OVER 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN
The night before is Xanax-worthy. I’m not a user, so instead I toss and turn under the duvet. I feel buzzing down my spine. Something monumental is about to happen. It will be my FIRST time, a great unveiling of something very deep and personal. I hope it will be a heart-opening, epic moment that shakes the earth, and fulfills every cell in my body. Stop right there, nasties, it’s not what you’re thinking: this is a MUCH bigger and some may agree, WAY better …
It’s the WORLD premiere of my first short film at the Tribeca Film Festival!!!
I practice letting the words w-o-r-l-d p-r-e-m-i-e-r-e slip around my tongue. The phrase has weight, like a thousand pounds of caché that can’t be tossed around lightly. Or faked. Industry insiders have summarized the Film Festival circuit counting on three fingers: There’s Cannes. There’s Venice. And there’s Tribeca.
Given the stakes, it’s both scary and exciting—my first baby is about to be born on a jumbo screen. Wowza! But it also feels like I’ve got lights, camera, and action—pointing straight at my naked body. Yike-za!
FIFTY SHADES OF VULNERABLE
Which of my B/Side stories made the cut? The one you read about here first, Xmas Cake—This American Shelf-Life. It’s a feminist rockumentary about my colossal failure, and the shame I experienced starting over at 40, as a single woman with a cat instead of kids. Yep, still freelancing hand-to-mouth. Yep, still living in a month-to-month. I won’t give away the surprise twist. But it’s worth mentioning that in the movie, as I have done in life, I rise from the ashes, and manage to hack my destiny like a ninja warrior kicking ageism in the jugular.
It’s a story I’ve been working on for what feels like a decade. A year ago I decided to make it into a film, thanks to The Moth who gave me permission to use footage from my live performances telling it on their Mainstage in Austin and Aspen. But I NEVER expected it to get this far.
What will discerning New Yorkers and International film critics think of my weenie DIY midult crisis? How will they respond to my white, privileged cat-lady rage against the bro-ocracy? And in a post-Trumpocalyptic world, is my message still relevant?
Ok, breathe, sister.
I’ve had moments in my creative career that are etched into my inner stone of validation—moments for which no visible trophy exists, and yet they feel solid, like an earned currency no one can steal or deny: The time Fred Schneider of the B52’s called me personally to say he LOVED my band. Or the time the star player, Hideki Matsui, picked my band’s song for his batting anthem at Yankee Stadium. What is it like to hear your song blasting at YANKEE STADIUM? It’s the sound of two dreams clapping, followed by a roar of thunder. Even if you’re not into baseball, or film festivals, few can argue that these moments are ... Not. Small. Beans.
But this time was different. Because now I’m older. And maybe not wiser, but I can handle bigger beans. I’m a woman on the B/Side. Which is code for: I’m over it. I know I’m never gonna be that desperate girl praying for a rose on The Bachelor. I know those dream job algorithms aren’t looking for me, and I know my youth-worshipping society wants me to lie about my age and get Botox before my forehead takes a tragic nose dive—but I’m good. Seriously, I’m good.
So, how does a committed B/Sider deal with another call to the A/Side limelight??
Eh’hem … from Robert De Niro?
Like a true native New Yorker, I answered the shit out of it.
On my big day, I slink through a spiffy Tribeca crowd, wearing a white mini with important bell selves. We’re in an echo-y lobby divided by dark, light, and red carpet all over. This is our call-time. The filmmakers and their stars line up like a row of anxious planes on a runway, exchanging polite waves, and checking our engines. A staff-member/air traffic controller pulls me out of the line, whispers in my ear, “You’re up first.”
I step into the light, and take off. I float on a red magic carpet. And flashes fire.
“Go Xmas Cake!” Someone shouts from the darkness. My smile is spasming. Then, I do one the thing needed to anoint my joy: I grab my mom, past a velvet rope, to join me for a picture. Because, I believe this moment of triumph should be shared with my deserving mom; It will eclipse years of awkward strain in our relationship. The past is the past. The future is written on this red carpet.
THE VIP SECTION
There’s not an empty seat in the house on our opening night. Some of my friends and family have had to sit this one out if they didn’t buy a ticket a month ago. Full disclosure, short films don’t get a lot of freebies. We are like the B/Side of this A-list festival, which feels smack on theme to me. I find out there are few perks for my status, gala parties to which I’m not invited, and I KNOW most fans want to catch a glimpse of Naomi Watts walking the red carpet, not me. But who cares? I think, taking my seat in the VIP row of filmmakers being honored tonight. We rock.
SHORTS ON TOUR
We are the music-themed films paired in a group called Shorts on Tour. Each screening includes this extraordinary line-up: Xmas Cake, Lost Weekend, A Song Can’t Burn, Lazarus, and That’s My Jazz. Tonight, we are what’s up next, and for this ONE night, for our World Premiere, we are treated like royals.
My heart jumps to my throat. I am so grateful for the years I’ve spent cluelessly going after things beyond my reach. What would I do without my Swedish work ethic and the nerd-ess skills that got me here? I’d put in a year of sleepless nights working on this film. I spent them hacking animation programs, music and video editing tools; collaborating to learn technical chops; and learning how to DIY B-roll. All on a tiny budget.
Tonight I hold a seat in the company of greatness, representing not only my story, but ALL of us who’ve felt benched too soon in our lives. Without The B/Sider project, without you, who’ve given me the confidence to use my voice, I wouldn’t have created this film in the first place.
The lights go down in the theater. My spinal buzz returns. The audience applauds. It’s the sound of dreams clapping. And the sweet music of validation.
Being invited to brunch hosted by Robert De Niro, and skipping the selfie-op with him. B/Sider’s don’t need proof we were invited. We know better than to stand in line with the star-struck. We also know to give the poor guy a break.
The late late after parties held in mystery dive bars and secret ballrooms throughout the city. One night dancing with Mali’s national superstar, Lazarus. One night small-talking with big actor Gbenga Akinnagbe (of Broadway’s To Kill a Mocking Bird). And one night eating cake with good friends and members of my band, Gaijin à Go Go, at our wrap party at Coney Island Baby. #lovemyNYposse
Getting nominated for BEST SHORT DOC of 2019 —WTF?!?
AND THE NOMINEES ARE ...
Awards night arrives a week into the festival, three screenings down, one to go. I didn’t even know my film was selected until I saw it up on the screen. That means a VERY discerning list of festival jurors have cast their vote in favor of Xmas Cake. I’ll give you an idea: Jonathan Ames, Jenny Lumet, Angela Bassett, Maureen Dowd, Topher Grace, Chloe Sevigny … and on and on. My point is, the competition was already tough, and the jury was even tougher.
At this level, being nominated IS winning. Period. Raise your glasses to the little film that could! To Xmas Cake—This American Shelf-Life! Chuggachugga chugg.