Marina Rice Bader
Text JF. Pierets Photos Marina Rice Bader
Executive Producer of the lesbian themed movies ‘Elena Undone’ and ‘A Perfect Ending’, Marina Rice Bader, is releasing her feature length directorial debut ‘Anatomy of a Love Seen’ as a streaming rental, breaking outside of and bypassing the traditional Hollywood distribution channels. Bader was set on the idea of exploring alternative distribution options in order to engage and connect directly with her fans, and get the film out to as many people as possible. A conversation about lesbian films, about running her independent film company ‘Soul Kiss Films’ and about love & passion.
When did you start to make movies? Lesbian movies, to be correct.
I’m in the movies since 2009. It hasn’t been really long, but I can say it’s been fantastic. That year I fell in love with a woman for the first time. She happens to be Nicole Conn (film director, producer and screenwriter. The lesbian love story, ‘Claire of the moon’, was her debut feature. Red.) I had never fell in love with a woman before, never even kissed a woman. So, when you are walking into an entirely new world, you do your research by watching movies. I rented so many lesbian movies that I noticed there were some really good ones but also some terrible ones because of the lack of chemistry between the actors. Movies have been my non-human loves my entire life and after we were together for almost a year I said to Nicole; let’s make a movie, just for fun! Since the only story she wanted to tell was ours, we made ‘Elena Undone’, which was literally my story. On the set I did about 20 different things. From executive production to preparing food and shuttle driving, just to name some. I had my hands in all the different departments and fell in love with the process. After that I produced ‘The Perfect Ending’ and when Nicole and I split up a couple of years ago, my love of film didn’t die with the relationship. I just continued on my own with ‘Anatomy of a Love Seen’ and the upcoming ‘Raven’s Touch’.
‘Anatomy of a love seen’ is your directors’ debut. There’s quite a difference between being an executive producer and a director. How does one take such a big step?
I don’t like to call myself a control freak, but I do like to have my hands on everything. And I love storytelling. As a professional photographer I spend 18 years telling stories through still images before I got into this rollercoaster business. Directing this film came as a natural progression and besides that I chose the wardrobe, I did the make-up, chose the location and coached the actors into getting the real emotions. I can actually say it was an easy transition because I have already been doing it for so long on a smaller level.
Why did you make another lesbian themed movie?
Well, I love women. I just do. My female friends have been the most important people in my life, up until my kids. I want to tell women’s stories and since almost all my friends are lesbians and we have so many beautiful, committed fans from ‘Elena Undone’ and from ‘The Perfect Ending’, it just makes so much sense for me to continue telling their story. And also; a good story is a good story. It doesn’t matter who’s making love to whom because they are two human beings. They are not anything other than that. I’m trying to tell universal stories because the one thing that every single person on the planet struggles with and what every single person wants, is the ever-illusive true love.
What do you think about lesbian movies in general?
Some of the most beautiful films I’ve seen are lesbian films but whatever niche you name, there are both good and bad films. Of course we all hope that our film goes beyond the niche, that it tells a good enough story that other people want to watch it. But we are forced to make films on a very small budget. When you’ve got a small percentage of the planet that are going to be organically interested in your film, you can’t spend a lot of money because you don’t know how much you are going to get back. And when you have a low budget it’s easy to reach for the moon when you’re for example doing your casting. You continually have to ask, ask, ask for what you feel you deserve for your film and at a fraction of the price. But once again, that’s just not only in lesbian film. It’s niches across the board. It just happened to be what I’m talking about right now.
What is the one thing you would never settle on?
For me, one of the number one things I was missing in a lot of the films was chemistry between the two leads. When Nicole and I worked together we worked really hard to make sure that we did chemistry reads. Nicole was very adamant about that because it’s critical, it really is. When I cast Charon and Jill in ‘Anatomy of a Love Seen’, I did it because their chemistry was phenomenal. They where incredibly comfortable and they adored each other. When you are tossing two actresses in bed, naked, the very first day of filming, those are important attributes.
You shot the movie in only 5 days. That’s quite a challenge.
The reason for that was that I wanted to maintain the production value that I had on the other films that we’ve done…with about one third of the budget to work with. I had one investor who really is an ally in the world of lesbian cinema, and when I decided I wanted to make this film I called her and asked if she wanted to be involved. When she said she had 75000 dollars to invest, I didn’t want to spend one more minute trying to find other investors. I just wanted to make the movie right away in order to get it submitted for the summer festivals. The only way to keep the production value high was to limit the amount of days we where shooting, which is what I did. I can tell you that every shot that I took to make ‘Anatomy of a love seen’ was very carefully thought about.
And then, well, there was no script.
Indeed. Everything was just an idea in my head. I started working on an outline and did not finish until I casted the actresses. There was something in my brain that was not letting me move forward without knowing who was going to inhabit these roles, which, in a fully improvised film, I think you can probably understand that. So much comes from who is stepping into those roles and when I did the audition process, I didn’t even audition the first time around. I just brought these women in to meet them. You can’t cast someone to far outside the character when it’s improvisation.
