Pauline Chalamet Is Finding Her Vision

It seems like you’ve been working in the arts your whole life. Have you ever had a break?

I took a two-year break in college where I was just studying politics—I did political studies and became obsessed with comparative politics. I studied theater and politics at Bard, I double-majored. It was very different theater than what I had been seeing and performing growing up. I was at the School of American Ballet as a child, so it was very rigorous professional training. I was used to classically structured theater, and then all of a sudden it’s like: A man walks across the stage, and that’s theater. And I’m like, “No, it’s not.” Then little by little I’m like, “Oh, no—it is.” But I didn’t have a lot of success in theater at Bard—I auditioned for all the shows, never got into them.

How did you start directing your own work?

I just wanted things to be getting done, so I was like, “Well, I’ll just make them.” That’s how directing came to me. I just came up with these stories, and then I’d be like, “Let’s get some friends in there, or I’ll do it and have a friend shoot it, and I’ll run back and forth from the monitor.” It really came from this desire to try and be in control, which is ultimately an anxiety thing because you don’t ever have that much control over anything! I was like, “Okay, if I have the story in my head, how do I make it?” That was kind of the work of directing.

I want to learn more about what my vision is as a director. I know the stories I want to tell, but what are my beliefs about directing? Do I believe that there is something such as female storytelling? Or is it just that we need to create more nuance? I don’t know, I don’t have those answers yet.

Was it hard not having control, not being a director, when it came to this show?

When I got to Sex Lives of College Girls, it was nuts! It was such a big boat. A part of me loved it because I was like, “Wow, I can just do this work. I show up, and you guys are going to do the rest.” At the same time that’s kind of scary because I’m really aware of all the work that goes on behind and that means I don’t know what’s going to happen with the work I’m giving you. It was a good exercise in control and having to let go.

We had a bit of a hiatus [after filming] the pilot and I was like, “Oh, my God, what am I doing?” So I called a friend and said, “What do you think of making a short, just in the apartment? I have really cool bathrooms, so we need to find something that features the bathrooms.” She was like, “Let’s do it.” I made another short film on the hiatus! I couldn’t stand not doing anything.

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