About the Series: Women of Reinvention

We consider ourselves pretty lucky to be surrounded by phenomenal women in the Women’s Voices community—from our readers to our contributors to our staff and our board. As we learn about the intricacies of these women’s lives, we see a common theme emerging: women reinvent themselves over and over again. We’ve decided to pay tribute to these women in our Women of Reinvention Series, acknowledging that for each of them (and you), the concept of reinvention takes on very different and nuanced meanings, and is often redefined at various points in our lives. For some women, reinventing themselves is about survival; for others, it’s about new beginnings; and for others, like Paige Morrow Kimball, it’s simply about adding to who you already are.

 

Paige Morrow Kimball is standing at yet another frontier in her life. She just wrapped up shooting her film, “Ending Up.” She’ll tell you that the process was like giving birth. “Nine months ago, I wrote it, developed it, produced it, and now it’s being edited.”

Paige is used to wearing multiple hats and conquering many frontiers, personal and professional. These days, she’s added director, producer, writer, and actor to mother of two and wife. Her film writing and directing credits include: OMG! I’m Knocked Up, a comedy spoof of a popular reality TV show; Slipped, a romantic-comedy short; and her current comedy Ending Up, scheduled to be released in 2013.

The film tackles the nuances of divorce via the lives of four women in their forties. One of those women, Sadie, is about to be divorced. In a true demonstration of friendship, solidarity, and newly found freedom, her friends throw her a ‘divorce party.’ And so begins the “Ending Up” adventure. Although the film is framed as a comedy, Paige hopes it will open up substantive conversations about how we live our public and private lives. “We go from married to divorced to practical strangers,” she says. “And we often don’t tell the people who are closest to us the real truth about who we are.”

For Paige, reinvention is about layering. “It’s not about starting all over, but about building on the foundation.” As she embarks on this frontier, she candidly shares with us that the journey so far has been one of collaboration and friendship; of finding support in surprising sources; of learning to not be so hard on herself; of seeing the stepping stones in setbacks; of finding the courage to fail (we love that!); and of the discipline it takes to step out of the box.

How was the idea of Ending Up birthed?

My parents were divorced after 13 years of marriage. When my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary, I tried to imagine what it would be like if we ever got divorced.  After all that time together and with two children, our lives were impossibly intertwined.  How would we go about the business of separating our lives?  Where would I live?  What would I do? How would I begin again? I wanted to explore the ironies of going from being intimate partners/family members to being virtual strangers and the comedic aspects of starting over in the middle. 

Then I developed a character for an audition for a feature film: a recently divorced woman who was at a karaoke bar celebrating the finalization of her divorce with her friends.  I made a T-shirt that said “Divorce Rocks” and performed the Blondie song “One Way or Another.” It was funny and I got called back. Ultimately, I didn’t get the part  . . . but the idea for a film was born!

What is your personal message for women via this film?

The film is about rebirth . . . starting over in the middle. I believe that in this country there’s a misconception that when you hit 40, you should have arrived to the place you are going by now. That it marks the end of something.  It’s actually an incredibly fertile, creative, and productive time. It’s hardly the end!  It’s only the beginning of the middle.

The film is also about coming into your own, letting go of control, and letting go of the false idea of perfection.  To live our life fully as we go through our 40s, we must know that we are enough, trusting ourselves so we can truly enjoy the ride, with all its ups and downs. I want to give people hope through the tough times. Knowing that when one part of life ends, the next is just beginning.

What setbacks have you had, and how did you deal with them?

I started writing the short screenplay in December of 2011 as a submission piece for the American Film Institute’s Women’s Directing Program. Originally entitled Divorce Party, it pretty much wrote itself.  The film had been in my brain for months and it poured out of me in one eight-hour session. The film wasn’t accepted for the program, and I was incredibly disappointed.  I was also very surprised . . . I thought the screenplay was really good! 

One of the hardest things to do when you’re rejected is to decide the rejection is not personal. Somehow, I turned my discouragement into positive fuel. I didn’t sit around in the “woe is me” state for long. I was determined to get this film made—the story deserved to be told, and I didn’t have to rely on someone else to do it.  That was a huge personal transition point for me.  The film and the journey of my main character, Sadie, really mirror this personal transition.

Tell us about your team. Where does your creative support come from?

Kathleen Keagy, Jenica Bergere, and Paige Morrow Kimball (standing) with the cast (seated).

Kathleen Keagy, the producer of Ending Up,  is a fellow mom at my daughters’ elementary school.  Kathleen and I worked on a school festival together and we totally clicked!  We worked so well together, in fact, that I asked her if she would produce the film.  At the time, she was starting PrimeImpulse, a multi-media company that supports artists in developing their creative projects.  She had not produced a film before, but I knew, with her theater directing background and her organizational skills, she’d be a natural at it.  Was I ever right!  She is incredibly creative, amazingly resourceful, and has a great communication style—people naturally want to help her.  Believing in her was one of the best instincts I have ever had, because she also believed in me!  I could never have done this film without her constant support, perseverance, and creative input. 

Another mommy friend from our school is a wonderfully talented actress named Jenica Bergere. The moment I saw her in the film Safety Not Guaranteed, in an incredibly well-crafted and highly nuanced role, I knew she was my leading lady.  We gave her the script and she connected with it, committing to being a producer and to playing Sadie. Jenica was amazingly helpful in developing the script.  She’s read thousands of scripts over the last 20 years and gave me great feedback and notes. Once she was cast, other actors were immediately interested, and wanted to work with her.

Did your life-experience make you more cautious, or more of a risk-taker, as you immersed yourself in this project?

Probably more of a risk taker, because I knew that even if we did fail, if we didn’t raise the funding, or if the film was awful or incomplete, that my kids would still love me, my husband would still love me, the rest of my family and my friends would still love me. I’d still be me.  Having the foundation of knowing who I am and that I’m enough just being me, gave me incredible strength and the courage to fail.

What have you had to compromise, sacrifice, or let go along the way?

Paige and her daughters make a cameo in the film.

The greatest sacrifice was time spent away from my kids and husband this summer. We were on vacation on the East Coast and I had to work pretty much the entire time on rewrites and fundraising.  I felt a lot of guilt when I’d work all day and night and not get to spend much time with my girls. 

But then one day in the middle of the Kickstarter fundraising campaign, they both came to my desk, each holding a dollar bill in their hands and they said, “Mommy, we want to donate to the film.”  That was the most amazing moment for me.  I realized that even with all the sacrifices they were making, they were also benefiting from me being a good role model to see the project from beginning to completion.

What, if anything, scared you about making the film? Was that fear substantiated? 

I was most scared about asking friends and family to chip in and donate money to the film.  Asking for money is so hard!  I’d much rather give.  Also, once I got people to support me, I was afraid of letting them down.  Hopefully that fear will not be substantiated . . . stay tuned!

Where did you find support in the last place you expected it?

Paige Morrow Kimball on set directing the cast.

The support we received came from everywhere, and it was overwhelming.  Our friends and our artistic community got behind us and contributed to the Kickstarter campaign.  (My ex-boyfriend from twenty years ago donated!  That was quite a shocker.)  Our families got behind us and rallied their friends.

Some of our fellow mom friends jumped in and helped on the shoot; our costume designer, Maria Sundeen. was a mom from my kids’ former preschool; our still photographer, Holly Connors, is a mom from elementary school.  A friend of a friend of a friend (really),  Carla Ward, came and baked a gorgeous wedding cake . . . twice!  Our co-producer, Amadaes Baj, co-wrote a song overnight with musician Danny Kastner  and he performed it for us days later  on camera. A bunch of my actor friends from various classes and films I’ve been in were extras in our restaurant scene.  I felt so loved and supported from so many areas of my life. There was such generosity of spirit: everyone participating because they cared.

What does reinvention mean to you? How do you define it for yourself?

To me, reinvention is about layering. We don’t stop being who we are, we just become more.  When I became a mother, I didn’t stop being who I was before.  I was still me, with a deepening of self.  It’s not about starting all over, but building on the foundation.

 

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