anxiety —
MD: Oh my god the worst anxiety ever. I don't know what the deal is about this, but I've noticed people who are like my parent's age are like, "What do you have to be anxious about? I don't get it," and I'm like, man, what do I have to be anxious about? Where do I start? I live with anxiety. It's like a little backpack and I carry it around with me. If you do struggle with anxiety and feeling powerlessness and feeling like you can't control everything it's like, If you know that you're going to carry it with you all the time sort of like, alright, this is going to be a long haul. This is a long-distance run, not a sprint. I'm going to have to figure out how to deal with it like it's a weird imaginary friend, you know?
NH: Yes. We've personally had a lot of discussions about anxiety in general, because we both have it, but also, about how it pertains to work situations and everything else. We definitely understand how it can keep one up at night and also wake one up in the morning. And now for one last question! We've coined the term 'entrefemmeur' to describe women who are basically paving paths, taking no shit along the way, and just being in control of their own destiny and you are now an honorary entrefemmeur!
MD: Thank you!
NH: So, what does your new title mean for you?
MD: That's a really good question. Oy! Listening to your gut. That's a big one for me. I don't listen to my gut and that's where I get myself in trouble. And when I'm in my power and when I'm functioning out of love instead of fear and when I'm able to care for others, while caring for myself at the same time, and being able to help people see their own creative visions through, while seeing my own through... That is when I'm listening to my gut about what is right for me. And it's hard! It takes a lot of years of getting burned by ignoring your intuitions to learn to trust them. I think that's it. Really just listening to my gut. That's what that means to me.
NH: I love that your answer not only included going after your own dreams, but championing the people in your life and that you work with, because that's something you see in our generation, and hopefully future generations. We're very collaborative and supportive and we want to champion for the people around us. I think with everything that's going on right now, it's nice to have that feeling of community.
MD: Totally. I think if you're a creative person in any way, there's going to be moments where you need to focus on something you want to see through and then there's going to be moments where people come to you and say, "Can you help me see this through?" And it's like, yeah, I want to try and be of service right now and help this person make their vision a reality, but you can't do that unless you take care of yourself. You have to do that thing where you put the oxygen mask on yourself first. I feel like I have only said super cliché things that people used to say to me when I was young and I was like, fuck off, how is that pertinent? [laughs] But now I feel like it is and I get it.
CF: There's a reason there are clichés! They have been proven.
NH: There's definitely a reason they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before other people.
MD: I know, man, what the hell? I'm like, I want to be special I want to say something different! But I'm not that interesting.
NH: That is not true.
CF: We think you're pretty interesting.
MD: I'm glad somebody does! Well, I don't think I have anything else to add except for hopefully other people will download The Year of Spectacular Men and I hope they like it and I hope that it makes them laugh and cry and eat snacks!
CF & NH: Thank you so much for talking with us.
MD: Thank you guys, I'm so honored to talk to you. Thanks for fighting the good fight and doing your own thing. That's how change happens. It's super inspirational so thanks for talking to me.