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Lesbian Life Interview with Nicole Conn

Lesbian Filmmaker

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Nicole Conn

Nicole Conn

Director Nicole Conn was crafting an e-newsletter to alert her legion of fans about a sneak preview leaked by an extra that a lesbian entertainment site had just run when I interrupted her to discuss her upcoming film, A Perfect Ending, crowd-funding the endeavor, and her relationship with Marina Rice Bader and their blended family.

"I'm still on a film high," said Conn, who was clearly extremely excited. "A life altering experience" is how she described the three weeks of shooting A Perfect Ending. "It was an endless love-fest, and everyone brought his or her own exceptional chemistry; it was a labor of love for everyone."

I asked Conn about how the crowd funding from Kickstarter affected the making of A Perfect Ending. "First, I had to figure out how to make a film for the lowest budget humanly possible and also be more creative in terms of how to make it look better than films with a large budget. I also had to be accountable to a collective of people vested and invested in the film."

Conn's Kickstarter project had 368 Backers, and was 107 percent funded at $53,585 pledged for a $50,000 goal. "Backers were privy to behind-the-scenes goings on and backers who donated at higher levels came on the set-some even came and stayed to work with us. It was a totally magical experience," Conn exuded. "Some people gave and gave again, one backer donated a potion of each paycheck to the project, premium packages were offered such as Suzanne Westenhoefer (who has a part in the film) offering lunch with her for a specific level donation. It's certainly an amazing social phenomena."

A Perfect Ending

The story idea for A Perfect Ending actually cam from Conn's partner, Marina Rice Bader, one morning over breakfast. Conn says Rice Bader has great ideas on a consistent basis, but this particular idea caught her and "I thought, 'How can I wrap a 90-minute movie around this?' I wrote the first draft of the script in 48 hours, which usually never happens with other people's material. The premise is interesting: a woman who basically lives a useless life, but vindicates it. There are dynamics not seen in other films. And, it's not necessarily a lesbian film, but rather a woman's film. It's about living without purpose and having this incredible chance to change and make great changes, too. It's about taking power, about a woman taking power… It's really just a human film, not a coming out story; it's a much darker, edgier and more modern film than Elena Undone (Conn's partially autobiographical 2010 film).

Claire of the Moon

I ask about her first feature film, Claire of the Moon. Conn says it's "clunky', wooden, old-style cinema, but that young women love it and she is surprised especially in light of the controversy when it was first released in 1992. "It's a romance, and I'm a total romantic, not political, but someone then pointed out to me that I needed to be aware about how the film would affect the politics of the lesbian community. Well, it took me two years of therapy to come to grips over the savaging I received from the lesbian community around Claire of the Moon." That film garnered fine reviews from critics, but Conn says, "There's such a scarcity mentality in the lesbian community and there is indeed a dearth of good lesbian films, but everyone wanted that movie to be something else; it couldn't be everything to everyone. And, I think the reason younger women love it today is because the chemistry reads positive and the coming out story is the most exciting story for every lesbian. It's the gift that keeps on giving," Conn laughs.

Conn ponders with me for a moment, "I wonder what has happened to community discussion. There is nothing that necessarily binds us as lesbians except our attraction to women. Back when the lesbian community was coffeehouses, the rags and bookstores, there was a community. Where is that community now? Do we find each other on the Internet, or is that not a community because everyone is doing their own thing?" she asked, somewhat rhetorically. "Is the community on AfterEllen, About.com, Shewired and such the community we now create? We talk about this all the time; how to reach the community - of lesbians, of women - how do we market to the community that is now so diffuse? Where do we find all of these people who make up our demographic?"

About her family Conn says, "I had two kids with my previous partner, including Nicholas, who is disabled and the subject of my documentary Little Man. And, Marina had four kids. We're a kind of new millennial "Brady Bunch", a "Yours, Mine and Ours" in reverse, Marina's daughter is 26, and we've also got kids who are 8, 10, 12, 13, and 16. There were so many challenges merging our two families," says Conn, "but we immediately fell in love with each other's children."

"Even though Marina had never been with a woman and I had said, just as Peyton does in Elena Undone, that I never wanted to see another lesbian as long as I live, [our relationship] is working out wonderfully…I met my soul mate in the guise of a straight woman." Conn says she is herself a lesbian through and through, "Although that is not my sole identity. I would say mother first then woman then artist then lesbian."

How can an artist support oneself when making low/no budget films? Conn tells me, "This is probably the first time I have been a self-supporting artist. It's really just critical mass; I make enough of a revenue stream to create a living. Previously I was living off option money: I'd write spec scripts that never saw the light of day, but I was paid. And then I was a hand-on mom when Nicholas was born."

Conn said she would never make another lesbian film, but then she did Elena Undone and now A Perfect Ending. "Although it's never really been financially feasible to make lesbian films, Marina was adamant and her heart is set on it-that films for the lesbian community must be made." Find out more about A Perfect Ending, how to support post-production of the film, behind-the-scenes and other info.

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