Responding to a dare, 50-year old Leslie, a housewife and piano teacher, secretly forms an all-female rock band called SUGAR!. At the same time, her husband, a conservative Republican, runs for US Congress. When the band goes viral as "MILF" musicians, it's only a matter of time before her husband and college-bound daughter discover the secret, turning Leslie's whole world upside down. In the end, her marriage, the band's fate, and her husband's election remain cliffhangers, but victory is in the air.
Interview with Director Shari Berman
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
The writer – Leora Kalish – wanted to make a film about a woman over 50 pursuing her passions because she wanted to show that you can follow your dream at any age and that “women of a certain age” have much to offer the world. As the director of the film, I was drawn to the script because of the strong female characters and their evolution from dreamers to doers.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
When I started working on this film, I interviewed a number of women over 50 who had focused most of their lives on raising children and making dinner for their husbands. I heard, "I didn't know who I was anymore when my last child went off to college." and "I didn't have a purpose." and "I didn't think anyone saw me as having any value anymore." and "I stayed in bed for three months because I didn't see the point of getting up."
Women need to see this film not because it's enjoyable and has great musicians in it, but because they need to know they are not alone in what they are facing. They are looking for the world to value them and see them as still being sexy with something more to offer than baby-sitting services. Men need to see this film so that they can understand life from a female perspective.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
When you are a woman making a film about women, it is always personal. However, the main theme of this film – that you should follow your dreams at any age – is universal to both men and women.
Sugar! - Leah Barker and Chloe Levine
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Leora Kalish worked on this script over the course of a decade. During pre-production, the stories evolved further and continued to evolve on set and during post. There is the film you write, the film you shoot and the film you make in the edit room. An entire story line and a total of 8 characters were cut from the film during post.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The day after this film screened for the first time, I was stunned by the response to it. Older women (people I never met before) were coming up to me and thanking me for making a film that shows women in their fifties still having a life and following their dreams. "Finally - someone made a film where someone like me is not a kooky grandmother or the weird next door neighbor." One woman actually went out and got her hair cut in a new style that morning because she was feeling so inspired by the movie to live a little and reinvent herself.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I have been stunned by how much this film is connecting to women over fifty. We get more and more comments like the ones above from female audience members every time it is screened. On one hand, it is great that women relate to the film. On the other hand, it is stunning how much of a void there has been in regards to making films that speak to this demographic. That needs to change.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
This film has hit on something that is not being addressed enough by society. It would be amazing if it could reach more women who just need a little sign from the universe that their lives are not over because they are over 50.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We mostly need journalists and social media gurus to help with outreach so that people who would want to and need to see this film learn of its existence.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would like to see this film inspire other filmmakers to make movies for more mature women. I’d love it if this film encourages women over 50 who are afraid to try something new or something they have always wanted to do because they think they are too old to let go of the feeling that they are done and move forward like they have their whole lives ahead of them – because they do.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Why are women over 50 generally ignored by studios? They are a huge demographic – why are they generally depicted as “the quirky neighbor” or the “grandmother” instead of vital members of society and how can we change that?
Would you like to add anything else?
This film is also very entertaining. It’s funny and has great music. You do not need to care about the cause of women over 50 to enjoy this film, but you might find that once you see it, it will become your cause.
Behind the Scenes with Director Shari Berman
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Shari Berman (Director/Editor) is moving forward with her next project, a trilogy of science fiction films – “Numbers”, “Names” and “Humans”. (www.thenumbersfilm.com) Shari has also recently completed an experimental movie shot on Super 8 film that will hit the festival circuit next year. You can keep up with her work here: www.shariberman.com
Blaze Kelly Coyle (Executive Producer) continues to write and produce films via her company Silver Phoenix Entertainment. Blaze also developed the concept, co-wrote and published the kids book The Most Well-Traveled Squirrel in the Whole Wide World, which was distributed by Barnes & Noble. Book Two in the series is currently underway. You can keep up with Blaze by visiting www.blazekellycoyle.com.
Leora Kalish (Writer/Darcy) continues to act and write. She is currently working on a screenplay about an eminent gynecologist of a certain age, who practices sexual medicine but hasn't partaken herelf for a long time. She tumbles down a rabbit hole when she meets a seductive Bohemian artist. To read more about her, visit www.backstage.com/u/leorakalish.
Tony Award winner Alice Ripley (Leslie) just booked a Netflix series and often performs at Feinstein’s/54 Below, among other venues. You can follow Alice’s career by visiting http://www.aliceripley.com.
SAG award winner Robert Clohessy (Ben) is a regular on the television series Blue Bloods. He also continues to work in the theatre and the film world. You can read more about what he is up to by visiting http://www.robertclohessy.com.
Kathryn Danielle (Ellen) is out in Los Angeles moving forward with her career. You can read more about Kathryn here: www.kathryndanielle.com.
Sheila Earley (Cindy) and June Millington (Jane) continue to perform great music and inspire future generations of female musicians. (www.sheilaearley.com, www.junemillington.com)
Interview: November 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
SUGAR! Feature Film
No matter what age you are, never give up on your wildest dreams!
Synopsis: Responding to a dare, 50-year old Leslie, a housewife and piano teacher, secretly forms an all-female rock band called SUGAR!. At the same time, her husband, a conservative Republican, runs for US Congress. When the band goes viral as "MILF" musicians, it's only a matter of time before her husband and college-bound daughter discover the secret, turning Leslie's whole world upside down. In the end, her marriage, the band's fate, and her husband's election remain cliffhangers, but victory is in the air.
