Destiny. Choice. A decision you make today could alter your journey for years. And yet, is it possible you could wind up in the same place, the place where you were intended to wind up, despite distinct alternate, almost disparate, journeys?
That question is addressed in Split, an exciting new web series, coming from filmmaker Yael Shavitt and her all female production team.
Split is a web series about two possible paths that one life might take. An early decision in a young girl’s life creates a split in her world, sending her off on two parallel paths into alternate futures.
After auditioning for a drama high school, 13-year-old Sammy makes a crucial choice that splits the path of her life in two. Flash forward twelve years: in one world, Sammy’s grown into Sam, a confident up-and-coming actress in a turbulent relationship with her girlfriend. In another world, she’s Samantha, an eager assistant director living comfortably with her longtime boyfriend.
Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Well, here’s something else amazing: I spent the weekend interviewing the amazing Yael Shavitt; and I will be posting that interview later this summer. And speaking of exclusives, here are some more from Yael herself:
EXCLUSIVE NEWS FROM YAEL SHAVITT
Yael has asked me to announce this to you, my readers, here first: Starting this Thursday, June 15th, you and your life journey can join Yael and her team on their journey, as they launch their crowdfunding campaign on Seed & Spark. (Come back here, as well as to Yael’s social media links listed below, when we can announce the exact link, after it goes live. Meanwhile, start following Yael at all these links so you can receive notifications as soon as the launch is, well, launched!)
EXCLUSIVE OFFER FROM YAEL SHAVITT
And since you, my loyal followers, read about it here first, Yael is offering three (3), and only three (3), of you an exclusive opportunity: The first three (3) contributors to the campaign ($25 or above) will get a private link to watch the full pilot of Splitthatsameday. WHAT?!? THAT’S FOUR DAYS BEFORE THE PREMIERE IN NYC!!! How cool is that?
So, go follow Split and Yael, at the links below, and we will see you back here on the 15th at 1PM (EST) with the exact link to the campaign. Change your journey by helping the women at Team Split change theirs!
Yesterday, I had the great blessing of interviewing another fabulous filmmaker with a purpose, the amazing Carlotta Summers. She has a new project called Butterflies coming out; and, she recently completed a successful Seed and Spark campaign for that project.
Carlotta Summers is an actor, writer, and filmmaker currently based in NYC. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she holds a degree in theatre with a minor in psychology. She loves using a multitude of elements from her training to create complex characters grounded in realism. She started her acting career performing in a Text Alive performance of Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare Theatre Co., when she was 16. She went on to perform for the Strawberry One Act Festival’s Just Off the Pike and most recently finished a production of Coriolanus, From Man to Dragon. In her spare time she helps with fight choreography, most recently had the honor of working behind the scenes with Evan Cabnet on the Broadway production Therese Raquin.
Carlotta’s passion for film stems from the idea that the power of cinema can change perception, and with this provoke action. She is the President and CEO of Wild Cat Film, LLC. Her hub for all things Carlotta can be found at www.carlotta-summers.com
JON MEYERS INTERVIEWS CARLOTTA SUMMERS
JON: Hi, Carlotta. Let’s jump right in to this. We all have our causes, for instance, mine are invisible disabilities and gender equality (particularly when it comes to women in Hollywood) — How did bullying become a subject you wanted to address now?
CARLOTTA: I have a lot of issues that I am passionate about so it’s hard to pick just one! A few years ago I found that I wasn’t getting too much work in the indie film scene and the roles I was given, were not the ones I ultimately wanted to pursue in my career. So, I decided to start creating my own work. I have always been a writer and freelance filmmaker. At NYU, I focused on crafting theater pieces with my studio, The Experimental Theater Wing. I asked myself, what would I like to tackle first?
Bullying has always been a personal subject for me. I am a biracial woman who was teased consistently throughout grade school for being different. I remember the shooting pain in my stomach every time I went to class and had to face my bullies. I remember how I felt when being berated in gym class. I think it’s sad when young girls find it necessary to push down other young women, when we are all in the same boat; when we are all struggling to swim to the top. I wanted to create a film that showed, not only some of the things I went through, but the psychology behind bullying so that we can start positive conversations on what we can do to help the victims and solve the issue. I wanted to share what I did to overcome the obstacles that stood in my way, in hopes that some girl will see it and feel empowered.
