Marina Rice Bader is not a woman who shys away from a seemingly impossible challenge. Her story is a unique one. After years as a successful photographer, and in her early 50s, Marina decided to pursue her dream of filmmaking. In 2009 she formed Soul Kiss Films. She soon produced two popular lesbian films, Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending. Despite the success of her first two endeavors, she sought more creative input. In the next two films she produced, she took on the mantle of director as well. She even penned the script for Anatomy of a Love Seen. Now only seven years after founding her production company Marina is premiering her fifth film, Ava’s Impossible Things, at Outfest LA.
Ava’s Impossible Things tells a story about Ava (Chloe Farnworth) who put her life on hold to care for her ailing mother, Faye (Susan Duerden). When reality becomes to difficult too bear, Ava slips into a dream world filled with old friends and forgotten desires.
Marina again wrote, directed and produced the film. She faced plenty of hurdles along the way. She raised funds and figured out how to produce the film with a limited production budget. The film shoot was originally scheduled for 15 days. At the last minute it needed to be reduced to nine days, an obstacle that would test the abilities of even the most seasoned director. Marina rose to the challenge. Her work caught the attention of Vimeo and she became the first recipient of the Vimeo Share the Screen Female Filmmaker Fund. So despite near impossible odds, Marina has brought Ava’s Impossible Things to life.
|Delina:||Your latest film, Ava’s Impossible Things, is premiering at this year’s Outfest LA in July. Can you talk a little bit about the premise of the film?|
|Marina:||It’s actually a very personal journey. It’s a very difficult journey, but it’s told in a way that people can actually watch. It’s really about a young woman who puts her life on hold to care for her mother, then the horrific events that happen on one particular day in Ava’s life. She can’t face her reality and spirals deeply into her imagination, where she discovers old friends and long-forgotten dreams, suppressed desires, and comes out the other side looking at her very traumatic situation with completely different eyes.|
|Delina:||Is part of the film a dreamscape?|
|Marina:||Yes, it is. I don’t remember a lot of my own dreams, but I do find that when I get to a very specific state I can be in almost like a waking dream. I just try to free my mind from all the realities surrounding me and try to just let it go. I almost fancy that that’s what her dream is. Ava’s dream very much walks on the edge of her reality and her imagination. It’s not completely one or the other. Her real-life family and her real-life true love are represented in the dream world as well.|
|Delina:||Did you find having that kind of dreamscape, or altered reality if you will, gave you a lot more creative freedom in the film? More than something that was completely set in the real world?|
|Marina:||I think so. Honestly, I didn’t think about it until you just said it, but it’s similar to Anatomy of a Love Seen. That film happened completely on an actual film set, which was great because in a traditional movie, guess what, you don’t get to have scene spans, and equipment, and crew, or any of that in your background. I was able to do that in Anatomy of a Love Seen, because it was part of the story. Since I was trying to make Anatomy in five days, I had to think of every single conceivable way to move quickly. Which is why I created the film the way I did.
In Ava’s Impossible Things, since she is in the dream world. I suppose if something random happened, for example if one of the shots had a stage light completely visible, we could get away with it. There’s so much going on in this dream world that I don’t think anybody is going to catch it. You know what I mean? If there’s a continuity discrepancy, it’s a little less noticeable.
Ava’s Impossible Things was originally going to be a 15 day shoot. But all of these crazy things happened with this film, more than on the other four films combined. We had to go from a fifteen day shoot to a nine day shoot. I found all this out less than a week before we had to start shooting
|Delina:||That must be stressful.|
|Marina:||It was a pretty intense time, trying to take this story and really get it down to something I could manage in nine days. A lot of the story elements that were originally going to be there I just didn’t have time to film. For example, the five stages of grief were going to be presented in a much different manner, but that was one of the things that just had to drop by the wayside when I lost all those shooting days.|
|Delina:||You actually wrote, directed, and produced this film. Can you share a little bit about the inspiration for this story? Was this a personal story for you?|
|Marina:||Here’s the interesting thing about this story. It kind of started with Chloe, who is the actress who plays Ava. She auditioned for Anatomy of a Love Seen, and even though she wasn’t the right person for that film, I really remembered her. She was so classy and gracious, and she kept in touch. She always liked my posts about the film. She came to the premiere even though she didn’t get cast in the movie. A real class act.
So I had Chloe in mind when I wrote it. I thought, “Okay. What journey could I see Chloe as Ava, going on?” It sort of grew from there. She has that magical quality about her, which is why I wanted to send her on a little bit of a different journey. Then that transitioned to an altered reality. I didn’t really want to do a parallel universe. I didn’t really have the budget for that. But everybody dreams.
