XX/XY
 
 

Making a movie is such a long process that it seems like a lifetime ago when I was deciding what story to tell. The process starts with ideas, but ideas alone do not a movie make. What happens (if you’re lucky) is magic. In 1999 I had some ideas and I sat down and wrote the script that would become my first movie.

XX/XY begins with a situation usually viewed as a clichéd male fantasy: a guy goes to bed with two beautiful girls he hardly knows. But, contrary to the ménage à trois myth, once they’re all naked it becomes painfully awkward (I tried this once myself, with similarly disappointing results). One of the women begins to cry and the evening fizzles. This is the beginning of a complicated relationship between the three of them, and it creates a dynamic that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

To explore this dynamic, I decided to divide the movie into two distinctly different parts. The first part follows the three college-aged friends as their relationship spirals out of control. The second part picks them up ten years later and explores what happens when they’re reunited as adults.

Dividing the story in two was a little scary because it was hard to know how audiences would react, but I wouldn’t have wanted to make a movie that was all one or the other. What interested me was their juxtaposition and the questions that it raised. One being, how much can a person change while still remaining fundamentally the same? Another being the idea that perhaps everyone has a person in their past who they wonder about—someone who felt like “the one,” but with whom things didn’t work out. What would you do if you were suddenly presented with that person?

So often in movies these days love seems too easy. Love is when the music swells. That’s fine for a certain kind of movie, but I wanted to make a movie about how complicated love can be.

 

I wanted XX/XY to raise questions and provoke thought, not hammer home some superficial message about the price of irresponsible behavior. Every relationship is, in some sense, a negotiation, and that’s what XX/XY is about.

A year after finishing the script, I’d managed to pull together enough money to begin shooting. I was blessed with an amazing cast and supported by some incredibly talented people in the crew. Along the road to completing the movie, I sometimes feared that, coming out the other side, I’d find I’d outgrown my initial ideas, but I never doubted the work these people did. XX/XY premiered at Sundance 2002, and for the past year I’ve been following it around to other festivals. I’ve mostly avoided watching it (having seen it over a thousand times now, I usually go watch someone else’s movie), but I have done a lot of Q&A sessions. Hearing the positive responses has been encouraging, but also strange. Before I’d actually made a movie, I think I assumed that getting positive feedback would be the reward, as if this were the reason for making it at all. It’s great to hear people say that they liked it, but XX/XY feels separate from me now. When I hear people’s reactions, the feelings I most often experience are surprise and interest. It seems amazing that, because of an idea I had three years ago, there’s now a movie. And what’s actually been most rewarding for me is that process itself. XX/XY is the product of hard work by so many people who believed in it along the way. I feel incredibly fortunate that it will have a life in theaters (so few films do, especially first films).

I finally watched XX/XY again recently, and was happy to see that it raises questions I still find interesting and relevant. We live in a complicated world, and XX/XY, in its own small way, strives to reflect this. The challenge was to reflect it honestly, rather than simplify or deny it. That interested me three years ago, and it still interests me today.

©2003 Landmark Theatres