Podcast:  How to Make a Lesbian Feature Film in 5 Days with Marina Bader

Podcast: How to Make a Lesbian Feature Film in 5 Days with Marina Bader

In this interview, Marina Rice Bader gives us a behind-the-scenes view of the filmmaking world with a focus on the lesbian niche market.  Since recording our interview, the trailer for ‘Anatomy of a Love Seen’ has reached over 850,000 views and the film has become a worldwide success.

Marina is the mastermind and director behind the project, and completed it on a tight deadline – 5 days to be exact.  Learn how.

Press play to listen or read the transcript of our conversation, below.

 Interview:

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Paul: Welcome to Gay Ambitions where we bring out the best in business. I’m here on the phone with Marina Bader who’s making her directorial debut with Anatomy of A Love Seen, a lesbian themed featured film. It was announced as an official selection of Outfest 2014 and is debuting worldwide. Her publicist reached out to me with the idea to cover this project and emphasize the unusual decision to bypass the traditional Hollywood distribution channels, making the movie immediately available to fans. The YouTube trailer is going viral on Youtube and this sounds like a really cool project. Marina, thank you for being here with me.

Marina: Oh my goodness Paul, it’s my pleasure.

P: The film is debuting in Los Angeles, are you excited?

M: I am excited. We are having our debut in Los Angeles, my hometown which makes me beyond excited and thrilled. I love Outfest!

P: Nice. So, I actually never been but I will have to check that out some year.

M: Oh! Come to Los Angeles. You will have a great time here, see films. Go to some events. It’s huge.

P: I was there the other month, but I’m sure I could come back on a better time when there is more things going on.

M: Yeah, there’s a lot to come. There are lots of events. Lots of people coming in together. Lots of people celebrating the LGBT World and the Arts which is what Outfest is all about.

P: Totally. So I’ve given listeners a little bit overview of what you do and I’m wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about your film, your business, Soul Kiss Films, and your background and what led you up to this point.

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M: I would love to. So, I developed Soul Kiss films in 2009 to launch my first film which is, everything I do is for the Lesbian niche audience which of course ripples out to women, that’s who I make my movies for. Films made by women, for women, telling our stories and the beautiful layer of course is that the relationship on these films are between women. Love is love, and it just doesn’t matter. And speaking about the business part of this, when you make indie films, you have to have a niche audience. If you don’t have a niche, you going to flounder in all the tiny little films out there that cannot afford to make these days. Finding this niche was beautiful in all ways and I’m grateful to my audience. They were very supportive, I called them my sisters, my soul sisters. They’re wonderful. And so after, I made Elena Undone which can something that you probably shouldn’t do but I think it will be interesting for people to know this, I used my own money to make Elena Undone and it was a huge risk. And I knew it was a risk when I went in but at the age of 53, I wanted to change career direction, I had been a professional photographer for almost 20 years. Movies were always be my love, always from where I am right now, you know. I don’t want to fight my way and take two years trying to raise money to do this but pretty much we’ve never have a bank account and I’m telling you don’t do it if you don’t have to. And definitely, don’t put your house or don’t do the mortgage thing or the credit card thing. But it was an investment that paid off. I had faith in myself and eventually I made that money back. And for the second film, A Perfect Ending, I went to the stands of Elena Undone and my company, and the writer-director of my first two films, Nicole Conn, who has been an icon in the lesbian community. And I used fund raising for that film. So probably 75% of A Perfect Ending was paid for by our fans and the ladies and a few awesome gentlemen out there who wanted to see another wonderful women film made. And then the small amount of money that I could not raise that way, I took a few investors and that worked out great. Those investors got a pretty good deal. I was already on a schedule. Last year, I created a film called Raven’s Touch and that was initially supposed to be the film after summer, you know like now. But then it got a bit chopped up in the edits and when I realized I still wasn’t ready to go, and by the way, that 100% donation based film. So that was turning around, working with them and getting folks involved, which is, on the one hand it’s very difficult to deal but on the other hand, we’re also talking about a niche where there’s very little product. In the lesbian film library, compared to what’s out in the rest of the world it’s small. So very often, women are so happy to jump on board to support in whatever small or large way they can so they can continue having a product come out. But when I realized that Raven’t Touch was not going to be ready, I went huh! People are expecting to see a film this summer and want to see a film this summer. I decided in December to make “Anatomy of A Love Seen” and it had to be in the can by the end of January which is outrageous considering I didn’t have anything ready but this is the film which kind of has a life of its own and from the first thought of it, I thought, “You know I think I can do this”. And I went to my top potential investor and she has intense love for lesbian cinema. And she said, well this is what I have right now. You know what, this is cool and I can make a film to that. And so she’s an investor and not a donator on this film. She has like 50-50 partnership with everything as far as financially and I have full creative license as far as the filmmaker. This allows new films to come out and be made in the world. So, we can’t do what we do without them. But I didn’t have a script, I didn’t have an outline so three days before we started filming, I printed my cast and crew a finished outline although they had, you know, bits and pieces of it beforehand. And then we made a movie in five days. We had two weeks of pre production, we created a feature film on a sixteen page outline and captured and created. I found amazing actresses who are truly gifted with improv and I can’t wait for folks to see this movie. We did not just do a scene, we got the whole thing done in just five days. It was pretty remarkable and I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful team.