When it came to the story, I knew I wanted it to involve intense family dynamics, because that is a universal theme. I knew I wanted to present what felt like an impossible situation and just my idea of one way to get through it and come out on the other side. To choose happiness and choose life, and to go on, move forward. It’s personal in that a lot of it has to do with my relationship with my mother, who passed fifteen years ago. But it has more to do with my relationship with my children. I’m a mother; I have four kids. I modeled all the choices made by the mother, Faye, on myself. They were all mirrored on how I would personally respond, if I were in the situation that I created for her.
|Delina:||Your film has the honor of being the first movie to receive funding from Vimeo’s Share the Screen, Female Filmmaker Fund. Can you talk about the purpose of the fund and then how they selected your film?|
|Marina:||It is an amazing initiative that was announced at Sundance this year. Vimeo hopes that they can help close the gender gap that’s so pervasive in the entertainment industry. They want to foster equality by investing in female-led programming. They do other things, too. There’s workshops and meetups, and interviews, and that kind of thing. They really want to spotlight and support the female voices in the Vimeo community. I think one of the reasons I came to mind for them, was that Anatomy of a Love Seen was released on Vimeo initially. I released exclusively there. This is before I was approached by Gravitas, who eventually took it out to Amazon, iTunes, and other places.
I worked closely with Vimeo to release Anatomy of a Love Seen, and they actually contacted me shortly after my film went live and said, “You know what? We are seeing more action on your film than some films we’ve had for a year. We just want to say whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” It’s because I work really hard. I work to stay in close touch with my audience, to let them know what I’m doing, to speak with them directly. They saw how vibrant my page was, and obviously not only am I a female filmmaker, but I’m telling women’s stories. I guess that was a double slam dunk for them. At the same time, they saw how hard I was working to get the finishing funds for Ava. Some of the folks that I worked with at Vimeo, for the Anatomy release, follow me on Facebook. I was running all these funding campaigns, because that’s one of the major things that happens with a film.
I was telling you, one of the things that happened during production was the schedule was cut down to nine days. Then the Santa Ana winds blew in earlier than expected and blew down the entire set. We had to shut down production after seven days of filming. Then two months later, I recreated that set on a sound stage. That’s where all my post-production money went. I had to start a whole new fundraising campaign for post-production.
Peter Gerard, over at Vimeo, saw all my Facebook posts and said, “You know, maybe Vimeo can help you out. Let’s set up a meeting for you.” I met with the West Coast acquisitions guy, Derek, and we had a nice long conversation. That’s how I ended up being the honored and humble recipient. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
|Delina:||I think it speaks to all the effort that you put in.|
|Marina:||I would not have a film releasing right now if it wasn’t for Vimeo. That’s the God’s truth. That is why they have a 90 day exclusive for Ava’s Impossible Things.|
|Delina:||Well, it’s great that you were able to finish the film after all those challenges.|
|Marina:||Oh my gosh, I’m telling you.|
|Delina:||After it screens at Outfest, when are you going to make it available to the general public on Vimeo?|
|Marina:||It will be available on July 17, everywhere in the world, with multiple language subtitles. I want to make this as widely available to as many people as I possibly can.|
|Delina:||Excellent. I find your personal story intriguing. I heard that you started creating films in your early 50s. Can you talk a little bit about what you were doing before you got into movies?|
|Marina:||I’d been a photographer for twenty years in the Los Angeles area. I was good at it. I always liked it, but I never loved it. I never had that deep, driving passion. I was getting into my early 50s and I thought, “Damn. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What am I going to do? I don’t want to do this.”
Like so many people out there I love movies. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with them. They have affected every aspect of my life. One day I said, “What would I have the most fun doing? It doesn’t matter how hard it would be. What do I want to do?” That was it. That was my answer. I said, “Well, you know, what am I going to do? I’m going to follow my passion, follow my dreams. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, at least I can say that I tried my very best.” That’s what happened. I started a production company and went from there. Ava is now the fifth feature narrative for women from Soul Kiss Films.
