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How Noah Baumbach found the love in divorce with Netflix’s ‘Marriage Story’

The director explains his creative decisions behind ‘Marriage Story,’ why he never yells “Action!” on set, and how he barrels through writer’s block.

How Noah Baumbach found the love in divorce with Netflix’s ‘Marriage Story’
Filmmaker Noah Baumbach on the set of Marriage Story. [Photo: courtesy of Wilson Webb/Netflix]

Listen to the latest episode of Fast Company’s podcast Creative Conversation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RadioPublic, Google Play, or Stitcher.

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Noah Baumbach has been making films for 25 years, but none has caught fire quite like his latest. Marriage Story has been racking up awards nominations in advance of the big ones—the Oscars, where, at the very least, costars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are likely to be nominated. Although Baumbach has covered the subject of divorce before in his films, most notably in 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, Marriage Story is the kind of movie that he could only make at this particular point in his life and career.

“I’ll often have ideas for things, like, I’d love to do a movie in this milieu, or this character is so interesting to me—but I don’t know where it goes. It feels like a movie to me, but I don’t know what that movie is,” Baumbach says in the latest episode of Fast Company‘s Creative Conversation podcast. “And I think that’s true certainly for Marriage Story. There are many things in this movie that I’ve thought about over the years and not had a place for or known how to tell them. And it’s always interesting how then they end up getting told.”

How that story was told was of the utmost important to Baumbach.

Although there’s a rich history of films about divorce, including Kramer vs. Kramer, War of the Roses, Shoot the Moon, and so forth, Baumbach isn’t so keen on putting Marriage Story in that category.

“I saw the movie as about marriage, even though it’s told in divorce. Similarly, I saw The Squid and the Whale as about childhood,” Baumbach says. “Marriage Story I saw as about love and about parents and about family and redefining family and redefining love.”

In this episode of Creative Conversation, Baumbach dives into the creative choices he made to frame Marriage Story as a film about love, how he barrels through writer’s block, why he never yells “Action!” on set, cowriting the upcoming Barbie film—and, of course, Adam Driver’s singing.

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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