Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This Intermission Was Brought to You by Breast Cancer

If you emailed or called me in the second half of March, you got an auto-reply that said I was "off the grid" and wouldn't be reading email or checking voicemail. A few of you contacted the folks to whom I directed you and expressed confusion and frustration over this: "I don't understand. What does she mean by 'off the grid'?" "She's gotta be checking email occasionally, right?" Others wished me a nice vacation and asked me where I was going. I knew my absence would be inconvenient for some, and I wanted to tell them the real reason for it, but I didn't think it was their business. Well, now that the worst of my ordeal is over and dishonesty is really not my style, I figured I'd come clean: I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer (DCIS), had a double mastectomy, and took some time off to recover from it. Though I'm not operating at 100% yet and still have to take it easy for a few months, I am back on the grid, and thankfully, cancer-free. 

A whopping 1 in 8 women in the U.S. (over 12%) get invasive breast cancer--that's a greater proportion than women who direct movies (only 6%)! WTF?!! In spite of recent studies and stats spurring controversy over early detection, I personally feel really lucky to have caught my DCIS early, before it had a chance to become invasive. How did I catch it? Practically by happenstance. I was at a routine check-up when my doctor asked, "Do you want a mammogram? You don't have to have one since you're not 40 yet." I shrugged and said, "Sure, why not?" So, in December, on my very first mammogram, something suspicious turned up. 

It was exasperating and exhausting to deal with this over the holidays, not to mention in the midst of prepping to release COLD COMES THE NIGHT, hauling ass to finish LAND HO! for Sundance, running Gamechanger, and switching health insurance plans (thanks Obamacare!). I got a biopsy on January 9, the day before CCTN's release, and received the bad news on January 17, the day before Gamechanger's first investor gathering at Sundance, and two days before LAND HO!'s world premiere. I cried for about 30 seconds after I hung up with my doctor, then got out of bed to start my full day at Sundance. I got through the whole festival without telling anyone but my husband. Getting the news at Sundance was actually a great thing because I really had no time to wallow.

It's been very difficult having to juggle cancer with regular life. I know an indie producer's workload is perpetually ridiculous, but it's been excessive the past few months, especially with first-quarter tax crap thrown into the mix. I was jamming to tie up loose ends before surgery and to prepare my colleagues (bless them!) to pinch-hit, while trying to do as much research as possible on my condition. Though I was incredibly fortunate that I only had DCIS, the fact that it's early-stage means that there are many more treatment options than with later-stage cancers: 19 different possible treatment permutations, in my case. On top of that, I tested negative for BRCA gene mutations, which made it even tougher to decide what to do. The choices were overwhelming--I kept changing my mind, and I was constantly questioning whether I was making the right choice. Thankfully, there were many wonderful women who gave me comfort by generously sharing their cancer experiences with me; I am so grateful to them.

I guess there's no such thing as an opportune time for cancer, but boy, was this an inopportune time! I couldn't put off my surgery for too long, but my doctor did let me schedule it for after SXSW. I'd never been to the fest before, and was looking forward to speaking on some panels and seeing what all the hubbub was about. So I went for a few days, had a great time, and got my mastectomy on March 14. Though it hurt like hell (and still does), I've been resting and recovering well, thanks mostly to my dear husband Lucius, who's been doing everything for me since my docs forbade me from moving my arms for two weeks.

I guess I'm telling you all this because enough of you were puzzled about why I was "off the grid" to make me puzzled about why it's such a puzzling concept. In our modern daily grind, and especially in a relentless occupation like film producing, it's really easy to forget that we need time for ourselves, if not to heal from an illness, then to spend time with family, or to simply nurture our own well being. Being brutally forced to unplug taught me that I need to unplug more often, that it's OK--necessary, actually--to be "off the grid" sometimes. As they say, life is a marathon, not a sprint, and I, for one, need to work on my endurance and pacing. The healthier we are, the longer we'll live, and the more we'll accomplish. This should be painfully obvious, but sadly, it isn't. Let's snap out of it! Here's to your health and mine.

