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Sundance 2016 Women Directors: Meet Frankie Shaw – ‘Too Legit’

Sundance 2016 Women Directors: Meet Frankie Shaw - 'Too Legit'

Frankie Shaw is an actress/writer/director from Brookline, Massachusetts. She graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University with a degree in English literature. She wrote, directed and starred in the short film "SMILF," which won the Jury Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Shaw is currently developing a TV series for Showtime based on "SMILF" and has most recently been seen in the USA show "Mr. Robot." (Press materials)

"Too Legit" will premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 23.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film.

FS: "Too Legit" is a satire about campus sexual assault. The film follows a young woman (Zoe Kravitz) who is impregnated after being raped and then goes on a journey to find out if the rape was "legitimate" or not. The film is inspired by the statements of Senate candidate Todd Akin.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

FS: I wanted to make a movie that turned rape culture inside out — what if people openly talked and behaved in the way the statistics would suggest? What if we weren’t so hush-hush, silently going along with the fact that women are hyper-sexualized, objectified and often attacked?

And then I heard Todd Akin’s absurd remarks on the effects of rape on a woman’s reproductive organs — that the body has a way of "knowing" if the sperm is coming from rape. I read "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town" [by Jon Krakauer]. I read over and over again about girls being attacked, videos being posted and rapists getting away with it. I read how men often don’t consider rape rape. And I thought that because this is at such an epidemic level, maybe satire would be an effective way to talk about it.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

FS: Time constraints. We had to shoot 24 pages in less than three days. I had no prep with my director of photography because he was on a TV show up until the day before we shot.

And then just getting the tone. There were way more jokes in the script than in the final edit. I wanted to respect what Zoe’s character is actually going through, while at the same time exploit the world that these victims live in. During rehearsal, actor Clark Gregg stopped and said to me "Frankie! This is Level 9 hard tone!"

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

FS: The female experience? The incessant victim-blaming. How pervasive our rape culture really is. What it must feel like to have your character assassinated after being assaulted.

The dehumanization of women by both women and men. That rape and the commodification of women is a systemic problem, and we need massive change — everything from the way women are depicted in video games to the lack of female characters on the shows my son watches.

That this runs deep, that inequality and subtle sexism contribute to rape culture, that rape culture is real and it’s fucking sad.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

FS: Just start making stuff — you learn through process. Just pretend you belong there doing it. It’s going to feel shitty, but sooner or later you’ll learn how to make what you see in your head into what you see in your movie — at least, here’s hoping. 

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

FS: The subject matter was polarizing, the fact that it is a "comedy" about rape. Some people were like, "Thank you, no thank you." We reached out to some of the "Hunting Ground" financiers, and they sat on the script for a while but ultimately said they couldn’t risk anyone thinking they were making light of rape, which I totally understood. But then others really gravitated to the material. Barbi Appelquist, an activist/lawyer/politician, was the first to come on and donate. And also Starstream, a feature financing company.

Ultimately, we received substantial donations from general feature-film companies that supported me, my producer Liz Destro and the film.

In a last ditch attempt, I posted on Facebook that I needed finishing funds, and so many friends came out of the woodwork to support. One friend, who I hadn’t really seen since high school, asked me how much I needed, and when I said seven grand, he wrote me a check for $7,000 right then and there. 

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