Back to School for Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini

'Our friends called us the writers on bed rest.'

By shoot’s end, the pair were exhausted. Ms. Gregorini bought a motorcycle in Rhode Island to use for exploring; she ended up never using it. Ms. von Furstenberg brought her daughter. “I thought it was important—a lot of directors leave their kids at home for the 10 weeks they’re on location. I really respect her life and the engagements of her life, and she respects the engagements of my life.”

“She discovered Montessori schools there,” Ms. Gregorini observed.

“Well,” Ms. von Furstenberg admitted, “she’d already been.”

All told, it was an unusually stressful experience, said Ms. von Furstenberg, both in its time demands—“By the end, my hands were purple! I was thinking ahead to when I’m taking the knots out of my hair!”—and its interpersonal responsibilities. “You’re communicating to four girls who are looking to you for a grounded sense of—you know what I mean?”

Work is a pleasure for both, though. Ms. von Furstenberg was fulfilled by her exhaustion, knotty hair and all: “My mother—and everybody that I’ve ever been around, they create their own opportunity. They wake up knowing that they have to create things. The pleasure of life is being able to make clear decisions. I always was a hard worker at school. Work is fulfilling. The harder it is, the more fulfilling it is.”

The reviews, at least upon 2009 festival screenings, were less than kind: Variety called the film “derivative” and said it veered “from sitcom slapstick to wanna-be black comedy to soap opera.” Ms. von Furstenberg was troubled at the thought of viewers reacting negatively, but said she stood by her work: “I rose to my highest self and made decisions in the best way I was able to. The movie was not informed by other people … We did the best job, and there were challenges, many, and I do hope that the poetry resonates, and the humanity resonates.”

Ms. Gregorini is less worried about possible reactions; she’s already planning a second film. Ms. von Furstenberg will be there in a fairy-godmother role. “I’m not going to be directing with her, but I’m going to have her back.” The next film is to be what Ms. Gregorini calls “psychological suspense,” and her third script is to be sci-fi.

Ms. von Furstenberg spoke before her friend could describe her diffuse creative process. “I’m always surprised. Francesca remains a mystery to me—and that’s why I’m so intrigued.”

ddaddario@observer.com :: @DPD_