Key Cast: Tony Award Winner Alice Ripley, SAG Award Winner Robert Clohessy
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Long Island International Film Expo: Golden Pass Award
Village of Brewster Film Festival: Best Narrative Feature
Boardwalk International Film Festival: Best Narrative Feature
Glendale International Film Festival: Best Female Director (Shari Berman), Best Cinematographer (Fletcher Wolfe), and Best Actress (Alice Ripley)
Atlantic City Cinefest: Best Director (Shari Berman), Best Actress (Alice Ripley), Best Supporting Actress (Leah Barker)
Big Apple Film Festival (Coming up: 11/1)
High Falls Film Festival (Coming up: 11/11)
Shari Berman is an award winning filmmaker and a member of Film Fatales. Her two features and breakout short have all garnered awards and accolades. Shari produced, directed, wrote and edited her first feature film - MY LIFE AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN - receiving rave reviews from The New York Times, Variety, Film Journal International and others. She is the director and editor of SUGAR! which stars Tony Award Winner Alice Ripley and SAG Award Winner Robert Clohessy. SUGAR! has just started its festival run winning top awards at every festival its played to date.
Shari's breakout short - the 3-D Expressionist film THE TRIAL OF JACK - played at over 30 film festivals worldwide including the Sarasota Film Festival, the St. Louis International Film Festival and the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Shari was also a producer on the feature film THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, which premiered at Rotterdam and played at BAM. Shari lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dog. She volunteers at East Rockaway Jr/Sr HS as a choreographer for their school musicals, donates her time as an editor to filmmakers making films on tight budgets and is the volunteer web mistress and back up chapter leader for Film Fatales. www.shariberman.com
LEORA KALISH (SCREENWRITER) has been acting for much of her adult life. She received her BA in Theater Arts from the University of Michigan and has studied in New York with esteemed teachers such as Scott Freeman and Austin Pendleton. Leora has appeared in a number of independent feature films and theater productions in NYC. SUGAR! is her first screenplay and she often says “Hands down, SUGAR! is the most challenging, difficult, and necessary piece of work I have ever undertaken.” In that sense, she is not much different than Leslie, the film's heroine, who takes a huge leap into the unknown. Leora is also a practicing psychologist.
BLAZE KELLY COYLE (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER) is President and CEO of the award-winning production company, Silver Phoenix Entertainment. The quintessential renaissance woman with 30 plus years experience in the industry (both behind the scenes and in front of the camera). Credits include: Echelon 8 (Producer, Executive Producer, Actress - Best Producer Award Winner), The Meat Puppet (Producer, Executive Producer, Music, Special Effects Makeup - Best Horror Movie, Best NJ Feature Film, over a half a million views), Eco-Files (Writer, Producer, Executive Producer, Music, Actress) Brooklyn Heat (Producer), Emma Everything with Jim Dodge (Writer, Producer) The Noble Man (Writer), Bleu Halloween starring Broadway veterans Anna Eilinsfeld and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Director), Speed Damon & Holly (Director, Writer, Producer, Executive Producer, Music), Colston Brief (Executive Producer), Co-Operation (Associate Producer), Palo Alto written by James Franco (Special Thanks), From the Ashes Show starring Blaze & Ken (Writer, Producer, On-Air Talent)
Other projects include the Off-Broadway holiday musical O Night Divine and a musical tackling the tough subject of addictions called Anonymous, Anonymous. Blaze also developed the concept, co-wrote and published the kids book The Most Well-Traveled Squirrel in the Whole Wide World, which was distributed by Barnes & Noble and toured throughout the tri-state area selling over 1000 copies! Book Two in the series is currently underway. Blaze is a proud to serve on the board of the International Foundation for Women Artists, Women Artists of the World, and as an advisor for TellyVizion.
ROBERT KALISH (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER) is thrilled to be executive producing Sugar! and working alongside his wife, actress/writer Leora Kalish. A newcomer to the film biz, Bob will take all of the knowledge he has learned over the past couple of years into his next film project.
LAUREN RAYNER (PRODUCER) is an independent freelance producer and has masterminded over 75 stage, film and multi-media projects since 2005. Favorite feature film credits include producing Sugar! directed by Shari Berman starring Alice Ripley released in 2016 (Winner, Long Island Film Expo), co-producing of Saint Janet directed by Habib Azar (Four-time Emmy winner) starring Kelly Bishop, and associate producing Dark (Orlando Film Festival) executive produced by Joe Dante (Gremlins) directed by Nick Basile. Her most prestigious short subject to date is Edward Albee: A Transformative Moment, a docu-tribute executive produced by Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, Silver Linings Playbook) with interviews of industry heavy-hitters such as Academy Award winning actress Mercedes Ruehl and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Henry Hwang.
Additionally, she has produced numerous short films, includingHotel Room, Moving Forward, Becoming Mim, Shortest Distance, Beautiful Garbage, The Days God Slept and The Minions, which have appeared as Official Selections at festivals all over the world. Lauren is lead producer for the upcoming independent feature Atlas of the Soul directed by Jeremiah Kipp starring the venerable James Earl Jones. J.D. Candidate, Brooklyn Law School. B.A., University of Southern California.