On the way from the airport, Janelle gave me a heads up. "The director, executive producer and lead are all super-lovey. There are tons of 'baby's and 'sweetie's, and lots of hugs on set. You'll fit right in." It was a funny thought, being hugged by the actors or the director in between takes.
But it was the truth. From the first "rolling" to the final "wrap", we were all acutely aware something special was afoot. The first 10 days were spent in a hotel in Southern California, where many of the scenes were shot. The cast and crew bunked together, leading to a film-camp type atmosphere. We ate together, worked together, and unwound together in the hotel bar and hot tub each night.
Motley CrewIt was a mixed and motley crew of queer and straight from around the country. Most of us were there for the best of reasons: to work with friends on a hot lesbian film.
The cast included such names as Morgan Fairchild, John Heard and Suzanne Westenhoefer. The leads, Barbara Niven, motivational speaker and actor of One Life to Live fame, and Jessica Clark, a model and real, live lesbian, were amazing. I cannot tell you how good they were, how stunningly gorgeous, and how loving. Under Nicole's direction, these beautiful women opened and bared their souls in front of the camera.
Beacon of LoveOff-camera, Barbara was a beacon of love, stopping on her way to or from set to hug crew members in the hallway. Jessica was exuberant. Unlike her brooding and quiet character, she was open and eager to share her experience, her story, and her ideas. You could often find her at the head of a group, walking backward, talking and gesturing.
I'm new to the whole movie-making scene, but I'm pretty sure this movie set was one-of-a-kind. I repeatedly walked into immensely interesting conversations, like Nicole explaining to Barbara (who plays a housewife) the butch/femme dynamic. "Kristin, come in here. You've heard of femme power, right?" Janelle and I, never shy to talk about gender dynamics were quick to chime in on the increasing irrelevance of the binary system of earlier generations' butch/femme world. "Well, then, what do you consider yourselves?" Janelle and I looked at each other, shrugged, and said together, "It depends!"
At one point, in Suzanne Westenhoefer's hotel room, Suzanne, Marina and I all examined my belt made from a bicycle innertube. "You know," said Suzanne, "They make harnesses out of those, too." I nodded. I'm a Portland lesbian. We know these things. Marina piped up, "Harnesses for what?" I choked back a laugh. I'm not sure Suzanne has ever been speechless. Except for then.
Movie CrushesWe all had our set crushes. For most of us, it was the stunning Jessica Clark. While waiting in the hallway for a cue to knock on the door, I noticed the lines on Jessica's palm and reached over. "You have two distinct lifelines, did you know that?" She gave me the, "Are you really coming at me with that line right now?" look, and turned her hand over to look at it herself. Just then, the gorgeous Fontessa DeRidder (a director in her own right) came by. "What are you two doing?" she whispered. Suddenly the three of us were standing in the hallway looking at each other's hands while the camera was rolling on the other side of the door. When the cue for the knock came, the assistant director and I jumped out of the way, and Jessica tried to snap herself back into character as she walked through the door.
I come from a professional world where hard work isn't always rewarded, and competition is the name of the game. Conversations about who is on top are about climbing the corporate ladder. But on this set, it was different. Our sound guy, Dean (who just happened to be Alvin, you know, of the Chipmunks, "I still want a hula-hoop!"),had a theory about this. One night in the hotel bar, while I was geeking-out about how famous he was, he shared it. According to Dean, movie-making is a collaborative experience, because no one person can make a movie by themselves. Movie-making draws people who are passionate about what they do, and who seek collaboration. So, when I showed interest in the work of the assistant directors, they took me and made me one of their own, eager to share with me the work that they love. That's what it's like to work with a good crew.
But there was something even more going on. Never in my life have I been in an environment where, I was encouraged to, supported in and actually required to give and receive love constantly. When I left set, I left with a new family, forever changed, and immensely grateful. That's what it's like to work on a Soul Kiss film. That's what it's like to work with Nicole Conn.
Kristin Flickinger is an adventure writer, currently adventuring in Hollywood. She writes about her adventures at www.midleap.com