CM: I guess it’s personal. I wanted to quit acting and be a director when I was 22, but my mom was sick (she had Cancer) and begged me not to. I couldn’t deny her needs, so I waited. After she died, I tried again, but experienced a little betrayal from a woman I was working with on a performance art piece. I had really put my heart into this piece, been writing it for years, put in my own money. The entire concept was mine. After the show ended she took the concept, got a grant for it, and made a whole second show out of it (and didn’t tell me). I was really heartbroken. When I found out, I asked her, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” She claimed she had, but she really hadn’t. It was still total artistic thievery and a complete betrayal of a friendship that I had held as deep and meaningful. The pain of that event stopped me from trying to direct for a long, long time. Sixteen years, to be precise.
CM: You made two films in 2013. What compelled you to get into film?
CM: To answer this question properly, I’d have to go back and talk about what happened on a soaps that I was working on because honestly, it hadn’t crossed my mind to direct a film. I was an actor. I wrote songs and poems. I went to art school. I was trying to find both myself and a person I could make a home with… but directing film seemed far out of my reach, so I didn’t even consider it.
When they killed off my character on AMC (Dixie) at the end of 2006 it was a real motivator for me to reconsider my future. And for the record (again) killing Dixie was a move to get the fans shocked and surprised in that “anything can happen to your favorite characters, so stay tuned,” sort of way. And as most people know, there was a huge uproar and they asked me back in 2009 and offered me a two year contract in 2011. Then they asked me to do the internet version of the show in 2013. I was even on the cover of Soap Digest in 2009 with the line “We Screwed Up: What Went Wrong and How AMC is Making it Right” under my face. These are the facts.
But that event really did hit me hard. I felt like I’d lost my family, the place that “had my back no matter what.” So I had to really dig inside myself and find a new path.
I do think a lot of women have been afraid to speak out, but for many, right now we are at a tipping point where the need to be heard is stronger than the fear of staying silent.
CM: I’ve probably have one of the thickest skins you’ll ever meet. Like, rhino thick. I know I come off as a pretty gentle person, but when things get tough, I’m the person you want around. My favorite saying is “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.” But I’ve got feelings, you know? I have a heart.
CM: But good things have come out of that adversity. You continued to work on soaps, and have had a lot of recognition for your films, even a “Honorable Mention for Best Director.” That must have meant a lot.
CM: It absolutely did. It was a real validation that I had the two things directors need most: determination and vision. And I experienced real respect on those shoots. The crew I worked with were all men and they were terrific. We had a great time working together. Next time, I am going to hire more women behind the camera, because now I know how many fantastic women there are who deserve the opportunity.
CM: You are making a documentary about women filmmakers. Why a doc and not another short, or even a full length narrative feature?
CM: I think the reason behind me talking to women filmmakers (as well as women in TV and theater) has a great deal to do with my looking for strong, creative, female leaders that I can look up to and learn from. My Mom died when I was 25, and my Dad was an alcoholic and almost never around… and he died when I was 35… so I’ve really had to search to find people who were beyond me in their life experience and understanding, you know, role models. School only takes you so far. It’s experience you need to listen to. I really needed to hear from people who were DOING the work I looked up to. And I’m so glad I did. It’s been an amazing journey so far.
CM: What is the purpose of the film?
CM: Ultimately, the goal is to shine light on these artists ability and what makes them persist in creating meaningful stories, against dismal odds. I’m not looking to deny how bad it’s been, but I feel there’s a lot of press out there about the limitations and obstacles. And yes, things have got to change in so many ways… But I feel like the kind of stories these particular women are telling are real game changers.
For example, Leah Meyerhoff digs deep into the interior life of a teenage girl with her coming-of-age film “I Believe in Unicorns.” I mean, when have you seen a film about a teenage girls INTERIOR life?? C’mon. That’s pretty rare. Deborah Kampmeier explores the importance of becoming whole again after losing your innocence (not pure, but WHOLE, a really important distinction) with “Houndog,” and is digging even deeper into feminine power and spirit with “SPLit.” Meera Meron explores the raw bonding within female friendships on a whole new level with “Farah Goes Bang,” and just directed the first film about women on Wall Street in 27 years, “Equity.”
