OJOS! Sneak peek at Gina Rodriguez’s new comedy and interview with director Nicole Gomez Fisher

nikniksmileUnveiling at the Brooklyn Film Festival  this weekend is the world premiere of SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES, the directorial debut of former stand up comic and actor, Nicole Gomez Fisher.  Gina Rodriguez plays the hilariously real and spirited star of the movie, Alexis Fish, a role she booked right as Filly Brown started making waves at film festivals last year.  A great cast of women join her including Tony Award winning stage and film actor, Priscilla Lopez who plays her mother, and Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty)  who is enjoyably pert, as Gina’s sister.  Sleeping with the Fishes is also the first feature produced independently by Courtney Andrialis, a rising producer with many more exciting projects in development (she started her career as assistant to Bingham Ray in 2003).  I gotta say, I just love the female power of this film!   Check out the just- released trailer of the film, and read the interview I did where I check in with Nicole, a week before she releases her first baby (film) into the world.

How did your Latino/Jewish background and childhood inform your creative expression as you started conceiving of your first feature?  

I was born and raised in Brooklyn…a true Brooklynite at heart. My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is of Jewish descent, an interesting mix that has clearly influenced my life and my writing. I don’t necessarily identify with one over the other…both sides make up who I am. I knew when starting SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES that my background and my point of view wasn’t a filmmaker’s voice heard too often. I wanted to express myself and tell a story about a young woman trying to find herself in a world that she felt excluded from…not only from the outside world, but from her immediate as well.

 Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 9.51.42 AMWhat’s your connection with Gina?  How was it to work with her in comedy?  She’s got great timing and tons of energy.  

I did not know Gina Rodriguez before making SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES. We met through our casting directors Sig DeMiguel and Steve Vincent. Her agent read the script and loved it, passed it on to her and BOOM!  A meeting was set. We actually met in the bathroom of Rosa Mexicana and it was love at first sight! Gina was incredibly energetic, bright, enthusiastic and funny! I was excited to work with someone “fresh”. I knew before we even ordered that we would work well together. She was just coming off the Sundance premiere for “Filly Brown”. It was an exciting time for her and it showed. She’s a natural when it comes to comedy, so she made directing incredibly easy. Gina’s choices were spot on and she just understood the timing of comedy. It takes a real pro to know when to “go there” and when to pull back and she did. I would say try this and within seconds she would make a slight adjustment and go. If she thought something didn’t work or wanted to try another shot, we went with it. Collaborating with her was such fun.  She made directing my first feature a pleasure.

The tale of a 30something whose life has not gone as expected and must deal with the pressure of returning to a childhood like dynamic at home with the parents, is so relatable and universal, but it can also be quite personal and individual, how personal is this screen variation to you?  What did you want to convey that you had not typically seen in this popular canon?  

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 10.55.19 AMIt’s personal. The story itself is loosely based on my family, but there are many aspects to it that are a mix of truth and fiction. For my lead, Alexis Fish (played by Gina Rodriguez), her coming back home after years of living a lie all in the name of “saving face” is paralyzing for her. As you mentioned, her resilience to stay true to herself has been an exhausting journey.  Having to deal with the loss of a loved one while trying to pick up the pieces of your life only makes it that much harder to overcome. I wanted to take a classic story and make it new. Yes, she is returning home to the pressures of family, but in Alexis’ case, returning home to her mother is what is so daunting. You have two strong women who don’t see eye-to-eye: one whose pride identifies her, the other whose pride is crushed as she struggles to find her identity.

 I love that you chose to do your first film a comedy.   There doesn’t seem to be as many first films as comedies tackled in the indie world, and even less from a female written and directed perspective.  What are your influences in this vein?   Also, what is it about our passionate Latino culture in particular you think that makes family dysfunction so melodramatic and ripe for comedy?

I was a stand up comic for years and I love writing comedy. I’m a huge fan of films that blend comedy and drama. It’s what life is made of—the ying and the yang.  Some of the funniest moments in life are also the saddest.  When you can stop and laugh at a time when hope seems dim, that is life changing. Laughter has pulled me through some really hard times. …Where there is passion, there is drama. From my experience, Latinos are very strong-minded, very passionate and very vocal about what we believe.  The combination makes for some terrific melodrama.  It’s who we are—they go hand in hand.

 Who were some key collaborators and mentors for you during the launching of your first feature?  Tells us about Courtney as producer – she’s from HD net films, how did you two bond about the making of this film?

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 11.14.33 AMSome of the key collaborators were my husband Joe, my friend and fellow screenwriter A.J. Meyers, my casting directors, my father and of course, my producer Courtney Andrialis. Courtney and I have built a solid relationship around SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES. I met her via our casting directors. She’s young, eager and has a ton of knowledge. She was an integral part of the making the film. She brought on an amazing team that held me up throughout the entire process, which for a first time director is so integral. There were a lot of learning curves for me. Courtney did a great job of keeping me together and supporting me throughout the entire process.

 As you navigate the wild west of distribution, how are you feeling and where are your expectations with getting the film out there?  Are you going to be exploring the newly paved roads of direct distribution models or pursuing the traditional theatrical and window route?  

