“Seeing Is Believing” – An interview about women as film directors.

Oct 11, 2016 | Arts and Entertainment, Gender and Sexism

Published: The Good Men Project (October 11, 2016)

While Cady McClain and I first met as potential (and then actual) collaborators, I’m happy to say that I now consider her to be a good friend. With that disclaimer out of the way, I have to also say that I was genuinely thrilled to hear about the new documentary she has coming out, “Seeing Is Believer: Women Direct.”

My interview with her makes up the bulk of this article, but before we get to that I’d like to offer a few words that are entirely my own. It seems to me that we are living at a seminal moment in the history of American gender relations. The most obvious reason is the impending election of America’s first female president, Hillary Clinton, although I’d argue the unprecedented and blatant misogyny displayed by her chief opponent Donald Trump is equally momentous (albeit in a negative way). That said, we’re also seeing a cresting in Third Wave feminism, one that is drawing attention to diverse issues from rape on college campuses to the intersection of race and other social justice issues with the feminist cause. Naturally, this trickles into our entertainment and artistic cultures as well, which explains why I thought it was important to draw attention to the issues that McClain discusses below. Because it would be presumptuous to insert my own perspective excessively into an experience that is manifestly not my own, I allow her words to speak for themselves. Aside from correcting a few typos, the transcript is completely unedited.


1. What inspired you to make this documentary (in terms of your own career?)

So many moments. It’s kind of a culmination of them that all came to a head one day.

I studied directing in the early ’90’s with the artistic director of EST (Ensemble Studio Theater) in NYC. It was revelatory. I loved it so much I went to my mom and said, “Mom, I want to quit acting and direct. I really love it.” I recall the moment clearly. We were sitting on the lawn, and looking out at a little lake in the distance. She took a moment, then said, “Please don’t. I’m dying.”

Now she really had me with that one. What could I say? She was struggling with cancer, after all, and the income from my work on soaps was what was paying the bills. Still, it was crushing. I was 23 years old and had quit high school to take care of us up until then. Clearly, my life would not be my own until she passed.

After she died (I was 25) I wrote a play. I was going to co-direct it with a female friend of mine, but I got shy and decided it would seem too much to be acting, writing, directing, AND producing it. So I gave her the directing credit. She did NOT direct the piece alone, mind you. The entire concept was mine. About six months after we closed I discovered she had taken the concept and got a grant to do her version of the piece. This just crushed me. A friend, a female friend at that, had taken advantage of me in a deep and painful way. It turned me away from directing and writing for a while. A long while.

Almost 20 years later, the man who became my husband and some friends started pushing me to direct a short film I had written. The script was something that just tickled me. I wasn’t working as much as an actor and I love to make myself laugh. When I got this idea, it felt so right. So I did it. I produced and directed what was to become Flip Fantasia. I remember distinctly sitting at a cafe in SOHO after a days shoot in the streets and saying to my husband, “THIS is what I was meant to do. THIS is where my talents lie. I love this more than any other kind of work I have ever done.”

On the plane ride home, to Los Angeles, I immediately started writing another script. I drew it, actually, in storyboards. It was a short film with almost no dialogue about a man who falls in love with a balloon. We shot it three months later, back in NYC. I was thrilled and on a roll.

When I finished editing “Flip” I was told “THIS is a festival film. They are going to LOVE it!” My hopes were high. The reality was, the festivals didn’t love it. It was too long, too weird, too surreal. The one festival it played at, Macon, had the audiences roaring with laughter. THEY got it. I couldn’t figure it out. What was going on?