Throughout my life as an
actor, I have waited for people to give me permission. Waited for someone to
write something, someone to produce it, direct it, and hopefully, eventually, hire me.
couldn’t wait any longer.
Everything changed when I became a mother. I wanted to be with my children as much as possible. I also
needed to work more than ever to help support my family. An impatience suddenly grew in me. I now hated the process
of waiting for a “yes” — never much fun in the first place — more than ever.
For years my friend Jill
D’Agnenica and I talked about making a movie together. We had met with our new
babies at a La Leche League meeting and become fast friends. She at the time
was an assistant editor longing to become a full-time editor. With all of our
friends in the business, we surmised, we could make our own movie. “We just
need a script,” she used to say.
Flash forward thirteen
years. In an attempt to get myself out of the house to perform as a
singer-songwriter (knowing that daily responsibilities would keep me from
following through), I enlisted a group of other moms to go with me. We called
ourselves The Performers’ Collective, a temporary name we never got around to
changing, and headed off together to open-mic nights. Bolstered by the company
and the belief that we were doing it for each other, we actually showed up. I
played guitar for one member, another sang harmony for me, and sometimes we all sang
together. We had a blast.
At that same time, my 13
year-old son was discovering his own musical gifts. Before my eyes (and ears), he
transformed with every song he wrote, even going along to the open-mic nights with us. Thus the inspiration for a screenplay was born.
In keeping with the
teamwork strategy, I asked one of my singing partners, Lori Nasso, to write the
movie with me. “But there’s a catch,” I told her. “We are going to actually
make this. I don’t know how, but even if we have to use an iPhone, to shoot it, we
are going to make this movie.”
We were pretty sure that
in today’s blockbuster paradigm, the intimate story we wanted to tell would be
a difficult sell. But we didn’t have any time to waste, since we wanted to use my son,
Finneas O’Connell, as the lead — and he was growing up fast. We didn’t want to be told who to cast, or how
to make the script more commercial. To
make the movie we wanted to make, we would make it ourselves.
We wrote every week for a year and a half. Along the way, we told
people we were making a movie. They believed us. By then, Jill had become a full-time editor with an eye on directing. She was excited by the story and fully
onboard for the DIY adventure we had always talked about. We convinced our
friend, producer Tessa Bell, to work with us, and we asked our old friend and
fellow parent, Guido Frenzel, if he was maybe, possibly, willing to be our
cinematographer. We had a team! The more
we told people that we were making a movie, the more it became true!
Life Inside Out tells the story of a mother and
son, both lost in their family roles, who find a way to connect through music
and songwriting. It’s about trying to live authentically and pursue one’s
creative passions in the midst of everyday life. It’s a small story that’s
After four years and a grueling but successful Kickstarter campaign,
unwavering generosity from supporters, a fifteen-and-a-half-day shooting
schedule (with a Red Epic — no iPhones needed!), 17 film festivals, 14 awards, and thousands of truly moved festival-goers, Life Inside Out opens in three
theaters this Friday, October 17, with more cities on the way. Like everything else with
this labor of love, we are spearheading the theatrical release ourselves. In
February, Monarch Films will release the film on DVD and VOD.
Looking back, it seems
crazy for us to have thought we could do it. If any one of us had fully
realized the workload we were about to take on, we probably wouldn’t have
started. But we did it — and made a movie of which we are incredibly proud. We
didn’t do it alone. We had more support than we could have ever imagined, and
together we did it. No permission needed.
Maggie Baird is an actress, writer, and
songwriter. She co-wrote and stars in Life Inside Out, directed by Jill
D’Agnenica. Life Inside Out opens theatrically on October 17 for just one week at Pasadena’s Laemmle Playhouse 7, San Diego’s Ultrastar Hazard Center, and Elkins, WV’s Elkins Cinema 8. More cities will follow.