Since graduating from Beloit with a dual degree in theater, dance, and media studies and health & society, Simone Stadler'13 has aggressively pursued her dreams. Her first few years have taken her to New York City, where she works as an actress. Now, with her creative partner Grace Hannoy, Stadler is working to break down gender inequality in the film industry. Simone and Grace are currently developing When We Grow Up, a dramedy about a group of siblings returning to their home. The pair hopes to create their film with an entirely female creative team and production crew.As they work to raise money for their film,Simone and Grace were kind enough to answer a few questions about their work.
Q: What is When We Grow Up about? Where did the concept originate?
A: The Story: The death of the beloved family dog brings the Barnes siblings back to their parents' suburban home for the weekend to console their distraught mother. Louise, the youngest sibling, is struggling with the decision to step out of the clear path that has been drawn for her in order to find out what she really wants to do with her life, despite the fear that her mother will disapprove. Maris, the middle child, has made the secret decision to embark on single parenthood using a sperm donor, and now must find the right way and time to tell her family. Elijah, the eldest child, and his wife Irena are deep in the process of filing for the adoption of their first child, which is complicated by the fact that Elijah, as the only black member of his family, has some concerns about how best to start an adoptive family of his own. Their parents, Brian and Holly, are having trouble keeping their marriage together, which is made more difficult by Holly's inability to cope with the loss of her dog.
Grace — The impetus to write the script came out of me feeling, as an actor, that the roles available to me were not necessarily the roles I wanted. I grew frustrated by the very real idea in this industry that I had to ask for permission to do my work. I also realized just how lacking the film industry is in female voices on every level. So, I gave myself permission to write a story that I wanted to see, be a part of, and create the opportunity to include other women in the process of making the film.The story itself comes from me being drawn to family dynamics, coming-of-age narratives, and character-driven films. I really want to explore the idea that human beings are constantly growing up, and to figure out what that means at different stages of life. I find it especially interesting to see how each person's function within a family unit alters the way we grow, for better or worse.
Q: How has the production for the film come together? How has your team raised the funds necessary for a full-length feature?
A: Simone — As actresses in NYC, Grace and I had frequently commiserated over the lack of satisfying roles for women, particularly in film, so when Grace decided to take matters into her own hands and write and produce her own film, I jumped at the chance to join forces with her on a project where we not only had creative license, but could also collaborate with other talented women. We have also been working with a producing consultant, Molly Pearson, who Grace started working with at the start of writing the screenplay and who continues to offer us invaluable guidance in the process of producing a feature film.
We have spent the last eight months primarily focused on fundraising. We have currently raised over $30,000 of our $35,000 budget through crowdfunding and individual donations. We plan to raise the final amount through a silent auction in June. While $35,000 is a large sum for two individuals to raise, in the world of filmmaking, it qualifies as an ultra ultra low budget and will require a lot of thrift and efficiency from us and our team during production.
Now that the fundraising is almost wrapped up, we have reached the exciting point of assembling our all-female production team. We are currently interviewing prospective directors and we plan to assemble the rest of the crew and the cast this summer, with the goal of shooting the entire film over a two week period in August.
Q: What sort of challenges have you faced when trying to produce a film with an entirely female crew?
A: Simone — Honestly, finding talented, hardworking female-identifying filmmakers has been the least of our challenges. We're delighted by the number of strong candidates we currently have for the director position, and since we first started talking about the project, we have been receiving a steady stream of recommendations from friends and colleagues for female cinematographers, assistant directors, editors, etc. It is a strong reminder that the reason for the extreme gender discrepancy in Hollywood is not because there are no skilled female filmmakers out there; there are many and we are so excited to work with them.
Q: With films such as 'Get Out' and 'Moonlight' dominating the conversation around cinema right now, do you see a shift occurring in the film industry? In what areas do you think film is still especially lacking?
A: Grace — I definitely see a shift taking place in the industry, but I think it's important to recognize that even getting to the point where people are starting to notice has been a long time coming and a great deal of work. This movement towards diversity and equality in the film industry has been happening at the independent level for quite some time now, as people like us see something they dislike and take it upon themselves to create change. It is so exciting to see Hollywood taking note that people are getting tired of seeing the white male story ad nauseum without really seeing or hearing many stories from women and people of color.
Unfortunately, money talks in the film industry at the studio level (or rather screams and dominates conversation). We need to do our part as audience members to show the executives how we feel by carefully choosing where we spend our money. I want to see more films made by and about women and people of color, so I am not only going to spend my money seeing the films that are fulfilling my desire, but I am also going to commit myself to being a part of creating and supporting those films as a filmmaker.
Any other comments/statements/etc?
Simone: Beloit fueled my passions in both the arts (primarily theater) and social justice, especially in terms of systems of institutionalized privilege and oppression. I remember agonizing as graduation approached over which area I wanted to pursue professionally and desperately wishing I could split myself into two separate "post-grad Simones" to follow these two seemingly separate fields. It is so exciting, four years later, to have found a project that very tangibly combines my work as an artist and an activist. #LiberalArtsInPractice!
I don't pretend that this one film is going to fix the lack of gender parity and diversity in the film industry, but Grace and I are honored to be joining the movement of women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups that are working to make their voices heard in the film industry.
If you want to learn more about When We Grow Up, you can visit the film's website to keep up with production progress.