JON: I love that. I’ve had some similar experiences, even as an adult, believe it or not. I’ve discovered that the only way to move forward is to surround myself with positive people and have positive conversations. Speaking of positive conversations, you just hit your goal on Seed & Spark. Tell me a little about that, and how you move forward now.
CARLOTTA: We are so lucky to have reached our goal! For those who still want to be apart of the journey, feel free to follow us on instagram, twitter and facebook.com! We will be posting updates on these platforms, consistently as we move forward with production!
If anyone wants to contribute separately to the film, but did not have a chance to do so during the campaign, feel free to email us for how to do so. The short film is a part of a larger feature of the same name. [ Editor’s Note: Here is that email: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
JON: Very good. So Butterflies The Feature is next after Butterflied The Short.What’s next then after the Butterflies? What does the next 4 or 5 years look like for Carlotta Summers? Anything you specifically would like me to mention?
CARLOTTA: This is just the beginning. I have secretly — now not so secretly) — been working on another piece, just as long, if not a bit longer then Butterflies. But, I am going to keep that quiet for now.
JON: Too late
CARLOTTA: I also have a few short films in the works as well. All will be created through my production company Wild Cat Film and in collaboration with other producers and creatives. If you would like to keep up with what new provocative stories we have in store, as well as casting opportunities, follow or like the Facebook page at WildCatFilm.
JON: I’ll put a hotlink to the page in that last sentence. I know we are both crazy busy this week, so I’ll let you get back to your day. Again, Carlotta, congratulations on hitting your goal for Butterflies on Seed & Spark. I’ll be posting this on the blog before Wednesday.
Yesterday, I blogged about the Jane test. I was torn, to say the least. I agree with Ross Putnam’s contentions (and it would be impossible to argue with the horrendous examples), but I also think the issue cannot be simplified into Three Simple Rules.
For those new to my blog, or don’t know what the Jane test is, you can read the previous post on the Jane test here. The short version is this: Putnam contends your screenplay is sexist if when you introduce your female characters, you can answer “YES” to at least one of these three simple questions: 1) Does The Introduction Focus on the External Attributes of the Character? 2) Is She a Twenty- or Thirtysomething? 3) Is She Dating Someone Decades Older Than Her?
As I reported yesterday, I’m not entirely convinced these three questions are so simple.
Then I wondered , what if my viewpoint of this viewpoint was tainted by MY gender. Possible I suppose, even for an enlightened feminist such as myself.
So I asked a fellow screenwriter (Yikes! I just used the sexist word “fellow” in her introduction), and female Brit, Tracy Shefras, for her take on the issue. Tracy wrote:
The Jane Test is concerned with is there actually anything in the character description that hints at the substance of the woman, highlighting what it might be that makes her tick, worthy of some screen time. Underneath the gloss and female beauty surely it is possible to extract, and display, a new kind of essence. The old favourite aesthetic image is no longer of any consequence. Writers have to do better.
The Test suggests there are three obvious pitfalls that undermine the female character. If a writer can find a way to describe the character, and avoid the pitfalls, then they will be well on the way to writing a compelling character. A character that is not defined by the length of her legs, the age bracket she falls into, nor the fact that she is hooked up to an older man.
There have got to be ways to take the sexism out of description. Ways in which the inherent qualities of the female character leave potential readers and viewers with a reformed, and informed opinion that equality does exist.
Well, obviously, Tracy agrees there is a problem — as do I. I’m just not certain running a screenplay by the Three Simple Rules constitutes an adequate test/solution.
We all know what the Bechdel test is, The Bechdel test asks whether a film (or any work of fiction, for that matter) features at least two females who talk to each other about something other than a male.
What though is the Jane test, and where did it come from?
On twitter, a professional script reader named Ross Putman pulls the introduction of female characters out of screenplays, changes all the characters names to “Jane,” then tweets the description the first time we see them. Putnam’s findings reveal a superficial focus on a female characters’ looks, and a telling dearth of information about what makes them tick as a person.
