No longer living in New York makes me sad. I was super frustrated with a bunch of things when I decided to leave - roommates, the cost of living, and a shitty commute that kept getting shittier - but it's impossible not to feel nostalgia for all of the sunnier aspects. What I miss more than anything is regularly connecting with people who are relentlessly pursuing a passion. It's hard not to feel likewise motivated when you meet someone that has spent the past five years fighting tooth-and-nail to live their dream.
Now that I have this blog, creators reach out to me on a regular basis asking to meet up and talk. While I find it exciting that people actually read what I write and aren't completely turned off by my misanthropy, it massively bums me out because they're always in LA or NYC and I'm in fucking Michigan. Luckily, I travel back to NYC every month and can usually find time to make it happen.
Last time I was back in the city, I met up with Hannah Roze and Shannon Spangler in Bryant Park to talk about their new short film, "The Disenchantment of a Young Adult and a Wild Child." Hannah and Shannon are both trained actors but had been pretty underwhelmed and frustrated with the types of roles offered to them after graduating from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. They decided that instead of waiting to get chosen for the perfect project, they would just have to create it themselves (along with the help of 30 other women who made up their writing team, producing team, and production crew).
Read on for more information about the film and excerpts from my conversation with both women.
Do you have a sister? I don't, but I always wanted one as a kid. Growing up with someone gives you a special bond and puts you in the unique position to both hurt and comfort them in a way no one else can. Sisterhood isn't something that most films focus on in a serious way, but this one is different. In under fifteen minutes, it manages to paint a complex, intimate portrait of the relationship between two sisters.
Best time to watch:
Watch this when you want to see a more realistic depiction of sisterhood on film. When I talked to Hannah and Shannon, we tried to think of other movies that focus on this topic and came up nearly empty. These are the only (good) ones I can think of off the top of my head:
- "Mustang," (2015) by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
- "Margot at the Wedding" (2007) by Noah Baumbach
- "Beeswax" (2009) by Andrew Bujalski
- "The Virgin Suicides" (1999) by Sofia Coppola
And of the titles on this small list, only two focus on adult relationships. It's surprising that more writers/directors haven't taken advantage of a subject so rife with cinematic potential.
Worst time to watch:
There is no "worst time" to watch a short film. Think of the hours you waste mindlessly scrolling through Instagram on a daily basis. Instead of doing that shit, consume content that means something ... that has a clear point of view and stylistic intent. Watch something that someone put time and energy into creating, content that doesn't exist for the sole purpose of getting you to 'like' and then buy. Spend more time on the shit that is meaningful, less time on the shit that is meaningless.
Where to watch:
"The Disenchantment" just had its world premiere at HollyShorts and will hopefully show at more festivals in the future. Keep an eye on their Instagram for more details.
The press packet describes it like this: "When free-spirit Hazel (Roze) runs away from a disastrous family holiday into Prague’s dizzying fairytale-esque nightlife, her responsible older sister Rachel (Spangler) comes to find her. But the euphoria of their rekindled sisterhood shatters; the two discover that life is neither a fairy tale nor a perfect plan. By grappling with questions of unconditional love, the selfishness of art, and forgiveness, Roze and Spangler have created two characters who defy millennial and sexist stereotypes. They tell a tale about one of life’s most intimate and least cinematically-explored relationships -- sisterhood -- with the emotional viscerality of the female gaze.
Interview with Hannah Roze & Shannon Spangler:
WiR: Hannah, are you the one who is involved with Film Fatales?
Hannah Roze: Yes, I am on the Fatales programming board. I used to be their membership coordinator.
Oh, cool. How did that happen?
HR: Essentially, Shannon and I ended up writing a thing at the end of school. I wrote draft one and she was out of town when we wanted to shoot it. When she came back, she said, "Whoa, there's something to this. Let's actually make a real film out of it." It went into rewrites and while we were doing that, I was going to film festivals for this short that I drowned in ... for literally two seconds, but I went to every damn festival.
