Editor’s Note: As I mentioned in my “Plan B” posting, I am proud to be working with Caytha Jentis (Bad Parents, And Then Came Love) on her new episodic pilot, Now What? The following is a re-post from her blog about the inspiration for the project.
MAKE ROOM LENA DUNHAM…The Journey Begins
by CAYTHA JENTIS
I left the movie business shortly after the birth of my son in 1991. I had just completed an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, and did not have the budget or bravado to hire a babysitter so I could spend the day writing.
I tried to write during my son’s nap time. But he wasn’t a great napper, and it felt like all my creative juices flowed out of me with the amniotic fluid. I did have job opportunities, but since I only know how to give 110%, taking a job in such a competitive, 24/7 industry would most likely lead to the dissolution of my marriage, especially since my husband’s career was also demanding; and I wanted to be there for my son. So I shut the door on my career.
I took a part time job in sales for a greeting card company. It was a ‘fun’ job with flexible hours. I joked that it was easier than selling people – I had been a literary agent – as the price was set and the product regenerated itself. I became a top producer and thought I had found a way to ‘have it all’ – the elusive unattainable Nirvana our generation invented.
We moved back East and I continued to work. But I wanted more – to move up the company ranks, although it had already become a challenge to work and raise my kids. Our son had “issues.” I felt the teachers blamed me. Perhaps if I were around more, my son would be better behaved in class (read: It’s all your fault…). Since many of the other mothers in our town were ‘stay-at-home’ moms, I felt the suburban mommy Sirens calling me home. Plus, we had two kids now. A promotion meant a larger territory that would demand travel. I had that perfect “Mommy Job,” but I had outgrown it. So I quit. Another career door shut.
I never felt like I fit in either world – as a stay-at-home or a working mom. Feminism had let me down. I felt duped. I was angry. I naively had grown up in an idealistic androgynous world where boys and girls were the ‘same.’ I was raised in a Utopian World to believe that we could do and be anything. Unlike our mothers, we had choices.
And while I knew I was fortunate to have them, I felt choked by choices. I envied my friends on either side who didn’t share my angst. I felt alone.
I started to write again. I forced myself. Writing became my way to run away without really running away. I eventually wrote a script that I was proud of but discovered that I could make the movie faster than I could get someone in Hollywood to read it. This meant doing it all: raising the funds, producing and selling it. The end result was “And Then Came Love,” that starred Vanessa Williams and Eartha Kitt. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done, but I felt alive again. I was a hunter – even if it meant leaving the set to do my share of car pools and stocking the fridge – because I was a Mom first.
We sold the film to Warner Brothers. I naively thought that meant I was back in The Business. But after the film’s release, no one called. No one wanted to represent me or invited me to pitch meetings. I felt invisible again. I was back to being a stay-at-home Mom.
I came to accept the “starting over” reality and realized that my destiny and state of mind was in my hands only. My kids were older and I had a simple mantra – try to have more happy days than sad, live life with no regrets and fearlessly do what makes me feel good as long as it doesn’t hurt others. I refused to be the Charlie Brown “Waa Waa Waa” parent. I started to allow myself periodic “Cinderella Nights” where I would go out in the city with friends that did not define me first as a mother or a wife.
I wrote and produced two more films. And still, no one in the industry called, but I could handle it better. It is what it is.
My Fiftieth birthday was approaching. I was in my second childhood, but fifty sounded and felt old. I had dealt with more than my fair share of wonderful ups and traumatic downs that included two years on the ninth floor of Sloan Kettering, where my son fought and beat cancer, to being the first call when my daughter’s best friend committed suicide.
I realized radical things were happening to my friends, too, as they grappled with mid-life, aging and kids leaving the house. My experiences, those of my friends and those I read about in blogs were as liberating as they were humbling. And similar to Lena Dunham and her friends on Girls – we are trying to figure out our sh-t out too, and have stories. Lots of stories.
So here I go again… I created “Now What?” and am ready to scale an even steeper mountain – the elusive world of episodic television.
Will I succeed? Who knows? But I quixotically continue to fight windmills. While ageism exists, I am not daunted. I finally have bravado because if I live life for the stories and enjoy the journey I’ll always succeed.
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