Shira Piven was kind enough to do an interview with me about her latest film, and adds some words of encouragement as far as how filmmakers can approach the marketing of their work.
Fully Loaded is now available to watch for free on Hulu, so go check it out now.
Shira Piven: I had admired Paula Killen’s work since our Chicago days in the 90’s and I was excited about collaborating with her first of all. She is a single mom, and I am married with 2 kids and yet we both had gone through some similar things emotionally--trying to work creatively and raise kids. I think when you have kids you have to deal with your own sexuality--both in your relationship and in the world, and when you are a single mom, it is even more intense. I think it still makes people a little uncomfortable when we talk about moms and dating, moms and sex: a single mom out on the town open to romantic possibility is still a bit racy, even for our permissive society. I like pushing people to have think about it and grapple with it. I think people are sexual beings and having kids hardly changes that--it just makes it more complicated. Also being over 35 also makes it trickier to discuss or show on film, like it or not. It was very important to me that the women playing these roles were real women--they were not the Hollywood ideal, they were a bit like all of us, both beautiful and imperfect at the same time. I really want to see more real women on screen, and more stories about women who reflect us and not an idealized Cameron Diaz in “[The] Mask” version of us. Fully Loaded is about two women who look and talk like ladies we might meet any day dealing with relationships, kids, friendship and their sense of who they are.
KM: You've assembled what seems to be such an amazing team around you, from the cast which includes Ana Gasteyer, David Koechner and Wendy McLendon-Covey, to the executive producers, who are your husband, Adam McKay, and your brother, Jeremy Piven. How do you go about assembling a team around your script, and do you purposely seek out opportunities to work with friends and family?
SP: This movie kind of just happened. Then it took as much work as I’ve ever put into any creative endeavor in my life. My brother, who is so supportive of my stuff put up the very first money for the movie. Adam doesn’t just make friends of people he has worked with, he makes devoted good friends, so Dave and Ana jumped at the chance to work a few days on Fully Loaded. I attribute that to Adam’s good nature, and of course the script attracted people. (Wendy was recommended by our casting director and we got very lucky and wish we could have used more of her!) It was Adam’s idea to turn the play version of Fully Loaded into a screenplay. We ran with it. I was looking for a first feature and this was perfect. Most of it was made though on our own with people we had to trust and work with for the first time. This too can be a challenge, especially on a super low budget indie where people are not always getting paid for their labor.
SP: Wow—I think working with family is incredibly challenging, but I’ve also done it my whole life. Adam was less used to it than I was, and sometimes I had to make sure I was on good behavior so he could see that it is fine and good to work with family. It is tricky with a spouse 'cause you have to go home and have dinner together--but we are drawn to certain similar projects and if it overlaps with family, so be it. I knew it could work 'cause I had lived it before. I watched my parents run a theatre together as husband and wife for over 30 years. I do sometimes feel guilty asking Jeremy to do PR stuff, 'cause he is the guy people want to hear from and he is the most tapped out.
KM: With your background in theater, do you find yourself drawing on any specific techniques you've learned, either as an actor or director, when making a film? Does your approach to directing or writing differ based on the medium in which you're working?
SP: I like that question. I am in the middle of figuring it out. At this moment I feel that film and theatre are very much the same. The logistical process is different, but the creative process is very very similar. I am finding that all my fears about being a filmmaker are slowly starting to recede as I find I can tap into all my strengths as a theatre director. I am enjoying the process of filmmaking so much, and so much more than I imagined I would. It is a bit like a visual artist who has worked in oils turning to printmaking, or even water-colors, it is a variation on a certain kind of expression. In making a play [I] like to find a lot of it together with actors in a room. Adam recently said on the set of Anchorman 2 that once you get on set what is left is only about 35 percent of things--the other 65 has been discovered already through casting, choice of DP, production designer, and of course the script is written. This is a new concept for me, so I am learning how to experiment in the pre-production process, to play and improvise in that part of the process so I won’t miss being able to endlessly experiment on set, which is of course impossible.
"...the women playing these roles were real women -- they were not the Hollywood ideal, they were a bit like all of us, both beautiful and imperfect..."
KM: As a movie lover and someone who works in marketing, I encourage filmmakers to consider marketing as an integral part of what they do, and that it can be an authentic process rather than presented as some kind of schtick. Do you have any advice you can offer to filmmakers on how to put themselves out there and build an audience for their work and themselves?
SP: Hmm--another great question. Probably just to love your film and be clear what it is about. Be able to talk about the core emotional idea of the movie in a way that excites you and it will excite others. Be realistic about what people respond to and without dumbing down the idea of the film, make it very simple. It is a big cliché, but it helps to be able to tell the idea simply and clearly in a few sentences.
KM: Can you give us a little taste of your next project? I know it stars Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell, and just based on that, I already want to see it!
SP: Well, Kristen Wiig is attached as the lead, but we don’t know yet if Will Farrell will act in it. He and Adam’s company Gary Sanchez Productions are producing it. It is an incredible amazing wonder of an original screenplay about a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery (300 or so million) and buys herself her own TV show--basically a talk/variety show all about herself. It is a very grounded dark comedy about a woman trying to find her own voice yet choosing a forum that goes right to the heart of the most narcissistic side of our culture.
KM: Thank you so much for your time, Shira, you’re always welcome back to Her Film Project. I wish you the best of luck with Fully Loaded and your future projects!
Visit the Fully Loaded website and follow on Facebook at fb.com/fullyloadedthefilm and Twitter @filmfullyloaded. Follow Shira Piven on Twitter @ShiraPiven.
Watch Fully Loaded for free now at Hulu!