UPDATE, 4/8/14: I'm floored by the vast number of women in film who, after reading this post, have confided in me about their own cancer experiences or recent diagnoses. I feel for those who have suffered in silence, fearful of the stigma. (Un)fortunately, you are not alone! My thoughts today are especially with a filmmaker who will be having a double mastectomy tomorrow. Stay strong, keep a sense of humor, and see you very soon on the other side! By the way, recovery is an excellent guilt-free excuse to binge-watch Netflix! :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Because the Email Never Stops

It just keeps coming and coming and coming...

At the risk of sounding jerky, I'm jotting down this list of frequently asked questions that I get over email (oh, horrific, relentless, vast oceans of email!). I do it (a) for my own sanity, (b) so my directors, investors, and collaborators don't get pissed at me for replying to your emails instead of working on our films, and (c) to provide you with a timely response. 

1. Will you produce my project?
I'm currently not looking for any new projects to produce due to my full-time commitment with Gamechanger Films. But thank you--I'm flattered that you asked! If you have a woman-directed or co-directed narrative feature project that you'd like Gamechanger to consider financing, check out the FAQ page.

2. Can you recommend a producer for my project?
Please look at the following sources: Sundance Creative Producing Lab fellows, Independent Spirit Producers Award nominees, Film Independent Producer Lab fellows, Rotterdam Lab fellows, producers of recent films you like that are in your budget range, and graduate producing programs at Columbia, NYU, USC, AFI, etc.

3. I'm looking for work. Do you know of anything?
I might, but I'm not an agent, manager, headhunter, or job board. And if I've never worked with you before, I'm less inclined to recommend you. If I do know of something, I usually post it on my Twitter and Facebook.

4. I'd love to chat with you about some things I'm working on.
Really? What? Don't be vague. I like details. And I hate talking on the phone! Why? Time it takes me to read your spiel = 15-30 seconds; time it takes me to hear your spiel = 15-30 minutes + time spent scheduling the call. Do the math!

5. Can we meet for coffee?
If you'd like to have a general, speculative, or advisory meeting, I'm afraid I won't have time to meet. You see, in addition to being a "manager," I'm also a "maker," and the schedules for these two types of people are at odds with each other, so I basically work around the clock. What the hell am I talking about? See here. If you are seeking producing advice, please read this blog, which contains links to interviews I've done and articles I've written about producing. You should also read Ted Hope's blog, Filmmaker Magazine, books about filmmaking, and the trades. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook too--if you do, I thank you!

Thanks for understanding my effort to control the flood of emails. In order for me to be an effective producer and human being, I must protect my time to focus on my own projects, investors, directors, creative cultivation, and life. I hope that you understand. Best of luck with your projects!

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Land Ho!" At Sundance Was Quite The Trip!

Colby D Crossland / Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival
Last month, the latest feature I produced, "Land Ho!" premiered at Sundance. This was my third feature to premiere there (after "Children of Invention" and "California Solo"), and it has been a different but always rewarding experience each time. 

This time, I felt sort of like I was in bizarro world because I was part of one of those storied, infamous "all-night" negotiations that you always hear about but can't actually imagine being real. I put "all-night" in quotes, but it actually was all night--from 6pm Tuesday till 4:30am Wednesday. At the end of that night, or morning really, Sony Pictures Classics had acquired the film. It was a dream come true for all of use since we've always wanted to work with them.

But even more important than the deal was the audience and critical reaction to the film. I can't remember the last time I went to a movie and the audience laughed that much (and also cry!). It made me so proud to have been a part of making this film, along with writer-directors Martha Stephens & Aaron Katz, producers Sara Murphy & Christina Jennings, and our wild and crazy boys Paul Eenhoorn & Earl Lynn Nelson. I was extra proud that this was the first film financed by Gamechanger Films, the women directors film fund that I run.

We cannot wait to share "Land Ho!" with everyone this year! Until then, check out some of these great articles about the film and our Sundance experience. For more, see our Facebook page.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Cold Comes the Night" Premieres Today!

The new film I produced, "Cold Comes the Night," opens in theaters and on VOD this Friday, January 10th!

It's a crime thriller starring Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness)Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus), and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)--and they are all FANTASTIC in it!

