The first feature ever made about the unique world of soap opera fan events, from writer/director Blake Berris (an ex-soap star). FANGIRL follows a superfan, Mercy, over the course of 24 hours as she navigates this strange world, determined to connect with her favorite soap star.
Inclusion StatementFANGIRL focuses on a strong female protagonist. In addition to representing people of color and the LGBTQi community, at least 50% of our cast and crew will be women. And of course — at soap conventions — men are the ones who are objectified.
About The Project
Mercy is stuck in a rut. Trapped in a declining marriage and struggling financially, she finally vows to escape her ordinary small-town life by attending a soap opera event in Los Angeles.
While there, she hopes to meet the object of her intense affection: Blake Berris from Days of Our Lives (the film’s writer/director, playing a funhouse mirror version of himself). Not only has Mercy memorized all of Blake’s scenes, she also runs a fan site and regularly blogs about him.
At the event, she meets all kinds of wonderful people including fellow soap opera fanatics, Priscilla and Barbara, both regulars on the convention circuit. She is quickly shocked — and thrilled — to learn that fans can finagle their way into the soap stars’ hotel rooms for private, one-on-one encounters. Mercy knows that she has to do whatever she can to seize this opportunity for some alone time with Blake.
As smart as she is, Mercy can’t help but believe that the two of them are soulmates. Blake might even be her ticket out of a miserable life. To be shot in a verité-style at an ACTUAL soap opera fan event, the action unfolds against the backdrop of real fans meeting each other and their favorite soap stars. Using his unique access to and intimate understanding of this special community, writer/director Blake Berris unveils a world comprised of vibrant characters while shedding light on the loneliness and humanity on both sides of the universal fan-star relationship.
Fantasy is harmless unless it isn’t. I see Fangirl as a very simple story between Mercy (our fan) and Blake (her favorite actor) — both of them at crisis points. Mercy’s marriage is falling apart, so she takes matters into her own hands and decides to attend her first soap fan event — determined it will change her life. As we race toward Blake and Mercy’s final intimate encounter — we witness the excruciating discomfort of a fantasy becoming a reality.
Lost in Translation has always been a touchstone for me with this piece, visually and tonally. Force Majeure is another reference I love. Locked off, minimal compositions that let the framing and character behavior speak for itself. The dark humor in Force Majeure is never forced, it’s always organic to the situation. As the story progresses, Fangirl will become more surreal visually — more frenetic as Mercy and Blake get more fucked up.
I want Mercy to be a challenging protagonist. I want her to push our discomfort level. Her obsession and her drive make her relatable — we can all relate to wanting something deeply — but she is shameless in her pursuit and her naked desire should embarrass us. Mike White’s characters have always inspired me for this reason; Laura Dern in Enlightened to name one. Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann operates similarly.
I want to show people this unique world that I had both the privilege and discomfort to experience. Everyone is a fan of something — everyone worships something. I want to explore how vital fantasy is to our lives and where it becomes dangerous. I want people to be on the edge of their seat the whole movie. I want them to relate to Mercy and hate themselves for it. I want to make them laugh and I want to tell a story that I know better than anyone else.
What is unique about FANGIRL? The feature will be filmed at a legitimate soap opera fan event with actors interspersed among real soap stars and fans. Our goal is to grant viewers exclusive access to a world that has yet to be depicted in a movie. Soap operas have hundreds of thousands of dedicated, diverse supporters across the world. FANGIRL will shine a light on the culture of celebrity worship and fandom. By featuring real fans in the film — their faces, their enthusiasm, their love for the shows and the actors — we are hoping to humanize a long-maligned subculture while telling a universal human story about people’s desire for genuine connection.
Each fan has a unique story. The more we can include them, the more textured and engaging our film will be.
We are serious about making FANGIRL a reality! In order to secure the official greenlight, we need YOUR help. As the adage says, it truly takes a village. Our funds will be divided between locations, permits, camera and lighting equipment rentals, hard drives, art direction, styling, craft services, and the like. Whether you provide financial or moral support, we consider you to be an important member of the FANGIRL team!
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About This Team
BLAKE BERRIS (Writer/Director/”Blake”)
Blake was born in Santa Barbara, CA and is a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, & TV. He was Emmy Nominated for his role as Nick Fallon on NBC’s long running soap opera, Days of Our Lives. He has worked as an actor, writer, and producer in film and TV since his graduation. Most recently, he appeared in the comedy Before You Know It, directed by Hannah Utt, alongside Jen Tullock, Alec Baldwin, and Judith Light. The film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Also, in 2019 were the Lionsgate release Never Grow Old, in which Blake acted opposite Emile Hirsch and John Cusack. Blake recently worked alongside Josh Hartnett and Eiza Gonzalez in She’s Missing, a film directed by his wife Alexandra McGuinness. TV appearances include: Breaking Bad, Pretty Little Liars, The Big Bang Theory, Longmire, Supergirl, Rebel, and many others.
As a writer, Blake has written two films for Lifetime. They include I Killed My BFF — starring Katarina Bowden, Olivia Crocicchia, and Chris Zylka— and the follow up, I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter. Blake also developed and wrote the digital series, Makeout Point, for Turner.
JEN TULLOCK (“Mercy”)
Jen Tullock is an actor and writer best known for co-writing and starring in dramedy "Before You Know It." The film, which premiered in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, stars Tullock alongside Alec Baldwin, Judith Light, Mandy Patinkin, and co-writer Hannah Pearl Utt. Her short with Utt, "Partners," premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and their feature was a participant in the 2017 Sundance Screenwriter Labs. Their digital comedy "Disengaged" was the premiere series for Turner's streaming platform Super Deluxe.
