The person who seemed most shocked that Lake Bell had won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic at last night's Sundance closing night ceremony was clearly Lake Bell. The How To Make It In America actress — who wrote, directed, and starred in the very funny absurdist comedy In A World… about the bizarre world of Hollywood voice-overs — could barely keep it together onstage. She did manage to thank Sundance for "giving me the balls to do this," but later regretted that terminology. ("There are a lot of ladies here this year; I don't need balls. I just need ovaries.") Bell spent the rest of the night within arm's reach of the bar. "Inebriation is imminent," she said. "I haven't really had any drinks for this whole festival because I was nurturing the cold that I was having. And now, I'm like, 'Fuck it. Give me a Stella and a vodka and I will double fist for the rest of the night.'"
What was going on in her head when she heard her name? "'This is so cool!'" she said, giving an animated reenactment. "I'm just like, 'Holy crap!' I'm not a crier at all and I haven't cried this entire goddamn time and I stepped down those stairs and I was like, 'For the love of god, I'm going to shed a tear right now!'" The screenwriting award is particularly significant to Bell because, she says, her mom has always wanted her to be a writer. "She went to a psychic and the psychic told her that I would be a journalist and she was really gunning for that for a long time," said Bell. "And anytime I'd talk about acting, she'd say, 'Maybe you should look into also something journalistic.'" They've been writing elaborate letters to each other ever since Bell started going to boarding school in Connecticut. All night, she'd been trying to call her mother; she settled on sending a text. "Not that I want my mom to cry but the water works are a-coming."
Winning for screenwriting felt particularly satisfying, Bell explained, because she'd spent far more time writing the movie than directing or starring in it. "It's so intimate, and it's one of your best friends, this stupid script that you end up living with for seventeen drafts or twenty drafts." Kind of like having a terrible roommate, right? "Exactly. You're like, 'You're still here?? Can you clean up your shit? You leave it everywhere!'"
But, Bell explained, the screenwriting honor came secondary to her real dream, to be an omniscient voice in a car commercial. "I really did this movie just to get a voice-over gig," she said. "So I hope to hell somebody hires me." The only problem was that she'd lost her voice celebrating her award. "I'm not supporting it properly. I'm not finding my diaphragm and breathing out of my butt," Bell explained. How does one breathe out of one's butt? Bell grabbed our arms. "Hold on. You have to think about… you have to breathe from your lower back and your upper butt in order to drop your voice. Listen, I don't make this shit up. There's a lot of punch lines in voice training."