We first introduced our readers to Paige Morrow Kimball when we featured her as part of our Women of Reinvention Series. She is a director, producer, writer, actor, and mother of two, and we loved her definition of reinvention. “It’s not about starting all over, but about building on the foundation,” she told us. We also loved her passion and commitment for her upcoming film, Ending Up, in which she portrays the way real women confront challenging times in their lives with grit, grace, and laughter.  So we invited her back to share with us how she got bitten by the film bug, her own challenges and triumphs as she dons multiple hats, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and what she hopes this film will mean for her daughters and for women in the middle. This is Paige’s story in her own words.

 

Early Beginnings

A young Paige being filmed by her dad, Bruce.

Ever since I can remember, I have been making movies. My father Bruce had 8mm movie cameras and editing equipment in our apartment in Brooklyn back when film was celluloid in the mid- 1970s.  Sunday was the only day I would see him. He’s a radio disc jockey and back then he worked six nights a week. So the time we would spend together, making short films on those precious Sundays, meant the world to me. Since that time, telling stories through film has been a passion of mine.

I attended film school at New York University and started my career as a production assistant on films directed by Sidney Lumet and Woody Allen. Then, for many years, I was a documentary and reality television producer/director, traveling the globe and capturing stories. When my daughters were born, I stopped working for several years. I went back to work  when my girls were five and two years old, this time in front of the camera as an actress—the hours were better than the hours in producing, and it was something I’ve always wanted to do!

During my years as an actress, I noticed that women in their 40s and over were extremely underrepresented (especially as protagonists) in movies and on television. Even a good portion of the romantic comedies have male protagonists as the leads. In 2011 alone, for example, Steve Carell in Crazy Stupid Love, Adam Sandler in Just Go With It,  and Topher Grace in Take Me Home Tonight

I realized that our stories are just not out there. There is a void of female protagonists who are funny, fully dimensional, and who are in the middle of their lives. There are not enough stories about how we really speak and who we really are. The truth is that we are funny, dynamic, deep, sometimes raunchy, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, and sometimes scared. We are real women in the prime of our lives with so much to say, and we’re so much more than our children’s mothers or our husband’s wives. And we’re never boring.

So I began writing and directing my own films as a way to help to fill this void. And I was also returning to the narrative filmmaking roots that intrigued me in my childhood. I had come full circle.

 

Navigating the Challenges; Celebrating the Triumphs

My current film, Ending Up, about women in their 40s who are starting over, is written in the way women really talk to each other and how we really laugh with each other. And it’s juxtaposed with moments that are emotional and vulnerable. Our entire producing team on the film are women. There was definitely a feminine energy on the set, and that was great for me as a director.


Behind the Scenes at the making of Ending Up

 My approach to directing is definitely more feminine than masculine. I plan my films with a clear vision and a shot list, but I’m also open to collaboration. I see directing as a collaborative art form, being part of a “village of artists,” each with a specific job, and working toward the same goal. Ultimately, my vision is the driving force, but I thrive on input from my crew and cast. I love to know other people’s ideas, because I know they only make me better. 

Yet the very nature of directing makes it an extremely public art form.  The creative process is exposed, happening in front of others.  Being able to hear the clarity of my creative voice through a crowd of people and the many distractions on set can be incredibly challenging. Changing one’s mind, in a public forum as the director, opens you up for scrutiny. Ultimately, trusting my instinctual creative voice inside and letting go of the judgments of others are key.

As a writer/director, I can see the movie perfectly in my head.  And because I see it so clearly, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that others do too. You can’t take it for granted that people understand what you want.  Every person we meet comes with a unique perspective. Communicating effectively so that my cast and crew are on board with my vision is definitely a challenge that I have tackled over the course of making all of my movies.

One of the greatest triumphs in this process was simply taking the leap and making Ending Up. With each film I have made, I have raised the bar and made each one more challenging than the last. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and brave enough to share my story and letting go of the fear of failing has been a huge life lesson.

When I originally wrote this film I wrote it as an application piece for the American Film Institute’s Women’s Directing Program. It didn’t get accepted. Turning that rejection into positive fuel, not giving up, and making the film anyway are what I’m most proud of.  It’s one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned throughout this process: Don’t let a “No” get in the way!

Beyond Ending Up

I made Ending Up for the experience of it, for what I would learn without knowing the end result or without knowing what specifically I was trying to gain. Not being so result-focused has brought a much better result than I could have ever thought! The satisfaction came from the growth itself. One of the major themes in the film reflects exactly this: It’s about the journey, not the destination.

My producing partners and I believe that it’s our job to create these stories about ourselves.  If we don’t, no one will.  I hope Ending Up is a springboard for more films like it. I want to make positive changes for my daughters by creating stories that they can watch and relate to someday. What a gift that will be for them! My goal is to continue making films by, for, and about women in the middle.

Paige with her daughters. Photo by Laurie Bailey.