I recently had the outrageous opportunity to chat with three chatty, hilarious, open-ended women ( I think they can handle that statement with a chuckle ) in relation to the newest film that has yet to be made but will have us all in stitches the Sapphic satirical Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?
Filmmaker Anna Margarita Albelo joined actresses Guinevere Turner and Tammy Lynn Michaels in this exclusive interview. Can you handle it? Let's find out, shall we?
Windy City Times: We'd love to learn more about what initially drew you to this project, Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf? How did you decide to get involved?
Anna Margarita Albelo: I lived in Paris since 1993, a new bohemian living life to the fullest. I made short films, art films, comedy sketches, documentaries, and became a journalist specialized in lesbian culture. 10 years ago, I began writing, Sweet 15, a Cuban-American feature film about a 14 yr old girl's coming of age in 1984, Miami. It's a semi-autobiographical comedy about identity, mother-daughter issues, and finding your true self. The script and I were selected for several, "Under-represented" filmmaker programs like TriBeca All Access and IFP's Project Involve ( two programs I highly recommend! ) . Unfortunately, despite all their support and exposure, it seems like Cuban-American films with no major stars are difficult to finance and my past three years in America became the classic, "struggling filmmaker" saga. After self-producing my feature documentary, HOOTERS! last year and discovering collective, micro-budget filmmaking, I decided to embark on creating a new film I could get made through collaborating with friends and colleagues in Los Angeles. Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf? was born! The film follows the misadventures of a 40-year-old Cuban American filmmaker as she experiences her Fellini-Woody Allen-esque midlife crisis. It's about identity, mother-daughter issues, and finding your true self in order to find love and still have a successful career!
Guinevere Turner: Anna and I have been friends since I appeared in her documentary A Lez in Wonderland, and we discovered that we both have a deep love for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the play and movie. What actor could possibly say no to the chance to play someone playing Elizabeth Taylor in that film? The role of Penelope Greengrass is written for me, and it's a juicy one. Michael Urban, the screenwriter is also a friend, and I am a big fan of his writing as well. Plus they both listen to my input, as a screenwriter, which makes it all dreamy!
Tammy Lynn Michaels: Well, my friend Jamie Babbit reached out to me and told me about Anna and the script she was working on, suggesting I might be interested in working on the film because not only is it a good script, but the people working on it would be fabulous, too. So I read the script and found it smart and interesting, involving a topic that many of us women have had to deal with during this time period: Do I focus on my career or building a family? After I spoke with Anna, and we clicked, I signed on.
WCT: Tell us a little bit about the character you play in this film. Do you find that there are any similarities to your own life?
AMA: The film is semi-autobiographical so there are definitely tons of similarities! One of the important parts of working with my excellent screenwriter, Michael Urban who wrote, Saved! was for me to be honest about what I was living at 40. That was difficult at first and then it became incredibly freeing. I play Anna - a post-modern lesbian filmmaker living in her friend's tool shed trying to get her film career going. She hasn't had a girlfriend in ten years because of her dedication to her work but quickly we realize there's more to that than meets the eye. Anna has issues with intimacy, self-love, and trust. Through the trials and tribulations of making her film, she realizes her main obstacle in succeeding with both love and career is herself. That's a tough thing to realize and even tougher to understand and correct. Through the script-writing process, I've had many breakthroughs about my life. I love filmmaking for that; it's one of the best tools I've found to understand who I am and what I'm made of. I gave my protagonist, Anna, my name and identity because at the end of this adventure, she will give them back to me illuminated!
GT: Penelope is a fun, single lesbian who likes to socialize in the lesbian world. ( That's also true of me ) . Penelope is a struggling actress who has had modest success, but is very ambitious and wants more. ( She's not a screenwriter like I am, though Anna wanted her to be. I fought to have some things about her be different from me so that people can see that I am playing a part, not just playing myself. It's more interesting for me that way ) . She is Anna's best friend, and she's not afraid to tell her the truth, even if it's not always good.
TLM: I play Chloe, a friend to the group of girls in the film. I own an art gallery, which is exactly like my life I have paintings and drawings and Crayola colorings scotch-taped to my walls all over my house. So, essentially, I do live in an art gallery. As far as Chloe's other traits…Yes I'm pretty honest I have to say, especially to my friends just like I hope they are to me. I have a feeling that Chloe might party harder than I do, so since I'm a method actor, I've had to really go out and party down to prep for my character…and Chloe's not the sharpest tack in the box…and I know that sometimes facts and information and truths about people really are, it can fly over my head, too. And I come off a little bit dim. It's sad.
WCT: The concept of Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf? seems extremely relatable in today's society with more women working outside of the home and trying to make their love life and work life coexist. Has this been something you've had to work with throughout your life and career or does one seem to take precedence over the other?
AMA: In my case, I focused on my career because I understood what needed to be done to make it happen. Love, however, how the hell does that work!? I had three relationships back to back in my late 20's. Because each of them went very wrong, I decided I didn't know what I was doing and just stopped trying. I now realize the danger in that is the longer you close yourself off to others, the harder it is to open up again. Then one day- boom! 10 years have gone by and you feel empty despite the fact you're living an incredible life as a filmmaker and artist. The big difference now, thanks to writing Vagina Wolf, is that to find solutions for the script, I had to find solutions in my real life! The big revelation was truly understanding unconditional love. Knowing how to believe in it, give it, and accept it!
