Monday, March 23, 2015

Creating Space for Others

Kerry Washington received an ally award from GLAAD, and her “acceptance” speech was articulate and amazing! It’s an “acceptance” speech, because she is in no way accepting the the status quo and the inequality of our system. She explains that we as “Other” must support each other and that by creating roles in media that portray women, people of color, GLBT, and other marginalized groups, the American media will become more reflective of the American population, in which the norm is uniqueness. Congratulations Ms. Washington!

Kerry Washington accepts ally award at GLAAD

This screenplay has 14 speaking parts, 10 of which are diverse female roles! The moral of this film is that we are stronger together and that by working together, women have the power to the change our society. Some things in this film may make some people uncomfortable, but growth is uncomfortable. I applaud Ms. Washington, and hope that this project will soon be among the proud ranks of art that increases visibility of the marginalized.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Financing Family

"Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love." - Mildred B. Vermont. This quote makes my shoulders clench and brain scream. Whoever you were Mildred, and sadly because you’re a woman the internet has no record of you other than this quote, I respectfully disagree. Or perhaps you were being ironic when you said it. I can’t imagine that most moms feel well compensated for their work as a mother. They may believe their sacrifice is worth it, but there is no economic compensation for motherhood, no fair salary. This quote appears on the wall calendar in the group therapy room in “The Private Life of an American Mom.”

I believe in this project is because it portrays the real cost of our society’s economic failure to value parenthood and family. Throughout the movie, Mom and Jack spiral in an increasingly unequal relationship. It becomes clear that this fundamental inequality in the family stems from a socioeconomic structure that offers no support for families. The message is widespread in the American economy, from the terrible pay for most childcare workers and teachers to the fact that it is so difficult for women to find a job and return to the workplace after having kids. The message to women is: your work does not have value. “The Private Life of an American Mom” captures the effects of this socioeconomic structure on Mom and the other women in group therapy. This film shows that the cost is born in the health and minds of the women who are undervalued.

Jack is not a bad guy, and would probably call himself a feminist. When he recognizes the toll this structure is taking on his marriage and on Mom herself, he takes a drastic financial measure to support Mom’s equality. It is not a personal decision most would make nor is it a wise one in terms of financial security. Jack made the decision alone because he knew Mom would never support it, and he also knew that her health and dignity were worth the cost. Much like my own husband supporting me in this endeavor.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Road

Today’s quote and the one from March 5, are two of five quotes that appear on the wall calendar in the group therapy room in scenes of “The Private Life of an American Mom.”

Sometimes it’s a little tough to keep the faith on this project. I sent letters to over 40 feminist and mental health organizations asking if they would support the project by communicating with their members when the Kickstarter campaign launches. I heard back from one organization. Interestingly, it was the only Silicon Valley organization that I contacted. I haven’t given up, I will be following up with phone calls to most of organizations that received a letter. And I will probably try again when the Kickstarter campaign launches.

The plan for this project is to shoot some sample scenes around Easter and then to use those video clips on the Kickstarter campaign. I will launch the Kickstarter campaign in early May, before Mother’s Day. Then use that holiday to promote the campaign. After the campaign, I will decide what the next steps are… I may seek sponsorship support for some of the many products that families use everyday. Especially coffee, mmm… coffee, Moms live on coffee. During this schedule I will continue to look for a California SF Bay Area indy film production company or local producer. I will still be doing at least two blog posts per week at least through the Kickstarter campaign, and probably until this project is complete. We still have a rough road ahead, I hope to find proof of life for this project soon! I will definitely post the videos here as well. Look for the sample scenes in the second week of April.

Thank you, PLAM blog followers for sticking with me. I have to remind myself every day why I am doing this. I’m doing everything I can to make this movie a reality, because Moms are underappreciated and undervalued in society. Because mental illness is viewed as weakness and those who struggle with it are stigmatized. Because inequality is built in to our family structure by the complete lack of economic support for childcare and home-makers. Because the gap between the haves and have-nots is growing wider everyday and we need to start talking about these issues. I never thought I'd make a movie and do not wish to be a celebrity, but I believe in this project. It has humor and truth to impart.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Private Life of an American Mom - Characters (5)

The name of each woman in the therapy group reflects both traditional feminine associations and her personal role in the film. One thing “The Private Life of an American Mom” shares with many other works of fiction is that the secondary characters have backstories that are much more developed than the story is allowed to reveal. Fortunately, this blog is great place to provide more detail about these women who are important to the story even though they do not appear with the same frequency as Mom, Monique, or Jack.

Margaret - this character is fascinating and although her role is limited, she requires an incredibly talented actor. Margaret is bridled intensity. Of all the women in the group Margaret is the highest risk for harming herself and others. Margaret suffers from severe postpartum mental health disorders. Margaret, a white woman, is highly intelligent and was a high-level software engineer before she lost her job due to long term pregnancy related illness. Margaret’s husband is not very supportive or helpful with the baby and household work.
Margaret means “pearl” in Greek, which is appropriate: pure beauty formed from grit inside. This name also provide a dose of irony because Saint Margaret, the patron of expectant mothers, was martyred at Antioch in the 4th century.

