October 3, 2013
I’m thirteen years old and staring open mouthed at the ending credits. Immediately I hit the stop button, eject the DVD, and reinsert it into the player. Again. I have to see Princess Mononoke speak her mind, stick up for the sprits, and save the forest again. Then a third time. And then six more times. And then twice more for my friends who hadn’t seen it yet. No shame. I was completely blindsided by the power and grace of this story. The princess of the wolves was incredible, and not only was she a fucking badass... she was a she.
As a twenty something female operating in a big city far far away from the confines of her small town where everyone goes to the Polar Bear Diner for breakfast on Sundays, there came a day when I realized I had to stop waiting for permission. In 2011 I graduated from DePaul’s Acting Program with a solid education, a hefty repertoire of monologues for 20 something females, and a whole hell of a lot of anxiety. That first summer out of college was a cluster fuck. I got mugged on the CTA, I lost friends, I had to put my cat to sleep, I watched fellow artists give up, I had my heart broken into a million pieces, and I got rejection after rejection from talent agencies. Never had I felt so alone and lost.
My solace was going to the movies. It always had been. Much to my dismay that whole first year out of school I didn’t see a single movie in theaters that made me want to go right back, watch it again, and then show my friends. So you mean that the token female character clad in a cat suit is supposed to pass as an excuse for me to connect with a film? Well maybe if she was given more than a poor excuse for one liners and a sensibly tight mid shot of her perfect 24 inch waist and 36 inch bust I would have paid attention. I’m sorry. I missed the memo on black lycra-wearing women are better seen and not heard. The stories were without spirit. The characters weren’t saving any forests anytime soon. At the end of the day I felt stigmatized. Where was the epic and sweeping story telling that made me pursue this career path in the first place? What type of women were these filmmakers catering to? Certainly not the intelligent and capable females I knew. There are single women, there are married women, there are homosexual women, there are women who love dead lifting, there are women who love whiskey, there are women who are mothers, and there are women who really enjoy pirates. However there is one group we all fall under. The fact that we all have a valid opinion.
Beauty shot of main character, Kara, in THE DREAMERS. Set up took two hours …
The idea for THE DREAMERS came to me over time. I saw it in the periphery of my vision as I woke up at 4AM to go work the opening shift at my day job. I felt it pulling at the hem of my secondhand cargo jacket as I biked the heinous Chicago streets from one six hour shift to another. I heard it in the stories and anecdotes of my fellow artists and friends as they struggled just like I did. It got to the point where I felt like I was being haunted. The creative spirit world was calling to me wake the fuck up and just make it happen. Come on Princess of the 22 Clark Bus. Get with it. Hear our cry.
So I answered. At the beginning of 2013 I took a step away from answering casting calls, and Facebook posts, from text messages, and booking myself straight through the day from sunrise to sundown. Instead I turned on some Beyonce, made myself a big ass cup of french roast coffee, and sat down to write the first season of THE DREAMERS. Three months later I held in my hands the story of one female artist and her five friends as they try to navigate the unbalanced world of post-graduation. Over the course of the process of writing the first season I realized this series was a way to bring much needed exposure to other artists working in Chicago. The heart beat of this show is that of the hundreds of actors, singers, theatre companies, installations artists, photographers, and musicians that inhabit the streets of the Second City. Why not expose the musical talent of my friends who turn pop music into latin-fusion? Why not feature the hilariously talented ladies of Awkward Pause Theatre Company? Why not create a show that brings other artists into the limelight alongside these fictional characters? Initially I was shocked at how quickly the universe was to respond. But when you are a young struggling artist writing a show about young struggling artists, it’s not that hard to find a group of young struggling artists who want nothing more than to create that story with you.
Filming the final scene for the pilot episode of The Dreamers
Producing and directing is problem solving on crack. It hit me that I had to speak louder in order to be heard. I had to be braver, smarter, faster, kinder, and most of all willing to fall flat on my face an infinite number of times if this show was ever going to get off the ground. As I look back on my process for the filming of the first episode I feel that being a female has worked to my advantage. People trust you. I cannot tell you how many meetings I have walked into donning my mental, emotional, and creative armor, ready to work any angle to get the yes I needed in order to make this web series a reality, only to be met with equal compromise and kindness. I am the only female on my crew, but they respect me and trust me because I send thank you notes. I make us breakfast at the beginning of a twelve hour shoot day. This show takes a village and I am only the sum of the dozen of dedicated crew and cast members. As a woman I know how to appreciate, how to communicate, and how to listen. We are expert collaborators, because we’re hardwired to be.
The tides are turning. I think of the glowing faces of female filmmakers like Lena Dunham, Jennifer Westfeldt, and Brit Marling. Their body of work is compelling, honest, and raw. Their films are not meant to reach only one demographic of people, nor are they meant to reach only one type of woman. These filmmakers are breaking walls, speaking their minds, but most importantly- telling stories worth telling. And that is what it comes down to, being brave enough to say it out loud. And guess what? We women are here to understand a good story when we see it just as much as men are. We are equally as capable to walk into theatre with a pair of eyes, a set of ears, and a heart absorb it all. On that fact alone we are worth quality storytelling.