Specifically, Putnam examines three things: 1) Does The Introduction Focus on the External Attributes of the Character? 2) Is She a Twenty- or Thirtysomething? 3) Is She Dating Someone Decades Older Than Her?
Here’s where I’m torn: In RIDING ARISTOTLE, the last feature screenplay I wrote, the protagonist is a female. It’s 1908, and she is the first female dean of a major university. The first time we see her, she is splashed in the face when a nearby horse steps in a puddle of water. So it’s a focus on an external attribute (Rule 1), but it is by no means a sexy description of her physical looks. Next, she is 37, which would trigger Rule 2. However, I didn’t write her as 37, to portray her as sexually vibrant, nor anything close to that. Since she is a fictional character, I wondered what the youngest age that a person could become a dean — and for it still be somewhat believable, but more importantly, remarkable. The point was she had made amazing achievements in grad school (finishing at 26), then as a professor (five years, making her 31), then as a department head (another 6 years, making her 37) — achievements so large, every step of the way, that they could not be ignored. She exceled her way up the academic ladder at a time when the odds were stacked against her. There’s no way THAT’S sexist. To the contrary, her age is a testament to her advanced abilities. Lastly, Rule 3 — not only is my protagonist NOT dating an older man, she is married to a much younger man (in 1908, another nod to her independent streak). On the other hand, I do have an older man chasing her. Am I guilty of violating Rule 3? Or am I subverting it, by having my protagonist (SPOILER ALERT) stay loyal to her younger husband?
See what I mean? A case could be made that my protagonist does not pass the Jane test — but there’s no way my protagonist is anywhere near the same as a lithe Meagan Fox glistening with sweat in her Daisy Dukes in Transformers. This is not to say that Putnam’s observations are wrong. I agree with him that there is a problem. I’m just saying that describing the problem is not as cut-and-dried simple as 1 – 2 – 3.
Clearly there is more to be said about this topic. This won’t be the last time we discuss the Jane test on this blog.
What better day than today to release my interview with Rebekah Fieschi? Today, Sylphvania Grove, her latest project on Seed & Spark, just passed the $11,000 mark. (That puts them at 183% of their initial $6,000 goal.) You can click through to that page on any of the links embedded in this page to see how all that money will be used. And if you still want to join Rebekah (shown above with Maxine Wanderer who plays the lead, Mycena) on her journey, it is not too late. As of this writing, there is a little over a week left.
Now, equally important to the money, is the number of followers they have on that page. This gives you an opportunity to help them out FOR FREE. They just surpassed the 350 follower tally — and now we need to help them to get to 500 followers. We can do this!!! Again, following them is FREE TO YOU; and yet it unlocks all kinds of promotional assistance for Rebekah on Seed & Spark. So follow them now — and if you really want to help them even more, share this blog post on facebook, or twitter, or reblog it on your blog. The more eyeballs that see this plea, the better.
Your reward? Besides the fact that you have the self-satisfaction of helping a worthy project, I’m also giving you this exclusive interview with Rebekah, right now, as a Thank You…
JON MEYERS INTERVIEWS REBEKAH FIESCHI
Jon:Hi, Rebekah. Thanks for taking my questions. I think it’s great that five out of six of the characters in Sylphvania Grove are female. What was your inspiration for Mycena? Where does her name come from?
Rebekah:Hey Jon, of course I am happy to. My inspiration for Mycena first came while baby sitting a lot, witnessing how kids interacted with their parents and how their behavior or even personality would change when they wanted a specific reaction out of them. I also find it fascinating and heart wrenching when a child would question everything they like or dislike, everything that constitute the world they live in and who they are because of comments heard at school. How words of judgement have the power to make them feel vulnerable even in their safe place. Then Mycena’s character evolved as I started to add autobiographical elements such as wanting to always stay true to myself and preserving my integrity while dying to fit in. I think all these are universal feelings, we all want to fit in somewhere and we all want to be ourselves but it makes us vulnerable not to put on a face to confront the world. The word mycena is actually a type of mushroom, I really love the way it sounds and I liked the idea that the name of this 10-year-old character battling not to fit in a mold came from something that has a tendency to grow too fast and is considered unpleasant.
