Yes, God, Yes premiered at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. I was lucky enough to catch the film during the festival and I’m glad that I did because it ended up being one of my favorite films to come out of the festival that year. Yes, God, Yes is a coming-of-age sex comedy that was inspired by the life of the film’s director/writer Karen Maine. The film stars Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer as Alice, Timothy Simons as Father Murphy, and Wolfgang Novogratz as Chris. I recently had a chance to talk with Natalia Dyer via Zoom where we talked a little bit about the film as well as some of themes explored throughout the film.
Scott Menzel: Hey, Natalia. How are you?
Natalia Dyer: I’m alright. How are you?
Scott Menzel: Good. How are you surviving during this crazy wild time?
Natalia Dyer: Surviving, just day to day. You’ve got quite a wall behind you.
Scott Menzel: Yeah, that’s my Tim Burton wall for the most part. I moved all this stuff into this room during quarantine because I was like, “Wait, I have stuff so I can have an interesting backdrop.”
Natalia Dyer: Oh that’s amazing. Yeah and this is all I have to work (looks at the door behind her)
Scott Menzel: (jokes) But that’s a beautiful door you have. What a beautiful door.
Natalia Dyer: (sarcastically) Thank you so much! I think it’s cool. It’s a very cool door..
Scott Menzel: (laughs) So, it’s great to talk to you, of course like everyone I’m sure told you today, I love Stranger Things and love you on Stranger Things. That’s no surprise to you probably at this point, but I got to say I saw Yes God, Yes at South by Southwest and I loved you this movie. I thought you were just perfectly cast for the role.
Natalia Dyer: Thank you so much. Yeah. It’s it’s a very different role from Nancy, for sure. I’m glad you liked it.
Scott Menzel: I really did. So, I wanted to start back at SXSW 2019, which I know seems like ages ago, since we are in the decade known as 2020. What was it like being at South by Southwest? And was that your first experience being at a film festival?
Natalia Dyer: No. I’ve been to South by Southwest a few of years ago for this film I did called I Believe in Unicorns. But I was in school back then. I was writing an essay the whole time I was there. It was kind of a big whirlwind. So this time around, I think I got to experience it a little bit more. It was fun. It was fun to be there. It’s fun anytime that you’ve made something that you think is special with a special group of people and to get back together and say, look at this thing that we made it. I hope you like it. And yeah, I think their reception was really lovely. At first, I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to be received because I had never really made or really seen anything very similar to this film. So it was a little bit of like, oh, I wonder what people are going to say, but it was all very nice and good for the most part so that was, yeah, that was really lovely. And of course, it was Karen’s first time writing and then directing a film and I was just really happy for her, so deserved.
Scott Menzel: Absolutely. The inspiration for this film came from a short film, which you also starred in. Obviously that’s something that doesn’t happen all that much in this industry. So what was your reaction when you got the news that something you did that you thought was just going to be like a little short starter film was actually being turned into a feature film?
Natalia Dyer: Well I think Karen did explain to me that truly the short that we made was more so as a proof of concept for this idea she had for the feature length film. So I hadn’t read the feature length film when I was doing the short, but I knew that that was kind of in her mind. And it’s really interesting because I remember thinking like it’s so great, such a great little story. I’m very curious as to how you fill out the feature length film. So, of course, I was very excited when I heard they got the green light and wanted to do it. And that’s like amazing. Because you know, you also get more time with this character and really get to delve into this character and then getting a script and just seeing where it went. You know, I think there’s so many more layers to it, funny moments, but then really heartfelt, relatable, questioning moments. So I think it was lovely to kind of meet Alice and then a little bit later, go back and be like, okay, let me find her again. But then also go deeper and sort of figure her out more. So yeah, it was quite a journey. But it’s very exciting when we saw that the short get so much traction. Because you never know with these indie films because some great stories never make it.
Scott Menzel: That is a hundred percent true. The idea of doing a film that showcases the shortcomings of religion is very much ripe for comedy. I feel like we’ve seen a lot of films like The Invention of Lying or even something like Saved! where the films explore themes dealing with religion, sexuality and things of that nature. Why you think religion is such a great subject matter for comedy?
Natalia Dyer: Oh, wow. I think religion can be a beautiful thing that helps a lot of people or that really speaks to people. I think from the outside perspective, it’s kind of it’s great until you start using it to demonize or shame or not let people explore what it means to be people. And you know, I think it’s about really kind of taking a step back. Because it’s not saying all organized religion is bad. It’s just have you ever thought about what you’re saying and what you’re preaching and what you’re thinking? And you’ve been told this, but what do you believe? And sort of keeping that curiosity and the questioning because I think when you put a brake on the curiosity and the questioning, you kind of lose yourself and sort of life sometimes. So I think it’s just about keeping an open mind and letting people make mistakes and giving people the space to explore and to learn from mistakes and to have conversations.
Scott Menzel: No, I agree. I think that’s something that gets lost with religion and especially with certain people who believe so firmly in it and can’t shy away from it. Also, the fact that religion was founded so long ago and times have definitely changed. You kind of have to adapt to modern times.
Natalia Dyer: More so to your question about the comedy aspect of it, it is coming from this perspective of we’ve really evolved just as a culture and society and as people and understanding things since this was developed. So it’s kind of, I mean, similar to anything that’s been written a long time ago, I think we need to frame it in a new lens. And I think a lot of the things that might’ve made sense or fit or been the way to think then is not now. And I think the funny thing about it is sort of holding these two things next to each other and being like something doesn’t quite add up here. But yeah, I mean, Karen’s really probably the better one to talk about that. She’s the real mastermind behind all the very subtle, very witty comedy in this film.
Scott Menzel: Okay, great. Well, I would love to talk to you some more, but I know you have to go to run and do more interviews, so I want to ask this as a final remark, is there anything you can say to give the audience a little bit of a pitch to seek out this film. Maybe a one liner that you can say for why someone should watch Yes God, Yes?
Natalia Dyer: Oh, an elevator pitch, I guess I would say just it’s important. It’s important to get these sort of female perspective stories out there. I think we’ve had a lot of male perspective. I think we’ve had a lot of glossy female sexuality and this film is not sexy and that’s sort of the point because figuring yourself out isn’t supposed to be just glossy and sexy. It’s messy. It’s awkward. And I think it’s just kind of giving that space to say that’s okay. And it’s fun!
Scott Menzel: Well, thank you so much. That was a great answer. You’re wonderful. I wish you nothing but continued success.
Natalia Dyer: Thank you so much. Lovely to talk to you.
Scott Menzel: Lovely to talk to you as well. Take care.
Natalia Dyer: You too.Bye.