On Monday 11th February, one of the most exciting releases of the year is due to arrive on DVD. Nicole Conn’s A PERFECT ENDING starring Barbara Niven, Jessica Clark (True Blood), Morgan Fairchild (Friends) and John Heard will be available to own.
The film has been called “the sexiest lesbian film of the year” by Curve Magazine, and we are all big fans of Nicole’s in the Peccadillo office.
Making groundbreaking lesbian films like CLAIRE OF THE MOON & ELENA UNDONE, Nicole spent a bit of time recently catching up with Peccadillo and telling us a little about her films for our blog readers.
If you cannot wait till Monday for the DVD, you can rent the film right now at the bottom of this interview or get over to iTunes where you can buy or rent right now.
If you want to get the Nicole Conn Boxset, featuring her films before A PERFECT ENDING, click here.
1. Nicole, would you mind introducing yourself briefly for our readers who may not be aware of your films and where you love for film has come from.
I always describe myself first and foremost as a mother and then a writer/director and then a lesbian. My first film, “CLAIRE OF THE MOON” was accidental. I had started writing in the 3rd grade and knew immediately that was what I was meant to do – a blessing for which I assure you I thank God daily. I remember saying to myself the day the day we were scheduled to take off for the coast to shoot COTM: “I’m the luckiest person in the world. I’m a woman and a lesbian and I get to make a movie – who gets to say that? Thank you God!”
I have a had a tortured love affair with black and white movies since I was nine after I had fallen in love with “Wuthering Heights” – and Heathcliff stood with wind whisping through Olivier’s gorgeous locks of hair. Then I read “Gone with the Wind” saw the movie and completely wend mad for Clark Gable. I would literally set the alarm for what they called the “late late late show” from the time I was nine. I watched every Gable movie and from there it just became all the black and white films I could gobble up as quickly as possible. B&W films were my greatest film education.
2. The picture, which really caught everyone’s attention was, CLAIRE OF THE MOON – it has been over ten years since the release, what do you think about the film looking back on it now and it’s making.
Actually it celebrated its 20th year release and you lovely people at Peccadillo remastered it. I was so thrilled with the wonderful manner in which you have taken such great care of your filmmakers. It was sort of an irony that I directed COTM at all. I thought I was going to be a novelist, but I decided to try my hand at screenwriting, had written a 10 minute short about Trisha Todd’s character Claire being a reporter who’s doing an article on noted sex therapist Noel (Karen Trumbo). It was supposed to be Pam Kuri’s directorial debut but, not unlike “A PERFECT ENDING,” the story had me by the throat and soon became a full script and I felt it so keenly inside me I struck a deal with Pam. If she’d produce COTM then I would produce her first feature. I’m a person who learns by doing. Pam was a film student from Evergreen and she and our DP Randy Sellars taught me everything on the fly and where I did not understand things technically I knew personal dynamics.
Plus watching all those B&W movies really informed my style which shows in COTM. I’m the first to say it is not “Citizen Kane.” It was my first outing and definitely has some clunky, squirm in seat moments. Where the film really works is in the chemistry between Claire and Noel. That and really exploring the nuance and detail of coming out. I think that’s why so many people related to the film – it’s powerful as a film about self-examination and the birthing of your authentic self and I believe that and the fact that there literally had been no other film since Desert Hearts (7 years) that it became a huge success in the community.
It also had a mainstream release and opened the dialogue and doors for lesbian cinema. But the thing I’m most proud of is that It was the first lesbian film that had ancillary merchandising. There was the first “MOMENTS: the Making of COTM” which sold as well as the film! COTM had a soundtrack, t-shirts, posters, one sheets, even Christmas ornaments. It became its own cottage industry for years. And the reasons I think the film still speaks to women and men is because it is really about the greatest love affair of them all…with ourselves.
3. How do you feel holding the title as one of the most important female sexuality and empowerment directors in the world?
