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!

Five Questions With... Lisa Cortés, producer of THE TALE OF FOUR

THE TALE OF FOUR is Oscar®-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe's (EmpirePrecious) directorial debut. We're proud to present this piece at our Afternoon Tea Talk on Sunday, June 25 at 2:15pm, followed by a lively, moderated conversation accompanied by tea and treats.

This multi-layered story inspired by Nina Simone’s “Four Women” spans one day in the lives of four different women connected by their quest for love, agency and redemption. Featuring Jussie Smollett (Empire) and Ledisi.

Sidibe’s directorial debut is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology short film series, which works to cultivate and spotlight the voices of women behind the camera, in order to provide emerging female filmmakers with the support to realize their creative vision.

We spoke with producer Lisa Cortés about the film, and are also happy to present the first trailer, below. Take a look, and join us on Sunday!

NFF: Can you talk a little about how this project came to you? Why were you interested in this script?

Lisa: I've had the pleasure of knowing Gabby (Gabourey) since working with her as a Producer on "Precious". When she was putting together the team for The Tale of Four, she and her manager reached out and asked if I'd be interested in joining the team. Hello, where do I sign up? I love when personal and professional relationships come full circle. 

The story is timely and relevant to where we find ourselves right now. The script spoke to me because it compliments much of my work which has been committed to telling expansive stories about our Black bodies.  

NFF: The film asks a lot of questions about identity and how we define ourselves. Do you think self-image is something that can be shaped and changed, or is it more structured and set?

Lisa: Self-image can be fluid. The woman I am is different from the girl I was. The change happened because I did the work (which never stops) and met the right people along the way who supported my quest.  What's important is that we create mirrors in our work that provide vistas and portals to possibility and change.

NFF: Why is this film important right now?

Lisa: The characters in the film were inspired by the women that Nina Simone sang about in 1966 in her iconic song, "Four Women".  Some of the challenging situations and microaggressions that these sisters undergo are still a part of our everyday experiences as Black women. If it's true that "the more things change, the more they stay the same",  I hope that their are lessons for empowerment and self love to be found within our film.

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

Lisa: I have tremendous respect for Gabby and was delighted to see that all the ideals she upholds and represents are a part of her directing style.  We had a set filled with committed, smart and passionate people. Yes, there were challenges but along with the other producers - Refinery29 (Amy Emmerich, Shannon Gibson and Kate Bolger) and Kia Perry we always built upon our community to find solutions.

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

Lisa: I am so looking forward to premiering our film at Nantucket. The strong direction and rich programming of the festival promises to provide a forum for thoughtful exchanges about film and its ability to create empathy and fuel change.

Producer Lisa Cortés

Producer Lisa Cortés

Five Questions With... Christy McGill, producer of SERENADE FOR HAITI

Since 1956, Sainte Trinité Music School has brought classical music to thousands of Haitians. Its director, Father David Cesar, has made music education accessible through programs all around the island nation. In the wake of Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake, the school is destroyed—but Cesar, his faculty, and their students refuse to let Sainte Trinité disappear. Filmed over seven years, SERENADE FOR HAITI is a testament to resilience, hope, and the power of music.

We spoke with producer Christy McGill about the process of working on the film. Read more below, and join us for this moving and powerful documentary on Thursday, June 22 at 11:15 AM and/or Sunday, Jun 25 at 9:15 AM!

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

Christy: I knew Owsley as a friend and fellow filmmaker I very much admired, and we had been bouncing around a different idea for a film when we met for lunch in San Francisco 2011. My background is in screenwriting, story, and creative producing and I was looking forward to the possibility of a creative collaboration with him.  Our conversation that day, though, centered around his Haiti film. He was at an important crossroads in the project-- the earthquake had such a catastrophic effect on the music school he had been filming for years, and the film had, of course, irrevocably changed direction. Once I saw some of his footage in his offices, I was completely drawn in. We decided to work together to find pathways for the film's narratives, and I signed on to help produce.

NFF: Can you talk a little bit about how the earthquake affected shooting?

Christy: At the end of 2009, Owsley and his cinematographer, Marcel Cabrera, had finished a 2+ year shoot in Haiti, and had returned to SF to begin sorting through the footage and transcribing interviews from Haitian Creole and French into English. They may have thought they might need a pick-up shoot, but they were pretty much wrapped. A few weeks later, the massive earthquake struck, and the whole situation was profoundly changed. I had never been involved in any project that had that kind of turn, and I was deeply impressed that Owsley committed to open the film up and return to chronicle the story of the music school in really unstable conditions there.

NFF: Shooting took seven years total, correct? Had you committed that amount of time to a project in the past, or was this unique?

Christy: I hadn't projected the project would continue as long as it did. I returned with him and small crew in 2014 to field produce what became the last third of the film, and I am so grateful he was willing to keep shooting, as the 7-year sweep that the film encompasses really fills out the story with much more dimensionality.  It was a very unique and challenging story to nurture-- weaving together what was one former film idea, with material from after this just massive disaster. We had a really great team-- fellow Producer Anne Flatté and incredible editors, Gina Leibrecht, Eva Brzeski, and Jeff Boyette. Everyone was very committed.

NFF: What impact do you think music and art can have society?

Christy: This is the crux of the film's message for me-- the incredible power and almost mysterious agency of music and art itself to transform a single person and an entire community. I've seen this film now so many times-- countless-- and I am moved every time by the potency of this message. The students (some as little as four years old!) and the tireless faculty of this classical music school literally will their lives forward through the commitment to music and their art. Not just the learning and performing of it, but the sense of self and purpose it generates within them. There is also the important identification with their own country's music. (Haiti has a just incredible musical heritage which comprises much of the film's soundtrack.) Art, and in this case, music, is absolutely essential to humanity and the best expression of our society we can muster. Anywhere.

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

Christy:  I am so excited to be in Nantucket! I was fortunate to spend several summers with my family on the island-- on Brant Point and one summer in Sconsett for parents anniversary- and these are among my most cherished memories. The island has this totally timeless feel and remarkable, singular beauty. I think also, the sense you have of being way out to sea does something to everyone there. It's magic. And films in their best iteration can be, too-- so it's a perfect combination. The programmers of NFF are also among the best in the industry, so we feel enormously privileged and very happy to be participating.