It’s great that now filmmakers have so many ways to reach their audience.  We are excited for our world premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival on June 1st.  After that, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see!

Best of luck with the film and have a blast at your premiere, Nik!

For tickets & screening info (June 1 is sold out, but June 8 still available for all y’all NYers)

Film Contact: swtf13@gmail.com.




Ojos! Brooklyn Film Festival announces lineup including Gina Rodriguez new comedy, Sleeping with the Fishes

BFF-logo-2010I’ve never been to the Brooklyn Film Festival but based on their newly announced program, me likey!  The lineup is a healthy skim sized 100 films, consisting of 13 narrative features, 5 documentary features and a diverse range of short and medium length films to screen over 10 days.  The festival put on by the Brooklyn Film Society, takes place May 31 – June 9 at two venues, Windmill Studios and indieScreen, the latter owned by Festival Directors, Marco Ursino and Susan Mackell who started the festival in 1998 (pka Brooklyn International Film Festival).  The selection is programmed by Nate Dorr, short and experimental film programmer, and  Nathan Kensinger, Programming Director and Brooklyn’s curious trespassing urban anthro-photographer (love his Camera Obscura pieces for Curbed NY).  Recently listed in the top 25 of MovieMaker’s Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, BFF will award competition prizes totaling over $50,000 in film services and products, including a seven-day theatrical release at indieScreen for both the Best Feature and Best Documentary award winners.

The program has a range of down and dirty sexy indie genre. For you grind house fans, there’s the badass Dutch film which previously screened at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, Blackout, a breakneck speed, black comedy Snatch-y crime thriller with an underbelly crime ensemble featuring a delightfully deplorable mob boss who is a ballet dancer and ever cordial switch turn menacing Russian.

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 11.03.02 AM
Kaya Scodelario as Emanuel

There is the darling and dazzling EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES, from this year’s Sundance US Dramatic Competition, written and directed by Francesca Gregorini (Tanner Hall). It’s a fantastically rendered tale about a raised-by- her-single-dad teen played enigmatically by Kaya Scodelario.  Our french new wave heroine with unbridled imagination, self-deprecating and biting wit, willfully carries the haunting burden of having killed her mom in childbirth, which opens the door to an unexpected journey of discovery when a new neighbor who looks like her dead mother embraces her.  Then, there is the world premiere of HAIRBRAINED which I have not seen but I’m looking forward to watch.  Written and directed by Billy Kent in collaboration with his Love Lane Pictures crew (The Oh in Ohio) it’s about Ivy League rejects who mobilize their underdog school Master Mind team to launch a championship coup against Harvard.  The young cast is led by newcomer Alex Wolff as Eli Pettifog, Brendan Fraser is Eli, his 41 year old roommate, and Eli’s mother is played by permanently throned Indie royalty, Parker Posey.  If documentaries are your jam, I recommend the affecting FUREVER by Amy Finkel which examines the irrevocable bond between a pet owner and their pet, and the absolutely staggering cinematic ETERNAL AMAZON.

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 10.55.19 AM
Gina R as Alexis Fish, trying to get her groove back

The headline however, is that to my absolute delight, the American Latino film SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES, written and directed by Nicole Gomez Fisher will be having its world premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival.  The comedy is the directorial debut of an emerging filmmaker, actor/writer Nicole Gomez Fisher and is produced by Courtney Andrialis.  With Gina Rodriguez’s starmeter rising on the heels of Filly Brown’s success, it should help veer the discovery of this charismatic indie gem.  It’s so awesome to see the rare female written and character driven comedy unapologetically rooted in variable measures of raw, fierce, sweet and vulnerable feminine nature, especially as seen from the under-represented multi-cultural perspective. Gina plays 30 something Puerto Rican/Jewish Alexis Fish as she undergoes a trying but necessary unhinging following a terrible life ordeal.  On a return visit to her old hood, she must bear the humiliation and misperception of her parents’ version of her reality while being constantly reminded of her unmet potential, before she can begin to freshly kickstart a new independent life focusing on herself this time around.  Gina is a versatile and exuberant actor and Gomez Fisher gives her a role with lots of legroom to show off her comedy chops.  You lucky New Yorkers have the chance to be the first to see this hilarious and heartwarming debut by a talented young female filmmaker.  Check out the film’s website, and like on Face to show the love and keep up with future screening announcements.

Also noteworthy in the program is a movie from Cuba.  GIRAFFES written and directed by Enrique (Kiki) Alvarez about two young lovers and squatters living invisibly in the middle of Habana’s hustle and bustle.  The film premiered earlier this year at Rotterdam yet I can’t find a single review of it (?)  I’m dying to watch it.  Looks like a daring commentary on Cuba as provocative as the sensual young bodies.  Miralo.

Lastly but never least, in shorts, I spy a short called OJALA by Ryan Velasquez about a young Guatemalan pregnant woman who recalls her mother’s journey from Guatemala to LA as she makes her way home, and two shorts from Mexico, CHAOS and THE PHANTOM PAIN.

So there’s your heads up East Coast.  Save the date (May 31-June 9) and head to our beloved B-Boy MCA’s hood to scope out these films.  Take advantage of the early bird reasonably priced $100 Festival Pass that gives you access to all films and parties.