Actress Jami Gertz and former agent Stacey Lubliner set up a production company Lime Orchard Productions in order to produce films about the human condition. Their first film out of the gate as producers is the well received A Better Life which is now playing in selected theatres across the country. Jami and Stacey shared what drew them to the script and why they got interested in producing after having such different previous careers in the entertainment business. (Jami will still be acting if a good role comes along.)
Here are their thoughts about what drew them to this film.
As a mother of 3 sons, what drew me to this script was the beautiful yet fractured relationship between the father and son. I have three teenagers and at a certain point in life, what their peers say is often more important to them than what their parents say. The fact that the gardener in the script has a teenage son and is grappling with those universal issues of teenager and parent add to that, that he is an undocumented worker, that he is from Mexico, his son is born in America, and they somehow have to figure out how to come back into each other’s lives spoke to me as a mom, as a wife, and as someone who feels we need to have greater understanding of the complexities that go along with being an undocumented worker in America today.
I believe it is one of the best scripts I have ever read in the 25 years I have been in the entertainment business. Eric Eason wrote a compassionate screenplay that Chris Weitz brought beautifully to the screen no matter what your feelings are about illegal immigration. It’s just a very small part of this tale. The greater story is the love of a parent for his child and wanting that child to have a better life than he had. This is something we all can relate to as a society.
Having worked with scripts for many years and creating characters both on the big screen and small, I decided that it was time to get involved behind the scenes as well. Acting will always be my first passion, but I’m finding that there are many stories that need to be told and I felt it was time for me to try and help bring them to life.
I had been reading scripts as an agent for a long time and I had never read anything so clearly told from beginning to end right there on the page. I loved the universal theme of family and the struggle of what every parent must do, no matter what your circumstances, to provide a better life for you children. It was very powerful to read and we knew it would translate onto screen. As women, we are often juggling careers and family and trying to find just the right balance so that we can achieve it all. We have realized that in order to have it all, one needs help. In the movie, Carlos does such a good job of leading by example to show his son how to be a good person and treat everyone with respect and kindness. Carlos is always his best self, no matter how tired he is from work or how unfortunate his circumstances have become. We know as working moms, that is not always an easy task. I am fortunate to have great help in a supportive husband, my family, a great school for my kids, and friends who I can count on. As mothers we wanted to shed light on those people who help make our lives better. As filmmakers it was important to tell this story of a father and son struggling to get to know each other and find their way back as a family unit, with these additional obstacles against them.
I think I always knew I wanted to produce. My grandfather was CEO of MGM for many years and my aunt was a studio exec at paramount for many years and has since transition into a very successful producer. I started as an agent trainee at ICM just 5 weeks after graduating from NYU film school. It was the best training to have in the beginning of your career. I was the youngest agent ever promoted at ICM and I had a very quick rise to success as a literary agent. I repped great writing and directing clients who worked a lot, but also demanded a lot of time. I quickly realized the balance was off and my job was becoming my life and I did not want that for my future. I am lucky in that I had an opportunity to make a change.
After I had my first child, I realized that the creative fulfillment that I had been getting from the job was not as present. I liked working with writers, but I wanted to be able to do more for the projects. I wanted to be able to be in the story meetings, work on the scripts, and really dive into the process from beginning, middle, to end. I was looking to make a move where I could be creative, work hard, and also be a hands on mother to my kids. My mom worked when I was growing up (she still does) and I always respected that she had her own life, yet had time for my sister and I whenever we needed her. I love working and feeling a part of something I am contributing to outside of the home. It is also very important for me to watch developmental milestones happen, be able to be put my kids to bed most nights, and cheer them on at sporting events or dance recitals.
No change comes without some risk. Jami and I work very hard and we are super efficient. We joke that we can get more done in a few hours than most people do in a week. We have found the qualities of a good producer closely relate to those of a good mother. Personally and professionally, we know how to multi task, respond quickly to problems, organize and strategize for any situation, and be kind to people as we go through our day.