Sara Vilkomerson
April 12, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After directing 2010’s Greenberg, Noah Baumbach asked his star Greta Gerwig (now 29) about what people her age were going through. The long email response she sent back marked the beginning of their collaboration on the script for Frances Ha. Gerwig’s Frances is an aspiring modern dancer who finds herself adrift and trying to figure out how to live separately from her closest friend (Mickey Sumner, daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler) and take control of her life.

Baumbach, who set his 2005 film The Squid and the Whale in his native New York City, was happy to be working back home. ”It’s sometimes hard to move [around], but I love it,” he says. ”I like shooting in locations that have meaning to me. I grew up here, so there’s a lot of streets that I have either literal or emotional memories of. It’s nice to have that extra thing that connects you to the place.” As for choosing to shoot the film in gleaming black and white, Baumbach (Gerwig’s real-life romantic partner) cites Woody Allen’s Manhattan, among others, as an influence. ”It’s something old and new at the same time.” And what could be more New York than that?

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