Ling - Ling is Chinese and we don’t know much about her. Her gentle nature is often steamrolled by her dominant husband and mother-in-law. Her softness hides a steel core and profound wisdom. She has one child, a boy.
The name Ling is interesting because it can apply to men or women, but it has different meanings. The female meaning is “sound of a bell” and the male meaning is “new dawn.” It can also mean “small and exquisite” or “compassionate and understanding.”

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Private Life of an American Mom - Characters (4)

What’s in a name? Well, if you’re looking at the meanings of men’s and women’s names you will find very different things. Themes of strength and dominance related characteristics are prevalent in men’s names meanings. In contrast, women’s names meanings lean toward flowers, physical beauty, positive emotions, and submissive characteristics.

Gopi - Gopi is an extraverted Indian woman. She moved to the US as a child with her parents, her English is perfect and accented. Gopi is in an arranged marriage; she and her husband get along but they are not in love. Gopi lives with her husband’s family and they have one child, a boy. Gopi has a sunny personality and positive outlook on life, she works part time in office administration, and has a degree in business and is passionate about marketing. She does not love her home life, but has her own interests. She appreciates that she can get out frequently, because there are so many family members at home to take care of things and watch her son.
The name Gopi means devoted cow herder of Krishna, aka besotted milkmaid - there were so many times while breastfeeding that I felt that phrase could have described me. I loved the symbolism of this name and thought it would fit in “The Private Life of an American Mom” and for Gopi, who only has position in her family related to her husband and son.

Maria - Maria is the youngest woman in the group. She has three children, two girls and a boy, and is pregnant with her fourth. Her family is conservative Catholic and they do not support birth control. Secretly, she made plans with her doctor to have a C-section for this birth and have her tubes tied. Maria loves her husband and her children; she enjoys being a Mom, but feels trapped. She is aware that she did not have the opportunities available to most of the other women in the group. She takes what many will view as extreme measures to find relief.
The name Maria is prevalent in Western culture and history. It is the most common female name in all Spanish speaking countries. Maria is a Latin form of Mary and means “bitter” or “wished for child.” Mary was the virgin Mother of Christ in the Catholic and Christian religions. Maria is rich in history and the name is found across many cultures.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Calling All Mental Health Advocates

I have been reaching out to mental health organizations, looking for support for “The Private Life of an American Mom”. Here is the text of the letter I sent. If any readers have organizations to suggest or other promotional ideas, please contact me!

Dear Mental Health Organization, 

Your organization is committed to promoting awareness around mental health issues. My project aligns with your organization's mission. I am looking to gain traction in producing a mainstream movie that raises awareness about mental health disorders, wrestles with racial division, and confronts sexism. How can it possibly do that and entertain? Because it’s the story of motherhood in America. “The Private Life of an American Mom” is an intimate picture family life in the home, where mental health issues often remain concealed.
Our protagonist, Mom, is an exhausted mother of toddlers and has clearly been battling depression. The film’s opening scene is Mom’s first appointment with a therapist, who prescribes group therapy. The group therapy sessions in “The Private Life of an American Mom” reveal truths about mental health illness: 1) mental health illness falls on a spectrum, 2) those suffering mental health disorders deserve respect as individuals and recognition for their strengths, 3) persons suffering from mental health illness are empowered by sharing their struggle in a safe environment. Perhaps not all mental health organizations will agree with every part of this film, but everyone involved in mental health advocacy does agree that public awareness needs to increase. Making this story widely available will focus public attention on mental health issues.
If you and Your Organization are interested in increasing mental health awareness through supporting “The Private Life of an American Mom,” here are some options.
  1. Communicate with your members and contacts, via email or other media, encouraging them to support the Kickstarter campaign when it launches.
  2. Officially support the making of this screenplay into a mainstream film. Send notification in an official capacity that your organization supports this project.
  3. Advise further steps. Do you have any individual or organizational connections that could help make this screenplay into a film? Would you ask your affiliates to consider supporting this project?
If you are interested, but would like more details about “The Private Life of an American Mom,” I am more than happy for a member of your staff to read the script. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Space Between Us

Response to Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech calling for wage equality brought attention to the fact that there is division among marginalized groups in our country. I tried to draw a Venn Diagram identifying different marginalized groups. This attempt illustrates the point that we don’t fall into isolated categories, we are a beautiful mess. All of these groups are oppressed and we will all do better when we all do better.

One reason I am working so hard to make “The Private Life of an American Mom” a reality is that it presents some of the universal problems of being marginalized. The characters find unifying solutions and share their struggle. In one way or another, motherhood is something we all can relate to. PLAM characters come from a variety of backgrounds and their truth is that they find strength in their differences. The space between us is the room to for us to grow.