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Women of Sundance: Appropriate Behavior

Desiree Akhavan (Photo by Danielle Lurie)

Interview with Appropriate Behavior producer Cecilia Frugiuele

Filmmaker: Why this movie?  Why did you each decide to do it?

Frugiuele: Desiree and I have known each other for a long time and had been looking for a project to do together. I’m based in the UK so it wasn’t the most straightforward process but when The Slope started to gain traction in Europe I knew I could get this project off the ground. Appropriate Behavior is funny and entertaining from a completely fresh and unique point of view. It was never born out of the idea of making a film about “female sexuality” or “what it means to be Iranian American”; it’s just a version of Desiree’s heightened reality that made us laugh. Authenticity is what’s most important for me in a film and this was definitely loaded with brutal honesty.

Filmmaker: For everyone: How much of your crew was female? Was hiring women a consideration for you?

Frugiuele: This might be the most female-led crew I have ever worked with but it happened by chance. I must say, men or women, it was a incredibly dedicated crew that was very driven and committed to what we were trying to do, which was essential for an ambitious project like this.

Filmmaker: How did you go about raising funding for it?

Frugiuele: My company Parkville Pictures raised the funds in the UK, through a tax incentive scheme. Even though I was a part of the process, our (male) Exec Producers took charge of it – but what they were selling was a female filmmaking team which no one seemed to question.

I’m not sure if it’s relevant to your question though.

Filmmaker: Tell me about the emotions of making this film.

Frugiuele: We shot the film in merely 18 days so definitely there was a lot of adrenaline.

I have never worked in New York before so having Katie’s local knowledge and our crew’s commitment to the film proved incredibly helpful. It was also my first time working with a director who was acting in the lead role and their support meant I could concentrate on working with Desiree, which was incredibly rewarding.

So I guess if we are talking about emotions I can say that I’m grateful.

Filmmaker: There is a lot of male humor in this film (yes, I’m referring to the fart jokes). Do you think that is just your sensibility or was there some thinking toward a more gender neutral audience?  Who do you hope IS your audience? Men or women?

Frugiuele: I think by defining male or female humor we run the risk of pigeonholing ourselves, especially since I can’t honestly imagine what “female” humor would be (pillow fights maybe?). I think it’s a question of what feels like gratuitous humor vs. an appropriate well-placed joke.

We didn’t really write the jokes with any gender in mind. Throughout the months of development we scaled back every joke that felt unjustified or larger than life and I think what we ended up with was the truth – farts and all.

Filmmaker: In what ways do you think being a female filmmaker has helped or impeded your trajectory in the film industry?

Frugiuele: I can recall many moments where being a female filmmaker was definitely a factor but I don’t feel it has either made or broken my career.

Generally I agree with Katie, it’s easier for men to put a label on a woman’s behavior – be it positive or negative it is incredibly counter productive. In my case kindness has been often mistaken as “pushover-attitude.”

Filmmaker: How do we get more women making movies?

Frugiuele: A sales agent I know, who is very focused on female filmmakers, once described films with lesbian content as “fragile,” meaning women don’t support their own cinema as much as their male counterparts. They would buy a DVD and share with friends or pirate the film altogether. I would say this divide goes beyond LGBT audiences, and that the best way to support female filmmakers is to put your money where your mouth is.

Filmmaker: What’s next?

Frugiuele: Desiree and I have a new script that we’re hoping to see off the ground relatively soon. As a company, Parkville Pictures will go into production early 2014 with Spaceship written and directed by Alex Taylor, while I have a couple other projects I’m developing.

Filmmaker: Considering this article will be released at Sundance: A) What do you hope to gain from being at the festival?  and B) Who would be your dream person to meet while there (imagine they will be reading this answer!)?

Frugiuele: A) I’m very excited to have such a wonderful platform for our film and I think people will respond well to both the film and Desiree as a new unheard voice, and I’m hoping Sundance will be a way to echo that response.

B) I’m really looking forward to meeting the other NEXT filmmakers and the festival programmers. I can’t possibly wrap my head around a potential celebrity encounter but I think my heart would explode if I even caught a glimpse of Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Amy Pohler and Tina Fey. Maybe skiing all together – in slow motion.

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