An Interview with Jean Seberg on Location

You wrote and directed Ballad of the Kid, a Wild West American mythos, yet filmed it in Paris. Any second thoughts about your Billy the Kid having a French accent? Perhaps a different location.
If I had Ballad of a Kid to do over, I’d choose Texas, North Shepherd Drive to shoot on 35-millimeter black-and-white film. Houston, all car and deserted sun-splintered streets that no one walks on. It’s a sharp intake of breath and a little cry. Sidewalks that start and stop then go missing. You can live without a name where stalk-eyed flies float the trees. In laundry shacks the payphones hang abandoned. Who but an actress would dress in a black evening gown and burgundy lipstick, and then wash a load of clothes? These Plantation Oak apartments I’d imagine without sound. Who isn’t anonymous here, just a mailbox move-in? Men plot the kidnapping of their adult children. Aging barmaids drift all day on bright lily pads of inflatable rafts in the pool’s mesmerizing blue. Anyone can write a script about a fading sex goddess named Star who crosses paddles with Billy the Kid. Houston breeds those kinds of meetings. They happen at midnight and 3:00 a.m. The nights aren’t for sleeping. No one grows young here. You’re captured in hundreds of fugitive degrees. At dusk, the magnolias begin to wake up and seep their white scent. You watch the poolside parking lot blink its firefly eyes. A city of extreme realism and fantasy. Snaking freeways are the outer reaches of solitude. Everyone is a stranger awaiting the night’s ornery posse of stars. You talk to the turquoise water and swirl your shawl’s fringes. Music wafts from darkened gospel churches. Voices rise, spirits whipping through the pews.

Stephanie Dickinson’s work appears in Dirty Goat, Oranges and Sardines, Hotel Amerika, Gargoyle, and Fourteen Hills, among others. Her novel, Half Girl, and novella, Lust Series, are published by Spuyten Duyvil. Her stories have been reprinted in Best American Nonrequired Reading and New Stories from the South. Please visit