C. Fraser Press

For me, the movie Theresa Is A Mother, cannot be separated from the reason behind how it came to be. This was not the movie I set out to make. After spending months writing and honing a script that would take place in a New York City tenement building that eventually, and on-screen, crumbles to the ground, I realized that the story, while exciting in theory, could never be made on anything close to the virtually non-existent budget for the first feature film that Darren, my husband and partner, and I intended to make. And budget was not our only obstacle. It was March and, due to personal reasons, we knew if we did not make a movie by the coming summer, we probably never would. We also were living in an isolated tiny town without many resources but traveling to another location to film was out of the financial question. And then there were our children, three of them, all young and no ability to put them in summer camp. The chance of actually completing a feature film seemed bleak.

A few days of depression and mourning my “orphan” script led to switching gears. I decided to completely embrace all of these personal obstacles and circumstances in the way of the actual “making” of a feature film and write something that would somehow incorporate them. The easiest circumstance was season and place. This movie must take place in the summer and it must take place in our little rural town.

Now for the obstacles… First up, the location: We had recently purchased a very humble house. The previous owners, a retired couple, had built a small, windowed room addition on the side of the house for a hot tub. Clearly this tiny room with its watery retreat was some kind of unexpected piece de resistance. I was immediately taken with the awkward relationship between the working class abode with old beige carpet and this hot tub “haven.” And now, this house waited for its story.

Second obstacle: the kids: No summer camp, so the kids would have to be in the movie. All three of them… including my feisty (understatement) two-year-old. This was probably the strangest decision we made. It seemed so wrong. Were we using them? Taking away a piece of their right to a proper “child’s” summer break? Was this in any way appropriate? Yet ultimately I felt that all good arguments against putting the kids in the film aside, I am more inspired by my children than anything else in my life and yet am constantly finding that mothering them, spending time, watching, engaging with them, clashes against my desire to work – write, act, direct, create. When I recklessly did away with all concerns and simply incorporated them into the process something wonderful happened. And yes, my children had a beautiful summer and it was a summer of bonding and integrating and accepting, all things that Theresa herself experiences.

Third obstacle: Money. This is a big one. I can’t lie, money would have been great. While I can’t say that lack of it helped our little movie in any way, I can say that lack of it certainly fed into the overall sense of struggle and helplessness that the characters in the movie are coping with. A little art imitating life would have to be accepted.

And then lastly, the obstacle of time. Time never seemed to be on our side. But just as with the money issue, the “do or die” pressure we felt when deciding to make this movie certainly was felt in Theresa’s own “end of the line” predicament. And the reality and anxiety of time passing before our eyes continued when shooting was complete. We found ourselves immersed in post-production hell that went on and on due mostly to obstacle number Three, lack of money. Yet, a year after we had wrapped, our lack of control of passing time offered something quite interesting. Because everything took so long, we were still seeking music. But in that year of time, our oldest daughter, Schuyler, a passionate poet and songwriter from the time she could talk and who’s lyrics we had used as an important “moment” in the movie (all part of embracing our reality), had matured and blossomed as a musician and suddenly her original songs seemed the perfect “sound” for this movie. So here we now found a little life imitating art. Just as Theresa finds in her daughter’s voice what she cannot find in herself, I too found in Schuyler’s voice what I was missing. Thank you for the time, and thank you for Schuyler.

And so my story, about awkward relationships that somehow shine light on the beauty of fragile humanity, obstacles leading to unexpected yet meaningful moments and most importantly embracing motherhood, unfolded.

I do hope that, unlike Theresa, this movie will not be my “final show on my farewell tour.” So, next up… the collapsing tenement in the East Village (children optional.)