Q&A with Colette Freedman
Colette Freedman is an author who received acclaim when her play Sister Cities became a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008. Since then she has adapted the play into a film version of the same name, written novels for both adults and young adults, and has a number of upcoming projects in the works, not to mention her love for pottery. Colette was kind enough to participate in a Q&A for the site and I thank her for her time.
1. What inspired you to start writing?
I was always a writer. In 5th grade, I wrote An Archie Bunker Thanksgiving (clearly, I am dating myself). It had all of the hit 1970’s TV characters reluctantly going to a bigoted, misogynistic, bad-tempered holiday dinner. It was my first comedy.
2. Is there something you find crucial to your writing or style, a source of inspiration or process that helps you along and get going?
Coffee. A comfortable chair. Biking and traveling. The ritual of making a cup of Joe in the morning and sitting down to write is a practiced habit. Because writing is such a sedentary occupation, having a good…no a great chair (I have a Herman Miller) is a necessity rather than a luxury. Biking is my favorite way to marinate ideas without the distraction of the Internet, my dogs and my bed. And travelling always inspires me. Whenever I am out of my comfort zone, I’m privy to new experiences which invariably spark my creative juices.
3. Family plays a large part in your writing. Is there something you are passionate about that you try to place in each of your stories?
I love writing about women. They interest me, both the way they speak and what motivates them so most of my stories are completely female-centric. My family’s also pretty awesome, which doesn’t necessarily lend for good drama… although my mom seems to think most of my characters are inspired by her.
The play was a hit at Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2008) and has now been adapted into a film. It is about four sisters going through the death of their mother and in the process reveals how illness plays a major part in her death.
4. What research did you do in terms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Motor Neuron Disease (MND) for the play?
My cousin had ALS and it is a horrific way to die. For the play, I wanted the mom to be in the early stages so the research was minimal. For the film, she was further along in the disease and the director did his due diligence by bringing in an advisor who worked with the Mom and the daughters.
5. What process did you have when it came to writing the play, particularly the four sisters. How was this developed into who they became?
I played lacrosse and field hockey in college and the sisters were an amalgamation of my teammates, who were all like sisters to me. These are complicated women who differ greatly from each other and my friends were the perfect templates from which to fairly seamlessly extract already complex characterizations.
6. What were the challenges of adapting your own stage production into a film screenplay?
Opening it up from a single setting. The house really is an enormous character in the story and the film does a great job of showing that. It was fun because I had the luxury of bringing in flashbacks of the daughters and allowing the audience to see the Mom before she became sick.
7. In the play, the character of Mary Baxter (mother of Carolina, Austin, Baltimore and Dallas) plays a small but pivotal role, whilst in the film version, she is played by Jacki Weaver (Mary) and Amy Smart (Young Mary). When writing the film script, did you always plan to incorporate the younger versions of the characters?
I’ve always loved seeing what moments in life dictate the women we become. I gave all of the characters flashbacks in the film so that we, as an audience, can be voyeurs during some of those pivotal, life changing moments which define ones character.
8. The cast attracted a lot of attention during the shooting of the film. How did the publicity differ from when you took the play to Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Social media is a crazy beast and it was a lot of fun to see the outpour of support. Stana Katic seems to be more popular than Taylor Swift…her fans are deliciously rabid. And Troian Bellisario’s Pretty Little Liars fans are fanatical (in a great way). In Edinburgh, Jill Gascoine (who had her own tv series in England for years) played Mary and she had fanboys lining up every night to get her autograph…so I was used to the attention. They were less interested in the rest of us, but sometimes asked for our autographs simply because we were proximate.
Tagline: Bailey and Drew Poster are a 40 something couple much like other couples: They have two kids, two jobs, one dad with Alzheimer’s and one boob with cancer. Toss in planning an 8 year old’s birthday party and the only thing you CAN do is laugh.
9. You are co-producing the upcoming project, Quality Problems, one that a lot of people like Sister Cities can relate to in its content. How did you come on board?
I fell in love with Brooke Purdy’s script and wanted to be a part of a film that had something to say in both an accessible and humorous way. The people involved in this project are truly some of the most extraordinary, powerful women I’ve been privileged to work with and I knew I had to be involved in any capacity they would have me.
10. Independent films are relying more and more on fundraising to get their projects green lit. What are you most excited about regarding the project?
Working on Quality Problems reminds me a lot of doing black box theatre when I first moved to LA. It is an arena filled with crazily talented and passionate people who simply lack dough. I was involved in some productions which rivalled Broadway, the only difference was the lack of money. We are in a similar situation. This could be a Juno or Little Miss Sunshine…we simply don’t have the budget…yet. Hopefully, once we prove ourselves with Quality Problems, investors will come forward for our future projects.
11. You have a number of upcoming projects in the works, would you like to give a plug to any of these?
I’m really excited about my YA book Anomalies which I co-wrote with Sadie Turner. It is in the dystopian vein of Hunger Games, but far more sinister. I’m also super excited about another indie film I co-wrote with Savannah Bloch And Then There Was Eve. A transgender love story. My thriller the Mystery of Casa Matusita starts filming in November in Peru and we are already discussing the framework for the sequel.
12. Is there any advice you would give your younger self, as a writer, that may influence others as they begin their writing journeys?
Believe in yourself. I’m a glass half full person and it baffles me how many people thrive on the glass half empty mantra. Being an artist, in any capacity, requires a great deal of self-discipline and self-confidence. You really need both to succeed. And find a good tribe…a good village of people who believe in you and support you. I could not survive in this business without the support and love of my friends and family.
13. You are an avid potter, what attracted you to pottery and do you have one piece you are most proud of?
Pottery is my version of therapy. Rather than going to a shrink once a week, I work with clay. It gets me out of my head and I love building new, weird creations each week. My “thing” is making weird pottery plant people. Essentially, they are pots with cartoonish faces which house plants. I’m fairly prolific, so they are all over my home and when people visit, they always leave with one as a parting gift. I actually started a Pinterest page of my weird pottery plants and their new owners.
For more information:
- Anomalies, a Young Adult (YA) novel will be released by Select Books in January 2016
- Mystery of Casa Matusita is currently in pre-production
- Fundraising Page for Quality Problems (closes mid-September)
- Serial Killer Barbie (the musical) opens in New Zealand in September 2015
- Sister Cities will be released in 2016
- Colette Freedman’s Official Site – www.colettefreedman.com,Pinterest andTwitter
Also a huge thanks to Anthea for contributing to the overall piece. Much appreciated.