The trio lived together in a house in Silver Lake, where they did nothing but write, read textbooks about screenwriting, and analyze films.

They supported themselves with odd jobs, but their time was entirely devoted to their dreams of making movies. Another Earth, Cahill’s feature-film debut as a director, stars Marling as a promising astrophysics college student whose life takes a drastic turn when she’s in a car accident on the night a planet where there is a doppelganger for everyone on Earth is discovered.

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“I don’t know that I could have the discipline to sit down and write if I was going to give it away. But I love to act in stories that are outside my imagination because I can only conceive of so many things from my point of view.

The thing that’s intoxicating about being an actor is that you get to live in someone else’s world for a while and I hope to do more of that.“But I think I’ll never stop writing now because I’m wondering why there aren’t more representatives of women that are like the women we know," she said.

“I would give myself different nicknames for each city: I was Zooey, Frannie, Lux, and so on.” She was always attracted to acting, but her parents encouraged a focus on academics, and Marling majored in economics and studio art at Georgetown.

When she was a freshman, she met Mike Cahill and Zal Batmanglij, two seniors who were directing their own short films.

The summer before her senior year, while she was interning at Goldman Sachs, two young filmmakers she had befriended on campus coerced her into participating in a 48-hour filmmaking challenge (the movie had to be conceived and completed in that period). I thought, you can be a workaholic doing something you feel passionate about or you can be a workaholic doing something you don’t feel passionate about.

Even though she was exhausted from her long days at the bank, her friends, Mike Cahill and Zal Batmanglij, would not take no for an answer.“The movie was not very good at all,” she said. After that, I didn’t want to go back to school anymore.”She dropped out, and she and Cahill moved to Cuba for a year to film a documentary, Boxers and Ballerinas, about young athletes faced with the question of defecting when they get an opportunity to travel abroad.

After they finished the documentary, Marling’s parents convinced her to finish college and she graduated as valedictorian in 2005.

The following year, she and Cahill moved to Los Angeles, where Batmanglij was studying at the American Film Institute.

In West Hollywood, we pulled over in front of a narrow glass storefront across from the Comedy Store and next to the House of Blues, which seemed like an apt location for a fortune-teller.

A large yellow sign in the window read, today’s special: hand writing analysis.

Consider this New York Times headline about Marling from last month: “How to Succeed in Hollywood Despite Being Really Beautiful.” Apparently, being attractive and smart is that much of an anomaly in the entertainment industry.