Any post-puberty age starting with the letter “F” is categorically treated like a dirty word (the other F word) when it comes to women in Hollywood. Over-40 women get fewer roles, have fewer scripted lines, and are often bypassed for a younger actress when casting a love interest for a middle-aged actor.
Behind the scenes, Tinsel Town overwhelmingly skews toward male directors, writers, and producers. Even though women over 40 are the richest demographic who make the majority of household purchasing decisions (an advertiser’s dream audience), pitching a series or movie focused on midlife women continues to be a tough sell, as award-winning filmmaker Caytha Jentis experienced first-hand.
Fortunately, technology and tenacity pave alternative roads to producing and broadcasting a show that doesn’t fit the current Hollywood formula. Caytha took matters into her own hands and created the new web series The Other F Word through her own independent production company Fox Meadow Films. TOFW is a dramady about midlife women trying to reinvent themselves during midlife crises in a modern #NoFear #NoRegrets spirit.
“[I] discovered many websites, magazines and blogs write about mid-life and the associated dramatic changes—good, bad and ugly. It was clear we have a lot to talk about, and that our story is very different than previous generations,” says Caytha. Golden Girls this is not!
Caytha created a grassroots marketing campaign by tapping into social media, bloggers, online magazines, and in-person networking with influencers. She secured sponsors and other funding through professional associates and donations; cast local (New York) actors; and used a student crew and school equipment thanks to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s sponsorship. Caytha’s crew shot many scenes at the school and at her own apartment. The 8-episode series is scheduled to start streaming on Amazon September 1, 2016. Overall, this is about as “indie” as it gets.
Caytha took some time to share her passionate journey with SheSpark readers.
THEA: You’ve worked behind the scenes in Hollywood for a long time. What’s your take on Tinsel Town’s attitude toward shows about midlife women?
CAYTHA: It’s no secret that ageism exists in Hollywood, but I was still blindsided by constantly being told that a show that deals with stories about women in their 40s & 50s was considered such a tough demographic, especially given our viewing habits & buying power. And seriously, how many times have we seen movies/TV shows that deal with the male midlife crisis. Our time is due.
THEA: After The Other F Word was turned down by TV execs, you showed no fear and decided to write/direct/produce it on your own. What did family, friends, and colleagues say?
CAYTHA: I actually got a lot of support & encouragement from L.A. film friends and my manager who believed in me and the project. Many who had read the script said, “Find a way and prove them wrong!”
I came home from LA and channeled my “no fear” philosophy, and knew I had to find a way to get it done with the highest production value and the lowest budget. Web series are the new frontier for stories to underserved audiences. The first sign was when the skydiving plane was donated. Then a local university provided equipment, student crew, & locations. Also, the cast who really believed in the project worked for below their normal rate.
THEA: You could have easily churned out a drama but took the comedic route with the script and characters. This seems like a higher risk. Why?
CAYTHA: Perhaps… but that’s my voice, and I needed to stay true to it…. Also, you’ll see that while it’s comedic, the show has its share of drama. In the end, I wanted the show to be relatable, honest, and entertaining.
THEA: Let’s talk wardrobe. Who is your costume designer, and what considerations did you make for wardrobe/makeup/hair of each character?
CAYTHA: My producing partner Kathleen McDonough is also a production designer, so she handled most of the wardrobe decisions. We did dig through her closet, mine, some stylish friends’ and my daughters’ for wardrobe. For example, our lead, Amy, starts as a suburban stay-at-home mom so we dressed her more J. Crew cute and classic. After her husband leaves, she moves into the city to live with her sister and her wardrobe evolves. Orly, our free-spirit city mom, we dressed in wilder, hipper urban fashion such as a zebra-striped blazer and leather pants that she wears to her husband’s wake!
THEA: We have a lot of over-40 readers who are contemplating their “next act,” so to speak. What advice would you give them?
CAYTHA: Live no fear, no regrets every day. To quote Rent “no day, but today.” We are at a stage of life where we are best equipped to take risks and new challenges. Do your homework, research exhaustedly, and reach out to friends for support. And then just go for it.
As appears in SheSpark September 2016 issue.
Signature Stylist, Co-publisher SheSpark