Jon:Great answer. When I name my characters, I do the same thing. By giving them a unique name which has a significant meaning (sometimes only to myself) it also helps me keep each character’s voice distinct.
Although I do enjoy Wes Anderson and the Coens, all of my other favorite hyphenates are female — Penelope Spheeris, Kat Candler, and Debra Granik, come to mind. (And now you of course ) When I met Kat Candler, she was such a positive force in the room, it literally changed the course of my life. Who are your personal influences, and have you had the pleasure of meeting any of them? If so, what did you take away from those meetings?
Rebekah: It’s so great that you got to meet an influence of yours and that it had such an impact on you. I love the works of Guillermo Del Toro and Tim Burton because they are such strong visual storytellers and tell the type of stories I want to tell. Unfortunately, very few of my cinematic influences are female, probably because I love genre films so much and that’s the hardest place to find a woman director. Sofia Coppola’s work had a huge impact on my teenage life and I’m still hugely inspired by her aesthetic and poetic way of telling a story. I’ve yet to meet any of the filmmakers that have inspired me, but I would love to meet a woman like Susan Sarandon someday, she always speaks her mind and is not afraid to fight for her beliefs.
Jon: Another great answer. Thank you. Do you know Dianne Bellino’s The Itching? She’s her own person, of course, but I see Tim Burton influences in her for sure. Check it out here on Vimeo; it’s only 10 minutes. Haunting and lovely at the same time.
My next question is about you. Presupposing you can’t have both…. Would you rather be the Big Fish in the Small Pond (get the Big Fish reference?) or helm a blockbuster with no award chatter surrounding it? Indie darling or Hollywood anomaly?
Rebekah:I do know The Itching; it’s a wonderful short and I’m a big fan of stop-motion. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
On the big versus small…. hmmm that’s a tough question. Of course I would love to make a movie that’s extremely successful at the box office, it would mean that my film has reached a wider audience and it technically should enable me to make another film. But I feel that if you make movies in Hollywood you lose some artistic freedom, and that a big chunk of your audience only sees your movie as a piece of entertainment they consume, while festivals and the indie world has more respect and interest in the artistic and meaningful aspect of a film. Really, it doesn’t matter much, what I really want is for my films to be seen and for people to feel something when they watch, to connect with the characters and feel invested in the story. I hope that my films will give people the magical feeling I get when I watch a movie I love.
Jon: Thank you, Rebekah. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about The Itching. (Chuckles.) Now THAT’S an interesting sentence. Seriously, though, that movie really touched me. I agree with you. I can’t wait to see what Dianne does next.
Speaking of next, once Sylphvania Grove gets made, the “next” for that will be festivals right? Mauvaises Têtes received so many laurels. I know some of those were from horror festivals, but many were not — since Sylphvania Grove is fantasy, not horror, about what percent overlap do you think you’ll see as far as festival entries? Do you see the success of Mauvaises Têtes helping Sylphvania Grove? Tell me a little bit about that — possible comparisons and differences for the two films in terms of festival runs.
Rebekah:Yes, I will be submitting Sylphvania Grove to festivals. I’m hoping it will be even more successful than Mauvaises Têtes, which is a very different movie that targets a different, probably smaller audience (even though some of the audience over lapse). My guess is that it would fit in both genre and regular festivals, but even though I put a lot of research in festivals, it’s always a little bit of a guessing game and you can never know what is going to happen.
Jon:Thanks. I’m not surprised that you do put a lot of research into them [the festivals]. It appears you are very thorough about everything you do.
Last question… for this interview anyway. What’s next for Rebekah Fieschi? After Sylphvania Grove, how will you decide which project to tackle next? I have an ongoing binder of the next five scripts — at least five– I’m going to write, with approximate start and finish dates over the next four years. It changes a little but not much — do you have a similar process? What’s “five years from now” look like to you?
