for her satirical short FETUS ENVY.
(See it screened at ArtLightenment 2012)
Please click image to enlarge.
Here's what Melissa has to say about herself and her film.
What role did theatre, film and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
Truthfully, very little. As a child, though I had a very vivid imagination that kept me entertained for hours (and occasionally caused my parents great concern), theatre, film and the arts were not on my radar. In fact, I had been accepted to three different schools for fashion design until junior year of high school when, needing an elective, I signed up for Mrs. Gunion’s "Play Production" class. It was then that I got “bitten by the bug".
Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I graduated from Boston University with a BA in performance in classical theatre and immediately moved to NY where I spent the early part of my career acting in regional theatres, commercials, voice-overs, TV and some film. Along the way I started writing and then eventually directing. The past eight to ten years my focus has been primarily on directing. I believe it is the discipline that best utilizes my talents, and that my years/experience as an actor and playwright were necessary to my development, informing who I am as director and how I approach that craft.
What inspired FETUS ENVY and what are the adventures you have had on this journey?
Fetus Envy was originally written as a one-act play in 2003. At the time, I was a member of the now defunct theatre company called Urban Rock Project. In response to the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, founder Rich Cole challenged company members to write plays that addressed the many ways in which our rights were being infringed upon (one addressed criminal justice, another marriage and civil unions, another capital punishment, right to privacy, etc). We ended up with ten one-acts, which were produced in the NY International FringeFestival under the title, Patriot Acts: The Constitution Project. Earlier this year, however, with the trans-vaginal controversy and Congress refusing to let women speak on a panel about contraception (are you kidding me!), I got angry all over again and realized that my play was more pertinent now then when I first wrote it. So I decided to shoot it as a film in hopes of it being a call to action. At some point during the filmmaking process, we discovered an article about the criminalization of pregnant women due to the personhood bill (and one article led to another). It was at this point that we realized that the film, while a work of fiction, was more life-like and less satirical than we’d thought and that “the not too distant future” was NOW. Making the film has been both the scariest and most exhilarating experience of my career to date. Scary because, having never made a film before, I was on a HUGE learning curve. I was stretched so far outside my comfort zone there were days I thought I was going to spontaneously combust. And yet, those very same reasons made it exhilarating: standing in the face of all of my fears, overcoming all the overwhelming challenges and not backing down gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. This year has been about growth for me.
For the film: enter it into festivals, screen it where/whenever possible and continue to get the word out. For me: I’m always working on several projects at any given time. I am the director of AmericanSlavery Project’s “Unheard Voices”, a collective work by African-American playwrights, which brings to life some of the 419 anonymous men, women and children who lived in colonial New York and are buried at the African Burial Ground. I am also currently directing a rehearsal project at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting for their third year students. In December I begin rehearsals for a children’s musical at Vital Theatre called, SHOW WAY, an adaptation of Jacqueline Woodson’s award-winning children’s book by the same title. Then I head to University of Texas where I will be directing a production of Intimate Apparel. That will keep me busy through the first of March.
Writer/Director FETUS ENVY It's not just a film; it's a movement!
Director UNHEARD VOICES
Speaker TEDx Talk: "Taking Ownership"