So you said: we have five days to shoot, we don’t have a script. And everybody followed? More than that; they where incredible. Everyone who came on this ride with me was so brave and non afraid. It was just the right group of people because they loved the story, loved the idea. The thing that sold them all was that we were going to do this in 5 days, but on only one location. After being on numerous sets, I know how much time is wasted when you’re moving your company to another place where you have to reset the lights and everything else. We, on the other hand, had a soundstage and didn’t have to stop for plains nor trains. I made it as doable as possible. Everyone agreed and of we went. All of us. Into this great adventure.
‘I try to get out of thinking in terms of small. I’m trying to live the rest of my life big.’
When ‘Anatomy of a love seen’ was finished, you chose not to go via traditional distribution.
The thing that bothers me about traditional distribution is that it’s exclusionary. Inherently I find that to be upsetting. With the last two films we went via traditional distribution and the US was able to watch the film months before many of the European countries, because of the way they have it divided in the territories. That doesn’t only feel bad, but it also leads to piracy. I don’t blame people who have to wait for months and trying to find it illegally. But they shouldn’t have to wait. And that’s why I wanted to do it this way. I wanted a worldwide release and I’m happy to say that the movie has been viewed in 90 countries. It was available on the same day to everyone who had access to Internet and at a very reasonable price for a brand-new film. I released it after our world premier at Outfest here in Los Angeles. I just wanted to try something new and it’s been extremely successful. It really makes me happy that everyone has had the same opportunity as everyone else.
Right now the movie is available on only one platform, which is Vimeo.
There are many platforms I could have gotten the film on myself, but I wanted to start with Vimeo because they are so filmmaker friendly and it’s so easy to figure it all out. They offer high quality and are very responsive to questions. It was a great place for me to start and it turned out being tremendously successful. Our statistics within that one platform are phenomenal. Each person who rented it watched it on an average of three times. A full 10% of people who viewed the trailer had actually gone on to rent the movie. We’ve got a lot of interaction. We’ve got comments, we’ve got 4,5 out of 5 stars after a month of being up, so we’re doing very well. The exiting thing however is that I’ve been approached by Gravitas films, a distributor with tremendous projects in their library and they approached me on taking the film to the next level. I’m really excited about that because my one platform is going to be extended to many, many platforms.
Is that kind of distribution a completely new way of communicating?
I really do think this is the way of the future. In 5 years no one is ever going to buy dvd’s anymore. I don’t even think you’re going to find them. The days of having to worry about not going to be able to have a dvd distribution is over and I think, especially for young filmmakers or people who are just getting started, it’s a beautiful thing to have the opportunity to know that they can follow their passion, make their film and having a platform for people to see it. You don’t have to wait anymore for someone to come along and handle your movie.
When hearing about all those people who’ve watched ‘Anatomy of a love seen’, can I assume you’re much appreciated within the lesbian community?
I think I am. But distributing my movie in such a matter was a bit of a risk. I’m not a Josh Whedon, I’m not worldwide news. If I release my film the day after the world premiere, I have to work my butt of to make sure that every single person knows that it’s out there. At the moment I’m doing a little experiment because I’m curious to see how much the lesbian community supports someone who creates projects just for them. I sometimes think it’s something that is taken for granted in a certain way. We all go to the movies, buy dvd’s. But do people think beyond that? Are they conscious about the fact that they are supporting the artist who created this, allowing him or her to go on and create more? Just for them! For 5 dollars any lesbian out there can contribute, in order for me to be able to go on and make the next film. If I were going to be able to send a message to the lesbian community it would be, please please please support the artists who are creating just for you. Weather it’s by renting my movie, or buying a subscription to an LGBT magazine, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you know that the reason that these entities exist, is for you. They can’t exist without you. So rent the movie!
What would you like to accomplish with your movies?
We’re doing final editing on ‘Raven’s Touch’ as we speak and my desire is to make another film starting the end of the year. My dream is for ‘Soul Kiss Films’ to be synonymous with quality lesbian cinema. I really dedicated the last 3d of my life to bringing women’s stories to the screen and that would make me very happy. I actually would like to create a film a year, would like to be able to bring a new film into the lesbian library every year.
That’s very ambitious since you are running ‘Soul Kiss Films’ all by yourself.
It is, but it’s doable. I try to get out of thinking in terms of small. I’m trying to live the rest of my life big. ‘Soul Kiss Films’ is just me. I don’t have an assistant or secretary, it’s literally just me. It would be easy to think I’m not going to be able to accomplish much this way, but I would rather think in terms of being able to operate in a way that a larger production company would. In terms of what I want my output to be. A company like ‘Focus features’ is not sitting around working on one project at the time. They’re in postproduction on one, pre production on another. They have multiple things going on. So that is the way I’m running my business. At some point I will have some support but right now it’s not in the budget so I’m just trying to make sure that I stay big. Think big. I think that’s the only way to be successful.
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