I wish someone had told me when I started out that if you want to make a feature, you need to find a way to do it. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t wait for someone to recognize your brilliance and hand you money. Use what you’ve got and make it.
When I started out almost 15 years ago, I only wanted to write. I wrote several feature scripts, entered all the competitions, made semi-finals with some of my scripts, had a lovely conversation with Joan Micklin-Silver (director of “Crossing Delancy”) about one of them, sent scripts to agents, producers and managers. I had passion, drive and a willingness to work hard. How difficult could it be to jump start a career in screenwriting? Turns out, a lot harder than I’d expected.
After several years, everyone said that if you want to sell a script, you need to make a short film. I had some idea how since I’d earned a Certificate in Film from NYU and I had money that I’d made from consulting. I discovered The Sunday Club, a group of filmmakers who crewed for each other so everyone could practice directing. The group was a lifeline. We worked on many films together. They comprised most of my crew on “Weeki Wachee Girls,” a 16-mm short which went on to play in over 70 festivals around the world and won 3 best-of awards. Now I had a good short and a feature script. And… Zilch. What’s wrong with me, I thought? Why doesn’t anyone want to hear what I have to say? I took meetings, I sent out scripts, I submitted to competitions. Then, I gave birth to twins.
Don’t let anyone tell you that kids won’t slow you down. They do. They have to. Even if you have a day nanny (which I did) and a night nanny (which I didn’t), you will be tired. They will need you. They will need you when you’re right in the middle of a big project that you need to finish. They will need you in the middle of the night, long past the age where they are supposed to sleep like “babies.” But, they won’t slow you down forever. After 5 years, I was ready to start thinking about a feature. This time I knew that no one was going to hand me a million dollars to make it. No private producer. No grant organization. It wasn’t sexy enough, edgy enough or male enough. So I got a professional development grant to work with a consultant to create a fundraising plan. I held a fundraiser. I raised $6000. Then the bottom dropped out of the financial market and my husband almost lost his job. (He worked for Lehman Brothers. If you’re interested, he’s the bald skinny guy in a suit carrying a box in that picture they publish every time they talk about Lehman’s collapse.)
I started over. If I wanted to make a feature, I needed to change strategies. I thought about the resources I had (a great apartment in Queens, a hotel room in Montauk and a little money). I came up with “In Montauk.” My good friend and cinematographer, Brian Dilg talked about cheap ways to film it and still have it look good. Another good friend, Jeremiah Kipp, signed on to co-produce. I workshopped the script and had several readings. I put together a crew of 7 a cast of 6 and headed out to Montauk to film it. We all filled several roles on set. Everyone (except me) got paid something. Everyone ate well. We never went over 12 hours (okay, maybe once). And we shot a film in 10 days. After two years the film is finally finished. I’ve been submitting to festivals since October. 30 to date. Not a single acceptance yet. In my sneak preview screening, several women came up to me and said it was the best movie they’d seen in a long time. And it came to me, not only did I need to make the film, I needed to find my own audience.
So expect to hear from me. And go out and make your film!