Sometimes, young love is better left alone.
Interview with Directors Heidi Philipsen and Jon Russell Cring
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
HEIDI: First off, I made DARCY to tell a story I felt had to be told. I loved the script. But also, after having worked for over a decade on other independent feature films in every position from production assistant (in the beginning) to line producer, and acting in smaller roles on bigger features (in a day player role as German Car Rental Clerk in "The Business Trip" opposite Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson... only to have my role cut in the editing room), I wanted to do what I had set out to do when attending film school: make my own feature. I knew that my budget on my first feature would be limited, so I was very practical on the specifics surrounding this one.
It had to take place in one location, it had to offer great roles to brilliant character actors and accept them in all shapes, sizes, etc. (did not want to discriminate according to age, size, gender, race, but rather wanted TALENT to stand out), and it had to have a female lead, taking on something that many – if not all – women have faced in one way or another. Having started the organization, Upstate New York Women in Film & Television (UPWIFT), I also wanted to provide opportunities for women in film, and the men who support them.
JON: There are so many answers to that question. Because we could, because we had to, because no-one else had. When our producer/co-director/lead ensemble actress ("Toni") Heidi and my wife/director of photography/ co-writer Tracy all came together there was a special kind of chemistry. I guess when you catch lightning in a bottle you better do something special with it.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
HEIDI: DARCY is unlike any other film out there right now. It is bolder, braver and more raw than any film to which one might compare it. It has been compared to films like "The Florida Project" or "Lady Bird" – but DARCY takes on the hard life of living in a motel from the a female teen's perspective (and was made a year before that film) and does not lean on a happy ending to make amends with the message it intends to communicate. Everyone who has seen it has been moved by it and provoked to talk about it. Also, this film was directed by both a woman and a man.
Each gender was equally represented. Jon and I, both passionate storytellers in our own right, put our egos to the side and collaborated to tell a story in as honest and equal a tone as two different directors could. This is very important in today's #metoo #timesup space and time, and we did it before it became a hot topic.
JON: I think anytime you can tell a story about empathy you are doing a valuable service in these times. This movie makes you care about people you may have never given a second thought too. I also think that tells a story that not a lot of people are familiar with that almost everyone can relate too.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
HEIDI: Again, when Jon and I set about directing this film together, which takes on female teenage romantic and sexual/awakening – and the difference between what a girl of 15/16 really thinks about and what boys (men) think she might be thinking about. We wanted to be very honest and equal in taking these themes on. There's no just one side or the other pushing his/her own interpretation on the whole story. It also takes on pedophiles and how they think, how society views the lines of what is or is not appropriate in sexual consent. Really tough territory, but I think we took on these themes at a time that could not be more ripe for discussion.
JON: Coming-of-age has become such a loaded term. It can be too Disney or too dark. I think Darcy strikes a delicate balance telling a host of stories but all through the eyes of this 15 year old girl. I also think that this film speaks to the #metoo moment in this country. The oppression of women in various ways is a theme explored in surprising ways in this film
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
HEIDI: The script did not stray too far from its original. Some tweaks were made: slight changes – one character was split into two. And in the end, we actually re-cut the film to have a "happy" ending, only to cut it back to the original. But the feedback over time only helped us to hone it more to finding its proper space. Very thankful to Tracy for taking on the final edit, and to Larry Jackson, Jeff Dowd, Nicole Joens, Oreet Rees and Barbara Grazer for helping us in the final edit consult.
JON: The more we edited this movie the better it got. Heidi Philipsen (Co-director/Producer/Actress) continued to put the different cuts in front of test audiences and each one have given us insights that we would incorporate into our next pass. The development of the ending was especially useful. I think we found a balance from all the various voices that shared their input.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
HEIDI: Amazing feedback. Truly. The feedback is what keeps me going to get this film out there to the public. I think that the awards it keeps bringing in speaks volumes.
JON: Be careful when everybody likes you, right? I have been overwhelmed by the audience reactions. The way women in Q &A will relate their own story to Darcy’s. We also have gotten some great reviews. It is not an easy film but when it finds its audience they are incredibly supportive. I think my favorite thing is that it sticks with people.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
HEIDI: The feedback let me know that I was right in trusting my gut and making this film. There have been industry pros who said that it was too tough or that we had a "passive protagonist" - that was before I had it sent to multiple test audiences and recut to find the emotional balance and integral story.
JON: I love it when someone is bothered by a character or a motivation. I wanna hear all the perspectives. Challenge me, I need it.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
HEIDI: I am looking to jump at an opportunity to have audiences out there see this film and give us their thoughts on its story. I am a storyteller – we aim to communicate to the world. Also, because this film was made by a female director, alongside a man, with mostly female crew, alongside supportive men, I'd like the world to see what true grit looks like in an gender-equal storyteller's world, as a woman who happens to be a director, or a director who happens to be a woman.
JON: All I want is for more people to see the film. To be entertained and made to consider is the ultimate reward. I have been told that this is a unique piece.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
HEIDI: All of the above. We are currently repped in sales by CroganFilmworks and looking for limited arthouse theatrical, as well as digital/VOD. Any producers who have gotten it for arthouse films (which can be a challenge), any buyers who are looking for one like ours, any distributors or film festival directors and any journalists who are looking to see a film that pushes the envelope in a meaningful way with brilliant talent – we are pushing hard to meet you more than half-way.
