"Zal and Brit were great about not force-feeding an opinion," he said. "It made me think a lot, about my character and the world."
Page said the very act of tackling this part reflected something deep within her.
"We live in a part of the world where we eat too much and consume too much and throw away too much, and all that comes from a fear of impermanence and emptiness," she said. "Making this movie helped address all of these feelings I have."
Though Scott, who died last summer, was not involved day-to-day, delegating those responsibilities to an on-the-ground producer, Michael Costigan, he did serve as a kind of spiritual guide. Batmanglij said as a child he watched such Scott films as "Spy Games." For "The East," he tried to incorporate the kind of tension and plot twists familiar to Scott's movies.
He and Marling are hoping for a bigger commercial result after "Sound of My Voice." Centering on a cult leader who may be a con man, the movie was a favorite at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival but grossed less than $1 million in a limited release from Searchlight.
Marling also starred in and co-wrote a low-budget sci-fi pic called "Another Earth" that was at the same festival. Directed by Marling collaborator and ex-boyfriend Mike Cahill, that movie and "Sound" helped put all three, who became friends while undergraduates at Georgetown University, on the map.
Batmanglij and Marling say their filmmaking philosophy is similar even as their opportunities have grown.
Though she just finished working on her second effort with Cahill — a sci-fi pic she wrote and starred in — Marling said she'd like to focus most on acting in the immediate future. She had a role as the daughter of Richard Gere in the 2012 financial-world hit "Arbitrage," where she also served as the film's moral conscience, and will soon start shooting a Civil War drama.
Batmanglij, who has the kind of sensibility that could translate well into bigger-budgeted thrillers (this movie cost under $10 million), says he's open to bigger offers. But he's not in a rush to abandon the socially conscious piece any time soon.
"We live in a time when, because of technology and this collectivist spirit, young filmmakers can make movies and feel empowered," he said. "I don't want to stop doing that."