What was it like to be on set shooting The Ladies Almanack? For 10 days in Paris, I cried every night, a mixture of exhaustion and elation. Here I was, actually doing the thing I’ve imagined doing my whole life, a disembodied eye behind a camera, completely dependent on those around me. A film set, I learned from my team, is a place of trust and care. Stephanie Acosta, the film’s producer, carried me through those days and managed all the project’s moving pieces with skill and patience. In my tunnel vision, she was the wide angle lens.
Our whole team was new to this, so we figured out how to work, day-by-day, with long crew meetings between shoots to talk about how we could do it better before we moved to the next location, sometimes shooting two or three scenes each day to maximize our limited time together.
Jack Theodore as Thelma “Teddy” Wood
When I say crew, I am talking about four people: myself behind the camera, James the AD, Rory doing sound and Stephanie wearing every other hat at once. For a week, we also had Alexia, a French college student who took off from school to serve as our brilliant PA. Alexia would return from sourcing props (a train ticket, chocolate cake) and silently fill my water bottle, waiting for her next task. At the beginning of the week, we handed her an envelope with some Euros and instructed her to write the balance of each purchase on the outside. The tattered envelope of coins handed back each day: our version of line producing.
Alexia was everywhere at once, sometimes even in the way. At one point, after nearly tripping on her on the cluttered set, Stephanie said, “Alexia, I swear, I will kill you with my hands!” To which Alexia replied by leaning forward and planting a kiss on Stephanie’s forehead.
I can remember Brie (who plays Natalie Clifford Barney) handing me food during breaks while I poured over storyboards with Stephanie and James. A döner or salad would just appear in my lap, “eat.” She would say and then disappear again.There would be other shoots, in New York and Chicago, but those first 10 days shooting in Paris will forever be ingrained as a lump in my throat, a debt I can never repay.
When Stephanie and I teamed up to make this film, we decided it had to be on our own terms, and every step of the process would have to reflect our values.“It’s not just a movie—it’s a movement” means part of the goal is for book stores reprint The Ladies Almanack and to spread the spirit of sisterhood within cultural production.
Guinevere Tuner as Liane de Pougy
We embark on post-production with a similar attitude, ready to open the circle and involve a community beyond those that we already know. Before we found Seed & Spark, we were resistant to crowdfunding, since we didn’t want to partner with any organization that did not align with the film’s mission. Seed & Spark was a goddess-send, as a fundraising platform that is empowering, transparent, female-centric and does not require that we dumb down our message for money. The politic of this film is in every cell of its making, financing, and execution. And we plan to extend this ethos into marketing and distribution. In addition to cinema venues, we look forward to screening the film in intimate settings; feminist bookstores, schools, community centers, even homes.
Brie Rowland as Natalie Clifford Barney
Ours is a politic that favors a notion of plenty over competition; of grey over black and white. When Stephanie and James named their production company and post house (where The Ladies Almanack will be finished) Intrinsic Grey, I thought of Romaine Brooks’ monochromes. The painter, one of the characters in the film, painted grey monochromes to the embarrassment of her painting group in England, in 1901. Twelve years before art history would teach that Malevich’s black “modern masterpiece” was the first painting about nothing. In her choice of grey, Brooks’ lost paintings were instead about everything. I thought, “Of course!” To commit to that which is intrinsically grey is a call to arms: our own.
Now, with less than two days left of our Seed & Spark campaign for post-production funds, please join us, where we can carry each other through the impossible without giving up anything.
Find out more about The Ladies Almanack and help them meet their fundraising goal to finish the film.