P: That is so exciting and you filmed it down in Los Angeles where you live?

M: Yes. One of the real constraints when you’re making films, company moves are the big time crunch. So, once I realized that I have created a film in five days, well, we have to be in one location where we can eventually walk away from the set at the end of the day. And we walk in the next day and not spend hours setting up and tearing down. We chose a great sound stage very close to where I live and we created the whole thing there. So we just lock the door at the end of the day and head up home.

P: Nice, you’re a true entrepreneur. I think I read a statistic the other day that was like 75% of entrepreneurs, they boot strap their first project that they self fund it and when it’s successful, like it’s an opportunity for more investment and growing the business. And that’s really exciting and congratulations!

M: Thank you so much. It’s a lot of fun at this stage of my life. Not to say I’m old, but I’m 58. It’s been a tremendous blast! And it’s my first time directing, first time writing and it’s phenomenal! There is no limit, if your mind and heart and you have the passion and all those things are in line, it doesn’t matter. You know, Age freaking Hollywood and whole ageism thing, it’s a bunch of bull hockey. I don’t know what I can say, (Laughs)

P: Yeah, you should be doing what you’re passionate about at in any age. The more you can do that, the better off you’ll be. I think you’ll be a lot happier and more successful you will be as well.

M: Yes, I agree, 100%. I really do. And this is, this is good. You know I just did a little interview where someone said what advice do you have for new filmmakers coming in. I thought of that question for a half an hour because there are a billion books out there and so many things. I just thought, you know, Fear is the number one thing that keeps people from doing things. So the advice was find the thing, you have the most fear round and go up and do it. Just do that thing. If you’re horrified with snakes, go to a pet store, and let that thing wrap around you. If you’re afraid of heights, go zip lining. You know what I mean, if you’re afraid of the dark, go spelunking and take this black cave. And accomplished that one thing that you’ve been afraid of all your life and then once you go over that hump, you can freaking do anything. Then go make a movie!

P: Yeah, and you might still be scared, you might have fear but it’s the ability to act and take action in despite of that right.

M: Exactly. That’s what it’s all about. It took me until now to not be afraid.

P: That’s so fun. And I’m sure that when you first started with your first film, did you have any lessons or any failures that you might have learn from that first experience that propelled you to have greater success in the second film?

M: Well, the first few films, that was exec producing. Exec producing has a lot of different meanings. It can mean simply the person providing the money or in my case, I was hands on with absolutely everything. I was the sort of the engine that pulled project, the long if you will. But yeah, you know, the first one I realized was how much I didn’t know and in a perfect world, you do a little bit of research before going in to. But I just didn’t want to take the time on, I’m just like, you know, I’m just going to do it. Were going to hire people who know what they’re doing. We hired a few people that weren’t great. And that happened pretty much in every film up until this film. And you have to learn about how to better bring the right people onto the project, no matter what business you’re in.