JON: I think we could use all of the above. We have had a great festival run but any opportunity to be seen is an opportunity that we do not want pass up. Distribution is also really important to us. Not just someone putting it out there without care. We want someone who believes in the film. Who sees it going as far as we do.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
HEIDI: First off, as corny as it may sound, I want it to bring out the truth. My dearly departed father's favorite quote was John Keats’ "beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all you know on earth and all you need to know", and that always resonated with me. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a survivor of rape.
After years of therapy, it became apparent to me that our culture is one that inherently sews and makes excuses for such a sexual violence toward women and children, to the point that we, ourselves, do not always know where the line is drawn. I needed to make a film that took on this message and made it hit home. DARCY does just that.. in a way that I don't think other films do. It is the inverse of "Lolita" and it shocks people as they find they are drawn to both sides. I want people to see it, think about it and give it credit for bringing the truth to light.
JON: I have seen a tremendous impact after screenings of this movie. I know that it has a power with an audience. We just want to multiply that a hundred-fold.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
HEIDI: "What would you do?"
JON: This film is full of questions that spark debate. One of the comments we constantly get is “It felt wrong to sympathize with that character but I couldn’t help myself”. People can’t help but talk about their reaction to Darcy.
Would you like to add anything else?
HEIDI: I would just like to add that I couldn't have made this film without the tons of help from fellow artists, production crew, actors, producers – go check out "Darcy's" IMDB page to see them all. I am indebted to them for all their faith, love, time, talent and support.
JON: One critic said it was like “The Florida Project meets Lady Bird”. When you get compared to two of the best indies from last year, it is very humbling.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
HEIDI: I'm currently working on two rewrites: a rom-com called "Kidnapping Love" and a 1990s period piece called "Emily Doe" in a UCLA Film & Television Professional Program Advanced screenwriting program; and am prepping for my first solo-directed German-Austrian co-production feature film, called "Maria Sucht Josef (Mary Seeks Joe)." Finally, I'm developing an American road movie rom-com called "Love & Vodka" that I will also direct. Should have that all up on my film company's website soon!
JON: Tracy and I are in pre production on a Science Fact Thriller called “This Perfect Union” which we are looking for funding for as we speak.
Interview: October 2018
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Sometimes, young love is better left alone.
Length: 96 minutes
Directors: Heidi Philipsen and Jon Russell Cring
Producer: Heidi Philipsen (p.g.a.) and Jon Russell Cring
Writers: Tacy Nicole Cring and Jon Russell Cring
About the writer, director, producer:
HEIDI PHILIPSEN (co-director, producer, “Toni) is a producer, writer, actor and director with 20 years of professional experience in international film, television and communications. She has production coordinated 11 features, including The Better Angels starring Jason Clarke and Diane Kruger; production managed multiple projects, credited with stunts in actions films such as Salt and The Other Guys; acted in several features, including The Business Trip starring Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco; and has produced the feature-length drama Marcy. Heidi is a member of the Producers Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, the Motion Picture Institute’s Directors Alumni Club, NYWIFT, Founder & President Emeritus of UPWIFT, Chicago Women in Film & Television, and University of Michigan and Columbia University Alumni Groups. She completed two scripts via UCLA’s Professional Screenwriting Program after completing post-production and has now moved on to developing her third and fourth features to direct, Emily Doe, and Kidnapping Love and pursuing her MBA in Management at Eastern Michigan University.
JON RUSSEL CRING (Co-Director/Co-Writer/Associate Producer) was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1971. Jon grew up around the arts, traveling and performing with his family as they presented music and drama on stages crisscrossing the USA. He was immediately enthralled by the business, getting on the phones beginning at the age of 14 to book the family’s travelling gypsy show. Jon began writing a variety show together with his wife, Streetwalking. They went on to make 17 micro-budgeted independent features together, accumulating honors from PBS, Fangoria Magazine and the Atlantic City Cinefest along the way.
TRACY NICOLE CRING (Co-Writer/Director of Photography/Associate Producer) grew up in a small town in Tennessee where she was surrounded by industrious and self- taught artisans. Tracy was inspired to follow her own path and fell in love with film. By 17, she had taught herself to use cameras, edit, and she won her first film festival – the 1997 Los Angeles Film Fest – for which she received the grand prize of the latest new filmmaking gear. After moving to Nashville at the dawn of the new millennium, she met Jon Russell Cring and put to use her festival winnings – cowriting, shooting and editing the television series Streetwalking with him. Tracy has also taken on writing feature screenplays with partner Jon to great success, having optioned many to other producers.
Key Cast: Gus Birney (Darcy), Johnathan Tchaikovsky (Luke), Paulina Singer (Twinkle), Bernadette Quigley (Frann), David Thorton (Aldo), Jon David Casey (Ali), Heidi Philipsen (Fran), Lawton Denis (Peanut), John McKenna (Lonnie Johnny), Denny Dale Bess (Johnson Bryce), Ray Faiola (Pete the Creep), Cameron Mitchell Williams (Danny Arlington), Nando del Castillo (Kenn), Wayne Pyle (Bill)
Looking for: buyers, distributors, film festival directors and journalists
Social media handles: @darcymovie
Funders: Executive Producer Stephanie Dillon & Many Crowdfunders via Seed & Spark
Made in association with: Personae Entertainment Picture
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Film Columbia Film Festival in Chatham, NY (Oct. 26th) ; High Falls Women's Film Festival in Rochester, NY (November 3rd) ; Cutting Edge Film Festival (virtual theater in your home/palm via computer or device).