freep.com – Seeing the film based on her novel, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” for the first time at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival is bound to be memorable for Phoebe Gloeckner.
The University of Michigan associate professor already has been through the stage version of her acclaimed book, a graphic novel-prose hybrid with autobiographical elements.
“When I saw the play, it was as if I was watching ghosts of my past just walking and talking and living and breathing,” she says. “The movie’s like that as well. So it’s very emotional for me. It’s a wonderful experience and very strange.”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” will have several screenings at Sundance. It’s competing in the U.S. drama category of the celebrated Utah event, which runs through Feb. 1.
The coming-of-age movie stars British newcomer Bel Powley as Minnie Goetze, a teen navigating the experimental haze of 1970s San Francisco without much guidance from any adults. Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s mother, while Alexander Skarsgard (HBO’s “True Blood”) plays her mom’s boyfriend, with whom Minnie has an affair.
Gloeckner’s book came out in 2002. It stirred controversy and also drew much praise for its honest, unflinching, often painful story told from a young girl’s perspective.
“Minnie is one of the most believable teenage protagonists ever written, a complicated, contradictory child posing as a woman. Her ‘Diary’ is a page-turner of a very high order and a tour de force of emotional intensity and damage,” said the San Francisco Chronicle.
The book was named one of Rolling Stone’s 50 best non-superhero graphic novels and continues to connect with readers. One of its fans, Marielle Heller, was so moved by the subject matter that she lobbied Gloeckner for the theatrical rights and adapted it as a play that earned good reviews during a 2010 off-Broadway run.
Gloeckner admits she was leery of seeing the play and only decided to accept an invitation to an early run-through in Los Angeles at the last minute. “I was afraid it would be so horrible, it would just kill me,” she recalls. “I went to the play and I was just in tears. It was pretty amazing.”
Heller’s devotion to “Diary” has continued with the film adaptation, which she wrote and directed. It’s executive-produced by her husband, Jorma Taccone, one-third of the comedy music trio the Lonely Island (with Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer) and the director of “MacGruber.”
Gloeckner says she spent about eight days on the set during filming. She hasn’t seen the final cut yet. During a sound-mixing session at the Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, Calif., Heller asked Gloeckner if she was ready to watch it.
“The sound guy turned around really quickly and he said to me, ‘Look, if you have a choice whether or not to see the movie, I would wait until the premiere, because if you see it now, you’re not going to experience it with the excitement you would (there). You’re going to be looking at other people for their reaction,’ ” Gloeckner recalls.
She took his advice and plans to see it at Sundance.
Since 2004, Gloeckner has been in Ann Arbor, where she teaches at the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design. She’s currently taking the semester off to focus on her latest project, for which she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008.
It’s the story of a teenage girl from Mexico who was murdered and the family she left behind. Gloeckner, who’s spent years on the research, plans to do a print version as well as a multimedia electronic novel that will include animation.
For Gloeckner, one of the joys of “Diary” reaching the big screen is knowing the novel has staying power.
“I continue to get letters from people and invitations to talk about it. I’m so grateful for that. When I work on something, I work really hard. I don’t do things just to make a splash and make some money. I put everything into it.”