5 Questions: ‘Just Be Yourselves” David Eisenberg

“Nobody’s perfect. But without the things we might consider ‘flaws,’ we probably wouldn’t have the other good parts of our personality. We’d be someone entirely different.”

Self-esteem can be messy. You embrace your bookishness but at the cost of condescension. Your introspection is a byproduct of being a loner. You’re always a good time and all the more reckless for it.

Feeling comfortable with one’s self is complex, precisely because it involves embracing the good with the not-so-good. That’s the essence of Just Be Yourselves, the poignant, hilarious short film from UW Madison grads David Eisenberg and Kaela Wohl. Nervous about making a good impression for her date, Molly gets a quick pep talk on her finer qualities, which Eisenberg and Wohl split into a variety of individual caricatures, from Molly’s sexy, French-speaking side down to her awkward laugh. Molly struts into her date (quite literally, in a masterfully choreographed dance number) with confidence, trying to juggle her interests and characteristics before finally realizing she’s better off just being herself. Er, selves.

Now working out of New York, Eisenberg talked with me over email for our “5 Questions” series:

1. You’re looking for such specific notes to touch on with Molly’s personality traits. How did you cast for this?

We’d seen the lead, Amanda Peck, perform with her sketch comedy group in New York, and wanted to work with her. So we wrote Molly with her in mind, and filled in her traits to make a fun, well-rounded, somewhat neurotic character.

Only a few of the women who play her personality traits are professional actors, and the rest are friends who were game to come have fun for a weekend. And we’d worked with the male lead, Ronan Babbitt, on a number of other projects. He’s got great comedic chops and a lot of his stuff was improvised.

2. I love the concept. We see ourselves as different people depending on the situation or our mood, and those people aren’t always the greatest.

Exactly. Nobody’s perfect. But without the things we might consider ‘flaws,’ we probably wouldn’t have the other good parts of our personality. We’d be someone entirely different. So this is really about embracing who we are, mainly from a woman’s perspective. We wanted it to be funny first off, but we also wanted it to be positive and uplifting, with a strong female lead that we could all rally behind.

3. I get a strong Catholic school impression from your costuming choices. What went into that design?

Kaela found these 10 identical dresses at a thrift store while shopping for costumes for the movie The Skeleton Twins (she’s a costume designer for TV and film in NYC). She didn’t have a use for them at the time but loved them and bought them anyway. They were $2 each. The dresses sat in a closet in our apartment for over 2 years before we decided to buckle down and come up with an idea of how to use them.

4. There’s a dance number in this. What was choreographing that like?

10 women all wearing these matching dresses, dancing in unison, was the first idea we had, and then we built the script around that. To choreograph the dance, we brought on Ella Rosewood. She’s a friend of ours from Menomonee Falls, and is now a professional dancer in New York. Ella also plays the “Hilarious” version of Molly. Ella rehearsed the dance number with the cast for a few hours, then went out and filmed it at a park in Brooklyn the next day.

5. What makes your film so great is that you’re relating this microcosm of a date to like, 5 minutes. When Molly looks in the mirror, she’s seeing all of these expectations she’s set up for her personality, for herself. Is there a drawback to that?

Molly has a lot of good sides to her character, and a few that she wishes she could hide. And in a dating world where everyone thinks they need to be perfect, she’s embarrassed by her imperfections. But those imperfections are also what make her interesting. And in the end, if she can just embrace who she is… she’ll be just fine.