FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1) Why did the sisters decide to work together?
Our working together really came together organically.
We each had different careers, and we had also worked together at
times. Ursula and Maria
produced and acted in the LA Premiere of the show A...MY NAME IS
ALICE, which ran for a year, and after that, they were approached
to develop films. A year later, we all came together to work on
the first film, JUST FRIENDS, primarily as sisters to help Maria,
who was helming the project. After that, Gabrielle
had written TEMPS, and it fell into place that we could make the
film in Boston, so Jennifer and
Charity came in, and we all decided
we would do that full-time for a year. We really enjoyed working
together, so we kept going.
You know, in filmmaking, one sort of creates a family
during the making of a film, and we've got our own, which expands
and retracts depending on the stage of production, but we've always
got this base family and support. We get along very well, which
is a good foundation in filmmaking, where good partnerships are
hard to find. We also can communicate in shorthand, which saves
2) Why filmmaking? Why not another profession?
Our parents used to ask the same question(!) -- but
now we've roped them into it too. (Our mother,
a novelist, wrote MANNA FROM HEAVEN, and our father
retired from his job as a professor at the University of Buffalo
to join our company.)
Why filmmaking? We believe that film is one of the
most powerful mediums today, and we feel a responsibility as artists
to make films that are entertaining and also have a sense of hope
on a personal or social level. Our father was a professional jazz
musician, and our mother is a writer, so we grew up in an environment
which highly valued the arts. They took us to movies all the time
too. Movies used to be programmed with back to back showings, so
we often saw a movie twice, and after, we would all talk about it
for an hour or so--what it meant to each of us, what we thought
about the story, the characters, the filmmaking. Our parents took
us to a lot of the arthouse movies, and those movies used to leave
a lot more open to the imagination or guesswork, so we would really
dig into them. Films and television are now even more present and
influential in the world; and it also synthesizes all of our artistic
interests -- music, visual arts, writing.
3) How do you work together? Is there a process
of communication? A Burton style?
We talk in shorthand, like most close siblings. We
work like an inner democracy, where everyone in our family has an
equal vote, and then we speak as one voice. A lot of people don't
understand how we can not have one of us as a boss of the company,
but we each have our realms of responsibility in the company (one
sister deals with financial work; another with PR, etc.). However,
all major decisions are made together. Most of the time, we are
all in agreement without much discussion, which makes it easy; so
when we disagree, we feel strongly about trying to come to a consensus.
This is important, in that we all want to be happy with any decision
we make, and in working things out together, we come up with well-thought-out
decisions about which we all feel good.
When we were growing up, there were (obviously) seven
people in the family, and seven days in week. Our parents set up
a system called First Turn, which started out as a way to make pecking
order not always revert to birth order. When a guest would, say,
bring a box of chocolates, who got the first choice? Our parents
assigned each of us a day of the week (Maria was Monday; Charity,
Friday), and whoever's day it was got the First Turn. That developed
into that person also having chores on those days (to cook dinner,
take care of the dog, etc.). This allowed my parents some time for
their own work, and it taught us responsibility at the same time
that we got our special perks. The system also gave us a sense of
interdependence and of working together as a unit. We understood
how a household works, and to appreciate each other's work, etc.
It was smart on our parents' parts too, as First Turn probably also
avoided a lot of fights over trivial things like who gets the first
chocolate. In the long-term, it also meant that we saw each other,
perhaps, more equally -- more as partners. (By the way, we still
use First Turn all the time.)
As a family, and our liking to socialize together,
we end up sometimes feeling like we never get time "off"
from work. So we also try to set up rules to not talk about work
when we out together or on holidays, or to not call about business
before and after certain hours. That never really works, but we
4) Do you plan to work together for the long-term?
Yes, now that we've established the company, we hope
always to continue to make films together. At the same time, we
continue to work separately, and we see the company as an umbrella
for us, or a point of central gravity to which we can return. It
is a wonderful way for us to make films we care about.
Charity continues to teach in the LA city public school
system, which we all believe is extremely important. Jennifer also
continues her work in academia, editing literary anthologies with
Henry Louis Gates. The others continue their work separately as
actors and directors and writers too.
5) Do you fight?
(No we don't, says another sister. Sure we do, another
says. No we don't, retorts the other sister quickly -- and then
they all laugh.)
Obviously, everyone fights, but as sisters, we can
disagree, yet know that we are on the same side, or more easily
see where the other is coming from--and, at the end of the day,
we know that we're going to be spending every holiday together--so
we have a base level of trust on top of our shared artistic values.
We also compliment each other artistically, with some sisters loving
action films, others, romantic comedies, so we broaden and strengthen
each project with our different perspectives.
6) What inspires you as a group?
Our parents inspire us sisters a great deal. They
enjoy the process of living, and this business can be very hard
at times, and they always enjoy the small pleasures along the way.
We were very fortunate as children in that our parents
used to save up and takes us on long trips in the summer with them.
We backpacked in Asia, and retraced the Donner Trail another summer
for a novel our mother was writing. We learned that the only way
we could do these extraordinary trips was making choices throughout
the rest of the year, and also keeping to a very limited budget
-- which was probably the best preparation for independent filmmaking
someone could get! We also saw how fortunate we were, and the strong
influence of American culture around the world, which influences
our approach to our choices in filmmaking too.