Your short film from last year’s Sundance is now being turned into a show. Can you catch me up on what’s happened in the past year?
I had a short here last year called “SMILF” and it was a scene from a pilot I had written starring Thomas Middleditch and me. Shortly after we came to Sundance, we sold it to Showtime. They have the pilot draft now and I have a meeting with the president of Showtime on Friday, so we’ll find out very soon.
How does this year with the short “Too Legit” you wrote starring Zoë Kravitz feel different from last year?
“SMILF” was never meant to be a short. It was always meant to be an example of a TV show. It was just a presentation, you know? It sort of took on this life of its own. We submitted it, it got in and then it won the Jury Award, which was such a surprise. The one this year was written to be a short… hopefully it’ll have a life online. It’s totally different. I paid for last year’s budget; this one is like 20 times the budget. We have this extensive cast and it’s a lot longer.
Do you feel more pressure this year?
That’s what’s so great about the short program. It’s really just about celebrating being here, and they’re so supportive of us. We’re not in some bidding war. I know a lot of my friends who have features here are really stressed about the reviews and stuff. On one hand it’s great, but on the other hand I want people to talk about it and see it, so we are trying to find a home for it.
Who’s been your mentor in the industry?
That’s a great question. I actually just formally started a mentorship with Paul Feig, who directed “Ghostbusters,” “Spy,” “The Heat” and “Bridesmaids.” I just started working with him about a month ago, so that’s brand-new. It’s incredible to see films being made on that scale.
What are some of your top questions for filmmakers today?
I think it all depends on what film we’re talking about. I always like to hear about the genesis of an idea and then how the screenwriting process goes, because that’s sort of the hardest part for me.
I was going to ask what you find most challenging about the process.
I overwrite, and then I get on set and I have to throw everything away.
What made you fall in love with storytelling?
I went to college in New York and was an athlete. I was a big basketball player and then I started taking acting classes. I knew I wanted to make films, but I didn’t see anyone else doing it so I thought I had to be an actress. So for the past 10 years I’ve been doing that. I think I was so sick of being a broke, single mom, so I started writing. That’s when everything opened up for me.
What do you consider your big break?
I’ve had a few of those. The biggest break I can think of was when I started writing a script to try and staff as a writer. I was broke living in a studio apartment with my son, and then literally a month after, I booked this ABC series called “Mixology,” and that took me out of pretty much destitution. I used the money that I made from the network television show to direct two shorts – one of them was “SMILF,” and the other was another pilot presentation. That was really a huge turning point; my whole life changed after that.
What do you want people to take away from “Too Legit”?
“Too Legit” is a satire, which was inspired by statements from [former Missouri Congressman] Todd Akin when he said, “When a woman becomes pregnant from a rape, the body has a way of knowing, and the body will get rid of the fetus on its own” – basically saying that abortion is not necessary. The film follows Zoë Kravitz as she goes on this journey to find out if her rape was legitimate or not. Essentially I wrote it as a satire to try to find a way into talking about rape culture and debunk rape myths in a way that’s accessible. So the words that the characters would speak reflected rape culture in an unconscious way, so we’re actually hearing the absurdity through what the characters are saying.
How did you connect with Zoë?
That was such a miracle. I sent the script to her amazing agent, Scott Metzger. He read it that weekend, called me and said, “Frankie, I think Zoë might respond to this. I think this could be really cool. It’s so interesting what you did. I’ll send it to her.” I had never met her and then he called back a couple of days later. “Zoë loves it and wants to set up a phone call.” So we talked and she said, “I’ll do it.” It was so lucky.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
Oh my God, I wish I knew you were going to ask me this. What’s your answer?
I’m really happy to be having drinks with everyone here at Sundance. I would have also loved to have had a drink with Joan Rivers.
Oh, I would love to have a drink with Elia Kazan. I love his films.
KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY / A DRINK WITH in the Acura Studio
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