Rebekah: After Sylphvania Grove, I plan on very quickly getting into pre-production for my first feature film. It is currently untitled but it is a new turn on the classic gothic haunted house story. It is a story that is very dear to me — the script is not yet completed but will be by the end of summer. I have another feature script I am working on but that one is much more expensive to make and I feel I really need the experience of making a feature film before getting it into production. But I love short films and I always have short tales to tell, I hope to be able to shoot a no-budget micro short this fall called The Unvisited, and I have been working on a stop-motion animation short for a year which is a great challenge. I count on creating it continuously for another year. It is entitled The Old Man and the Cradle. The next five years look very busy with productions and hard work, and I’m sure they will be full of surprises.
Jon: All of those sound so cool. Your first feature!!! Can I name it? (Chuckles.) And simultaneously the stop-motion project, on top of everything else? Now THAT’S my kind of ambition!!!
Thank you again for doing this interview, Rebekah. It has been a total pleasure for me to meet you, and learn about you and what makes you tick. I’ll let you know when I post it on the blog. Thank you one last time, and we’ll talk again, I’m sure.
Rebekah: Absolutely — it is my pleasure, I’m very happy to have made a new friend and film connection! I can’t wait to see what happens with your scripts!
Jon: Merci! I can’t wait either. Have a great weekend, Rebekah.
Idea Debt is when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing. If…
> You tell 15 friends about your screenplay idea, but devote zero time in your week to facing the blank screen.
> You buy a domain name, spend weeks or months researching and reading up on how to build a website, but you don’t actually install WordPress.
> You’ve got a drawer full of half-finished stories and novels and a to-do list item every week that reads, “work on writing.”
>You’ve read fifteen (15) free online guides to blogging, built three (3) editorial calendars, have notes on a dozen posts, but you haven’t gone live with your blog.
>You have “binders of lore” and no book.
…you’re living with serious Idea Debt.
After listening to the discussion, and reading these two pieces, I couldn’t quite figure out why, but I was ambivalent, to the topic. To help me gather my thoughts, I asked one of my British writer friends, Tracy Shefras from Newport, Wales, United Kingdom, for hers. Tracy responded:
Everyone is waiting for the perfect moment. The perfect moment to tell someone something. Something important. Something that might change their world as they know it. The courage it takes to man up to the moment, whether it is perfect or not, is all that’s needed. For, in short……
THERE IS NO PERFECT MOMENT
Last week’s topic of Idea Debt could be akin to The Karmic Wheel of Writers. According to this Law, until the Karma is faced then there is no way to move forward. Each day will just be another opportunity to clog up the Wheel. The answer surely must be to find an Idea with potential. One that inspires, excites and wants to form a relationship.
Choices have to be made. Take the plunge. Get off the Wheel.
Like any process some things are just going to drop away. In theory, if the Wheel is rotating efficiently, then the embracing of an idea, one that might excite, will undoubtedly lead to the shedding of the back log.
May the Writer rest assured, in the knowledge, that all the ideas slipping away will have infused their essence into the Writer’s current project….if needs be!
The ideas are our teachers. Let’s get onto the next lesson. One that’s interesting and fresh enough to coax us into our refined status.
Change the Wheel to Will……
I hope you all read that in a British accent. In real life, Tracy sounds like Julie Andrews (and yet according to her, she says she laughs like Muttley). Aural aspects aside, I agree with Tracy’s ALL CAPS thesis: THERE IS NO PERFECT MOMENT.
Whenever I’m coaching people with their writing, I am constantly reminding them “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” Good enough is good enough. Inspirational speaker Christina Irene has this thematic life tenet “If you don’t do it now, you’re never going to do it.”
My coaching advice, considered through the prism of Tracy’s and Christina’s words, explain my ambivalence towards Idea Debt. I don’t have it. If the idea is not good enough to write at that moment, I don’t hold onto it. I do — at all times — keep an ongoing notebook of the next five things I am going to write. If the new idea can’t be shoehorned into one of those five future projects, I let it go. I’ve got enough current great ideas to keep me going — why bother letting some half-baked half-hearted attempt at half an idea simmer for a while longer? My notebook of the next five future projects has tentative start and completion dates for each one. There is simply just no time for some average so-so idea. You can’t stop an average idea from landing in your brain, but you absolutely can prevent it from nesting there.