I started watching movies ... looking at other festivals and watching their movies, trying to figure out who was involved in them, looking for advice from people who knew things and that I admired. One of maybe fifteen people I cold-emailed was Leah Meyerhoff, who made a beautiful film called "I Believe in Unicorns." It's surrealistic and feminine ... female gaze.
Shannon Spangler: It stars Natalia Dyer, who is Nancy in "Stranger Things." It was well before she was Nancy.
HR: And so, she [Meyerhoff] reached back out and said she would meet with me to discuss how to take something from script to screen.
Did you always conceive of this project as a short or did you think that maybe you would expand it to feature-length in the future?
SS: It's always been a short. Our dream situation would be for someone to be like, "We love these characters. Here's a writer and someone to help you develop a feature that focuses on these women." But really, our objective with this was to make something beautiful that showcases us and gives us the chance to do something that we love doing. Now that it's done, we just want to send it to festivals and meet as many people as possible. We want to use it as a calling card for us as actors.
HR: We wanted to show people beyond the abysmal roles available to you right after graduation. You'll go in for an audition and they'll immediately be like, "How comfortable are you with nudity?" And it's like, "Fine, sure ... comfortable. But to what end? How does it impact the story?" Either that, or it's like, you play the role of one-dimensional girlfriend who is blindly supportive and has no opinions of her own. We wanted to take two stereotypes and make them into real, fully fleshed out women.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with some women who made a short film called "Con Spirito" about Elizabeth Bishop. Two of them are actors and they basically made the same exact comments about feeling frustrated with the lack of good roles (i.e., not unnamed naked woman in the corner) that were available to them.
SS: You need to put out into the world what you want to see.
Yep. Although it's a bummer that it has to be that way.
SS: And the big part of that is ... there are roles, especially since the advent of the Me Too movement, that are more complex, but they don't come to people without names.
HR: So we're glad that Reese Witherspoon is liberated. Good for you.
HR: Actually, truly. But like ... down here where we're at, without the credits, that impact hasn't happened. Everyone in the spotlight is having a really great time right now, but all of us who are trying to make a name for ourselves are still being dealt the like, "Sushi being eaten off your body ... how do you feel about that?"
How did you craft Hazel and Rachel's personalities?
HR: We took two female filmic stereotypes that both of us were often being cast as at the time. For me, it was the manic pixie dream girl.
SS: And for me, it was the cold lawyer bitch.
HR: To live in a man's world, you've gotta be cold-hearted [obvious sarcasm]. And so we took those stereotypes and slowly subverted them. For Hazel, for example, manic pixie dream girls typically live in a brownstone, don't make any money, do nothing but art 24/7, and exist to tell a man how magical the world is. And we were thinking, the world might not be so magical if you're a young artist, pursuing your art. You might be mooching off of your family to afford that fancy brownstone. Or being a brat to your family and not really caring. With Hazel, she doesn't really care who she hurts in the end.
SS: And the stereotype of the cold lawyer bitch is that she doesn't care about anyone but herself and is only out for materialistic things. We subverted that by saying materialism extends to nice things that you want surrounding you because you want comfort, loyalty, and the best for those that you love.
HR: She's responsible for the family. She's responsible because she loves people.
HR: [Laughs] The bitch and the brat.
Is there a reason why you used Seed&Spark in particular for fundraising for "The Disenchantment"?
HR: Seed&Spark is a brilliant platform run by Emily Best. They're really clever because they tell you how to curate an audience beyond the people you already know. When you join on with them, they give you a counselor person who approves your campaign before it goes live. And they do seminars at various festivals. I went to a seminar at the Athena Festival where they talked about how to use the platform to both expand the world of your film and draw in a new audience. They're really, really smart like that.
Nobody else does that. Kickstarter isn't doing that for you.