P: Yeah, that’s important to surround yourself with the best people. And I love your mindset of doing your research but not getting to in to it. No 75-page business plan, taking action and making it happen.

M: It’s too time consuming. You know, there are so many people out there in all walks of life and all kinds of business. This is the business I happen to know about. They spend so much time in planning, and talking and can I do it blah blah. Pretty soon, you’re a year into it and not one thing has been done except for the bloody research. And if you have some huge epic project, again I’m speaking about the film world where you have a bunch of research that has to be done, that’s a different story. You know, that’s a different story. But just, you know, pure filmmaking when you’re telling a story, you don’t have to do all that shit, man. Because it’s just keeps you away from this doing. And I think a lot of that happens because people areafraid. And honestly, I was starting to read those books when I started this project with no notice, making sure I know what the heck I’m doing. And quite honestly, after about 30 pages and a few random books, I was like, oh, I cannot. Because they are so busy telling you about the rules and how the things have to be done. And if you think about it, people who are really successful no matter what kind of business they are in, at some point, they just have to shove those books back on the shelf and do what instinctually feels right.

P: Totally. I love that advice. It’s a great advice for people.

M: Thank you.

P: And on the other end of the spectrum, have you had a big AHA moment, anytime in recent years, like that Oprah moment, where you like, oh, this makes a lot of sense now. This is exactly what I should be doing. Kind of a like a light bulb that went off at some point in your journey?

M: Well, the light bulb went off for me when I decided to. ..Yes, yes, let me, I’ll explain this. First films that I’ve worked on, there were so many things that I like and didn’t like. Things that I felt, you know, when I was working on Raven’s Touch, there were so many aspects to that project that I love and didn’t love. And it’s because, I was going along for the ride to a certain extent. And honestly, when I say that, I just realized that for that first time, and I was giving too much power to the other people. Because I was concerned for them, I wanted them to feel heard, I wanted them to feel appreciated. And all that stuff, so I ended up, on a lot of days, pretty unhappy with the circumstances around me. Not feeling good about myself and my part in it because I gave too much away. And the AHA moment for me was when I really sat down and I spent time going, ‘Okay, if I was to do a film, strictly to make myself happy. And I’m thinking about what my audience will like and all those things that fit the story. But what do I need for myself to make this a wonderful experience?’ And then I realized, I do not work well by rules. I never have and I never will. And so I’m like screw the rules, what feels good to me and what felt good to me is to have a film that’s completely organic and visceral and driven by my instincts of what I want to do as a filmmaker and a storyteller. And as soon as I said that, I’m like “holy shit”, that is exactly how I have to be thinking about it because if I’m not creating something that I am excited about, passionate about, just happy, every single second I’m creating it, how is it going to be good? It’s not like a piece of me and that’s when I went huh I don’t want a script. I want my actors to just know who their characters are, where the story is going and what the scene art is, how it’s plays in the movie and let them use their own words and go with the emotion of it and be real. And not worry about what words I’m creating to put in the mouth. And then, I want, huh, I want to direct from inside the movie and I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I want to be fully connected and present. Not standing on the other side of the monitor while all of the action is going on on the other side of the room. And also monitors can be very, very tricky. You look at them and you can’t see the nuance in the actors’ faces. I thought, I’m going to be close so I can give them quiet direction. I don’t have to holler from across the room. And then, I ended up being in the movie and playing the director.

P: Got it. I love that part of your AHA moment was not liking to follow the rules. I feel like that’s a common theme with a lot of people that I talk to who take that big leap to do that thing that they are passionate about. They say that they don’t make very good employees so they wanted to create their own thing, they don’t like to follow the rules. It’s awesome.!

M: Oh man, I’m a bad employee. So bad man. It’s pretty funny. If I’m not driving the car, you do not want me in your back seat.

P: You obviously accomplished a lot in the recent months and the recent years after taking that step to go on your own, what is one of your proudest moments or proudest accomplishments?

