Separate stories of three individuals whose lives are
completely changed by the same three words:
“You Have Cancer.”
Like Crash and The Hours:
One in Nine … how many women do you know?
One in Nine was never a movie award winning screenwriter and director Kathi Carey intended to make. She had already said all she needed to say about a topic feared and endured by so many people with her acclaimed film Reflections of a Life. Yet there’s no stopping fate, and the demands of fans and her husband’s brilliant idea on just how she could make a feature film while keeping Reflections intact made it impossible for Kathi to ignore that she must make this film.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to chat with Kathi about One in Nine, who also directed Worth which is a film that has also garnered numerous accolades. We spoke about One in Nine, 3 stories about breast cancer, but ultimately 3 stories about hope, courage and love. We also spoke about film and her passion for it, the web series Casting Q’s which is a program that gives casting insight, and festival advice for budding filmmakers. It’s an interview of great depth and honesty, and about the things that are important in this journey we call life.
TMP: Can you tell us about the film One in Nine and why it is such an important trio of stories for you to tell?
Kathi Carey: I think the importance of One in Nine lies in the universality of its themes. First, you have to know that this was not necessarily a story I wanted to tell, originally. I was reluctant, in fact, to do a feature about breast cancer. Once I finished my short film, Reflections of a Life, which is the story of a woman who has experienced and overcome her share of heartache, only to be diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt that I was done. As a filmmaker, I had told the story I wanted to tell about this subject and I had no further imperative to take the story any further. However, as I took that film on the festival circuit I was encouraged again and again by people who were strangers to me to take my short film and expand it into a feature — people wanted the story told on a bigger canvas. So, then it became my challenge to create a story that would continue to move people just as much as my short film had, if not more.
TMP: Cancer is such a difficult topic even though it is a fact of life for many people in the world. What were the emotions you experienced while writing and developing this film?
Kathi Carey: My aunt died of breast cancer so my short film was a tribute to her. I was inspired, actually, by her life. The theme of that film--that life is worth embracing and living to the fullest no matter how difficult the circumstances--is exactly how she lived her life. I never saw her complain or get depressed about her circumstances, even when her cancer came back out of remission. She took everything in stride and lived her life to the fullest. I wanted to put that on film and, hopefully, inspire others as well. Inspiration for the other two stories also came from my life — the husband in "Everybody Runs" becomes the man that my husband is and, I imagine, would be should anything like this ever happen to me. He is also the embodiment of a dear friend of mine, Dave Balch, who authored the book, Cancer for Two, about his and his wife’s journey through breast cancer treatments and recovery. And the young woman, Cami, in "A Second Refrain" is really me, in a way. She is super independent and so sure she can handle anything and everything that life throws at her that she doesn’t stop to think that asking for help, involving her friends in that way, will actually bring them closer. Allowing people to care for you , asking for help, is not a weakness ... often it is actually a strength.
TMP: “Everybody Runs” focuses on the husband’s POV. Why did you feel it was important for an audience to see how a partner responds to a spouse’s diagnosis of cancer?
Kathi Carey: At the very first screening of Reflections of a Life a man came up to me who had lost two wives previously to breast cancer. He loved not only the fact that the film showed a man taking care of his lover but also felt that that film was so important to show people HOW to care for someone going through a life-threatening illness. Those comments stuck with me. So when I was writing the story of "Everybody Runs" I knew I wanted to show a man coming to terms with his life partner going through breast cancer — not necessarily the treatments and all the minutiae but the emotional roller-coaster of it all. I wanted to show just a guy — a normal every day guy — who has his life turned upside down and has to deal with that. What does he do? How does he handle it? And how does he, eventually, come to terms with whether or not he can “be there” for his wife.
Reflections of a Life (2006) - A film by award winning director-producer-director Kathi Carey.
TMP: Your films really seem to be about the deeper, more meaningful things in life. They really manage to strike that chord within an audience. To me it seems like your films are a real labor of love. Is filmmaking your passion in life?
Kathi Carey: Yes. I love the art of storytelling through film and television — through the visual medium. I think that so many people discount the entertainment business today — I’ve heard many people even in my own business say “well it’s not brain surgery, you know, it’s just movie making” and things like that. But when you think about it much of our popular culture and attitudes are formed by movies and TV shows. Movie stars and celebrities are the role models of our youth. So, for me, the entertainment medium is a great way to impart a fun and interesting story — to spend a couple of hours or a couple of minutes laughing or crying or both — but to also pass on an opinion, a truth, a bit of wisdom, some philosophy perhaps. I like to tell people that there are two kinds of entertainment vehicles you can attend: a movie or a film. A movie is something you’ll go see on a Saturday afternoon, have some popcorn and a few laughs and leave the theatre never having a second thought about what you saw. A film is something you’ll go see on a Saturday afternoon, have some popcorn and a few laughs and leave the theatre thinking about what you saw, maybe discuss it with your friends. It won’t leave you alone — it will stay with you. Both will leave you entertained. Both will have their emotional impact (make you laugh, cry or get scared or ...) but one will have an impact long after you leave the theatre. That’s the kind of entertainment I strive to create.