HR: I mean, Kickstarter also has stuff like waterbottles on it. Or ... there's that card game that's very successful about cats. I was really worried, like oh my gosh, if we run a Kickstarter, we'll have to compete against the kitten card game.
SS: Exploding kittens!
HR: Yes, that's what it was!
SS: It's actually a really fun game.
That sounds like something I would potentially be into.
HR: There you go. So it's easy for your film to get lost next to things like Exploding Kittens and water bottles.
Did Seed&Spark do anything to help you promote the film?
HR: We actually hit on the hot crowdfunding campaigns to follow list. It's a carousel on the bottom of their homepage.
SS: They also have a distribution platform and anyone who subscribes to that will also see those hot projects at the bottom. It's nice to be given the opportunity to shine next to those projects that have already gotten distribution.
HR: There's also a Fatales curated page. So if somebody's funding their cousin's feminist film project and looking at the Fatales page, they might also see this thing that we're doing. It's another good area for exposure.
SS: We also pitched privately to family and friends who have money.
HR: But we did it professionally. We had outfits and a whole schtick. I had the lookbook and Shannon had the business packet. We explained what the money would be used for and what each person would get in return. I think people will often leave things up to the universe instead of just asking for what you need. As long as you're doing it in a respectful way as a professional, I think it's okay.
SS: And we did the same thing when talking to directors. We pitched way higher than our net worth. Hannah started working for the Fatales in December/January and in October/November of that year, after almost one year of working with them, we started reaching out to members who had completed features and who were known people in the industry. We were the talent and we were no names, so we wanted well-known people involved with the project. We formally pitched to all of them as well.
HR: We ended up pitching to DPs, too. There's a group called Cinematographers XX. It's all female cinematographers and there are two groups. There's the new wave, the younger ones, and the people who have been around for awhile and are full-fledged members. Even the new wave have been working for 2-3 years, though. We did cold-emails again, asked to buy them a coffee, and meet with us. We had a surprisingly large amount of meetings that were really wonderful. It's nice to hand over your set to experienced people and use them to learn more about the industry.
I ended up co-directing with Caryn [Waechter]. She directed on set, then ended up moving out to LA, so I directed in post. It was so nice to be able to call up Caryn or Leah and ask them questions. To have a flock of women to consult was just amazing.
It's great to be able to reach out to someone without fear of judgement. Like, "Oh hey, idiot, how do you not know how to do this?" Because sometimes that is the vibe depending on how well you know them.
HR: If you're a young filmmaker, find your niche community. If it's ethnicity, gender, genre, whatever. Find them, figure out what meetings they go to, and be an active contributor. Don't expect things to just fall into your lap. Then, when you need help, of course they're going to offer their expertise. Give what you can always, even if it's just admin hours. I don't think we would have been able to complete the movie without some of the advice that we received.
The fundraising and networking aspects are what sound the most stressful to me. I think people underestimate how much time and energy that shit takes.
SS: In the process of development, we starting writing the script in May 2014. We had a completed script that we were happy with by May 2015. We put everything on hold until July 2016 because we just spent the year networking.
HR: We didn't know anybody.
SS: That's when Hannah started working for the Fatales. I was involved in film festivals all around the city.
HR: She volunteered at a bunch of them: SOHO, Socially Relevant, Tribeca. And we snuck into film festivals. [laughs] We went from sword class one day up to Queens World.
SS: I ripped my pants during class and so I was wearing a character skirt.
HR: I was wearing a dress because we both had sword fights in dresses. We just popped our blazers on over them, snuck into the after party, and pretended we had a movie there. And like scrappy bosses, started to network.
Heck yeah! You gotta do whatever it takes.
Hannah & Shannon truly are wonderful, lovely humans and I can't wait to see what they do next. If anyone has the drive to make it in an ultra-competitive industry, it's them.
"The Disenchantment of a Young Adult and a Wild Child" premiered August 11 at HollyShorts. If you want to keep tabs on the project, check out the film's website and Instagram. You can also watch the trailer on Vimeo.