June 13, 2018
Amy Seimetz Is Having A Great Year
It’s time to show an indie queen some love as she soars to new heights.
Auteur Amy Seimetz is fantastic in just about anything she sets her mind to, and she has proven her mettle over the many years she’s spent making cinematic art of all kinds. And I mean all kinds, because she’s been writing, producing, directing, and acting in shorts, features, and television series for over a decade at top velocity. Seimetz works off of a passionate ethos that admirably ignores all things except the art of storytelling. She will make whatever the hell she wants, no matter who’s watching, and that’s what keeps her on our radar.
Good thing, too, because her work will be on our screens a lot more in the near future. Deadline reports that Seimetz has signed an overall deal with FX to develop new TV projects for the network. This particular collaboration builds on her successful directorial contributions to Donald Glover’s refreshingly eccentric FX series Atlanta, although Seimetz is no stranger to TV as it is. Besides having starred in some acclaimed series herself, such as AMC’s The Killing and Netflix’s Stranger Things, she had a hand in crafting the first two seasons of Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience, based on Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film of the same name.
Seimetz’s big-screen resume is about to get a huge boost as well. Per Variety, she will play the female lead in the Pet Sematary remake. Seimetz will star opposite Jason Clarke and John Lithgow in a brand new take on the exceptionally eerie Stephen King novel of the same name. The plot tracks the exploits of the Creed family as they encounter a pet cemetery imbued with supernatural properties. Seimetz will tackle the pivotal role of a mother who gets entangled in the throes of death and resurrection as the powers of the cemetery grip her family in a vice.
Clearly, Seimetz continues honing her skills in front of and behind the camera in equal measure. Early on, she kept busy occupying behind-the-scenes roles, mostly making short films. She found acting jobs in features such as Wristcutters: A Love Story, and notably had an associate producer credit on Barry Jenkins’s feature film debut, Medicine for Melancholy, back in 2008. Before long, Seimetz’s first Joe Swanberg collaboration came along when he cast her in Alexander the Last. The two have since developed a long-standing cinematic partnership, eventually working together on Silver Bullets, Autoerotic, and The Sacrament.
After Alexander the Last, the early 2010s saw Seimetz acting in a slew of films with other noteworthy names within the indie film circuit. Her projects included Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, the Greta Gerwig headliner The Dish & the Spoon, and Adam Wingard’s cult slasher movie You’re Next (Wingard also co-directed Autoerotic). In fact, Seimetz clocked a total of 24 filmmaking credits from 2010 to 2012 in virtually any genre. Her achievements all culminated to her first feature film Sun Don’t Shine, which premiered at SXSW in 2012.
Seimetz’s raw and unconventional thriller personifies the uncontrollability of death in the guises of a frantic couple who happen to be killers. The film puts Seimetz’s stunningly complex emotional visions on the map, because her directing encourages empathy for characters that would have easily been made more abhorrent in any other movie about murderous lovers. Instead, Sun Don’t Shine is funny, weird, and poignant about its volatile and desperate protagonists, and the results are stellar.
Sun Don’t Shine led to some major developments in Seimetz’s career. Firstly, her memorable collaboration with Shane Carruth on his mind-boggling sci-fi film Upstream Color was made possible because of her debut. The film is a series of impressions that leaves many — including myself — completely at a loss over its meaning. There’s worm-eating, brain-washing, and a pig farm. Yet we’re carried through any confusion over the film’s plot via one solid anchor: Seimetz’s naturalistic, if haunted, leading performance as a woman who essentially seems to be losing her identity.
Additionally, Sun Don’t Shine predicated Seimetz’s team-up with Soderbergh, opening up fresh opportunities for her to get more exposure in different aspects of her career. As she told IndieWire in 2016, Soderbergh approached her to executive produce, co-write, and direct the television version of The Girlfriend Experience after seeing Sun Don’t Shine (he has connections to Carruth too).
According to Seimetz, “I said, ‘I’ve never directed television, so I don’t know what I’m doing.’ [Soderbergh] said, ‘Well, you gotta start somewhere.’” In taking a chance with her, Soderbergh managed to expand on the initial premise of his original film; Seimetz (and co-writer and director Lodge Kerrigan) brought much depth, mystery, and tension to a straightforward premise through two starkly different, riveting seasons.
Television proves to be a wonderful medium for Seimetz to fully flex her storytelling potential. In both The Killing and Stranger Things, she cracks open two relatively stoic characters in her performances, allowing them to transform into more three-dimensional presences despite their limited screen time.
Then came her gig on Atlanta, for which she directed two of the most memorable episodes of the entire series. In helming Season 2’s “Helen” and “Champagne Papi,” Seimetz kept with the offbeat bizarreness of the show’s general vibe while also putting her own distinctive feminist slant on her episodes. Similar to her empathetic approach to the characters in Sun Don’t Shine, she trained the spotlight on Zazie Beetz’s character Van, exploring and validating her emotions and letting Beetz exercise more of her acting chops. In Seimetz’s episodes, Van develops a more solid arc separate from Glover’s leading man, which is utterly refreshing.
Seimetz even shines when she’s given particularly unforgiving roles. It would be criminal to leave out Alien: Covenant from her list of achievements. However, I still so wish that director Ridley Scott had written her a better character for what has ultimately been her most mainstream credit to date. Seimetz absolutely lets loose and gives the role her all, totally committed to her character’s terror as she stumbles upon eerie alien territory and ends up fighting a neomorph. But she pretty much plays a filler part. At least Pet Sematary could be a chance to rectify this oversight.
When asked if she wanted to be an “it girl” back in 2013, Seimetz responded, “I don’t even know what that means. I guess I don’t want to be the “it girl” because that sounds so temporary. […] You just want to continue making work.” So far, we’re so grateful that that’s been the case. Seimetz has managed to completely avoid any kind of transient label despite her experimentation with onscreen art, and nobody should miss out on anything in her unique visionary filmography.