Wow. Well, I didn’t realize I held that title, but I’ll humbly accept it! Seriously though, I am a person who loves and when I love, I love deeply. So I think when I have the right ingredients – two leads who not only possess their own particular magnetism but also chemistry with their co-star, I have been blessed to be able to really layer my films. I’m also an actor’s director. I cherish actors. They have the hardest job in the world, but when they bring their own magic to their character, man, there is so much you can do and explore. Again, digging deep and exploring all the nuances of romance, the look, a specific gaze the “long tease” (which I’m also known for – by some grudgingly — but come on you all know you love it!!) The greatest reward for me is getting so many women (and men by the way who enjoy love stories – there are many more out there than you’d think) to watch my films over and over again. I’m not just talking once or twice I’m talking seriously watching three times a week, or ten times or one woman who stopped me on a corner who was on her 69th viewing and that was in the theatre!
I believe when people fall in love, seriously, thoroughly, their interiors remould and they become invincible. Falling in love makes people feel whole, completed, cared for and believed in. Passion truly is empowering. It’s the driving force for pretty much everything in my life. I think it’s imperative that we all have passion in our lives. So when you are deprived of it, to find something that still makes you feel it, that gets inside you and you know the yearning for, whether it’s from a film, book, music or art, you keep being drawn to it. Passion destroyed is equally powerful and devastates and I think some people watch some of my films to heal. That is the most important thing in “A PERFECT ENDING.” When Rebecca feels passion for the first time in her life it is so transformative it makes her a warrior, a redeemer and a victor.
- When your previous film, ELENA UNDONE, came out, everyone was talking about that kiss – how was filming that and gaining the world record for the longest kiss recorded in film history?
I must say Marina (Rice Bader, partner, Co-Founder Soul Kiss and Exec Producer of both “ELENA UNDONE” and “A PERFECT ENDING”) and I are so proud that “ELENA UNDONE” holds that distinction. This might have to do with the fact that it was based on our (Marina’s and my) first such encounter. Very simply we kissed forever. You lose all sense of time when you’re in what we’ve coined as a phrase now “An Elena Undone Kiss.” My manager Melanie Rice and dearest pal says it’s the test: “if it isn’t an Elena Undone Kiss don’t bother.”
We kept describing that first amazing kiss; how the world melts away, nothing else exists, you’re so inside it – that first kiss that’s so powerful and often tells the tale of a relationship.
It got me to thinking what was the longest kiss in cinema history and after researching discovered it was from a film made in the 40’s: “You’re in the Army Now” with Jane Wyman and it lasted 3 min and 15 seconds, but it was a comedy and their lips were glued together. So Marina and I actually test drove practicing over and over again (gotta love research) on whether it was possible to maintain keeping lips touching at all times without a single cut or break in the filming and how it had to be choreographed in in a manner that it becomes it’s own story and remaining dynamic so the viewer goes along for the ride. Then my brilliant DP, Tal Lazar, realized my vision of being swirled into the vortex of the kiss by using steady cam to land in the blissful OMG repose! On the settee where Peyton (Traci Dinwiddie meeting the challenge full guns blazing) “undoes” Elena. Necar Zadegan and Traci really knocked it out of the park!
5. In the Peccadillo office, we love your films but we wanted to know what you secret is, how do you manage to touch the hearts of so many women across the world?
Well the feeling is mutual!! You folks are truly magnificent to work with. I am so grateful for how you care about your filmmakers and the product you are putting out. I think people are touched by my films because I think they can innately tell I’m completely committed to each and every project I do. I always surround myself with incredible talent that makes my job a whole lot easier (and look more brilliant than I am!) – I think it comes across that the casts and crews usually have a great time on the set because there is deep respect for every single person who works with me. And because we are all working for peanuts; their true dedication to their craft and art is seen in the final product looking like it was made for ten times our budget. But the biggest factor I believe is because I’m a die-hard romantic and love telling intense and adult love stories.
Marina and I always say one of biggest goals is to have romance no longer be a dirty word. It’s ridiculed but there are far more many romantics out there than people realise. Because I believe romance is paying attention to all the details, I think people feel all the moments and beats of romance when they are watching the films and that’s why the are drawn back to them again and again. Also I have been blessed by working with exceptional composers. My mantra is “the music is the soul of a movie.” It cannot be underestimated how critical score and sound are to a film and that’s why I’ve always put together soundtracks for all of my films, even my doc, “little man” scored by Mark Chait, who also composed for “CYNARA” and “ELENA UNDONE.”
