A filmmaker might figuratively refer to a movie as his “baby.” Writer-director Claudia Myers has a more personal claim: Her first feature film and her first child arrived almost simultaneously.
“I had always had this dream of making my first movie and having my first baby by 35. And it kinda looked like neither one was going to happen,” says the 35-year-old Dupont Circle resident. “Then they both happened.”
During the production of Kettle of Fish, which she wrote and filmed in New York City late last year, Myers often found herself conferring with cast and crew while resting on an army cot. But Myers insists that, despite the rigors of a harried film set, her cast, crew, and physician—who insisted she fly back from New York every two weeks for checkups—were uniformly supportive. Only six weeks after filming ended, her son arrived.
“I can’t think of a better way to have spent [those] six or seven months of pregnancy,” Myers says, “because I wasn’t focused so much on every second worrying about the baby. I was doing something I love to do.”
Myers’ path to an entry on IMDb.com didn’t include the usual stop to pick up an agent. While an MFA student at Columbia Film School in 2002, she submitted a short to the Sundance Festival, where it was accepted and earned a top 10 spot in the short films category. In Utah, fledgling producer Agathe David-Weill asked to see more work. Myers handed over her first feature script effort—a romantic comedy about a commitment-challenged man, his fish, and the beautiful biologist he sublets to.
“Most of my scripts are about finding happiness,” Myers says. “It’s a relatively modern concept, if you think about it. We’re the generation that suddenly decided we deserve to be happy. It’s totally selfish and superficial on the one hand, but it can also say something profound about what kind of person you are and what you want out of life,” she says.
The story was inspired after Myers witnessed a woman running to catch a New York subway and a man throwing himself between the closing doors so she could make it. “They shared a look, and I thought, Wow, what if they were meant for each other?,” Myers says. “A lot of romantic comedies are based on the idea of love at first sight, and I wanted to challenge that.” Myers adds, “In my experience, falling in love is something that happens as you get to know another person—it’s more a process than a single event.”
The script, which had won a Nickelodeon Screenwriting Award, soon piqued the interest of producer Michael Mailer (Empire, Harvard Man), son of Norman.
“No movie ever wants to get made,” says Mailer from New York City. “You have to drag it kicking and screaming into production. And we had the opportunity then and there.” Actor Matthew Modine was available, but only for a limited time—and when his start date and her due date collided, “It was a huge concern, obviously,” Mailer recalls.
“I called Claudia in and said, ‘Look, if you’re up for this, let’s do it. If you’re not, we’ll postpone it and remount it the following spring—knowing that there’s a chance that we might not be able to hold it together for that long,’” Mailer says.
Only a few weeks later, Modine, Gina Gershon, Lois Chiles, and Fisher Stevens were taking orders from an increasingly expectant woman.
With Kettle of Fish awaiting final distribution deals (“We are planning to get it to theaters before it goes to DVD,” says Mailer), Myers is working on her sophomore effort, which she describes as an “atypical buddy movie” about two women in their late 60s—“Thelma and Louise on Social Security,” she says. For this project, she was hired by movie-trailer producer Gary Kanew, who had the idea and needed an author. Myers is slated to direct the film as well.
“I don’t think making movies is ever a piece of cake,” she says. “But not being pregnant—that would be good.” —Dave Nuttycombe