Elsie Fisher Uses Zoom For An Emotional Film With Family Squares - Exclusive Interview

When film production first came to a halt at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, filmmakers were forced to come up with creative ways to share their work with the world. That's when "Veep" producer Stephanie Laing had the perfect idea. She was going to shoot an entire movie remotely called "Family Squares" — and she wanted Elsie Fisher to star in it.

The 18-year-old actress had become an overnight success story after landing the leading role in Bo Burnham's dramedy "Eighth Grade" in 2018. In "Family Squares," she plays another very relatable character: Kassidy, a teenager just trying to figure out the world amidst a global pandemic and the recent passing of her great grandmother. 

Kassidy has felt distant from the rest of her family for years, and now, having to reconvene via Zoom makes it even more difficult to build a new bond. What's worse is when family secrets slowly begin to be uncovered before her great grandmother's funeral, making them feel even more distant than ever. In the end, Kassidy's family is only able to come together in one way — virtually — which was a challenge for the characters and also for the actors who played them.

In an exclusive interview with The List, the "Eighth Grade" star described the difficulties of filming "Family Squares" remotely, opened up about watching herself on camera, and told us the type of role she'd love to tackle next.

Elsie Fisher describes how she made Family Squares

Your new movie "Family Squares" was filmed remotely. Did you audition through Zoom, too What was the casting process like?

I was actually offered my role, which was incredibly flattering. There wasn't much of a casting process for me to deal with, but shooting through Zoom was still very interesting.

Were you excited to be able to make a movie from home?

Most of my scenes were actually shot on location! I was one of the few who was able to work in person with Stephanie [Laing, the writer and director], and that was really fun. The process of shooting without the other actor in the room was very new and challenged my process as an actor.

Did you have to keep your bedroom a certain way for all that time for continuity purposes?

Like I said, I shot on location. Some of the wardrobe was mine, though! I made sure to keep it nice and not spill [any] mustard on it. That's a big deal for me, too. I love mustard.

How long did it take to make "Family Squares"?

I know the entire process took a while because there were so many people to manage, but on my end, I think I only had a few days of work. Nice and easy.

Did you find it difficult at all to portray a story about the pandemic that you were living off screen as well?

Having gone through something similar to Kassidy, a lot of those emotions came very naturally to me. It was never overwhelming, though. By that point in the pandemic, everyone was a little desensitized.

The actress discusses the difficulties of learning Zoom

Were you familiar at all with Zoom when you began filming "Family Squares"?

I actually wasn't very familiar with Zoom. I am now, but we started this movie in the very beginning of the pandemic, and even by the time I had got shooting, Zoom was still pretty new.

You were also sent professional equipment that your director would guide you to use over Zoom. What was that experience like? What did you learn about working behind the camera?

Again, my stuff was in person, but we did shoot an awful lot with an iPhone, which was really impressive. There were some mishaps, because technology will never be perfect, but now I'd really love to start making my own stuff, considering how flipping good I think "Family Squares" ended up looking!

Was it strange to be able to see yourself on Zoom as you were acting?

I hate it, to be honest. I love this movie and acting, but I can barely watch myself in any project, let alone while I'm still making it! I'm sure most actors feel the same — but perhaps the self-consciousness helped sell Kassidy a little more.

Your makeup is referenced often in the film. Did you have to do your own makeup for the movie? If so, what inspired your look?

I have no idea how to do makeup, nor any interest. We had a lovely artist who came and helped out on set. I really let her and Stephanie [Laing, the director] take the lead, and it feels very real. I was playing this character who, despite being so different to me, has been put in a situation which was very familiar to my own experiences. The struggle to express yourself is always real.

Here's what making a movie virtually taught Elsie Fisher

Looking back, what was the most challenging part about filming remotely?

Not having other actors in the room was really intense for me. I'm glad for the experience, and it really did strengthen my acting muscle (hopefully!), but it's quite hard! I like seeing what other people do and getting to play off it.

Have you gotten to meet all of your co-stars in person since you made "Family Squares"?

I've actually only met a few of my co-stars. Henry Winkler [who plays Bobby], who I've actually met a few times over the years, and is lovely, lovely, lovely.

June Squibb [who plays my great grandmother Mabel] as well! I saw her at a screening for her film "The Humans" and we had a moment to chat. She's incredibly sweet.

Is there anything you learned about yourself as an actress from filming "Family Squares"?

I think I learned that it's a very powerful tool to step into the space of other characters as well as your own. As an actor, I only have control over who I play, but thinking about how I might play another role can impact your own performance.

How Eighth Grade impacted her acting career

I wanted to bring up "Eighth Grade," too, which you have received lots of recognition for. How would you say that experience has affected your acting career?

"Eighth Grade" totally changed my acting career. It made it a career. People bring up stuff I had done before "Eighth Grade" as if I even remember making it, but from that point forward, I've really felt like I have become an actor and am so ready to make art for as long as I can.

Is there anything you learned from Bo Burnham or from working on that movie that you've applied to other roles since?

Just being as honest as you can to your characters. That was a very special set experience, and I feel like I was really given the opportunity to be vulnerable and explore that character.

What kind of role would you love to tackle next?

Anything that feels outside the box. I'd love to pursue more comedic roles, but I also want characters who have really intense struggles. Maybe a mix of the two.

"Family Squares" is now playing in select theaters and is available digitally and on demand for rental and purchase.