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'Picture Paris' Takes a Trip to Reston

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and husband Brad Hall visit Washington West Film Festival to talk about working together - and how a kid heading to college inspired their short film.

In the short film Picture Paris, Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the kind of suburban mom who might live in Reston.

As Ellen, Louis-Dreyfus is an affluent woman on the brink of being an empty-nester. To get a grip on her feelings, she becomes obsessed with a trip to Paris and all things francais - French language, French cooking and the idea of French romance. Then things take a dark, surprising and hilarious turn.

Louis-Dreyfus and her husband, Brad Hall - the film's director - were at Bow Tie Cinema Reston Town Center 13  Saturday for a screening and talk about Picture Paris at the Washington West Film Festival.

Hall said that the inspiration for the film came from the couple's real life after their older son left for college two years ago.

"It was a much larger impact than we expected it would," said Hall.

He says the film's surprise turn is the first plot point that came to him.

"How does one deal with such strong emotions?" he said. "It was surprising it was such a big deal."

The 28-minute film has been making the rounds of film festivals this year, including Tribeca, London and Palm Springs. It was one of the feature films of Washington West, which ran Thursday through Sunday in Reston and at the new Angelika Film Center in Merrifield.

The Washington West Film Festival donates all proceeds to charity, and festival director Brad Russell says this year the money will go to Hurricane relief in New York and New Jersey.

The film was made with a low budget and an independent spirit. Unlike a studio movie, the couple went off to Paris to shoot without securing permits for locations, which cost big bucks.

"We jumped onto a subway with a camera crew and said 'just shoot'," Louis-Dreyfus said. The couple also boarded a touring boat, camera crew in tow, on the River Seine saying they were there to renew their wedding vows.

Louis-Dreyfus, who grew up in the Washington area and graduated from Bethesda's Holton-Arms School, recently won her third Emmy, this time for her role as bumbling vice president Selina Meyer on HBO's VEEP.

The others Emmys were for The New Adventures of Old Christine, and, of course, as Elaine Benes for nine years on Seinfeld.

Louis-Dreyfus said that working with her husband on Picture Paris brought back memories of the couple's theatre days in Chicago in the 1980s.

"This particular experience was uplifting," she said. "We went back to our Northwestern [University] days and just kind of dug our way around. We didn't have to answer to anyone but ourselves. ... It was a nice way to dip our toes ito independent films."

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