Another likely sleeper is As Good As You, which has already won best LGBT feature at the Hollywood International Film Festival.
The background story behind the film is fascinating. Director Heather De Michele was a co-founder of Lesbian Pulporama, which performed live comedy shows in New York until about 2007, when she moved to Los Angeles. But many of the members stayed in close contact with her, including playwright Gretchen Michelfeld. Turning to film, Gretchen wrote a series of short films for de Michele. One of them, Sondra Stingray, Girl Gumshoe, became a popular series featuring the title character, as played by Heather’s partner, Anna Fitzwater. But As Good As You, which was inspired by Michelfeld’s own experience, is the first feature for both director and writer.
Michelfeld says the film is like her own life, but in reverse. She and her late wife, Beatrice Kaye, had decided that Gretchen would become pregnant, from a donor they both knew, so they could realize their dream of starting a family. Gretchen’s child was born seven years ago and, for about three years, both women had the joy of raising him. Tragically, Beatrice was diagnosed with a fatal illness, and died in 2012. The film is thus partly a tribute to Kaye, who had been a performer in the troop, and a number of the people involved in it were close personal friends.
Heather has already started pre-production on Gretchen’s second feature screenplay, Villa Cap(ri). A dark comedy, it concerns the family tensions exposed at the funeral of the grandfather.
Heather is based in Los Angeles and won’t be attending the festival screening. She agreed to an interview from her home.
I understand you acted and directed in the comedy troop first. What made you shift into film?
Moving to L.A. really. I am a theater gal at heart but I was lucky enough to land a great gig directing a comedy web-series shortly after I moved to L.A. and I loved the medium.
You’ve been directing your own short film projects for several years. Have you directed films commercially too?
I haven’t yet. Most of my short films have been passion projects of mine or helping colleagues realize theirs.
Have you assembled your own “team” of actors and crew?
Essentially. I found my tribe! I have met some incredible people in the last seven years who I will continue to hire any chance I get.
Gretchen said you first suggested a lesbian pregnancy story to her a few years ago, but she didn’t do it until after Beatrice died. Tell me more about that.
We were both nearing 40 and (with our wives) spent a great deal of time talking about creating families and what routes we might take to do so. Lesbian pregnancy, infertility, hormone shots, artificial insemination – these were subjects I hadn’t seen explored in film yet. I told Gretchen she should get on that. Then, Beatrice got sick and everything stopped. Once she passed, too shortly thereafter, Gretchen dove back into her work. She needed to write. We were all grieving madly. The story of AS GOOD AS YOU became a hybrid of all of these experiences. Deeply personal for both of us.
What are your plans for the film after the festival circuit? Do you see theatrical distribution?
Theatrical distribution would be lovely. We would also just love to see it find a home with Amazon or Netflix, who are both programming wonderful indie stories right now.
What’s the status on “Villa Cap__” right now? What can we expect?
Completing a film – from pre-production through post – is like birthing a baby. Once that baby starts to gain some independence you get itchy to have another. Villa Cap is a wildly clever new screenplay by Gretchen about a unique family dynamic. We’re going to start focusing on next steps for that feature soon.
AS GOOD AS YOU is being shown on March 17th, 9:30 P.M. at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
Check out the trailer for this film at the festival site, where you can order tickets: www.queensworldfilmfestival.com