At this stage of my career with almost two decades of performing and producing under my belt one of the most important things I’ve learned is that when things go wrong, or seemingly wrong, it’s usually to push you and the production in the right direction.
When I was producing the first workshop of my solo show Year of the Slut I had the perfect theatre picked out, I had my dates all picked out (February, what better months for a racy rom-com) and was deliberating between a few different directors I knew who would work within my budget. Suddenly as we were getting deeper into December everything started falling apart. I lost the theatre I had my heart set on and the director I was hoping to work with was less interested than I had hoped. About a week before Christmas I was scrambling around like a mad woman looking for a theatre that was available in February and could work with my shoestring budget. Then one Saturday afternoon, on the eve of their holiday party, I stumbled into TheatreTheater on Pico and La Brea, about 10 minutes from where I was living at the time. The space was perfect for what I was looking for. I chatted with Jeff Murray, the owner, as he showed me around and we discussed some of our past work. It turns out I had seen a play he directed and it was spectacular! In my next breath I blurted out “you have to direct my play!” And there it was, I found my space and my director in one shot and was able to raise more money by securing that space and that director (to cover the extra costs), after completely stressing out for weeks about how I was going to pull off the project and put the pieces together…all the things that went wrong pushed me into the right theatre with the right director.
A couple years later I partnered with a friend to write something, we had no idea what it was going to be. After about a month we had a 6 episode web series completed, Dumpwater Divas, and 80’s dance spoof. We had written all the roles for people that we knew and wanted to work with. After doing several readings and rewrites one by one the actors we created the roles for dropped off the project for various reasons, some getting other roles, some simply not interested in it. Being that the roles were written specifically for those actors I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of casting other people; but in order to move forward, we had no choice. We held auditions and ended up finding some extremely talented performers. We shot all 6 episodes and it turns out that the actors that we ended up working with went above and beyond my expectations, basically they brought the roles to life in a way that I couldn’t imagine having anyone else in those roles. After the fact, I’m so grateful I was forced to find new talent that brought our vision to life in ways beyond what we ever imagined. The actors we ended up working with fit the roles better than the ones we wrote them for.
Over the past decade the shoot for my short film Details fell through at least six times with six different teams, with different directors, different actors and different visions. I knew I had a solid script because initially each director and actor I sent it to was immediately on board and then let’s just say ‘life got in the way.’ By the timed I decided to make the film in 2018 the piece had been showcased on stage (it was originally a one act play) several times both as a heterosexual piece and as a lesbian piece. It was exciting to play with the script through the lens of sexual fluidity of the characters. Over the years of failed attempts to get the film going I kept flip flopping between making the film with a male and female or two females, since the piece was quite universal in the way it depicted a relationship and could work with any couple regardless of gender or sexual identity.
At the end of 2017 I was in Rome for an acting workshop and a few of us were sitting in a beautiful hotel lounge overlooking the city chatting about projects we were working on or developing. One lady mentioned she would love to produce something and asked if I have anything in development. I pitched my latest incarnation of my vision for Details, which had become quite sophisticated over the years as each production of it fell through. At this point the vision was an experimental film shot several times with several different couples (straight, gay, lesbian, trans) and intercut into one piece. The group unanimously agreed this project was worth undertaking and gave me the confidence to once again move forward with a production. The lady who asked for the pitch became one of the producers on the shoot.
I’m not a director, at least I wasn’t until this production. It was never something I was interested in exploring since I didn’t believe I had the skills or vision to pull it off. Sure, I’ve directed readings of my work, children’s acting workshops and plays as I ran the children’s acting program at Edgemar Center for the Arts for two years in Santa Monica, then was the Performing Arts Director at an Elementary School in Encino; but I never counted children’s theatre as being a real director.
Due to the complexity of my vision for this experiment I took on a role I never intended to and directed the film myself. I couldn’t find a trans actor when going through the casting process so I cast and androgynous lesbian in the trans role, however she backed out a few days before shooting. I also had a close friend cast in one of the female roles, who booked a national commercial three days before the shoot and of course took it (as she should, cha-ching!) So now I was down two actors with three days until the shoot. Rescheduling was not an option due to logistics, it was no or never or this script would never get produced, I just knew it.
At this point I took a deep breath and centered myself, I reminded myself what I already knew, that everything was going to work out the way it was meant to. I knew plenty of talented actors and replacing the female role wouldn’t be an issue. On the other hand, I wasn’t going to make myself crazy trying to find a trans actor I wasn’t able to find even when I did have ample time to cast, so I let it go. I had enough on my plate as a first time director (who was also the writer, producer and in the film) there was no sense in forcing things to happen at the cost of not preparing properly, then the entire project would be a bust…yet again. So, I rolled with the punches.
It turns out, everything worked out perfectly. We had just enough time to shoot the piece with the actors we had, anything more we would have had to rush (more than we already were) to get through the shoot at the cost of quality and continuity. All the actors who showed up were colleagues I’d worked with before, including Jeff, the director from my solo-show, and Monica, an actress from my web series. I didn’t anticipate this being an issue prior, but once I was on set it was a relief to have supportive friends along with me for my first attempt at directing who were patient and believed in me, beyond just being there for an acting gig.
For all the times Details fell through in a ten year span, I have to say every time things went wrong it was to push me to get it right. The vision of the piece was meant to evolve from a linear film with one couple to an exploration of sexual fluidity with many couples. I was meant to direct the film (and step into the role of director moving forward in my career). All the actors and crew involved were the ones who were meant to be my creative partners.
Details went on to screen at the Festival De Cannes Court Métrage and The Cambridge Film Festival in the UK. I can’t imagine the film would have garnered the recognition it did if any of the previous attempts would have succeeded. It had to go wrong all those times, so I could get it right.
I guess one of the biggest things I’ve learned as a producer is not to fight with the universe; every time when things have gone off track (or off the track I thought I should be on) It was only to push me into a better place, the place I was meant to be. Projects are never “easy” in a traditional sense, but when the timing and team are right things sail forward smoothly with a special energy that lends itself to making MAGIC!
“When you struggle against ‘this moment’ it’s as if you are struggling with the entire universe, because the universe is as it should be”
–The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success, by Deepak Chopra
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