We are an independent film with a limited release, so our opening weekend is extremely critical in getting theaters to extend our run. We'd be so grateful if you came to see it with your friends!

TONIGHT, Fri 1/10, in Los Angeles: Director Tze Chun and co-writers Osgood Perkins & Nick Simon will be doing Q&As after these screenings:
Laemmle NoHo at 7:50
AMC Burbank at 8:15

TOMORROW, Sat 1/11, in New York: Director Tze Chun and I will be doing Q&As after these screenings:
Quad: 5:207:30
AMC: 7:45
Check out the trailer & film stills, and BUY TICKETS! For the full list of ways to see the film, go here.

CLICK TO TWEET the premiere!

Thanks in advance for helping to spread the word, and we hope to see you this weekend!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Top Films of 2013 & New Year Resolutions

Four of my top ten films of 2013 happen to be directed by women: Lake Bell's In A World,
Eliza Hittman's It Felt Like Love, Shannon Plumb's Towheads, and Hannah Fidell's A Teacher

Indiewire asked me to list my top ten films of the year, and talk about what I'm looking forward to in 2014. To my delight, nine of the ten films are "true indies," four were directed by women (see photo above), and all of them are narrative features. (Sadly, I don't have much bandwidth to watch documentaries, though I'm eager to see so many of them.) Check out my complete list and resolutions here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Follow me, says Indiewire

According to Indiewire, I'm one of the "100 Filmmakers to Follow on Twitter." Aw shucks. Thanks, Indiewire. Woot!

So...please follow me? @mynette

And while you're at it, check out my Facebook too. Lots of heated debates about film, race, and gender, with a bunch of snark on the side.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sorry boys, but it's time to change the game!

Me, Mary Jane Skalski, Julie Parker Benello, and Dan Cogan on a Brooklyn rooftop
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles TimesSeptember 20, 2013)
I'm very excited to announce my new gig as President of Gamechanger Films, the first for-profit film fund dedicated exclusively to financing narrative features directed by women!

Check out the Los Angeles Times piece about the company: 
“New movie fund Gamechanger Films is formed to back women directors”

Here's to more diversity in film!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Me Me Me

I recently did a very long 6-part interview with The Black List's Go Into the Story blog. Check it out if you can. Perhaps you will find something useful, or at least amusing, in it. If not, I am sorry.

Part 1: “I’ve probably known since 7th grade that I wanted to produce films. Growing up in New York and seeing movie sets in the street all the time, I was always fascinated by how that whole circus of crew, cast, lights, and trucks got assembled.”

Part 2: “Put yourself in other people’s shoes to figure out how to negotiate with them. Poverty breeds creativity. Try not to let them see you sweat. Feed your crew well. Don’t produce and AD at the same time. Guard the truck!”

Part 3: “I only take on projects that I’d be willing to lose sleep and nutrition for, and that I’d be proud to put my name on.”

Part 4: “So it behooves you to not put all your eggs in one basket, to make films back-to-back or even simultaneously. It’s an insane way to live. No indie film producers actually sleep.”

Part 5: “The next person who sends me an immigrant drama or microbudget Mumblecore comedy will get it chucked back in their face! (Unless, of course, it happens to be brilliant.)”

Part 6: “As a producer, I look for characters that great actors would want to play because the vast majority of indie films are still financed by way of cast attachments.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Cold Comes the Night" Premieres in the UK!

The crime thriller I produced, Tze Chun's "Cold Comes the Night" starring Alice Eve, Logan Marshall-Green, and Bryan Cranston, made its world premiere across UK theaters yesterday! 

Check out the reviews, the trailer, and our Twitter and Facebook page. And if you live in the UK, buy tickets!

We'll also be doing some sneak previews at regional film festivals ahead of the film's US premiere--stay tuned for more info.

We're all very proud of this film, and would be grateful if you helped spread the word about it. Thanks!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hey Filmmakers, Just Quit!

Ha! Just found this interview I did last year with National Film Society at IFP's Filmmaker Conference, wherein I tell all filmmakers to quit. 

By the way, registration for Independent Film Week 2013 is now open (if you haven't quit film already).