very small girl, I have loved to perform and really only cared about acting. And yes, I would say it is still my number one love and goal, but I had an epiphany a
few years ago that to continue to create any art, an actress cannot
wait to be chosen. Certainly for my generation, an actress’s ability to create
meaningful work was pretty much dependent upon agents, studios and directors, who have always been 90% male. Yes, we can all think of the wonderful exceptions
where women rose to the top of our industry in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. But opportunities for women to carve out their own careers were always very
industry is radically changed today. We can and must be in the driver’s seat if
we want to create our future. It is made far easier today with digital
technology and the need for independent film, as studios increasingly limit
their creative voice to tentpole movies.
in mind, I jumped in with my husband and moved behind the camera to make “The Squeeze,” a wonderful caper/heist rocket-ride
of a film based on a friend’s true story told over dinner one night.
husband Terry Jastrow, who comes from an extensive 25-year career in producing
and directing some of the biggest live sports events of all time, stepped behind
the camera to write and direct his first feature. Knowing it would make a
terrific film, I found myself heavily invested in this wild story about a humble young man with uncommon skills from a small Southern town
who gets caught up in high-stakes golf matches between big-time gamblers until
the game becomes life or death.
We began pulling together a team
that recognized the film’s potential and quickly jumped on board. Michael
Doven (“The Last
Samurai,” “Mission Impossible 2” “Minority Report”) and George Parra (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle,” “Sideways,” “Nebraska”) read the script, did a break down and were on a plane scouting locations within
48 hours. I reached out to a dear friend, Michael Nouri, to play big-time mobster
and gambler Jimmy Diamonds, and he was the first to say yes. Then Terry and I
were off to Texas to raise the money, returning to many of the same investors
from an earlier film we had made in the ‘80s called “Waltz Across Texas” — a film we developed, produced and starred in at
a time when independent films were rarely acknowledged by the Hollywood community.
It took us a year to raise a million dollars for “Waltz” — a good budget for a film at that time.
So when we returned a few years ago to raise money for “The Squeeze,” we found ourselves in the
enviable position of being a somewhat known entity. We raised the money in a
month. We then set out to find our lead, who had to be a golf phenom, and found
him in Jermey Sumpter, who delivers a stunningly impactful performance as Augie.
He is also a scratch golfer in real life and was essential to the believability
of the character being able to win these high-stakes gambling matches.
We were then over the moon when Christopher McDonald agreed
to come on board to play Riverboat, the big-time gambler who convinces Augie
(Sumpter) to abandon his dream of competing in the US Open Golf
Championship to play in high-stakes gambling matches.
The female roles were vitally important to me, because I
felt the real heart of the film depended on their ability to engage the hearts of
our audience and make the ride even richer. We cast Jillian Murray as Augie’s girlfriend
Natalie, Augie’s moral compass, and Katherine La Nasa as Riverboat’s bejeweled
We went off to North Carolina to shoot and ended up in Las
Vegas for the final scenes.
As a producer, I discovered my years in
front of the camera were a natural education for what happens behind the camera. Just as importantly, I learned and now know that today, women at anytime can create their own artistic journey. Yes, it takes determination, a refusal to accept “no,” and most importantly, passion for what you are doing. After many years of separate
careers, I found working with my husband to be a pure joy. We are a good team
and good collaborators.
With five screenplays in his quiver, Terry has opened the
door to future projects. I’ve discovered I am a good storyteller and a great editor
and collaborator, and we are now off to make our second feature in the fall surrounded by a solid, proven team with the wind behind us.
“The Squeeze” opens in theaters and on VOD Friday, April 17.