Finally I’d love to tell all the people who write emails, FB’s or letters… they are truly the greatest reward. To know you’ve touched someone is just the most compelling reason in the world to do the work I do. It may sound corny, but I think the viewers feel how much love and respect I have for them. No detail is too small. And especially with people who view multiple times they really get that I have put 1000% of myself on the screen.
6. Your latest picture, A PERFECT ENDING, has already been spoken about by so many women but could you tell our readers just a little about the film without giving too much away?
This was a “meant to be film” from the very beginning. I was doing the novelization of “ELENA UNDONE” when Marina said she wanted to share one of many story ideas (truly Marina should be running a studio using all her incredible ideas – very high concept and unique.) I was like no, don’t bother me now, I’m so behind on this book. But when she told me it was about a woman entering mid life who had never had an orgasm and the way she was going to get there was by a character who was a high priced escort I thought – “this is f’n brilliant.” What started out as a great idea soon became a story of Rebecca (Barbara Niven), the uptight mother of three, married to old money and a prickly husband (John Heard) who ends up in several humorous attempts to achieve her goal with the mesmerising and hauntingly beautiful escort Paris (Jessica Clark). What starts as an experimental quest soon becomes more. So much more and the rest I shall leave for the viewers.
I tried to get back to the novel, but I couldn’t. I’ve had this on my own ideas but not from someone else’s, where the muse takes over and writes me. The first draft was done in 48 hours. Several passes later it was week to the day I handed Marina a wrapped up draft. What started as that little seed, an idea was already in full motion. Marina then raised the first 50K on Kickstarter (a crowd sourcing platform) and that was in October of 2010 and by March 1 of 2011 I said action.
7. A PERFECT ENDING stars an amazing cast, with some really big names including Barbara Niven, Jessica Clark, John Heard and Morgan Fairchild – how did these names join the project?
I’ve known Barbara personally for over 25 years. I actually had several of my scripts in option to her husband David Niven Jr. (son of brilliant British actor David Niven – pretty amazing since he was also in “Wuthering Heights”!) We tried to put projects together in all that time and how could we have known 25 years later we would both do our most intense film experience together. It’s not just that Barbara Niven is the NICEST gal in all of Hollywood, she’s the hardest working. Playing Rebecca, Barbara has truly given all of us a gift in her performance of a life-time – Gena Rowlands meets Meryl Streep – gone places so amazingly brave – she will not only make every woman (and man) over 40 fall in love with her, she is a heroine in the truest sense of the word. Jessica Clark was another “meant to be.” She had friended me on Facebook and when I accepted offhandedly I asked “are you an actress? You’re stunning!” She FB’d me back and said she was just transitioning her career as a model into acting and had seen “ELENA UNDONE” at the Los Angeles’s Premiere. After the screening her partner leaned over and said firmly, “you need to be in her films!”
Morgan Fairchild came to me through a dear friend Steve Tyler (who plays one of the John’s!) He connected us, Morgan read the script and then she brought her exceptional experience and amazing knowledge of filmmaking to the set. She’s a consummate pro and is incredibly sharp and witty. We went after John Heard because he was such a perfect fit for Mason. I recut this film a million times and I find him one of the most compellingly watchable actors I’ve ever worked with.
8.What is next in the world of Nicole Conn?
What’s Next? OMG. A million different things! I will be coming out with a book in late summer of 2013, “Descending Thirds” and we’re in development on what I call the “lesbian Wuthering Heights” – based on my novel, “She Walks In Beauty” as well as working on the sequel to “little man.” It’s a very exciting, filled to the brim time for all of us in the Soul Kiss Family. I’m so proud of for everyone who has so graciously been involved with “A PERFECT ENDING.” But always first and foremost are the kids. Making sure my “little man” stays healthy and strong and all the others are kept well taken care of.
- Meet the Amatos - with THE CIAMBRA Director Jonas Carpignano
- Tamara Shogaolu talks about HALF A LIFE from Boys on Film 18: Heroes
- From Goddess to Satanist - Making Mansfield 66/67
- All about "Buddy", in Boys on Film 18: Heroes.
- The Wound – When Controversy Prompts Conversation
- Drawing Gabrielle by writer/director Lisa Gornick
- There's more to life...in conversation with Blandine Lenoir.
- It's All About Frankie from BEACH RATS
- BEACH RATS - The Origin
- Maysaloun Hamoud director of IN BETWEEN