The film’s producers, Barry Jenkins and Adele Romanski, have said they are excited to bring the film to a wide audience in the face of the cinema industry’s struggles. “These are extraordinary and very difficult times,” Jenkins told Indiewire. “It opens the door to anyone who’s in the same age group as the character. Those people are all sitting at home trying to find out what to watch and what to do. That means this is a wonderful opportunity.”
My conversation with Hittman didn’t encompass this strange situation her movie now finds itself in. But we did talk about depictions of abortion in cinema, her adeptness with introverted characters, and the fact that so much of the movie’s action takes place in New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, a relic of a grittier time. On rewatch, those scenes have an eeriness to them because the terminal is so empty at night, which is when Autumn and Skylar wander its halls, trying to pass the time before the next appointment. Now that every public space in New York is that empty, the film feels like a strange snapshot of the future.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
David Sims: I’m glad to have seen the movie.
Eliza Hittman: It’s a quiet movie. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of audience reaction.
Sims: Have you ever made a loud movie?
Hittman: No! But this one feels quieter.
Sims: Why do you think it feels quieter? Autumn is very introverted, but you’ve made movies about introverted people before.
Hittman: Exploring the process and barriers a woman goes through in trying to get an abortion feels so timely. I was just hoping that the way I chose to explore the story was effective.
Sims: This is your first film not set in Brooklyn.
Hittman: Yeah, there area lot of elements that I was excited about. The procedural aspect, the road movie, and that it’s a story about female friendship. It’s a lot to juggle.
Sims: How did you settle on the location in Pennsylvania?
Hittman: My partner, who edits all my movies and is also a filmmaker, is from western New York, and whenever we drive to visit his family we go through Pennsylvania, so we started exploring that region and found all of these coal towns that were very captivating but very depressed. Trapped in time. It’s about 135 miles from New York, to be precise.
Sims: Not very far, but like so many road movies, you have that feeling of being a world away.
Hittman: Initially I was hoping to have more of an immersive process, to really embed the story in this town, cast all the people in this town, and make this movie set between two states. But those were a lot of challenges for an indie movie about an abortion. So I only captured the town in glimpses.
Sims: But the crisis pregnancy center she goes to feels very real.
Hittman: I went to those, I took the test, I had the counseling session, I wrote from my experiences. I didn’t want to judge, even though I know those places are fundamentally unethical. I had remembered the phrase abortion-minded from a conversation, as well as being told, “Even if it’s negative, it might still be positive.” That was pulled from my conversation verbatim.