NOBODY WALKS — Journey to Sundance 2012 with Ry Russo-Young & Lena Dunham

Because writer/director Lena Dunham cast herself in the lead role of her impressive breakout film TINY FURNITURE and because she picked her real life mother and sister to play her character Aura’s mother and sister, and because she shot the whole thing in their family’s Tribeca loft, there was a tendency to assume it was an intensely autobiographical film. Maybe not. Aura was a directionless slacker. Dunham is anything but. Her new HBO series, Girls, debuts in April, while her first work as a co-writer, Ry Russo-Young’s NOBODY WALKS premieres later this month in competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

The plot sounds a little like TINY FURNITURE’s West Coast spinoff. Instead of a young filmmaker moving back home to New York after college, NOBODY WALKS follows a young filmmaker moving from New York to Los Angeles. Olivia Thirlby plays Martine, who heads out to Hollywood to finish post-production on her movie. She sets up shop in her sound designer’s pool house, where her presence throws his entire family’s lives into chaos. I’m guessing the title refers to the fact that nobody walks anywhere in Los Angeles; either that or it’s an oblique reference to the notoriously free-swinging 1996 Pittsburgh Pirates.

It’s rare for two directors of Dunham and Russo-Young’s talents and stature to collaborate in this way, lending the project a slightly supergroupish quality — sort of an all-girl indie film version of The Traveling Wilburys. Though Russo-Young hasn’t found her TINY FURNITURE-esque breakout yet, she’s already an accomplished director in her own right and a Sundance Film Festival alumni; her second film, YOU WON’T MISS ME, premiered in Park City back in 2009 before eventually going on to win a Gotham Award for the Best Film Not Playing at Theater Near You. Russo-Young’s previous works were lyrical character studies featuring relative unknown actors; NOBODY WALKS, in contrast, is a star-studded affair. In addition to Thirlby, the cast includes Sundance veterans John Krasinski (BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN, The Office), Rosemarie DeWitt (THE COMPANY MEN), and Dylan McDermott (PARTY MONSTER). The project itself has Sundance roots as well: Russo-Young and Dunham developed the script at the 2010 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab.

With a roster of big-name talent like that, backed by an up-and-coming creative team, NOBODY WALKS has all the makings of a movie you won’t want to miss. It premieres Sunday, January 22nd at 12:15 at the Eccles Theatre. If you don’t mind the chilly Park City weather, feel free to walk. If you can’t make it to the festival, check out what Russo-Young has to say about the making of the film: