39 ½, my first narrative feature, presents a vibrant, affirmative vision of a woman whose life choices challenge mainstream cultural norms. Following my successful experimental documentaries, Bachelorette, 34 and Grrlyshow, 39 ½ mixes animation, comic irony, and high drama to tell a timely story.
Inclusion Statement39 ½ was created by a female Writer/Director, includes a female Co-DP and Editor, and features a compelling female lead and powerful female supporting roles. The story celebrates the belief that there is no one right way to have a child or to make a family.
About The Project
Can a single woman at the precarious age of 39 ½ have a baby with no Mr. Right in sight? Currently in post-production, Kara Herold’s 39 ½, a hybrid comedic feature combining narrative live action and animation, takes up where Bachelorette, 34, her semi-autobiographical documentary, leaves off.
Kara is still single in the last years of her 30s. She has always imagined having kids, but her dedication to the life of an independent filmmaker has siphoned away the time and opportunity. Her new age glamorous Zen monk boyfriend seems like a bright possibility, until he dumps her at her first suggestion that they get serious. She comes up for air at 39 ½, filled with a certain desperation and energized by a newfound determination to have a baby by any means necessary[Office1] .
Kara toggles through the baby pictures, reading aloud.
KARA: Donor 2128 works for the FBI in anti-terrorism. Donor 2230 donates sperm because it gives him a sense of power. Donor 830’s favorite TV show is Star Trek. How am I supposed to choose from these random facts?
The MUSIC in the background at the sperm bank gets louder.
KELLY: Don’t overthink it! Just think of it like a one-night-stand, where you got really wasted and picked up some guy in a bar, but can’t really remember him.
American women in their 30s are increasingly postponing childbearing in order to establish livelihoods and careers. Meanwhile, marriage is on the decline in the U.S. Single women today outnumber married women. Consequently, more women are choosing either to forego motherhood or to become single mothers.
But most people adhere to the dominant cultural narrative, remaining suspicious and even scornful of women who stay single or who have a child without a male partner. Single women who choose either option are seen as pitiable or selfish for bucking the traditions of marriage and motherhood. I am interested in presenting, through comedy, a vibrant, affirmative version of a woman whose choices pit her against dominant culture mores.
39 ½ is inspired by my own journey to try to have a child through a series of unconventional means and with time quickly running short. The film mixes drama liberally laced with comic irony, documentary elements, and animation.
In my own life, I have pursued an alternative path ever since I was a young woman, which was especially evident in my choice to move to San Francisco from a small town and study experimental filmmaking. But for all my bucking of societal conventions, I still assumed I would be able to access to the “master narrative” of marriage and kids. As the window for bearing children narrowed, I realized that I might have written myself out of this option. I went through a crisis similar to that of the film’s protagonist, and to crises playing out among my women friends and colleagues—and among other women nationally and worldwide.
In creating a thoughtful film that illustrates this painful quandary with humor, I am also sketching a road map for women and men who are struggling to redefine what becoming a parent and having a family can look like. 39 ½ is also a love letter to celebrate their messy, exuberant, nontraditional lives.
If my life weren't funny, it would just be true.
— Carrie Fisher
I am a filmmaker whose works have screened at Sundance, MoMA, New York and other top-tier venues both in the States and internationally. All of my films employ wit, thought-provoking storytelling, and dynamic visual assemblages to comment upon the uneasy intersections between contemporary feminist perspectives and dominant cultural expectations and institutions.
Bachelorette, 34, my experimental documentary, used found footage, audio interviews, Super 8 home movies, and animation to tell the story of a mother’s obsession with getting her daughter married before time runs out. Through the lens of Kara’s often hilarious interactions with her mom, Bachelorette, 34 examined the pressure society puts on women to find "Mr. Right." The film also probed conflicting generational attitudes toward romance and partnership.
39½ is a sequel to Bachelorette, 34, but this time the story is presented as a scripted comedic narrative feature with actors. As my first narrative feature, 39½ breaks new ground for me as a long-form storyteller, guiding me through a deeper exploration of the themes and stylistic formats I tested in my earlier works.
Both Bachelorette, 34 and 39 ½ feature “Kara,” an artist who lives on the fringes in San Francisco, and her comical Midwestern mother, who continues to try to pull her daughter to the center of normalcy's bell curve.
Thematically, 39½ builds upon the semi-autobiographical aspects of Bachelorette, 34. Through similar autobiographical elements, I continue to investigate how selves our produced and our implicit power to change who we are. By recognizing the handed-down narrative conventions through which we view and accept our own lives, I propose that we might find the agency to rewrite our own life stories.
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About This Team
Writer, Director, Producer and Animator
Kara Herold’s films use wit, provocative storytelling and dynamic visual assemblages to comment on the intersections between real life challenges facing contemporary women and cultural conventions that can limit their life choices. She has written, directed and produced films ranging from short animations to award-winning documentaries. Grrlyshow, about the girl zine explosion in the '90s, premiered at Sundance and is distributed by Women Make Movies. Bachelorette, 34, a humorous take on society’s obsession with marriage viewed through a mother-daughter relationship, premiered at the International Documentary Festival, played at MoMA in New York City and is distributed by
Directors of Photography:
Alex Mendez, who teaches film at Syracyse University, is an award-winning filmmaker with over 15 years of experience as a film director. His works explore human relationships through films set on the frontier between reality and imagination. His films have screened in more than 20 countries and he has garnered several awards, including the Audience Choice Award at the Shanghai International Film Festival. His most recent film, The Book of Judith, received a production grant from the New York State Council of the Arts and has shown in many international film festivals, including the Milan and Durban International Film Festivals.
Media artist Anjali Sundaram uses narrative, stop-motion animation, installation and mock-documentary to explore culture and identity in relation to memory, autobiography, imagined futures and pseudoscience. Her multimedia collaborations with the collective "I, Daughter of Kong" have appeared at The Lab and Southern Exposure in San Francisco, Swing Space in New York, Co-Lab in Austin and Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic in Zagreb, Croatia. Her work has screened at microcinemas and film festivals nationally and abroad. An award recipient of the Princess Grace and the Robin Eickman Foundations, she was an artist in residence at A Ship in the Woods in California.
Doug Quin, Co-director of Audio Arts in Television, Radio & Film at Syracuse University, has worked on sound design and mixing for such projects as Werner Herzog's Academy Award-nominated film Encounters At the End of the World (2007) and "Spore," a game from Maxis/Electronic Arts.
Shirley Thompson is a veteran documentary editor, writer and producer based in Honolulu., best known for her work on PBS documentaries, such as producing Breadfruit and Open Spaces and Eating Alaska, and editing Kū Kanaka, Winning Girl, Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i and It’s Elementary. Most recently she co-wrote, produced and edited Finding KUKAN, a feature documentary about a lost 1930s Oscar-winning film and the unsung Chinese-American woman from Hawai'i who produced it. As a Latina born in New Orleans to immigrants, she is committed to creating work that bridges cultures and communities.
Sylvia Roberts is a San Francisco-based motion graphics artist and graphic designer. Her projects include WONDER WOMAN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, which premiered at SXSW and aired on public television's Independent Lens series; The Cult of JT Leroy, which premiered at the DOCNYC Film Festival, was awarded Best Documentary Feature at the SF Indie Fest and was an official selection of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival; and Near Normal,which was named Best Documentary at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival.