Independent Filmmaker's Guide
November 24, 2020
Using Comedy to Tell Meaningful Stories: Jenna Laurenzo on Lez Bomb
Writing and directing your first feature will always come with its own unique challenges. But now add working with an ensemble cast of famous actors and basically creating your own niche in order to comedically tell your meaningful story. This is exactly what Jenna Laurenzo navigated successfully with her hilarious film Lez Bomb.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, well, I’m now noticing, because I wrote Lez Bomb, that first draft, almost 10 years ago, before that. But it was because I was going through a personal struggle of coming out. That had been an ongoing process, and I was writing a script to sort of tackle that emotional tension that I was going through. I now noticed over the course of the last decade that’s where I tend to come out scripts. From that place where I’m asking a question or sorting something. I was less self aware at the time and I just wanted to write a script. I was dealing with realizing that I was gay, and I wanted a comedy about coming out, and it just didn’t exist. Most of the content within that space happened to be really dramatic. Particularly with the representation of lesbians, the ending wasn’t happy, so it was essentially scratching my own itch and creating something I needed to see but couldn’t find. And so that script, I started playing with that story, but it was a lot more dramatic when I was writing the first draft.
Steven Pierce: Right, because it was probably a lot more serious in that point in your life.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah I didn’t have the distance from the emotion. And I had a draft, and it was kind of angry. And then as you come into your own and you have that distance between the emotion you have that, I guess periphery, you see the comedy within it.
Steven Pierce: That totally makes sense. You write something that’s very heartfelt, and very probably hard to talk about, and then you just put it away, which is typically when scripts are best, whenever you do something then kind of walk away from it for a bit, then you come back and find the tone for what you want to say.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, I’ve now recognized whenever there’s a script sort of tapping me on the shoulder, when I want to avoid it, it’s usually because there’s a nerve that I’m not willing to hit yet, and so it’s just kind of this graceful act between effort and knowing when to back off.
Steven Pierce: Do you do standup as well?
Jenna Laurenzo: I don’t.
Steven Pierce: Okay, I was about to say, because that sounds exactly how a standup comedian approaches stuff. Like shit that’s bothering them right now, tonight, tomorrow, makes it onto stage.
Jenna Laurenzo: Oh, interesting, yeah. I can imagine that process being similar. I have to ask some of my friends that do it, I wonder if we’re all just kind of like hiding before we can deal without emotional shit.
Steven Pierce: So now, fast forward 10 years, you’re writing the script, did you do anything, for comedy did you test it, did you show it to friends, how did you determine when the script was “finished”? I’m sure it changed while you shot.
Jenna Laurenzo: Sure, I mean the script, it was an evolution in itself. I remember somebody had asked me recently, when do you know you’re done with a script? Because no one wants to know that you’re just going to keep writing and writing and writing and writing and hopefully it gets made. And I think Lez Bomb, when all said and done, had well over a 150 drafts. And for me there’s something about comedy that, there’s a rhythm that feels right. It feels like, I grew up playing sports, so you know when the ball goes in the net or doesn’t go in the net, it sort of feels like that. It lands or it doesn’t land.
Steven Pierce: Or like a rhythm with your teammates is maybe how I was thinking about it. Like when people are in the right position and then not, versus whenever you’re just kind of isolated and stuck.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, totally. And in reading the script, you can hear, I can feel when something seems to be working, whether or not it’s landing for other people, it’s hard to tell until people start reading it, but I do have a certain level of trust when it comes to, this feels funny. And then making sure the story is landing, that is really helpful when you bring in other points of view, if that makes sense.
Steven Pierce: Yeah I think that completely makes sense. I find there’s got to be a real, with writing comedy, I feel there’s a real balance of structure and character voice, like dialogue kind of stuff, because you kind of have to, sometimes you rely on the plot structure to be the pace that you need, then you need the dialogue to be the actual funny.
Jenna Laurenzo: I like situational comedy. I always think that the greatest comedy comes out of the most uncomfortable situations.
Steven Pierce: I think that the best comedy is always based in conflict, personally.
Jenna Laurenzo: Sure. I always tell this story, in 2005 I was on a ship that almost capsized, and everyone thought we were dead for 12 hours. And I remember at the height of that, because you fatigue with that level of worry, at least that’s what I experienced. You can only be worried and terrified for so long before you just hit a wall, and I just remember laughing at the absurdity that that’s how I was going to go down, and also I was thinking I was going to die, and no one I knew I was gay, and I was pissed that the experience was nothing like Titanic, there was no romance. I just went into this tirade that was funny, I was laughing at the absurdity, and I think, I’ve always loved stories, I think that’s the moment where I was like, you know what, there’s always something funny. It doesn’t matter what’s going on, there’s an absurd something that can be looked at, and mined for. I love the, well first of all, it’s insane that you were on a boat that almost capsized. Please tell me it was at least in some very exotic area, off the point of Africa or someplace super cool, not just like sitting right off the coast of Cancun.
Steven Pierce: I was about to say, this was 2005, it feels like we’re a few years late to see the comedy version of Titanic.
Jenna Laurenzo: I know, everyone’s like “Are you going to write that?” And I was like I feel like that’s just going to be a comedy about me being wildly reckless for the six months following.
Steven Pierce: I feel like there’s a great story in there too, because it’s like, you also said you know how you figure there’s no romance, so instead of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet running around being beautiful people, there’s just like a fat white guy from Beloit eating a pudding cup, you know just going up…
Jenna Laurenzo: I was assigned, you know they assigned the women to, if you were one of the female students on the higher deck, because the highest decks were rocking the most, you got assigned a guy to hold onto you. And I was assigned this dude named Bryan who came up to my waist, and I was like I should be holding onto Bryan!
Steven Pierce: You were assigned a guy? The guy’s name being Bryan is fantastic, I’m just picturing a 5’1″ beefy…
Jenna Laurenzo: I was like, “Bryan, I got this.”
Steven Pierce: “Don’t worry Bryan, hold onto my life jacket, it’ll float both of us.”
Steven Pierce: All right, well. That is insane! The boat obviously did not capsize.
Jenna Laurenzo: So we made it out alive, and now I can tell stories.
Steven Pierce: How was it playing shuffleboard for the days after the capsize did not happen?
Jenna Laurenzo: So then, yeah. I look back and it’s baffling that it wasn’t really addressed, it was sort of brushed over, and now me and my friends that were on the ship were like “That was crazy, right?”
Steven Pierce: Let’s jump forward to, how did you, what I’m really interested to talk to you about is your cast is bananas good. Just mind-blowingly good for a first time filmmaker, so how the hell did that happen, and who did you hustle to get that?
Jenna Laurenzo: It sort of had a momentum unto itself that I just felt like I needed to get out of the way. Because it just came together in ways that I didn’t…so I spent six years trying to attach a star and a director. It’s really hard to attach people when you have no money, and after a lot of conversations, like people kept telling me that I was going to have to do it myself. And I sort of resisted that, there’s a lot of pressure within that, I think there was a lot of fear within that, and again you just kind of hit a wall and you’re like this thing’s just never going to get made, so I guess I’ll just do it myself. There’s like a surrender to it. And so I did a proof of concept of what that would look like, acting and directing, and then that proof of concept was a short film called Girl Night Stand, and that short film ended up going viral, which is how I got the financing. And once we had a producer attached I still didn’t have an idea of the cast that we were going to attach. Trying to manage my expectations, especially as a first time filmmaker. But I skate with an ice of optimism often, but I didn’t know what to expect. When we started, my amazing casting directors Mia Cusumano and Meghan Rafferty, and Mia’s always been such a champion and cheerleader, and guardian angel in my life, and when we started going out to cast her reps at the time helped us get the script to Kevin Polack, and Kevin, his agent, despite our budget as a favor, gave the script to Kevin and Kevin really responded to the script, and thought there was an important message in it and ended up calling me and vetting me out, and we had a half an hour conversation, and he was like “All right, I’ll see you in December,” and I was like “What?” And he was like “Yeah, let’s do this.” And it was just, I can’t, it was just so… I was such of a fan of his work, I’ve always been such a fan of his work, and he was just so generous on the phone and was such a pleasure to chat with.
Jenna Laurenzo: And once he said yes all these miraculous other pieces came together. Bruce Dern and Cloris Leachman were also at the same agency at the time and then they were involved. Elaine Hendricks had said yes, which was, I was such a fan of hers when The Parent Trap came out, and I always had her in the back of my mind as someone that one day we would cross paths, and so it was baffling when someone said she wanted to do the movie. It was so weird, because I have always known I was meant to know Elaine Hendricks. Stars. It was written in the stars. So all of these things just kind of came colliding together in ways that I just didn’t anticipate, but allowed for them, and then with Deirdre O’Connell for my mom, everything about her just felt right. She’s the heart, and she grounds the comedy, and that really, the mother-daughter relationship was the most important to me in that film. It was just dream come true across the board. I fell madly in love with every single person involved in that film.
Steven Pierce: It definitely started with that proof of concept that you attach, you got producer attached connected you to Kevin Pollack who then seems like connected you to the agency that ultimately got you a couple of the big stars, and then the rest is just extreme fortune but in a good way. You were a good person doing the right thing with the right message in the right room at the right time.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, there was a lot of, it was just a lot of things that came together in a serendipitous way.
Steven Pierce: Right and that seems like so many of the stories we’re hearing on here, they’re very similar. Something like a location was totally was nonexistent until the day of the shoot. It’s amazing how that happens consistently.
Jenna Laurenzo: But one main guy and he was connected to me through the Rob Moran, who also plays my uncle in the film. He works with these two other guys and he got his hands on the script, happened to be looking for a dysfunctional family comedy, and he connected me to our finance here. And it so happened that I had this viral short that showed there was an audience hungry for this content, that had an appetite, and I think it’s really helpful that when you can point to that. It also provided invaluable analytics that we were able to use when it came down to the distribution of Lez Bomb by providing those to the distributor so…
Steven Pierce: You could see target demographics, where and who was likely to purchase and engage.
Jenna Laurenzo: Exactly. For sure, and also which press pieces were impactful in people, in bringing audiences eyes to something. Because you know, sometimes as filmmakers you’re sort of like, press press press press press. But there can be more strategy involved, and realizing that sometimes a writeup here, nobody’s actually reading it. Sometimes, other places a lot of people are. I think it allows you to create a roadmap for yourself to hopefully follow.
Steven Pierce: Were you doing that in pre-production or did you do that after you’d finished the film and were moving to distribution?
Jenna Laurenzo: Both. Because Girl Night Stand still gets so many hits daily, and I’m always interested in those analytics because I think it’s helpful to show, particularly when we’re talking about LGBTQ+ representation, saying oh there’s huge appetite, there’s still a gap in the marketplace, we still have to fight for representation, and one of the valuable lessons in terms of Lez Bomb, once you sell the film you can’t really control the territories you can release it, so I get messages in territories it’s not available looking to watch the film, and I can’t provide it. I don’t have that ability anymore, and that was a lesson also within that journey.
Steven Pierce: Wow. Yeah, that’s a really interesting, just thinking about the, so you sold global rights to it whenever you sold it to Netflix? Or as part of a different distribution package?
Jenna Laurenzo: We sold the film to the distributor Gravitas, had an amazing experience working with them. Really enjoyed that. And then they ultimately sold it to Netflix. I don’t actually know, I would need to know all the verbiage of that better to speak to how that works. And then we have an international sales rep that would deal with the…
Steven Pierce: Foreign markets, yeah the foreign territories. Is that through Gravitas also or is that an independent sales agent?
Jenna Laurenzo: Separate.
Steven Pierce: One thing that I’m really curious about on Netflix, because it gives you huge notoriety, right? Now, unlike 10 years ago, being able to say having a film on Netflix feels like a thing, like people understand what that is. If you’re on SVOD if you’re on Hulu or Amazon, not the free one, like actually Amazon Prime. But it does limit your ability to recoup financing, especially with something in your world that is something very boutique, not boutique but it’s very niche, like there is an audience that’s hungry for it that would probably purchase it, I’m curious to think is that something you feel like was the right move for you in the film is to go subscription? Because you’re probably, I don’t know, how do you feel like that balanced out?
Jenna Laurenzo: I think it depends on who you ask on my team. If you ask me, I think it’s amazing to be on Netflix, because I think as a filmmaker it opens a lot of doors. But then you can’t continue to make money on the film once it’s on Netflix.
Steven Pierce: You just get that one license payment per whatever term.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, so it’s a double edged sword, in many ways. I think personally, I can go on a rant about this, but I feel like there’s going to be a shift in where distribution is going, particularly for films that have clear audiences I do think self distribution is going to be where artists are going to find a means of sustainability in terms of creating the content they want to create.
Steven Pierce: I feel as if, I don’t think anybody knows right now especially with the crisis, but it feels more like to me right now it is getting on as filmmaker, like you, some place like Netflix, some place with notoriety, giving you kind of a launching pad to establish your industry credibility, right? And then from there it feels as if you might benefit more going a different direction in the future because you have a different pathway that could offer more income over a long period of time, rather than a single license.
Jenna Laurenzo: Also, I’m a curious person in general, so it’s like okay, well that was an interesting journey, and let’s see something else.
Steven Pierce: I think you’re totally right with self distribution. Is that what you would do? First of all We were going to do this at the end, but are you going to do another film? I know you directed a pilot during Covid that I want to hear all about, but if you’re going to do another film, if the same thing came up would you go a different direction?
Jenna Laurenzo: So, I’m working on a film with a company now and I’ll collaborate with them and follow their lead because it’s a company that I’ll learn a substantial amount, I’ll learn a lot from them. They’re established, they’ve been doing this for a long time, so I’m willing to go that route. And the budget of that would be bigger than say with Lez Bomb. Now, I have another film that I’m developing that’s a much smaller film that I would personally love to experiment with self distribution with. I just have to talk people into getting on my board.
Steven Pierce: So let’s go back to production. What was your production for Lez Bomb like? Specifically let’s look at schedule and time and how you made all this jigsaw puzzle start piecing itself together.
Jenna Laurenzo: Well, Lez Bomb was shot in 15 days. That was crazy, and two blizzards. We had three pickup days, which became, that was the second blizzard which cut that in half, so one and a half, essentially, pickup days. I melted snow on my days off for continuity. It was crazy. But, I do think any time you’re presented that pressure cooker situation it really forces some creativity, if you can see the potential in the problems that present themself. And one of my favorite scenes in Lez Bomb came out of the fact that we no longer could shoot outside.
Steven Pierce: So you had to morph an entire scene that’s supposed to exterior to interior?
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, and I had my fantastic editor. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Bill, Bill Saunders. He was with us during the production, he was editing the assembly as we were going along, so that made it a lot easier when we were moving that quickly to make sure we were getting what we needed, and when one of the snowstorms hit we couldn’t shoot this scene outside, I could see that the movie was kind of, it’s a fast paced movie, and there was an opportunity for a moment of breath, and I wouldn’t have had that if everything had going according to plan, so I was actually really grateful for the problem in retrospect. I was having an anxiety attack probably during it, but it ended up being a wonderful opportunity. But it was 15 days, we shot the film in my childhood home, my parents still live there, and my mom’s motel that my grandfather did build in the 50’s. We used locations that we had access to.
Steven Pierce: That’s very smart. I’ve heard other people do that. For a first time film I was wondering, because I saw the special thanks to the Lorenzo house.
Jenna Laurenzo: Oh my god I love that you saw that.
Steven Pierce: So you had 15 days, it was at Southside, where does it take place? And how did you put up the cast? Did you put them up for the whole time people were there? Because you had some big stars, were they there for, how did you deal with their schedules and their needs?
Jenna Laurenzo: It was so funny because some people stayed at one place, some people stayed at the other place. I remember one of my producers calling, they were like “Where are you, I’m on the 16th floor?” I was like “We’re definitely staying at different places. There’s one floor where I’m staying.”
Jenna Laurenzo: Everyone was so amazing. I miss them, they feel like my family. But we did, we put them up. Flew people in. A lot of the people were based here. Caitlyn, who plays my girlfriend in the film, we’ve been friends for such a long time. She was like, in many ways, a rock for me on set. I feel really grateful to have a friend and a collaborator in her. And then Davram, who plays my brother, who’s also based here. His comedy partner came in and auditioned and told us about this movie they had made, and so I watched it. His comedy partner wasn’t right for the role, I liked him a lot, he just wasn’t right, but then watching the movie I saw Devram and I was like “This guy is perfect.” He plays my brother and I just adore him, but he’s also based here. And Deirdre was based here. But we didn’t house anybody at my mom’s motel because it was just, get off of set, come back. It would have been too much.
Steven Pierce: So you had to get, I mean how hard was it to convince your mom, and did you convince your mom to close, I mean she had to close parts of it, did she close the whole hotel?
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah like, my parents really love me. I’m very grateful.
Steven Pierce: At least they did before you closed their hotel for a whole week.
Jenna Laurenzo: I was going to say, they really love me. They might love me a little less after. My mom still resents me for the damage of her carpets, she always says “The carpets have never been the same.” Everyone thinks that shooting a movie is really exciting, until it’s really happening in your house. Like she wanted the crew to wear booties, and I was like that’s not happening, nobody’s putting booties on.
Steven Pierce: Yeah. It’s definitely the perception of making a film and production, and then actual production whenever you’re there is an organized train wreck, and I’ve seen many location owner’s eyes just bulge out of their heads.
Jenna Laurenzo: Oh my god I know. And I didn’t want my parents on set for at least the first week because I wanted Kevin, who plays my father, and Deirdre, who plays my mother, I wanted them to make choices that wasn’t impacted by meeting my parents. So I was like “Mom, Dad, you can’t come to set for like a week.” And that lasted maybe 45 minutes. They were like there upon arrival.
Steven Pierce: “Oh I’m sorry, I’ve got this place of warm cookies and I just didn’t know where to put them!”
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, it was like, it didn’t work. But it is what it is.
Jenna Laurenzo: And it was funny because Deirdre had my mom and Kevin had my dad just off the script. They just, they were them.
Steven Pierce: Did your parents know they were being more or less portrayed by these characters?
Jenna Laurenzo: Oh my god, my mom was like “I come off great.”
Steven Pierce: That’s so much better than the alternative.
Jenna Laurenzo: I know!
Steven Pierce: Is that what your dad, your dad was like “That’s not me”?
Jenna Laurenzo: No, my dad was cool too. They were so happy with the way they, there’s so much love, I personally feel like there’s a lot of love that comes out in that film, and so, even my uncle, who’s portrayed by Steve Gutenberg, Uncle Fred, his character in the movie is Mike, he passed away, but the last time I saw him I showed him the movie Lez Bomb, and I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it, because I don’t, that character, but he was like “Pretty good.” It’s just interesting because there is a sensitivity when you write something that’s based on people, and I felt like I did feel a pressure around that. I was nervous about that, but ultimately there was a story I wanted to tell and so I just told it. I think that at some point you sort of have to let that go.
Steven Pierce: So let’s talk about technically more, now you have a big cast, a lot of times in the same room, walking around, moving stuff. You’re wanting to give freedom to the actors to make choices and do stuff, how did you approach the shot list, the technical side of directing this thing, especially when you’re also in the scene?
Jenna Laurenzo: Right. You just don’t have the luxury of a lot of improvisation because you just have to, when you’re moving that quickly you just have to make sure you break down the scenes with shot lists, knowing what you have to get. And then hopefully there’s room to play with in that and allow for some of those improvised gems to sort of surface. We went through the script, we had shot list, ultimately the way I was working was I knew how I wanted the audience to feel when they were watching a particular scene, and so I was just listening to almost, it’s kind of like music, when you play a note and you can feel if you’re hitting that note. That’s how I was approaching the scenes. If there was an emotional reverberation I was looking to feel and the resonance of it. And once I felt like we had it moving, if that makes sense.
Steven Pierce: Yeah totally. Philosophy wise, as a director for comedy stuff, because it’s different, it’s the same in that you’re telling the story, you’re following the characters, but there is a pace and a flow to comedy that doesn’t necessarily exist in drama, especially in the final edit. So are you breaking down your shots like a normal line script, or are you saying this is going to get two shot coverage, we’re going to follow this side and these two characters in the same shot in the same part of the table, and this is going to be our moment of a single, or we’re going to play this in a wide. How are you dissecting the comedy visually?
Jenna Laurenzo: I just think that there’s certain things that visually are funnier. For instance, when there’s a part in the movie where Caitlin, the actress Caitlin Mehner, she plays Hailey, where we kiss by the bushes, and Bruce Dern catches us kiss, and it’s just funny to have us kiss then we pull away and have the camera catch Bruce Dern.
Steven Pierce: Does that come into how you build into that moment? And then who made those decisions?
Jenna Laurenzo: When we did a shot list, me and the DP, I made sure that both him and I were very open, because I like the collaboration about it, so I was like “If you think something’s funny, if you think something’s smart…” this is an ongoing conversation, even if we get onto set. All of a sudden an idea comes, let’s make sure we’re looking at them or paying attention to those. But I wanted to make sure that, number one, in 15 days we have enough coverage and we have enough options for the editor to play with, because the movie comes together, in many ways, in the edit, and when you’re moving that quickly sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what the tone is, or if everything is tracking the way you want it to track.
Jenna Laurenzo: The best way I can explain this is, for instance for my performance, because I’m also in it, I as the actor and director wanted to make sure that if I was doing a scene I gave it at least three different ways so when we got the edit I had the option, so if something felt like it was angry, making sure that there was one take that there was a softness to it. Maybe one take where there was more of an edge to it. Giving those options. And I was trying to get that from everyone so that we have coverage and we have tonal options, and options in moments. So doing the shot list I went through it and I had the, like I want this over the shoulder, I want this wide, I want this wide, but I also had almost like emotional beats and levels, like I want this to be an eight, and I want this to be a five, I want this to be a seven.
Steven Pierce: Right, almost more how like a text analysis for an actor, kind of marrying the two together.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah.
Steven Pierce: So how did you approach giving notes to the people you’re sharing screen with, sharing scenes with? I feel like that can be a very sensitive thing, especially dealing with somebody like, how do you give Bruce Dern a note? And Steven Gutenberg?
Jenna Laurenzo: Bruce is a character. He is handing his fullest expression, and is a blessing to be around. I want that kind of, I’m just going to be me whenever the F I feel like it. I feel like there’s something really inspiring about that. I felt when Cloris walked on the set, who am I to give her direction? At the end of the day I think you just have to have confidence in the fact that there’s a vision, and when you know what that vision is its easier to communicate that to other people. It feels less like giving notes and more about let’s all get on the same page and telling this very specific vision and make it a collaborative effort. Particularly when you’re moving so fast and everybody is not in all the scenes, I was approaching it less like giving notes and more like this is where we are here. It’s less like this, more here. And that seemed to work well.
Steven Pierce: It sounds very theatrical honestly. When I was in college and right after college I assistant directed with a pretty notable theater director for a while and his style was totally different than anything I’d ever seen. Like you would just write things on post it notes and stick them in a script, and he wouldn’t give direction to actors really. His saying was casting is 90% of directing. And I think especially in comedy that is part of it because if you try and construct it too much and try and put this piece here, and make that piece match and make them come together in this way that it might lose the authenticity that comedy beat needed, to where even if it was funny the heart’s gone so who gives a shit.