TV/Film credits include Casual, Cameron Crowe’s Roadies, HBO pilot A Lot, Curb Your Enthusiasm, SMILF, and the Amazon original Budding Prospects. She can currently be seen alongside Abbi Jacobson and Dave Franco in Netflix original drama 6 Balloons and Hulu original Door No. 1.
In 2019 she co-wrote and starred in "The Coop," an eight episode interactive satire from Funny or Die, as well as Nora Kirkpatrick's comedy "Best Seller," produced by Olivia Wilde and Will Farrell's Gloria Sanchez Productions.
THE PRODUCTION TEAM
SARAH WINSHALL (Producer)
Sarah Winshall is an independent producer championing personal films with unique worldviews. She produced Bridey Elliott's 2018 dark comedy CLARA'S GHOST, and the 2018 documentary from director Jenny Murray, ¡LAS SANDINISTAS!. Other work includes Andrew Hevia's 2019 experimental documentary, LEAVE THE BUS THROUGH THE BROKEN WINDOW, Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley's upcoming STRAWBERRY MANSION, and short films "Men Don't Whisper" (dir. Jordan Firstman, 2018), "Whiskey Fist" (dir. Gillian Horvat, 2017), and "Affections" (dir. Bridey Elliott, 2016). She also dabbles as a film critic with pieces published in FILMMAKER Magazine, Screen Slate, and Under the Radar. Sarah received a BA in Cinema Studies from NYU and a Master's degree in Media Studies from The New School.
WILLIAM DAY FRANK (Producer)
Will has produced eight feature films. His projects have premiered in festivals such as SXSW (POD),Tribeca (PSYCHOPATHS), AustinFilm Festival (FLOCK OF FOUR), and Los Angeles Film Festival (YOU GET ME). He also produced the feature TOTEM alongside Blumhouse Films, which debuted on Cinemax this past October. His upcoming film SUNNY stars Sharon Stone.
MARY PAT BENTEL (Producer)
Mary Pat is currently executive producing Season 2 of critically acclaimed THIS CLOSE for Sundance Channel, which is nominated for a Glaad Award (Outstanding Comedy series), and will premiere this September. DARK WAS THE NIGHT (Sony), a family drama starring Marisa Tomei, Timothy Olyphant and Charlie Plummer that she produced was theatrically released last November. She's currently in post production on HOLLY SLEPT OVER, a sex comedy she executive produced starring Ron Livingston, Nathalie Emmanuel and Brit Lower. Prior to these films, Mary Pat produced AUSTIN FOUND (Gravitas), a dramedy starring Linda Cardellini, Craig Robinson and Kristen Schaal. She also produced the live-action ending of animated film SAUSAGE PARTY (Sony) starring Seth Rogen, Ed Norton and Michael Cera, and AMATEUR NIGHT (Cinedigm), a raunchy comedy starring Jason Biggs, Ashley Tisdale and Janet Montgomery in 2016; as well as a pilot titled FAMILY REUNION for ABC in 2015; the thriller THE MIDNIGHT SWIM (Candy Factory) which won the Breakthrough Audience Award at AFI and the dark drama ANIMALS (Oscilloscope) which won the Special Jury Prize for Courage at SXSW in 2014; and GOODBYE WORLD (Goldwyn Films/Phase 4), an apocalyptic comedy starring Adrian Grenier, Ben McKenzie, and Gaby Hoffman in 2013, and the indie darling drama THE LIE (Screen Media) in 2011. Next up for Mary Pat is BORN ROMANTIC, a romantic comedy that CAA is packaging.
NICOLE SMOLEN (Producer)
Nicole’s passion for storytelling manifests itself in a variety of ways. She values projects that pose important questions and challenge viewers to look beneath the surface. From short films and commercials to music videos and long-form projects, Nicole is experienced in every genre. She has produced several award-winning music videos and short films, one of which recently screened at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival ("Long Time Listener, First Time Caller"). Most recently, she produced "Query," a dark comedy starring Justice Smith, Graham Patrick Martin, and Armie Hammer. Alongside Lara Aslanian, she owns a production company called Wanderlux Productions, Inc. Above all, Nicole values genuine human connection. When she is not creating, Nicole volunteers with local and global anti-trafficking organizations.
LARA ASLANIAN (Producer)
Lara Aslanian is an award-winning filmmaker with over 6 years of professional experience. She has worked on narrative short films, music videos, promotional videos, and commercials. Some of her clientele includes Nike, Halo Top, Tough Built, The Hotel Figueroa in DTLA, Corinne Foxx’s company FoxxTales, and Scott Lipps’ LIPPS LA, to name a few. Her passion for bringing female-led stories to light has inspired her to direct and produce various award-winning projects. She recently co-founded Wanderlux Productions, Inc., alongside Nicole Smolen.
BEN MCINTIRE (Cinematographer)
Ben is an American director of photography living in Stockholm, Sweden. Within the documentary sphere, he has worked with such clients as Vice Media and History Channel, as well as completing several feature and short documentaries. He garnered two back-to-back New York Daytime Emmy's for his docu-series work. Most recently, his short film collaboration with director Alexandra McGuinness saw a premiere at the Marfa Film Festival. He has directed and shot commercials for Intel, Rockport Shoes, Google, Malibu Rum, among many others — a30-minute Vice/Smirnoff sponsored-doc, which he lensed, earned a 2016 Webby for Best Branded Content. Extensive travel has always been a big part of his work; having filmed in 24 countries, on 6 continents.