GT: My career is always first! I will always go where it takes meanyone who I have been involved with has known this about me. It's never been a hard thing to balance for me. But I am single a lot too, so there's that.
TLM: Yes. I was a full-time working actor at one point, then I met someone who really wanted me to focus on the homestead, and at the time I said "absolutely." I chose home life over career. Big mistake. I ended up giving up my career for someone else's home life. That is a mistake. Dumb, and far too proving of my gullible, naïve side. At this point in my life my children do take precedence over my career it is my mother's instinct to care for them over memorizing lines. I have no maternal instinct to hit my mark and please the audience anymore. I am built of maternal instincts for my children. So I am ready to work, I am excited…and I still feel guilt not working, and I feel guilt working. Are there any answers to this predicament in these post-war, women-on-the-work-front times?
WCT: How do you find balance with your home life and career? Do you have any words of wisdom from you to other modern mothers, sisters, friends, lovers, etc.?
AMA: Hopefully, I'll find love this year and can advise you about it next year!
GT: I don't even have a goldfish, much less a pet, a child or a girlfriend. All by design I don't have anything to balance, and therefore my responsibility is only to me, which keeps it mighty simple.
TLM: I'm not sure how to balance. When I'm at work, I want to be at home and caring for my kids…When I am at home, I sometimes think about work. I am not sure where the balance is maybe you know you are in balance when your emotions aren't falling over. My balance is being mostly with my kids and some work. I don't fall off my life bicycle when I plan my life like that. Everyone has their own.
WCT: When feeling let down by your partner, is there anything you do to lift your own spirits? Anything quirky, fun, "just for you"- focused?
AMA: Yes, I make films and run away from my problems! But I also enjoy wine, great cuisine, and watching movies- all of the above in bed.
GT: Break up with them…in a quirky fun way of course.
TLM: I tend to isolate. I like my own company above all else, just being honest. I'll climb inside my mind, try to get myself out of the darkness or sadness, and then I'll go paint. I'll paint pottery, canvas, color if I'm desperate. Something through my hands, though. Heh.
WCT: More and more films are going the independent route via IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. Why do you feel this is the case and, is this the way of the future for film production and distribution?
AMA: Thank god for crowd funding even if it's a double-edge sword. In one hand, it's an amazing feeling to reach out to the world and have so many people reach back to you and support your work. That's extremely affirming, especially when you are telling personal stories that don't necessarily interest the film industry per say. It's a way for people who don't see themselves represented in the main stream to stand-up and be counted. In a big way, that's why "likes" on Facebook and friend counts have become so important. The unfortunate side is that more independent voices need to break through to the mainstream. If we stay in the margin by making films with little money, it's hard to survive as a filmmaker and even harder to reach outside of your communities. It's important for me to make authentic films that could possibly resonate with people outside of the lesbian, Cuban, female spheres. That's how I believe change can happen in a global way. Thanks, Bell Hooks for this philosophy!
GT: The economic downturn and the writers' strike here a few years ago really changed everything, making money scarce and risk taking rare. Did you fall asleep yet while reading this? I'm boring even myself…
TLM: I feel that big companies and big distributors are forgetting about the art the subject and if it's a good movie or if it's a movie that is shitty and special effects just threw in 800 bombs and 2000 blow-ups in there just to make us think it's entertainment. Oy. I get exhausted at just the previews. Transformers? Yeesh, I need a Xanax just sitting through a commercial for it. Thank God we're going independent or our art would just get chopped and sliced into a cutting room floor and the studio would hire a stud without a shirt and a Victoria's Secret model to replace us all. Then we'd have no film that we all set out to make in the first place. Sad face.
WCT: What are some of the items and "goodies" fans and viewers will receive for donating to the production of Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?
AMA: Donors to the film can give anything from $1 and up. We offer signed film memorabilia, screening passes, Collector's T-shirts, the original script, an autographed DVD of the film. Because we have a generous, gorgeous, and supportive cast we offer lots of atypical fun stuff like: my home-made Cuban BBQ dinner with the cast and crew in LA, a video from the cast thanking you personally from the set or becoming a PRODUCER of the film for $2500 and up. Six special donors who donate $1000 can have a tête-à-tête in LA with Guinevere Turner, Whitney Mixter or Tammy Lynn Michaels! ( Limited prize!! ) Whatever their choice, everyone who donates to the film or spreads the word by posting our links to their websites receives the eternal gratitude of a group of people who are extremely passionate about this film!
TLM: You could hang out with me for an hour if you donate lots of money. And if you're nice, the hour could stretch into more time. If you're weird, I'm outta there at 60 minutes. Heh. There's also buttons, pens, boat rides, helicopter rides, 40 free bright pink dildos, 40 free strap-ons to give away to some lucky winners dates not included there and two cars that Oprah donated to us to give to two audience members!
I'm totally lying. I'm not sure what there is to give away, but my boss Anna knows. Ask her…and then come see my vagina once it's in theatres!
Now that you know more about this film, how can you get involved?
1- Indiegogo ( Ends July 23rd ) - http://www.indiegogo.com/WhosAfraidofVaginaWolf
2- On-going Fundraising Page - http://www.vaginawolf.com/howl/help-us-make-a-movie
3- Facebook Fan Page- https://www.facebook.com/WhosAfraid
4- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/vaginawolf