Filmmaker, artist, and author
B orn Miranda Jennifer Grossinger, February 15, 1974, in Barre, VT; daughter of Richard Grossinger (a writer, publisher, and publishing company cofounder) and Lindy Hough (a writer, publisher, and publishing company cofounder). Education: Attended the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Addresses: Contact—PO Box 26596, Los Angeles, CA 90026.
C o-created girlzine Snarla as a teen; put on play The Lifer, c. 1990; recorded album with The Need, Margie Ruskie Stops Time, 1996; created live-action performance pieces Love Diamond, 1998, and Swan Tool, 2000; published short story in the Paris Review, 2003; released first feature film as writer, director, and actress, Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; published first short-story collection, No One Belongs Here More than You, 2007.
Awards: Gecko Award—international competition, Cinematexas International Short Film Festival, for Nest of Tens, 2000; Best Debut Award—Experimental, New York Expo of Short Film, for Nest of Tens, 2000; Main Prize, Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, for Nest of Tens, 2001; Prize of the Ministry for Development, Culture, and Sports, Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, for Nest of Tens, 2001; Young Critics Award for best feature, Cannes Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Prix Regards Jeune for best feature film, Cannes Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Golden Camera, Cannes Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Critics Week Grand Prize, Cannes Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Russell Smith Award, Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Audience Award for best feature, Newport International Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Jury Award for best director, Newport International Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Audience Award for best narrative feature, San Francisco International Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; SKYY Prize, San Francisco International Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Special Jury Prize—dramatic, Sundance Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Best First Time Director Award, Philadelphia Film Festival, for Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005; Chicago Film Critics Association Award for most promising performer, for Me and You and Everyone You Know, 2006; Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival, for No One Belongs Here More than You, 2007.
A s a respected performance artist, filmmaker, and short-story writer, Miranda July has created in various artistic mediums, but always with an emotionally charged, often quirky, usually sincere edge. While working primarily in video and audio performance art through the 1990s, she came to greater recognition in the early 2000s. July first got her short stories printed in journals such as the Paris Review, then in 2005 made a critically acclaimed, award-winning independent film, You and Me and Everyone We Know. In 2007, she published her first book, No One Belongs Here More than You. Of July’s work, Karen Durbin wrote in the New York Times, “At her most unnerving, Ms. July upends the rocklike surface of social norms to show us the creepy, crawly bits we keep hidden underneath. But more than anything, her fearless, often playful output suggests the freewheeling creativity of a child—an enviable quality that seldom survives.”
Born Miranda Jennifer Grossinger on February 15, 1974, in Barre, Vermont, July was the daughter of Richard Grossinger and Lindy Hough. Raised primarily in Berkeley, California, her parents were both authors and publishers who co-founded a small publishing company, North Atlantic Books. The press published self-help and out-there nonfiction throughout July’s youth. July remembered her parents as creative but confessing too much personal information to her as a child. She told Kimberly Cutter of New York Magazine, “I wasn’t neglected at all, but my parents didn’t have the best boundaries in the world. I was privy to pretty much everything about their lives. I think that’s definitely where my desire to be the one who understands comes from.”
In this environment, July began her own creative endeavors as a young child. With a friend, the six-year-old July began recording herself talking about sexual matters. At the age of seven, she began recording her own voice and half of a conversation. Young July would play the tape back and have a conversation with herself. By the time July reached her teen years, her artistic endeavors moved to the written word. She created her own girlzine with a friend. Dubbed Snarla, July and her friend wrote creatively about their real-life experiences.
It was through the magazine that July came up with her monthly surname. A character used in the zine had the name, and July took it on as her pen name. It was first used when she was 16 years old, when her play The Lifer debuted at a punk club in Berkeley in a show for family and friends. July also took on her unusual teenage surname because she said the month best encourages her creative juices.
Completing high school, July entered the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she studied film for a year and a half. Unhappy with some of the classes she was taking, July dropped out and moved to Portland, Oregon, and began focusing exclusively on her creative endeavors in the artist-friendly city. July’s need to create had become her mission. She told Nathan Ihara of the LA Weekly: “[M]y sense of self-worth is totally tied up in making things. It’s definitely the hell of my life. It’s the worse thing, that pressure, in a way. I had a period of like three months when I was 22 or so where I didn’t make anything. At the end, I thought, ‘Never again.’”
By the age of 23, July no longer needed to take a day job to support herself; she was creating both audio and video pieces. Some of her audio pieces found their way onto two CDs she recorded for the Kill Rock Stars label, Ten Million Hours a Mile and The Binet-Simon Test. July was also part of a more mainstream rock band called The Need, and a few of the tracks on Margie Ruskie Stops Time feature her work with the group.
July eventually became more involved as a performance and conceptual artist who primarily worked in video and similar media. Among her video-live action performance pieces are Swan Tool and Love Diamond. In the latter, a 90minute production, she explores the concept of the seeming futility of life. While an actor plays a professor, the rest of the characters are performed by July, including its center, Tini Santini, a troubled girl, who is being interrogated in a pseudo-scientific manner.
Love Diamond led to more high-profile work for July. A curator at the Whitney Museum, Debra Singer, saw a presentation of the piece and asked July to create a new work for the museum’s 2002 biennial. July came up with a live performance and, more importantly, sound installations which were aired in one of the Whitney’s elevators. Entitled “The Drifters,” it consisted of 16 brief audio narratives that were quite humorous.
Another influential person heard the elevator audio art, and July was asked to create more works for the next Whitney biennial. As July garnered a wider audience, National Public Radio also commissioned her audio works to air on its show The Next Big Thing. Next came two short stories, “Birthmark” and “Making Love in 2003,” which were published in the Paris Review, though July had only begun writing short stories in 2001.
