Five Questions With... Risa Mickenberg, Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche, Writer and Actor/Producers of EGG

In EGG, two former art school friends, Karen (Christina Hendricks, Mad Men) and Tina (Alysia Reiner, Orange Is the New Black) reunite in Marianna Palka’s satirical chamber piece exploring motherhood, personal freedom, and social expectations. Karen, eight months pregnant and married to a successful developer, took a different life path than Tina, a conceptual artist recently engaged to her partner. Emotions run high when Tina reveals her latest project—surrogate parenthood as performance art—and things get even more tense when her surrogate arrives.

We had a group conversation with some of the creatives on EGG - Risa Mickenberg (screenwriter), Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche (Actor/Producers) all came together to share their thoughts on the film. Read more with them below, and see it on Friday 6/22 at 8:45pm and/or Sun 6/24 at 5:45pm!

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film, and for Alysia and David, why you wanted to get involved?

RISA: Writing this film was a way to air things that had not been said about some of our deepest thoughts and instincts. It was a way to take risks.

ALYSIA: David and I did a workshop of the script years ago, and we never stopped thinking about it. To quote a recent review in The Hollywood Reporter, the film “explodes cliches about motherhood, marriage and career...laced with unblinkered truths about the sometimes ruthless, sometimes warm-hearted ways that women see themselves and each other.” 

DAVID: We bumped into Risa again and realized it had never been made, and we felt compelled to be the ones to tell the story on film.

NFF: Alysia and David - you're married in real life, but although you share a lot of screentime, you play spouses of other people in this movie. Was that a decision you came to as a collective production team?

ALYSIA: We were cast that way in the original reading and loved these roles so much we had no desire to change it!

DAVID: Agreed, but strangely enough, now that we’ve made the film, there’s a part of me that would love to play “Wayne” because that’s such a great role, too!

NFF: Is it easier or harder to work with actors/partners you love and know well?

ALYSIA: Easier! We've worked together a lot before. In our early 20's when we did our first play together we fought like cats and dogs, but now we have good healthy boundaries - something neither of our characters in the film have learned!

DAVID: We were both producing and playing leads in the film, so with that amount of work and responsibility, we really needed that extra sense of safety and comfort that comes with a trusted creative partner.

NFF: Did working on the movie change your view of parenthood in any way?

ALYSIA: When I first read this script I was not yet a mother, and not 100% sure I was ready to be one.  Exploring the character at that time made me go deep about IF and WHY I truly wanted to be a parent, and what it means to be a parent and an artist at the same time. Now, making the film as a mother, as both producer and actress I was deeply devoted to exploring and advocating choice for women, and love and acceptance for all choices in parenthood - including choosing not to have children. I also feel the film is so much about friendship and loving and supporting your friends, even when their choices are different from yours.

DAVID: Similarly, I wasn’t a dad when I first read EGG, but it moved me nonetheless. Working on the film now that I am a father opened my eyes to the different things people go through and the ways families can be constructed. In the end, it's all about allowing other people the integrity of their own choices.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

RISA: This film is like Nantucket’s relationship to the rest of the world. Such beauty on the surface, with such dangerous shifting sands below, so daring to navigate. The film is powered by a leviathan of a theme with indelible characters who are not afraid to go way out into unexplored and dangerous waters. I hope people appreciate the daring of thought. I hope they feel something has been let loose in their conversation and that it leaves them feeling raw and fired up and powerful and alive.

ALYSIA: The first time I was at the Nantucket Film Festival, I felt like I was just dreaming of really being in this business. I saw so many films, loved them all, and met Paul Giamatti at the screening of AMERICAN SPLENDOR which I thought was outrageously brilliant. I made a wish to someday work with Paul and someday be at the festival with a film I was in. Well, a year later I got to act with Paul in SIDEWAYS, and here we are at the festival with EGG! Both dreams came true!!! So yes, I am beyond thrilled to share EGG with the NFF audiences.

As for take away, of course I want to entertain people, for them to laugh at themselves and the moments of recognition in the film. But more deeply, I hope it makes people explore their own complexities and contradictions. I love when people say they can’t stop thinking and talking about the film weeks later. Another review I loved said it all: “This film is wonderful for the way it takes you into yourself and exposes you to your own contradictions and emotions…” To me that's what great entertainment is about, it makes me laugh, think and feel.

DAVID: What she said!

#NFF17 In Review

We're taking a look back at all of the exciting films, events, panels, parties, sponsors, and more that happened at #NFF17! Relive your favorite memories below, and SAVE THE DATES FOR 2018: JUNE 20-25!

DAY 1

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DAY 5

Five Questions With... Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, Producer of QUEST

Christopher "Quest" Rainey and his wife, Christine’a, are raising their kids in a North Philadelphia neighborhood beset by poverty, drugs, and violence. As an antidote, the Raineys nurture the community in their basement music studio, but this creative sanctuary can’t always keep them safe. Sensitively filming this open, genuine, and loving family over the course of a decade, Jonathan Olshefski constructs an ultimately uplifting counternarrative to typical depictions of African-American lives.

Read more with Producer Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, and come see QUEST on Thursday, June 22 at 9:00 PM and/or Friday, June 23 at 1:45 PM!

NFF: How did the film come to you? Had you worked with Jonathan before?

Sabrina: Jonathan and I met through a mutual filmmaker friend. He had been filming for several years and was ready to start putting the film together. Jonathan is a photographer, and this would be his first film. Our friend told him that he needed a team, and recommended me. I work mostly as and editor and producer, so he thought I’d be someone who could advise and provide support on these different aspects of the filmmaking process. When Jonathan reached out to me and sent me some clips he had assembled, I realized that I had seen the footage before. He had applied for a grant and I happened to be one of the reviewers. The bad news was that he wasn’t selected to be one of the recipients. The good news was that there was a lot we liked about the material, so I agreed to meet with him, and we had a long discussion about what I thought were the challenges with the material and how to approach the story and structuring the film. He was very open to feedback, even if critical. He was really committed to making the best film possible, so I was really encouraged by that and excited to collaborate with him. He mentioned that he applied for a grant that he didn’t get and I said, “yes, I know, I was there!” He was floored. It was pretty funny!

NFF: Shooting took almost a full decade - were you onboard for the whole shoot, and/or aware of the amount of time Jonathan would take to complete it?

Sabrina: No, Jon had been shooting for years when we met. He did continue to shoot after I was onboard, and there was an ongoing joke that Jonathan was never going to stop filming! We didn’t exactly know what the ending would be, but there was a natural arc provided by the election of President Obama in 2008, and the end of his second and final term.

NFF: Do you have a connection to Phily and/or this community?

Sabrina: Well, it’s interesting. I’m from New York and have never lived in Philadelphia, but this is the third Philly-themed film I’ve made. I’ve gotten to know Philadelphia through a camera lens, through the remarkable people who’ve shared their stories.

NFF: What surprised or challenged you the most while you were making the film?

Sabrina: I think stories about Black folks in under-served urban neighborhoods is wrought with stereotypes, mostly negative. They’re also pervasive in our society, so the challenge is how to pierce through the preconceptions people may be bringing to the story, to disrupt them in a way that gets to a much more authentic and nuanced truth.

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Sabrina: I hope people will see themselves in the Raineys. There’s a way in which our society is increasingly segregated and stratified that suggests that our worlds are too different for us to understand and relate to one another. QUEST certainly upends that, and goes a long way in sharing the depth, beauty, and complexity of a family, and of a community that is often disparaged, misunderstood, or ignored altogether.