Writer/ Co-director Brooke Purdy, Co-director Doug Purdy, Producer Jen Prince, Co-Producer Colette Freedman and Co-Producer Jenica Bergere sat in a room with a lot of blueberries and coffee and talked about… filmmaking.
Tell me about the genesis of the idea – how it uniquely combines the video you shot when you were going through Cancer with the fictionalized narrative?
(BP) When I was diagnosed with Cancer in 2008 it was such a devastating concept that Doug and I couldn’t even really get our heads around it. I immediately fell back on what I could DO- to empower myself. I thought: “Film it. Film it all.” I thought it might provide a chronicle for my kids at least- how we got thorough this. It helped me focus on something, anything, else other than being a “Cancer victim”. We filmed as much as we could and then the process itself, then my recovery, life, kids, getting past it, took over and we didn’t pursue it. A film was always a plan- it just got hijacked by “Life”. This last year I got sick of waiting for the “right time”. Coincidentally, I was surrounded by talented people. Jenica Bergere, Jen Prince and Colette Freedman were the “Holy Trinity” of resource and talent I needed to get the script finished and jump in. During the rewrite of the script- we found the perfect opportunity to incorporate the footage we had shot while going through Cancer and surgery. The two meshed seamlessly and the shooting draft is something I’m immensely proud of.
What attracted you to this project?
(DP) It was simply time. Brooke and I knew we needed to start creating again. This project, being a series of snapshots of our life since having children, seemed to be such a natural progression and jumping off point.
(JP)Brooke and Doug are two of the funniest people I know. They are people I admire immensely both creatively and personally. I met Brooke shortly after she battled breast cancer and witnessed firsthand the grace and humor with which she met the challenge. She is the face of breast cancer survival and fight for me, but more than that, she’s a model for how to keep perspective and squeeze every drop of joy you can out of the cards you’re dealt. She’s also a great writer with good taste and a collaborative spirit. When she and Doug told me they were inspired to make a film this year – there was simply no question; I was all in.
(BP) Doug and I have always had an amazing time during our other productions mainly because we surrounded ourselves with people that we love and enjoy working with. This was another perfect example of the same. We were excited and inspired to work with our producers as well as the folks we had “pre-cast” in the film. We intend for this film to be a “model” for a crew of people that we want to continue to create with. We want to become a force to deal with and continue on to make future films. Oh, and it’s about our family so it would be kind of hard to re-cast.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
(BP) Time and money. We are a typical, modern family of 4. We run our own business that requires our time and effort everyday. We have kids to raise and a mortgage to pay. Taking time out to pre-produce, shoot, edit and market a film doesn’t exactly fit into our already overcrowded schedules. Add to that the fact that we have NO initial seed money- and we are flying in with a wing and a prayer. But, we’re flying with a lot of great “wing-men” so our hopes are high. Having said that, if anyone out there has a spare 50K- we’re open for donations.
(DP) No money. But f*ck it. Every time we’ve been at the edge, we jump. And we help each other land.
What makes this project a unique production for you (what resources do you have and how does the script fit that, working with your wife/friend/family, shooting in your own house, etc)?
(JB)I’ve seen Brooke and Doug work together in two award winning plays and I root for them as artists. I want to work with them. I want to be a part of their team. I’m happy to play their single “hot” friend, who has great boobs, but only if I get my own trailer and a Starbucks stipend.
(JP) I love working on this budget level. It’s what I know. I love wearing a lot of hats and having input in all phases of the project. Really what makes this unique for me is that we are attempting to bring making the film into our lives as parents. I’m a full-time mom of three young boys. Brooke and Doug have two kids and a small business. Jenica has two. We are building the shooting schedule around school and childcare and summer camps. I’m taking meetings while holding the baby. We meet late at night sometimes after our kids are asleep. I’m attempting to produce with very little childcare and with as little disruption as I can to their lives. I am producing the film almost entirely on my smartphone while nursing. Not kidding. I have very powerful thumbs. And thank you, Apple, Moxtra, Google, and social media.
What is Brooke/Doug’s biggest strength?
(JB) What I’ve always loved about Brooke is she doesn’t give a shit what you think of her, genuinely and as a result she’s a bad ass with one boob, a hero, a modern day warrior that does it all. What I’ve always loved about Doug is he does care about what you think and he fixes things by making you laugh. He will make you laugh harder than Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. When they are working on something together it’s always a success and a good time.
(DP) Brooke’s biggest strength is Doug.
Did you plan for the majority of people on this project to be women. Writer, C0-director, Producers, D.P.
(CF) Yes. It’s about f*cking time.
(JP) It seems like maybe we are reaching a tipping point on gender representation (lack of) in filmmaking. The conversation is at least happening on some level. I guess it remains to be seen if that amounts to any change in practice. I definitely feel like my gender has played a role both in my identity as an artist and in my fight for opportunity. I do believe that had I been a man my career would have taken a different shape. I have very little bitterness about that, because it’s been the reality my entire life. I recognized at an early age that things were different for women. I wasn’t angry about it, just puzzled, really, and determined. At every stage of my life it’s been the same story. I’ve had plenty of misogyny thrown my way and plenty of well-meaning bias that also played a role in my opportunities. The only thing I can do is what’s in front of me. And do it as well as I know how. But what I am done with is being silent about the discrepancy. It’s bullshit that if I just work extra hard and get in the right place MERIT will win out. That is not the game we are playing – it is not a meritocracy. And it’s f*cking not okay to not give a shit about the stories I have to tell because I am a woman. I realize now that I’m slightly older than I was in film school that a lot of what I took as legitimate criticism was in fact a gender bias, it was easy to write me off. I will fight to be heard now with a different wisdom and understanding. I love men. I love their stories. I love Westerns. I love Indiana Jones as much as the next 80s kid. I’ve worked with some crazy talented brilliant men. I hope they continue to have fantastic careers. But there is f*cking room for everyone, and women have stories to tell too that are also exciting and brave and hilarious. Collectively we will be better for getting out of each others way, supporting each other, and giving women a seat at the table. A real seat. I have so much to say on this topic, and I’m just going to be a person who won’t shut up about it until something changes. And I don’t really care how that makes me perceived – ooooh maybe some men will hear that and NOT give me a job. For now, I’m making my own opportunities anyway, and I get to work with women (and men) that I have a shared experience with – women like Brooke and Jenica and Colette and Jhennifer, who are so accomplished and unique and not derivative. This is us asserting and claiming our right to create on our own terms.
What do you hope people will experience watching the film?
(BP) Simply, I want them to be entertained. If I can touch a Cancer survivor- that would be an extraordinary gift as well. I would like them to think, “What a cool family.” because frankly, I think we are. Since it’s our story, I hope they are touched but, PLEASE- I want them to laugh. It saved us through this experience and I think it’s what is necessary universally. Laughter, especially at yourself, is a life-saver, literally.
(CF) That laughter can get you through anything. That life gives us shitty obstacles and its how WE deal with them that matters. Fight or flight. And fight with laughter.
Why will this film kick ass?
(JB) This film is going to kick ass because there is something for everyone in it. We got your parenting, your mothering, your smoking, your cancer and your Alzheimers- oh and someone takes their shirt off at a bar.