At first glance, Lake Bell's new film In a World... – which she wrote, directed and starred in – seemed rooted in a small, quirky plot straight out of a Christopher Guest mockumentary. Her film explores the world of voice-over actors, where the stakes are high, groupies exist and back-stabbing is no big deal when it comes to landing a hot summer movie trailer.
However, the film is more than just a low-budget Best in Show – though Bell did shoot it in 20 days for under a million dollars. In a World..., out today, quickly moves past the goofy voice-over structure to explore relationships between grown daughters and their aging fathers, as well as peer into recapturing former fame and gender politics that exist in performance careers.
"I'm interested in interpersonal relationships – I obsess over them," Bell tells Rolling Stone. "In my family, I'm lucky enough to have a supportive family, but a dysfunctional one at that. I appreciate my family for giving me so many great characters."
Bell has been a steadily employed actress for the past decade – most notably appearing on No Strings Attached, How to Make It in America and Children's Hospital – and has spent much of that time transitioning to behind-the-camera work. In 2010, a short film she wrote and directed, Worst Enemy, was accepted into Sundance, a major turning point in her career. "Sundance was already a dream that felt far away," she says. With that vote of confidence, she plugged through 12 drafts of the script for In a World... and also submitted the film to Sundance, hoping that she could merely compete. She then exceeded the goal, and then some, by taking home the festival's prestigious Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. "Once I was accepted as a competition film, I was floored. I'd won already," she marvels.
In a World... features many of Bell's former and current castmates and veteran comedy actors: Ken Marino (The State, Party Down), Rob Corddry (Children's Hospital) and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) appear, as do comedians Demetri Martin and Tig Notaro. Eva Longoria and Geena Davis also make cameos. In one of the odder scenes of the film, Bell's character makes out with Ken Marino, but not in typical fashion. "Marino pulled me aside and said 'Is it okay if I French-kiss your nose?' I said, 'Yeah, of course.' And he tried it once and I couldn't keep my face straight. So I pulled him aside and said, 'Ken, I think you have to French-kiss my nose twice.'"