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Interview with Philippa Robinson

Lesbian couple in bed

HBO

What inspired you to make this film?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

I made a similar film in the UK, called The British in Bed. I find relationships absolutely fascinating, the idea that two completely separate individuals could create a relationship.

I havent had very many long-term relationships myself, so there was a very personal agenda to find out what really goes on behind the scenes in a relationship, just in case I could get some clues.

HBO

How did the American couples differ from the British couples?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

One of the major differences between them is that Americans really do believe in the right to happiness and I think that the British, being Northern European, believe in the right to unhappiness. The American belief that theres an ideal relationship is really wonderful.

Also, the British never talk about themselves, whereas in the States, theres something about people understanding their own narrative. If you ask a British person a question about themselves, theres a sense of, Who, me? But once they gather themselves together, theres something quite fresh and raw about what they say. In America, I found that because people have a narrative of their own, you have to dig to get to the honest, unrehearsed truth.

HBO

What did you look for in the couples you selected for the film?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

I chose couples where I could see two individuals. Some couples are very couple-y and you could never uncouple them, if you will. I also looked for people who were willing to engage with the concept of the film and really think hard about what their relationship was about.

HBO

Why film the couples in their own beds?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

The bedroom is the most intimate place in the house, a place not many other people get to see. Think about it: How many of your friends or relatives bedrooms do you see? Its the space that belongs to the couple, where conversations happen. People make up, they break up. And if you put people in their bed in their pajamas, theyre slightly more vulnerable and more likely to slip into that place where they can have those conversations with you. I think the nighttime setting is important as well  its quiet and the world disappears.

"What was important for me was for people to come away feeling that you can have a damn good relationship when youre not having sex anymore or when the romance dies down. "

HBO

Did anything that the couples talked about surprise you?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

I was pleasantly surprised by everyones willingness to open up; people do have the choice to reveal absolutely nothing. A hilarious, unexpected surprise for me was Helen telling me that Red was oversexed. I almost fell off my chair when she told me that. I think were all conditioned to believe that old people never talk about sex.

HBO

What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

Were often sold the idea that relationships are about hot sex or romance, that there has to be something very dynamic and exciting about a relationship. I think a lot of relationships are dynamic when they first start. What was important for me was for people to come away feeling that you can have a damn good relationship when youre not having sex anymore or when the romance dies down. Helen and Red are a brilliant example of a really good relationship. They make each other laugh, they love each others company, and the way they look at each other after 71 years of marriage is amazing. Its not to do with that hotness  its to do with the way theyve negotiated through their relationship. Were all told How to make your man happy, How to make your woman happy. I think thats bullshit. There are no right answers.

HBO

Was there a particular couple you identified with?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

I really hope the audience feels that therere little bits of all of us in these relationships. For instance, Leon and Blanca, they really love each other, but theyre struggling with a difference of understanding how a relationship should be. While their particular situation is unique, its still a universal experience: How many times does that happen in a relationship where one person wants X and the other wants Y? How do you negotiate it? Will it work? Or will you have to admit to yourself that even though you love this person, youre going to have to walk away?

While I dont personally identify with them, Patty and Joe are a couple I think many people would identify with. Their relationship is one that so many other people with children experience. Pattys worry that Joe wont be OK after the children fly the nest is a real anxiety and her longing to spend as much time as possible with him is touching. I think that anyone would want to have a relationship like theirs  strong and robust and feisty. If I could have a relationship like any of the couples in the film, Id want it to be like Patty and Joes or Helen and Reds or Linda and Margies.

HBO

You include homosexual couples as well as heterosexual couples in the film.

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

It was very important to me to show that no matter what your age, orientation or race, every persons relationship is as important and as valid as everyone elses. Margie and Lindas relationship is one of the most loving I have ever come across. When youre in their apartment with them, you just get a really, really good feeling. Theyre getting married in December now that things have changed in California.

HBO

Do you think you could do another _________ in Bed?

PHILIPPA ROBINSON

I have an endless appetite for interviewing people in bed about their relationships. Im sure every culture would bring something different. And although Id like to think I had a good representation of people in America, I think theres a lot more to be done.

Americans in Bed