Unveiling at the Brooklyn Film Festival this weekend is the world premiere of Sleeping
with the Fishes, the directorial debut of former stand up comic and actor,
Nicole Gomez Fisher. Gina Rodriguez plays the hilariously real and
spirited star of the movie, Alexis Fish, a role she booked right as Filly Brown
started making waves at film festivals last year. A great cast of women
join her including Tony Award winning stage and film actor, Priscilla Lopez who
plays her mother, and Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty) who is enjoyably pert, as
Gina’s sister. Sleeping with the Fishes is also the first feature
produced independently by Courtney Andrialis, a rising producer with many more
exciting projects in development (she started her career as assistant to
Bingham Ray in 2003). I gotta say, I just love the female power of this
film! Check out the just- released trailer of the film, and read the
interview I did where I check in with Nicole, a week before she releases her
first baby (film) into the world.
Logline: Sleeping with the Fishes is a comedy
which captures one girl’s journey of self-discovery and the dynamics of her
zany family. With its fair share of “ay dios mio” and “oy vey” moments, the
film comes to life with colorful characters and one-liners that can only be
found in a Latino Jewish home in Brooklyn.
How did your Latino/Jewish background and childhood
inform your creative expression as you started conceiving of your first
I was born and raised in Brooklyn…a true
Brooklynite at heart. My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is of Jewish
descent, an interesting mix that has clearly influenced my life and my writing.
I don’t necessarily identify with one over the other…both sides make up who I
am. I knew when starting SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES that my background and my
point of view wasn’t a filmmaker’s voice heard too often. I wanted to express
myself and tell a story about a young woman trying to find herself in a world
that she felt excluded from…not only from the outside world, but from her
immediate as well.
What’s your connection with Gina? How was it to
work with her in comedy? She’s got great timing and tons of energy.
I did not know Gina Rodriguez before
making Sleeping with the Fishes. We
met through our casting directors Sig DeMiguel and Steve Vincent. Her agent
read the script and loved it, passed it on to her and BOOM! A meeting was
set. We actually met in the bathroom of Rosa Mexicana and it was love at first
sight! Gina was incredibly energetic, bright, enthusiastic and funny! I was
excited to work with someone “fresh”. I knew before we even ordered that we
would work well together. She was just coming off the Sundance premiere for Filly Brown. It was an exciting time
for her and it showed. She’s a natural when it comes to comedy, so she made
directing incredibly easy. Gina’s choices were spot on and she just understood
the timing of comedy. It takes a real pro to know when to “go there” and when
to pull back and she did. I would say try this and within seconds she would
make a slight adjustment and go. If she thought something didn’t work or wanted
to try another shot, we went with it. Collaborating with her was such
fun. She made directing my first feature a pleasure.
The tale of a 30something whose life has not gone as
expected and must deal with the pressure of returning to a childhood like
dynamic at home with the parents, is so relatable and universal, but it can
also be quite personal and individual, how personal is this screen variation to
you? What did you want to convey that you had not typically seen in this
popular canon? (For me I think the female character’s resilience of
staying true to herself, her exhaustive efforts of having to tolerate her
mother’s views, and sheer tenacity…
It’s personal. The story itself
is loosely based on my family, but there are many aspects to it that are a mix
of truth and fiction. For my lead, Alexis Rodriguez Fish (played by Gina
Rodriguez), her coming back home after years of living a lie all in the name of
“saving face” is paralyzing for her. As you mentioned, her resilience to stay
true to herself has been an exhausting journey. Having to deal with the
loss of a loved one while trying to pick up the pieces of your life only makes
it that much harder to overcome. I wanted to take a classic story and make it
new. Yes, she is returning home to the pressures of family, but in Alexis’
case, returning home to her mother is what is so daunting. You have two strong
women who don’t see eye-to-eye: one whose pride identifies her, the other whose
pride is crushed as she struggles to find her identity.
I love that you chose to do your first film a
comedy. There doesn’t seem to be as many first films as comedies
tackled in the indie world, and even less from a female written and
directed perspective. What are your influences in this vein?
Also, what is it about our passionate Latino culture in particular you
think that makes family dysfunction so melodramatic, ripe for comedy and so
affectionate and warm at the same time?
I was a stand up comic for years
and I love writing comedy. I’m a huge fan of films that blend comedy and drama.
It’s what life is made of—the ying and the yang. Some of the funniest
moments in life are also the saddest. When you can stop and laugh at a
time when hope seems dim, that is life changing. Laughter has pulled me through
some really hard times. …Where there is passion, there is drama. From my
experience, Latinos are very strong-minded, very passionate and very vocal
about what we believe. The combination makes for some terrific
melodrama. It’s who we are—they go hand in hand.
Who were some key collaborators and mentors for you during the
launching of your first feature? Tells us about Courtney as producer –
she’s from HD net films, how did you two bond about the making of this film?
Some of the key collaborators
were my husband Joe, my friend and fellow screenwriter A.J. Meyers, my casting
directors, my father and of course, my producer Courtney Andrialis. Courtney
and I have built a solid relationship around Sleeping with the Fishes. I met her via our casting directors.
She’s young, eager and has a ton of knowledge. She was an integral part of the
making the film. She brought on an amazing team that held me up throughout the
entire process, which for a first time director is so integral. There were a
lot of learning curves for me. Courtney did a great job of keeping me together
and supporting me throughout the entire process.
As you navigate the wild
west of distribution, how are you feeling and where are your expectations with
getting the film out there? Are you going to be exploring the newly paved
roads of direct distribution models or pursuing the traditional theatrical and
It’s great that now filmmakers
have so many ways to reach their audience. We are excited for our world
premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival on June 1st. After
that, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see!
Best of luck with the film and
have a blast at your premiere, Nik!
For tickets & screening info (June 1 is sold out, but June 8 still available
for all y’all NYers)
Film Contact: swtf13[a]gmail.com.