M: When we left on the last day, and we got everything that we set out to get for the full feature film in five days. That was huge moment because this entire staff and crew went on this ride with me knowing that creating a featured film in five days was pretty much unheard of.

I got nothing but support and optimism and can-do from every single person involved on this project. And I love them all so much that on the next one, and the next one, hopefully, I can take the most of them along for the ride. But the other fantastic moment was when I got the news that we were accepted at Outfest.

P: Yeah, big validation right? That’s awesome.

M: It really was, it really was. It tickles me every time I think about it.

P: Nice. So, as you’ve become an entrepreneur and built out your production company, sounds like you have a lot of creative ideas flowing with a lot of people who share your mindset and hiring the best people. What is one thing you’ve learn from becoming an entrepreneur?

M: The biggest thing that I learned is that I can get this thing done. I never thought that about myself, my entire life. I had no idea of what personal power was, I had no appreciation for so many parts of myself. I cannot say I was a tremendously self-actualized or self-realized person and so I was in my 50’s but it has to do with a lot of things and my upbringing. That was the huge thing when I became an entrepreneur, was I can get things done and if want to get things done, and I have to be the one to do it. I cannot count on anyone else to make things happen. I’m the only person I can absolutely count on and then the people that I take along for the ride and want to come and join me then they have their responsibilities. They have their jobs and you have to know it and it all comes down to you.

P: Yeah, that is a really important piece of advice and I don’t think I’ve necessarily heard that one yet. You have to give people their responsibilities but the end of the day, if it’s your project, it’s your project. And I think the ability to get something done is probably one of the most important things about being an entrepreneur. And I feel like if people want to test themselves or test the waters it’s like, just land that first client, or get that first small project done which will give you the confidence to move forward.

M: Yes, I agree. I totally agree. And it goes back to fear again. A lot of people are afraid to take on the mantle of being the big chief. And everything lands on you but once you accept it and realize that’s what you have to do then it’s a lot easier.

P: Absolutely. So you’re in the lesbian niche market for films which is awesome and aligns with your passion but maybe before that, earlier in your career, I’m wondering being an out person has ever held you back or propelled you forward in your career.

M: Well, here’s an interesting thing that I’m guessing you don’t know about me is I did not fall in love with the woman until I was 52. So I am, you know, maybe not anymore, but in my 50’s, in the beginning in my 50’s, I was a sort of a baby lesbian. And, which is funny to think about. But it’s true. In my past career, I didn’t have to deal with it because I wasn’t out. I had no idea. If you have seen the movie Elena Undone, I am Elena, and I had never even been kissed a girl.

P: Got it. Wow! I love it. Thank you for sharing that. I did not know that.

M: So I guess that the general question was pertaining to me but you know, since then it has been phenomenal. It has done exactly the opposite of pulling me back. I am so humbled at the idea that now I can be in this community when everything has changed so much. I like to think that I will go down as some sort of a trailblazer by only creating projects for this particular community. But I didn’t have to be one of the ones to fight to get to where we are now. I came in at a time and in a location, I realize that many parts of the world are still struggling. I just had a skype interview with a young lady from Trinidad and she was talking about her audience and what they have to go through and one of her friends completely disappeared in Iran, when her family found out. It’s horrificwhat’s going on in the world right now. I’m thankful to be in a community which is very accepting at a time when minds are opening.

P: Totally, and it takes a village, it takes everybody, it takes people coming out earlier in life. It takes people coming out later in life and we all have a role to play I think. I’m so glad you’re doing the work that you are and providing entertainment for the community.

M: Thank you. It was really interesting to think about it and I don’t think I did it. The young lady in the Trinidad was saying, her audience, they sneak in on a little bandwidth, they sneak in lesbian films. And it allowed them to feel that camaraderie and to know that their stories are being told somewhere. To know that they are not crazy and to know that they are not alone. A lot of her audience members are really connected with the films and it’s like wow. I really didn’t think about it like that, it made me feel good and really happy. In some small way I’m helping them not feeling less alone.