|Delina:||That’s awesome. Entertainment is not the easiest industry to break into. Can you talk a little bit about how you made that transition?|
|Marina:||At the time, I was in a relationship with a writer and director who had done a film a very long time ago. When I came to this decision, I said, “Let’s make a movie.” She wasn’t so excited about it, but after a bit of time, I talked her into it. That is how we made Elena Undone. Then shortly thereafter, I pitched an idea for A Perfect Ending, and then we made that. Then she and I separated, but I kept pursuing my dream on my own.|
|Delina:||The first two films you produced, Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending, were very popular. You then transitioned into also writing and directing, in addition to producing. That’s a lot of responsibility. Did you find juggling the director role, the producer role, and the writer role simultaneously to be challenging?|
|Marina:||Interestingly enough, it seems like the answer should be yes, but I really didn’t. It made sense to me, because it’s all one person’s cohesive vision. Obviously, you have a team helping you, and you can’t create your vision without a wonderful cinematographer and a wonderful production designer, etc. All the team members are so critically important. The composer, everybody. When the captain of the ship on all levels is the same person, somehow it seems to work. I know it sounds like a lot of responsibility, and it is an incredible responsibility. The trade-off for making sure that your vision is being represented is that all the responsibility falls on you, so you just have to be prepared for that. Quite honestly, I’m down with it. I spent the majority of my life not following my passion. So I’m working my ass off now and totally thrilled about it.|
|Delina:||As a successful female director, do you have any advice for women who want to get behind the camera?|
|Marina:||Oh my gosh. I have so much advice. That’s a whole article in and of itself. I’m a very late bloomer. I hope and pray and encourage you to get started following your passion much earlier than I did; but I’m also the poster child for late bloomers.
The good news is that right now, as opposed to twenty years ago, if you’re passionate about making films and telling stories, you can do it. Because you can create a wonderful Academy Award nominated film with your iPhone. That was done. You can buy an inexpensive $200 editing software and edit your film. You can get this done with a lovely little team, without spending a lot of money. But only if you’re passionate about it, because it’s a really tough gig. It is a seriously tough gig. It’s so difficult to get women’s films financed. Really. Make sure it’s what you want to do.
Make your first film. Don’t think about it, don’t talk about it for a year, just literally sit down, take your first step, and then take your second step. If you don’t know what to do, contact somebody, shoot me an e-mail. Your first baby step is you create a beautiful short. It can be two minutes, three minutes, whatever. You’ll learn so much. You’ll find out if this is what you want to do, if this is the kind of world you can live in, the kind of life that you can lead. Then you will know.
Just do it. Don’t spend time reading a hundred books. Don’t spend time trying to worry about all the rules and regulations that have been put in place for so long for filmmakers. Everybody’s got their own voice. I think following rules is a bunch of bullshit. Just do it. Just literally get up, decide you’re going to do it, and do it.
|Delina:||Sounds like good advice. With all the technology we have, it is definitely easier to make a film now than it was twenty years ago.|
|Marina:||Oh my gosh, yes. All these wonderful streaming services, like Vimeo. They’re the great equalizer. As a filmmaker, you now have a platform to show your film on. I know there are a number of them out there, but what I loved about Vimeo even before I was honored with this investment opportunity, is that they are so community based and filmmaker friendly. They make it so easy to get in there and create your content and sell it. It couldn’t be easier.|
|Delina:||I have one other question for you. I read that you’re busy working on your next film. Can you tell us what that’s going to be about?|
|Marina:||I can. It’s something very different for me. It’s a female-driven ensemble action film, which I’m super excited about. I’m creating a real American hero, and she is a she.|
|Delina:||Fun. We need more of those.|
|Marina:||I’m super excited about it. The name of the film is American Ryder. Our lead character’s name is America Ryder. She is forced into action by a terrorist threat. The traumatized war hero attempts to rescue members of her own unit while protecting her family and country against a new and deadly enemy.”|
|Delina:||That sounds like it’s going to be exciting.|
|Marina:||It’s going to be a furious action film. She is a very real, flawed American hero. Not a superhero, but a hero who came back from two tours with PTSD and all kinds of other real life drama. It took her years of therapy, etc., to get back into the world. She met the woman of her dreams. They had a beautiful baby. She’s living this brand new American dream that she was finally was able to create for herself. Now she’s getting pulled back into a world that she thought she was finally out of. It’s a very intense story.|
|Delina:||It sounds like it.|
|Marina:||At the same time, it will be very entertaining. I have to do this, not only do I want to do it, because I love a really good action film, but I have to because of the challenge of raising money for women’s films. This is still going to be a woman’s film. But guess what, everybody can understand patriotism, everyone can understand what a war vet is, everyone understands what an action film is. I have to create something that has more of a reach. So I will have the opportunity to actually get funded and not have to be running a crowdfunding campaign. I’m definitely too old for that.
I can’t do it anymore. It has exhausted me, to raise funds for all five of these films. I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it now. It’s difficult to get funding for women, and in particular, a small group of women, so I have to do it. I have to move forward. I have to expand my reach. I’m hoping that this new thought process works, because I do not want to have to decide on something else I’m going to do with my life. I want to make movies for the next twenty years. Movies for women and about women.
|Delina:||Well, you’ve done a great job so far. I’m sure you’ll continue to. I really appreciate your time. Best of luck with the premiere at Outfest.|
|Marina:||Thanks so much.|