CM: Why are these stories so important?
CM: I think there is this passive bias that women tell “soft stories,” and that is an erroneous cliche that is partly to blame for women being kept out of the larger marketplace. These artists are digging into aspects of the female gender that, when I see and hear them revealed, make me want to cry out of sheer gratitude. Up until now, despite having worked on soaps, I haven’t seen these points of view. I haven’t seen enough of MY reality as a woman reflected back in the stories we are telling ourselves as a culture. But that’s changing now. It’s a huge and thrilling shift.
CM: Why is this so important… to see a woman’s reality reflected back via stories on stage and screen?
CM: To be a good storyteller is to know life, and to know what the culture needs to confront. A great film forces us as an audience to look at certain aspects of human nature, even when we’d rather look away. We as a culture value those storytellers because they know we need to look, they know we need to confront ourselves and they make us do it.
Women are 51% of the population. To not have their point of view, to not honor their insights is to have a culture that is out of balance. A culture that will turn in on itself, sicken and die. We can’t just look at one side of the coin. We must have women’s stories in order to have a healthy society.
The world needs more people who are willing to step forward and talk about what is going on, so we can all grow and learn together
CM: But you seem to also be saying that women tell stories that are just as raw as the stories that men tell.
CM: Yes, but it’s in a different way. I think it comes down to understanding this issue of “what is female.” It shouldn’t be confused with “what is feminine,” because “femininity” is a word with a lot of cultural layers on it. “Femininity” can suggest a passivity, and I don’t know many passive women, do you? They all seem pretty active in their lives, even if it’s by being subversive. And to address the women out there that are passive or that struggle with passivity: passivity is a behavior that is informed by fear. You’re passive when you’re afraid. I have a lot of compassion for that as I’ve known a fair share of fear in my life. I do think a lot of women have been afraid to speak out, but for many, right now we are at a tipping point where the need to be heard is stronger than the fear of staying silent.
CM: What’s so inspiring about these stories for you?
CM:The female aspect within is much deeper than gender. It’s a spiritual aspect that both sexes have. Men need to know that it’s okay to have a complex side of themselves that isn’t all action. Women need to know that they aren’t just relegated to being a sounding board. Kids need to know that they don’t have to follow entrenched gender roles, but find their own truths. Looking at the deeper female nature is a way to allow this wisdom back into the culture.
CM: So you think that women storytellers and women’s stories will help heal the world?
CM: Well, isn’t that what the best storytelling does? Make us able to consider where change is needed so we can continue to thrive as people? Even some of the most violent films, the ones that are really meaningful, like “The Departed” or “The Hurt Locker” can help make us look at our issues.
CM: Why look so deep into the issues of why stories are important? Why not just enjoy life and relax a little?
CM: I’m not sure I can answer that question. I’ve been on my own quest to continue to pursue what I feel is important. Which is to tell stories that illuminate the human experience in general, and women’s experiences in particular. And by listening to the women who have taken the road less travelled, I’m getting some incredible insights and wisdom that I am excited to share with the world.
And that’s this film at its core is about. I want to empower women and those who identity as “female” to feel less alone in their journey by showing them all the amazing artists who are fighting to tell underrepresented stories, their stories. I also hope to inspire others who want to tell these stories to take the risks toward making their dream happen. The world needs more people who are willing to step forward and talk about what is going on, so we can all grow and learn together. It feels like an amazing time of change and possibility, and I hope this film will help propel that change forward.
CM: You sound like a politician or a self-help guru! C’mon, isn’t that what you are, deep down?
CM: No, absolutely not. I’m an artist. Artist’s talk about life in their art and that’s all I’m trying to do. If what I make inspires others to think about life a little differently, or makes them laugh, or makes them want to get up and tell their own story then I’ve done my job.