This one’s about how LA is really a very small town.
Two or three weeks after Diddy was born, a Dear Friend of MrBigIdeas asked to come over and meet the baby. I had never met The Dear Friend, a TV writer, before.
She arrived with her then 2 year-old son, was funny and charming, and brought incredible pastries from a French bakery in Korea Town that I have spent the last 6+ years trying to locate.
She also insulted my coffee.
It was shitty coffee. She had a point.
Anyway: after a half-hour or so, she got up to go, but not before asking if I knew Jill Soloway.
“You remind me of her,” The Dear Friend said, and was gone.
Only I didn’t know that yet, because I still thought I wanted to be a novelist.
Fast forward 6+ years.
I am not a novelist. I do, however, have 4 kids.
The only woman I know who thinks inviting my huge family over for Shabbat dinner is a GOOD idea goes ahead and invites us for Shabbat dinner.
Guess who the other guests include?
Well, yes, an incredibly famous nonfiction writer, but also:
Told you this is small town.
Jill was pretty busy following her 4 year-old around, and I was pretty busy following my 2 year-old twins around, so we didn’t really get to chat, but I did manage to glean that she’d just written and directed a film set in LA and that she’d won the Sundance Festival Director’s prize doing it.
Umm, hello, MY HERO. Did I mention that, in addition to the 4 year-old, she had a teenage son at the party too? This woman had TWO KIDS and had JUST WON THE SUNDANCE FESTIVAL DIRECTOR’S PRIZE.
I’m not worthy.
A few months later:
Our dinner host asked me if I’d help get the word out about Jill’s movie, which had just opened in NY and LA.
So here I go:
The movie’s called AFTERNOON DELIGHT and MrBigIdeas and I LOVED IT.
Part of that is that we basically LIVE it.
AFTERNOON DELIGHT is set in our neighborhood, set at a school we know well, set among people we know well, and even features a few friends as extras and a couple of friend’s homes as set. So sure, that was easy to relate to … but so was the actual PLOT of the film.
I don’t want to tell you TOO much, but the basic premise concerns a wife and mother whose marriage is floundering as she becomes subsumed by PTA activities at her son’s neighborhood preschool (what did I tell you about quitting the PTA!) and her husband becomes consumed with the demands of his job. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know she’s invited a stripper to live in her home, ostensibly to act as her son’s babysitter. Complications obviously ensue.
It’s GREAT. I mean, really.
- It has a lot to say about how easy it is for a marriage to go off the rails.
- It has a lot to say about the difficulty women, and moms especially, have balancing their Mom-selves with their Good Wife-selves with their Independent Woman-selves and their Sexy Lady-selves.
- It also says great deal about how little the women growing up behind us seem to value themselves BEYOND their sexuality.
And umm, did I mention Jill wrote and directed this thing and won a big prize for it, all while BEING A MOM TO TWO KIDS and REMAINING HAPPILY MARRIED?
There should be a prize for that, too. Really there should be. A movie I co-wrote starts shooting in LA next week and I’m already overwhelmed managing all the homefront logistics that will ensure my kids are dressed and fed and delivered to and from school and extra-currics and doctors appointments while it’s happening.
Not that I’m complaining.
Still, I thought Jill would be a good person to ask about how a pro like her balances family, career, and ever-growing-larger work aspirations.
Here’s what she had to say about that:
- Get help.
I have a very supportive husband and family and a several wonderful sitters who have a great relationship with my younger son. It’s because I had this awesome family support that I was able to take a moment and think about what I really wanted. What I realized was that even though TV writing was financially rewarding, if I wasn’t responsible for every detail of the final product, I wasn’t really punching above my weight as an artist. That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue directing.
- Pace yourself.
There is a lot of terror in this business particularly about working till you drop and crossing every t, a perfectionism that, as I see it, is anathema to being in my body and experiencing feelings. These feelings are my #1 tool for directing — so I wouldn’t want to do things like pull all nighters or ignore my family. Doing that would cause me to be stressed out and disconnected — ultimately making me worse at my job.
- Don’t bring your work home.
I am intensely present with my family when I am with them and intensely present on the set when I am shooting. I honestly believe it is possible to do both. I have a home office, but when we were in pre-production on Afternoon Delight, we found a space near my house to work out of. That way I could be home when I was home and not home when I was working. The only way to do that is by unplugging while in the house. That little computer in your pocket (which I love so) can be a real time and attention muncher.
- Don’t stop believing.
I think it’s all about focusing on what you really want and then making a plan of action. Give yourself permission to go after your dreams. As a mom, I know how easy it is to fill every minute worrying and planning the life of your kids. You want to give them everything! But part of giving them everything is giving them a role model they can look up to: parents that have full lives with their own passions and work.
I think the first step is giving yourself that permission to dedicate a few hours — or whatever you have — to your own creative work. I also notice that so many people — but especially women — seem to be on the lookout for that one rejection that allows them to throw in the towel. I was told that around fifty men passed on the role of the dad in Mike Mills’ (Oscar-nominated!) Beginners. I might have chucked the whole thing after ten passes. It’s almost like women need to pretend they’re men for a minute and live within that feeling of “I have a story and I have the right to see it.” Insisting over and over again that you are a director is the only way to make it happen. No one annoints you, no one makes it easy. You have to want it.
Love this advice, love getting to know Jill, and I’m thrilled to share Afternoon Delight with you. Go see it!
And go check out Jill’s site, too. Sign up for her mailing list to get more info about her upcoming projects, (including a new show!).