Marina Rice Bader on moving beyond coming out stories with “Ava’s Impossible Things”

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Loved for her work on films like Anatomy of a Love Seen and Raven’s Touch, Marina Rice Bader is back with a new movie, Ava’s Impossible Things. The film looks at the life of Ava (Chloe Farnworth), who’s been taking care of her mom who has Huntington’s disease, which Ava’s also inherited. Stuck at home, she’s seen her older sister flourish and her high school best friend and crush, Jessa (Lauryn Nicole Hamilton), move away. But with her mom’s health worsening, they’re both back to offer support. A shocking announcement, however, ruins the happy day and sends Ava into a tailspin and on a trip to a fantasy world of her own creation.

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We recently spoke with Marina ahead of the movie’s world premiere at Outfest. We talked about Ava and Jessa’s history, the challenges she faced with funding and shooting, her plans to open up her future films to general audiences and more.

Warning: Slight spoilers ahead

AfterEllen.com: Ava’s Impossible Things is the first film to receive an investment from Vimeo’s “Share the Screen” initiative. Can you explain what that’s about and its significance?

Marina Rice Bader: They launched this amazing initiative at Sundance this year called “Share the Screen” and it’s all about helping deal with the incredible imbalance in the filmmaking world. They want to lift up female filmmakers and they want to help make sure the female voice is heard via filmmaking. So they created this wonderful filmmakers fund. I was lucky enough to be the first recipient of that. They’re doing that for other female filmmakers, they’re starting to do some original content, and highlighting the female filmmakers on their blogs and when they send out to their members. It’s really amazing and I wish more businesses would follow suit because it would be very easy for the other video platforms to follow suit and do such a thing.

 

AE: The film was also partially fan-funded, correct?

MRB: Yes, it was. There was some crowdfunding involved. We had one executive producer who invested a large chunk of money–that’s Jan Miller Corran. I had such a hard time raising money for this film, which is why starting with the next film it’s going to be a completely different model, a completely different kind of film with a little bit of a wider net to cast as far as my audience. I had to spend some of my own money on this film. 

As a filmmaker who’s giving so much time and energy to the whole thing, you want that to be your investment. You don’t want to have to freaking cash out your IRA to make a lesbian movie when there’s so many lesbians who are wanting content, who are feeling that when they go to rent a movie or watch a movie there’s not enough choices for them. I don’t understand why all lesbians don’t donate $10 for me to make a movie. But they don’t, so I’ve kind of come to the realization that I’m not going to be able to create film for my community based on support from my community, and it’s really heartbreaking. There was a time during all of this when I thought, “Wow, I wonder if this is going to be my last film?”

 

AE: You mentioned casting a wider net–does that mean loosening the focus of the films? Like not as lesbian-centric?

MRB: Exactly. It makes me really sad to say it, but it’s just the way it is. Actually, what I just said to you I’ve never said to anybody else before because I just kind of went, “Oh yeah, I guess that is the state of the situation.” But the next film is going to be an action film. It’ll still be female-led, the protagonist will still be a lesbian, but it’s going to be a female ensemble action film with a very, very strong protagonist who basically is–she’s going to be the next true American hero. But this is what I’m talking about with casting a wider net: everyone can understand what an action film is.

In general, men aren’t going to understand what is Ava’s Impossible Things, what is Anatomy of a Love Seen. In terms of investing. “How am I going to make money back?” But a really, really well done action film with incredible fight choreography and stunts and just end to end with action with a wonderful personal journey at the core, with a hero that we really fall in love with, everybody can understand that. Everybody can understand patriotism, everyone can understand saving their country, saving their family. And that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about stepping away from my lesbian audience. I’m talking about creating a film that honors them, but at the same time allows more people in.

I got my eye on somebody. I can’t talk about it right now, but she is such a badass. She’s amazing. And so I’m just really visualizing her this whole time for the project and hopefully that will all work out. My audience will be insane if I can get her. So that’s what I’m working on.

Smiling Mother & Daughters

AE: You’ve mentioned that Ava’s Impossible Things was your most ambitious project yet. In what ways did you mean that?

MRB: It’s my most ambitious in that I am the writer and the director and the producer and I’ve never been all three before. And this was our largest budget film to date and we had a very large cast originally. But what happened was a huge chunk of money fell out at the last minute and so I had to completely rewrite the script to turn 15 days of shooting into nine. You can imagine how much I had to cut out. It was insane. Every night after we finished filming I was rewriting. It turned out to be quite an event. It’s the largest set I’ve ever worked on, it’s the biggest production value we’ve ever had.

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