Worth (2008) - Worth is the type of film that stays with you long after you've left the theatre.
TMP: How did you get into filmmaking?
Kathi Carey: I suppose it started when I picked up my father’s 8mm camera as a youngster and started making little movies with myself, my best friend and my brother as the “stars.” But as a young girl, growing up, I always wanted to be an actress, even though my parents had a different plan for my future — you see I was a bit of a “child prodigy” in music. I started playing piano at the age of 4 and did a number of concerts and recitals all over the San Francisco Bay Area by the time I graduated from high school. But, Los Angeles beckoned and it wasn’t long before I moved here to start an acting career. And then I had the good fortune to meet a filmmaker who took me under his wing and, besides putting me in projects he was creating, he mentored me in writing, producing and directing which started me on the path I’m on now.
TMP: Where do your best ideas for these amazing films come from? Does it usually happen organically, arising from the day to day? Or do you really have to sit down and ruminate an idea and brainstorm?
Kathi Carey: The ideas are easy — they come from every day. Some of them come from a song or a situation or a person or life. Some of them come from my husband — who is a fountain of ideas. Developing the idea is never as easy — some ideas lend themselves to the dramatic structure, some don’t. Some develop easily and some don’t. It just really depends on the idea itself.
TMP: I’ve read your production blog which includes some great posts on the inception for this film and some behind the scenes material. Why did you decide to do a production blog with this film?
Kathi Carey: I thought it would help demystify the process for people and give them an idea of what really goes into the making of a film. How an idea goes from someone’s head to the page to the screen and all the little mini-roadblocks and successes along the way. I also thought that if people got involved in the process they would be more likely to want to see the finished product.
TMP: You went all over the country with Reflections of a Life. You are very successful with bringing your films on the festival circuit. Will you be taking One in Nine on the festival circuit as well?
Kathi Carey: I anticipate taking One in Nine on the festival circuit. Nowadays that is how you “break” a film — how you develop a ‘buzz’ for an independent film that attracts your buyers — your distributors. And since I’ve done it before (and rather successfully, if I may say so) I already have festival directors who are anticipating my next film and asking for it. So, hopefully, it will make that part of the process a little easier this time around.
TMP: Since you have been so successful with your films when it comes to acclaims and awards, what advice can you offer budding filmmakers when it comes to taking a film on a festival circuit?
Kathi Carey: First of all I never sought out acclaim or awards — and I would advise people that that should NEVER be your ultimate goal. Making the best film you can make under whatever circumstances you find yourself — with whatever budget and time constraints you have — should be your goal. The film will go out and find its audience. What I will say is that you shouldn’t stress about any of it. When I started on this journey with my first short (Reflections of a Life) I had no idea that it would go to as many festivals that it did or win as many awards as it did. What DID happen was it was rejected at the first festival I applied to. I was devastated, of course. I thought my whole festival run was ruined. Because I was naïve and inexperienced and had no idea of what was to come. I needed to find MY audience — the people who like the kind of films that I make. And I did, and have enjoyed a successful run with both that film and the next film I made (Worth). So, don’t stress. You’ll receive at least as many rejections as acceptances — and that’s all part of the journey.
TMP: When and where can audiences see One in Nine?
Kathi Carey: Well, since it hasn’t been made yet they can follow the progress at http://OneinNine.com and they’ll be sure to know exactly how things are going and when the film gets made.
TMP: What projects do you have lined up for the future?
Kathi Carey: I have three other film projects in development right now: a Hitchcokian thriller Dark Night on Route 66, a romance drama much like The Notebook called Ruby Mae and John and a light adventure much like Back to the Future called E-Ticket. I’m also in pre-production on a comedy web series Mom and Me and I’m currently in the second season of a web series entitled Casting Qs which is an in-depth look at the casting process by way of interviews with casting directors. Those interviews can be viewed at the Casting Qs website Somebody's Basement.
Casting Qs (TV Series 2010-)
The 30th episode of Casting Qs is up today and goes up every Tuesday. It’s based on a book of the same name by casting director Bonnie Gillespie who is the Executive Producer. You’ll find her on Twitter @bonniegillespie and @castingqs.
You can keep up with Kathi Carey on Twitter @KathiCarey, @WorthMovie, and of course, @1inNine. Visit her on her official website. To learn more about One in Nine, read the movie's production blog on the movie's official website.