40ish wants to capture what really goes on behind the curtain in Hollywood when it comes to Ageism and how stereotypes of age, gender, and status play a large role in the uphill battle of breaking into the business as an actress in film industry. Set in the heart of Hollywood, 40ish takes you on a journey through the less glamorous side of an actress’s daily grind and how she perseveres despite the constant rejections and over-the-top personalities standing in the way of her dream. The film is about a 40 year old actress who refuses to give up on her dream of making it in Hollywood. The film is about the struggles of many actresses working in the film industry.
40ish is directed by the DGA nominated, Traci Hays. The film is written by Nicole Stuart who is also the lead actress in the film. It is with great pleasure for us to interview Nicole for Toronto Film Magazine.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
I started producing theater and acting in those plays in Los Angeles, which eventually led me to writing a short film with my friend Jack Sundmacher based on a short story he wrote, called Captain and that lead me to writing other projects that I wanted to act in.
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?
I’ve been into comedy these days, the world has been so dark and disturbing right now, I can’t handle heavy and I want to laugh more, the lighter the film and the broader the comedy, the better. There was a time where all I wanted to do was drama and intense projects, now I’m loving creating comedy but I’m also working on a pretty dark dark limited series and feature about growing up in Las Vegas during the 70’s.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
Finding the time to do everything and when I say everything, I mean create the project, then find the money, and breaking it down, you end up doing a lot more than just acting, writing and producing, I even grocery shopped for our last project to help craft service, you have to do it all, in the indie world and sometimes more than others, and I love hard work, so I’m up for it.
How challenging is it to fund indie films?
I was lucky, I had about 80 people who were generous to donate to this project through Indiegogo, but it was hard for me was to put myself out there to ask for the money, and then some people donated some major necessities like; food,( Vivoli Cafe, Cheebo, Earth Bar, Chop Shop (Weho) & Continental Kitchen) and their time, and locations, which made this possible. I’m hoping the feature I plan to do next will be as seamless as 40ish. I plan to pull favors like we did with 40ish… but I’m not going to lie, it’s hard sometimes and other times it's easy. You get lucky and other times it’s like pulling your hair out but you just keep going.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
I love Mike White and his sense of humor although it’s dark I like this type of comedy based from a real grounded place of pain and dysfunction. I grew up watching films like “Pink Panther,” “10,” “Victor Victoria,” “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” so Blake Edwards played a major role growing up. And then there’s Scorsese with some of his old films like “King Of Comedy,” and a “After Hours,” but I also love his other work as well but those two are gems. Growing up with films like these shaped my world. And then there’s theatre directors, Mike Nichols, Kazan, Fosse, Clurman, I can go on and on.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
I have a few other projects I’m juggling at the moment. 40ish... is the prequel to the feature film I wrote called “The Egg and I." It’s the same character, Natalie and what happens on her next journey when she decides to have a baby, before she’s too old and follows her uncanny search to find a sperm donor in a week, because her body has finally produced two viable eggs and then she finds love when she’s least expecting it, it’s a rom-com and has the same flavor and style of 40ish…with a lot more of Natalies shenanigans and adventures in Hollywood. We plan to start pre-production on that early next year.
I’m currently working on a limited series, and feature based off the unpublished memoir I wrote called, "Vegas Girl," about my life growing up in the 70’s in Vegas, and I have a fitness book that I wrote with two friends and colleagues, Desi Bartlette and Andrea Orbeck. I’ve worked in the fitness industry as a pilates trainer for 20+ years, we got a book deal with Human Kinetics and that will be released in 2022.
What was the inspiration behind your latest film project?
A combination of things inspired me… I was sick of being told I was never the right age, when in fact I was the age they were looking for, and then being told that I never looked my age, none if it made any sense, like when I was in my 20’s I wasn’t old enough and when I was in my 30’s I was too old to make it, none if it made sense, it was all bullshit and all the circumstances and situations were actual things that had happened, you can’t make this stuff up. I wanted to make lemonade out of all these lemons of auditions and thought maybe I can tell my story of age discrimination and being a female in Hollywood still trying to make it in her 40’s, in a non-bitter way and what it’s like to live in that world and still have hope that someday something will break. Because when have we heard of any female breaking into the business in a big way, in her 30’s or 40’s, if ever… I think it’s very rare and this does exists although it’s not at the forefront of the many issues that do exist that are far more important, like #metoo and BLM. I was also sick of waiting around to be chosen, my acting teacher Larry Moss has always said "don’t wait to be chosen," and I finally got was he was saying. It’s so much better creating your own material, I love it. Lastly, I have a very dear friend who became quite successful and was a world of inspiration to me.
How did you find the cast and the crew of the film?
I work with a long time friend and producing partner Caitlin Renee Campbell, we met in acting class in the early 90’s and we started to produce plays and we’ve worked together ever since. We know a lot of ways to cut corners (costs) and get the job done by thinking outside the box, and we have a knack for getting great people. We found our amazing director Traci Hays from our Larry Moss acting class and she brought her great team along, from the other projects that’s she’s been working on, we were lucky to find her. Working with her was great because of her background in set decoration, which is why we got a got such a great look to the film, as well as her talent for directing the entire cast. She’s been directing non-stop ever since 40ish.... We also cast most of our friends who’s work we’ve seen and know how talented they are, throughout the years of classes and plays. We ended up with an awesome group of talented people and they all brought their A game to set. On the first day of the shoot, I was in shock of how much it felt like a big budget production, everyone was a team player and worked so hard, we were so lucky and I felt so fortunate.
What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?
I’m speaking with a few distributers now from Cannes but nothing is definitive at the moment and the film is still making the festival circuit. As far as the screenings we really haven’t had a proper public premier because of Covid, most of the festivals it has gotten into were on-line and/or closed to the public because of theaters not being opened or being outside of the United States. I hope we get the chance to have one.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
I want to inspire people by to telling truthful authentic stories from my personal experiences, I hope to make people
laugh and give them some inspiration and hope to follow their dreams and to never to give up.