Women of Sundance: The Foxy Merkins
Interview with The Foxy Merkins Actress Lisa Haas
Filmmaker: Why this movie? Why did you decide to do it?
Haas: I became involved in The Foxy Merkins because I was in Olnek’s previous feature Codependent Lesbian Alien Seeks Same. And prior to that I had been in her stage plays for years. Olnek, [Jackie] Monahan (my co-star) and I went to many festivals to promote Codependent and Olnek had an idea to work on a project that was an homage to male hustler films. I love Olnek’s storytelling style, sense of humor and her directing process, so I was all on board!
Filmmaker: In what ways do you think being a female filmmaker has helped or impeded your trajectory in the film industry?
Haas: I have mostly worked in live theatre, predominately writing comedy and also performing and directing. So, at this point, I don’t have a lot of first hand experience on how sexism currently plays out in the film industry.
Filmmaker: As the co-star of this film, what sort of responsibilities do you feel toward other female actresses out there?
Haas: The two most important things for me in terms of playing a role is to be present and listen when rehearsing or shooting a scene. And, to take into consideration (through research, writing about, or discussing with the director, etc.) the character’s past, from childhood to the present, and how that drives her actions in the arc of the film.
I’m a trained actor and am thrilled to be able use my acting skills in The Foxy Merkins as well as my writing skills on the film’s creative team. But we know that women who look like me are not frequently visible in any form of visual media. The range of race, age, and size for actresses (and all women in countless other professions) is extremely limited in a way it is not for men. I’m personally proud that The Foxy Merkins is a movie that shows something different.
Of special interest to me is that the P.O.V. of the film is truly subversive, yet the comedy couches the experience in a way that makes the audiences want to see it. Our two screenings at Sundance’s NEXT Weekend film festival in L.A. were completely sold-out. My co-star Jackie Monahan is also a stand-up comedian and we would both agree that getting the comedy right was our preeminent responsibility to the film and we were committed to doing many, many takes of scenes. We all know as women filmmakers we are on borrowed time on the screen. If it goes badly for us, it reflects badly on all other female filmmakers doing comedy. So we were fully committed to rewriting and reshooting until it was funny; we took that responsibility very seriously.
Filmmaker: How do we get more women making movies?
Haas: Help and encourage women to continue training as filmmakers and making film. Collaborate with, fund and hire women, and, go see their work.
Filmmaker: Of the big blockbuster movies out there, which do you wish you had made?
Haas: Alien. I love horror, monsters and special effects makeup.
Filmmaker: What’s next?
Haas: I’m hoping to do more film work and currently write for the stage comedy IN HEAT: Is She Hot Under Her Collar or Under Her Skirt? (We love it when people pay a visit our website at www.in-heat.com.)
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?
Haas: Let me take this opportunity to cut to the chase and say I would really like to sit down with Joan Cusack and Charlize Theron over a cup of coffee and talk with them about acting, comedy acting, timing, movement and shape-shifting. I really dig their artistic abilities and think we would all have a fantastic interchange. (Joan? Charlize? Are you here?)
Filmmaker: What is a question I should have asked but didn’t that you think is relevant to your film?
Haas: “Where can we see your previous film work?”
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same is available through iTunes and many other VOD platforms. Dyke Dollar can be rented via Busk Films. And I am in Chapter 9 of Valencia: The Movie/s, which is currently turning on the 2014 film festival circuit.