A few years later, July began working on a screenplay for what became her first feature film. Having been selected for a spot at the Sundance Institute’s screenwriting lab, July began work on the script for what became Me and You and Everyone We Know. When she arrived at the institute, her script was in a primitive state. Writer/director Miguel Arteta worked with her to improve the script and turn it into a true feature film.
Of the writing process for Me and You and Everyone We Know, July told the Times’ Wendy Idle, “I didn’t sit down with a plot. I would just sit down each day with the feeling that I had. So if I was feeling hopeful I would reach for the feeling through these stories and try to articulate it through these characters. And then gradually it built up this web that became a structure. But I didn’t worry myself with the structure until the heart of it was there.”
In 2005, July’s film Me and You and Everyone We Know was released. July wrote, directed, and had a co-starring role in the film, which won multiple awards at such prestigious film festivals as Cannes and Sundance. Me and You and Everyone We Know focuses on the burgeoning romantic relationship between a lonely conceptual artist Christine Jesper-won, played by July, and Richard, played by John Hawkes. Richard is a recently, reluctantly separated shoe salesman who sometimes has custody of his sons. Exploring the idea of community in modern urban life, the film also incorporates Christine’s job as a escort driver who assists seniors. The film shows her developing relationship with a widower who has fallen in love with a terminally ill woman. A thus far unrecognized performance artist, Christine creates the woman’s memorial service for her client. Through clever persistence she also persuades a gallery to show some of her video work.
Noting Me and You and Everyone We Know’s “wide-eyed, quizzical approach to the world” in its depic-tion of odd behaviors, A. O. Scott of the New York Times wrote of the film and its filmmaker: “Though her movie has a clear narrative line, and might even be classified as romantic comedy, it is also a meticulously constructed visual artifact, diffidently introducing the playful, rebus-like qualities of installation art to the conventions of narrative cinema.” To July, the film was still very much her own. She told Liam Lacey of the Globe and Mail: “It’s amazing how much it’s still intimate. When I hear all this hype it feels peculiar, as if people were complimenting you for the way you smell.”
While many filmmakers would take the exposure and positive press from their first feature to use as leverage for their second, July decided to focus on other projects in the short term. She still planned to make a second feature, but not on anyone’s time table but her own. Denying other people’s expectations, including those of Hollywood, July returned to her own performances to emphasize her creative autonomy, though she did move from Portland to Los Angeles. She also focused on completing a collection of short stories, several of which appeared in Zoetrope, Tin House, and the New Yorker.
The 2007 short story collection, No One Belongs Here More than You, received as much acclaim as Me and You and Everyone We Know. As in the film, July explores in these stories the longing for connection and related emotional responses. For example, in one story, an older man working in a purse factory becomes obsessed with a teenage girl he has never met. In another, two young female lovers find their infatuated relationship falls apart and comes back together. In “Mon Plaisir,” a married couple with problems find their love is gone while they work as extras on a movie set.
Reviewing No One Belongs Here More than You, in Vogue, Megan O’Grady wrote: “The result, laden with offbeat, emotionally isolated characters—a woman gives swimming lessons in her living room; another develops an obsession with Prince William—might initially invite comparison to [fiction writer] Lorrie Moore, but its mordantly funny commentary on modern-day relating is classic July.”
Going deeper, Tiffany Lee-Youngren wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribune: “the vast majority of the characters in July’s stories are social rejects, outcasts and lonelyhearts, people who form more inappropriate relationships, make inappropriate comments, and find themselves in inappropriate situations almost by force of habit. These are not people for whom divine insight comes easy.” No One Belongs Here More than You also caught the attention of lite-rati: It won the 2007 Frank O’Connor Award.
For July, there was synergy between her book and other art works. One short story in the collection “Important Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About” received particular praise. In this story, a woman whose boyfriend focuses on his own enlightenment to the detriment to their relationship comes up with the list referred to in the story’s title. Around the same time that No One Belongs Here More than You was published, July created the performance-art piece also called Important Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About, which she began performing in 2006.
As she began writing her second screenplay and perhaps a novel, July remained creatively diverse. No matter what the medium, creativity was a key element to July’s essence. She told Katherine Monk of the Times Colonist, “Art is now my main way of experiencing my life. It’s the best way I know how to love and take care of myself. I’m hardworking, but you really have to take care of that part of yourself—the part that makes things—and you have to show it all kinds of love. Otherwise, you can’t survive and do what you do.”
(With The Need) Margie Ruskie Stops Time, Kill Rock Stars, 1996.
Ten Million Hours a Mile, Kill Rock Stars, 1997.
The Binet-Simon Test, Kill Rock Stars, 1998.
Love Diamond, originally appeared at Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, 1998-2000.
The Swan Tool, originally appeared at Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, 2000-02. “The Drifters,” The Whitney Museum, New York City, 2002.
How I Learned to Draw, various sites, 2002-03.
Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About, various sites, 2006.
Short story collections
No one belongs here more than you. Scribner, 2007.
Globe and Mail (Canada), July 22, 2005, p. R6.
Guardian Unlimited, September 24, 2007.
Interview, July 1, 2005, p. 80.
LA Weekly, May 17, 2007.
Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2007, p. F13; May 27, 2007, p. R8.
New York Magazine, May 21, 2007.
New York Times, June 17, 2005, p. E13; June 19, 2005, sec. 2, p. 13.
Times (London, England), August 11, 2005, sec. 2, p. 20.
Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia), August 8, 2005, p. D3.
San Diego Union-Tribune, August 5, 2007, p. E5.
Vancouver Province (Canada), July 27, 2005, p. B4.
Vogue, May 2007, p. 179.
“Miranda July,” Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0432380/ (November 7, 2007).