Jenna Laurenzo: There are certain people you need to be like “It’s more like this, it’s more like this.” And then there’s other people who, I learned an astonishing amount about everything in the edit. I felt like so much of that process felt like a master class on many different levels. Looking at Elaine, any moment she will elevate. She’ll give you options, and things that surpass things you yourself would have imagined, which I love. I think that’s the magic of filmmaking, when all those imaginations come together. And Bruce and Cloris, there’s a freedom within their choices. They’re not self conscious at all, there’s a freedom in the way that they approach the work. When you allow that to have space, I think that’s when you have those magical moments that surface. Then when somethings going off the rails, stepping in and being like “No, no, no, the visions a little more over here.” I see what you’re doing here, because it’s always coming from a place that’s creative, it just might be going on a tangent then pulling the tangent back into the narrative that you’re trying to tell.
Steven Pierce: Right performance, wrong play?
Jenna Laurenzo: Exactly.
Steven Pierce: So I want to talk now a little bit about the festival angle and how when you finish the film where you’re going with it. Initially whenever you say we’re going to premier this film in rural Arkansas most people would think you’re crazy, but Bentonville festival is a different kind of animal right?
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, that was one of the things that this, his name is Brad, came in to my life, and he really helped me, he was this angel that appeared and was like “I’m going to show you the ways of distribution!” And hand-held me through this whole thing. He called and was like “I really think you should premier your film at the Bentonville film festival.” And I was like “In Arkansas? Lez Bomb in Arkansas?” And he’s like “Trust me, it’ll be great for, if you show that a film like this has appeal in the middle of the country it will speak volumes to a distributor.” As a film maker you’d think there’s three festivals you have to premier in or your life is over. I can be dramatic, maybe that’s not the case, but the thing is, it ended up being a huge blessing that we premiered at Bentonville because we ended up winning, and the Bentonville film festival was such a champion for me and my work, and has been so wildly supportive in ways that I feel truly grateful for. It was this really miraculous…And now I keep going back to Arkansas, I’m like am I supposed to be in Arkansas? What’s happening? But that festival, I had so much fun. And a lot of the cast came, and our executive producer Bobby Farrelly who’s known for Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, he has been so involved and supportive and truly was an executive producer in all the greatest ways somebody can offer their wisdom and experience, and he came to the festival and I just remember us all parading through main street with booze in our hands, walking past this Confederate statue on the way to the premier of the film and I was like “What is happening?!”
Steven Pierce: Did you do a bunch of PR in a big run up to the festival to create buzz as part of your distribution?
Jenna Laurenzo: We had a lot of support from outlets and we had a great publicist involved that was super helpful. I do think that being at Bentonville at that time it was the perfect storm to allow some of those things to unfold the way they did in the timeline that they did.
Steven Pierce: Now looking at where you’ve distributed, you’ve distributed the film, it’s out there, it’s done it’s run, it’s going, did the whole thing come full circle, specifically for you, do you think that financially the film was made a success? Obviously you’re making more so somebody is happy with what’s going on.
Jenna Laurenzo: Gravitas considered it, they were very excited with the release of it. So that was good. I was very happy. The film surprises me continuously. Two weeks ago, Variety included it on a list of the best comedies on Netflix right now, and it was on a list of some of my favorite films. When those things happen, it feels good. 10 people could say something wonderful, then if one person says something negative you’re thinking about the negative thing. When you get those positives, it feels like a positive “Keep doing it” sort of…
Steven Pierce: Whenever you do finally write the film about almost dying on a boat with a Napoleonic complex guy, where can people find the information to see your new work?
Jenna Laurenzo: I’m easy to find, just @JennaLaurenzo
Steven Pierce: And people should check out your film, go watch it on Netflix.
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah, I would love that.
IFG is created by Framework Productions. This episode was directed by James Allerdyce, produced by Matt Mundy, edited by Audrey Rae McHale, and hosted by Steven Pierce. The music is by Glass Boy. Find his music on freemusicarchive.org.