P: Yeah, I love to try to speak with people in other parts of the world who are members and allies of the LGBT community. I’m actually trying to get one of the first openly gay politicians in Nepal on the podcast because I think everybody can take away something from other’s experiences. Anything you can do to provide them that comfort, that hope, the path to move forward and I think is great work to be done.

M: I agree, 100%.

P: So, one of the things we’d like to do is to collect quotes on this podcast. We love quotes and I’m wondering if there’s any quote from anybody really in your life or in the public eye that inspires you.

M: Oh my, you know, I saw that on your little test questionnaire and I’m like oh crap. I have some brain damage from a young incident when I was a child, so my memory is very, very challenged. I can remember like what I did 10 minutes ago or sometimes up to a year ago, that kind of a thing. But I don’t memorize anything. But pretty much everything from Maya Angelou says is what I try to live by, all her quotes. When she passed it was horrific.

P: (30:42) I know she has amazing quotes and I love the images that come out with her quotes. That’s actually one of the things we do too here is, I’ll pick something that you said and we’ll create a quote image and we put it online. But I love the quote from her that says you know people won’t remember what you did…

M: Oh yes, but they will remember how you made them feel! You just chose my favorite quote from her. It’s the most often quoted quote, but I’m telling you that is what I live by and that’s what I tell my kids. Oh actually, you can put that freakin’ down.

P: Alright, we’re going to mark that one down as the official favorite quote from you.

M: My official favorite quote, exactly.

P: Awesome. So we talked about fear earlier, and that you think that was probably the one thing that you have to overcome in order to the get the film career going. Is there anything else maybe even earlier on in your career, maybe before you came out, that you felt like it was holding you back from really going for what you wanted?

M: I’ve pretty much spent my entire life thinking that I wasn’t good at anything. And that was sort of engrained at an early age. I was afraid of people I didn’t know, which lasted all the way through my twenties. And the worst torture, I was very claustrophobic. Bury me alive in a box would be the worst thing. Probably, the second thing, would be to put me in a big room of people where I didn’t know anybody.

P: Well that’s a big one. I think a lot of people experience that and I think when you go out and you do your own thing, your own project, your own business, you really have to get over that because it takes a lot of collaboration and talking to people and pitching ideas. I think that is totally, totally valid.

M: Can I tell you what the fixer was for that, it could be little of help?

P: Yeah, please do.

M: The fixer was I took an acting class. I took not just an acting class but I actually joined this little community theatre when I was down in Dallas. And acting classes and directing some theatres down there. But it was so funny, because when you’re in front of people and taking a role and you can say anything and do anything because it’s not you. The character is happening but when you get used to that and you’ve done for months and months or for a year, you find yourself really coming out of your shell. Because you’re in front of, you know, 30, 40, 100 people doing crazy stuff and you’ll find that you’re not nearly as afraid. It was phenomenal. Phenomenal. I would totally recommend that for anyone who aspires to go out there and be social. It’s a tremendous fix.

P: Yeah, one of the things that I did when I first started my career as a Sales Professional was I joined the Toastmasters club which helps improve public speaking and it also has impromptu speaking. That was really good for me but a lot of people recommend what you said is taking some kind of class, that theatre class, improv class and really help them grow their confidence. I think I really need to try do that at some point when I can fit it to my schedule because I hear that all that time.

M: You know, not only it is great but it’s also fun. It’s fun. You know, and you’re getting a clap, you never have wreck about it.

P: Nice, And so you’ve learned a lot on your journey, I can tell. We’ve covered a lot of it, I think it’s really good for everyone who is listening but have you ever received any advice that made a big difference in how you approached something or started a new project, what’s the best advice that you have received?

M: You know, regarding my career I’m in right now, I’m trying to think. I get a lot of good advice from my friend who is also a filmmaker and she has produced Elena Undone and her name Is Jane Clark. And she has actually has film on Outfest as well this year called Crazy Bitches. So, she has a lot of advice. But as far as one piece of advice, I would have to say no. One I decided to go out and do this on my own I kind of jumped in with both feet and didn’t have anybody to get advice from.