Tara Hall Talks Envy

Tara Hall Talks Envy, at The 15th Annual FirstGlance Film Festival Saturday, November 10th

The 15th Annual FirstGlance Film Festival kicks off its Philadelphia Celebration starting Friday, November 9th at 7:30 pm, and will run through Sunday, November 11th. This indie film fest will highlight various projects from the Philly area, with plenty of excellent films being screened over the next three days. Tickets are now available, both for individual programs, and for the whole three day run. To pick up your tickets: CLICK HERE For a list of official selections: CLICK HERE

One of our favorites from the festival line-up is writer/director Tara Hall's Envy, which will screen Saturday, November 10th, in the afternoon. This provocative black comedy delves into gender stereotypes, offering a shocking expose on what might happen if a mild mannered girlfriend spontaneously sprouted a penis over night. Here, our heroine uses her newfound prowess to degrade and emasculate her misogynist boyfriend.

Tara Hall made the film with producer Joshua Johnson soon after they had their first baby, and the idea sprang from that experience. It also gave the Hollywood couple, who were living in Philadelphia at the time of production, a chance to utilize their house and neighborhood before selling the property and moving back to the Los Angeles area.

We caught up with Tara this morning in Philly, as she was preparing to attend the festival herself, to chat about her foray into the swapping of gender roles, and what it means to be a Philadelphia Filmmaker at large.

Here is our conversation.

From what I understand, Envy was shot under some interesting circumstances.

Tara Hall: Yes. We hadn't planned on shooting it as soon as we did. We were living in Philadelphia, but my husband, Josh , and I were planning to move back to Los Angeles. We needed to sell our house first, and we didn't think that was going to happen for a long time, because you always hear how bad the housing market is. But then it sold right away. So we were going to move sooner than we'd planned. We wanted to utilize our house, but now, we didn't have much time. It was important for us to shoot the film in Philly, because that's where the story was set. So, we hurried through the pre-production process. We cast and crewed it up fairly quickly, and it was all local. We were able to use our house as one of the locations, as we'd originally planned. We were able to find such an amazing cast and crew, and we were able to shoot it in about six days. Maybe it was five days. We were able to shoot this on a really tight schedule, and we were half packed. We had half of our stuff out of the house. So, this happened leading up to us moving out, and driving across the country. It was a little crazy. In the midst of all this happening, with the move, and selling the house, and having just had a baby, we shot this film.

Both you and your husband had worked here in Los Angeles before moving to Philly. How is the experience of working with the actors there a little different from dealing with the egos we often times find when casting in Hollywood?

Tara Hall: There is a smaller pool of working professionals in Philadelphia. That is not to say they are not as talented as people you'd find in Los Angeles. I was so pleased with my cast. I felt very fortunate to find these guys. Here, it's a lot different in terms of the experience. This is not a city designed around filming. That's in a good way. Here, in Philly, you don't have to get a lot of permits for shooting. You have a lot more support, and its not as expensive, and you have a lot more facilities to help you. When you ask to shoot at a location in Los Angeles, you are always looking to pay a certain amount of money. In Philly, people are much more open to opening their doors to you. They are actually excited about the process. That was a very positive experience, that I had filming here.

The idea for Envy sprang from you being pregnant with your first child. How did the story evolve from this experience you were going through in giving birth to a baby for the first time?

Tara Hall: I had just had my daughter, and it's a huge transformation. There is no doubt...Anyone who has a kid, they will tell you that it changes everything in your life. Along with all the wonderful, positive things that go along with it, there is also this feeling of masculation, and this feeling that my role had completely changed. Which is odd, because I have obviously always been a woman. My boundaries were different. I am tethered to this other human being, in this way, that makes me realize that I am a woman. It makes me realize the benefits, as well as the limitations. When it comes to raising a child, especially in the early days, so much is me and this kid, dependant on each other. That feeling of freedom, that I equate to masculinity, this feeling that I could just leave at any moment, and be my own person...Yeah, it's a strange feeling to think about what it would be like to have a penis coming from childbirth. I don't think that is a natural thought process. But it was definitely inspired by all of these feelings that come with motherhood.

The movie, in terms of its themes, reminds me of the old Joan Rivers/Billy Crystal movie Rabbit Test, about this man that gets pregnant. And you have the Schwarzenegger movie too. We don't ever see these gender-swap movies from the female perspective. Why do you think this type of fantasy is usually revered for the male point-of-view?

Tara Hall: Look, I think that is changing. I think a lot of it has to do with the male point of view being dominate in storytelling. That is pretty much across the board, whether we are talking about filmmaking, prose, any kind of writing. It is all predominantly male driven. So we will always get the male perspective on sexuality. On gender relations. On everything. That is changing. It is turning. It is all a little bit more even. A little more balanced. But we are still lacking in that perspective. And this is obviously my perspective, so that's what I am going to tell it through.

It is evolving, and we are seeing more films from women, but the fantasy element is really lacking a female point-of-view. We have Harry Potter, which is told through a male character, and we have the Twilight movies and books. And none of the films were directed by a woman. I like that Envy has a fantasy element to it...

Tara Hall: You know...I think Envy, in terms of the fantasy, comes form a style of comedy that I love and appreciate. It is a departure from reality, where you accept certain things that aren't real. And all of the characters accept this unreality without examining it too deeply. That's where our hero comes from. I have always been attracted to weird comedy, like The Kids in the Hall, and The League of Gentlemen. Those types of things. Monty Python. Older things. I think I was channeling that type of world when I came up with this, and when I wrote this.

What do you hope audiences take from the film when they see it this Saturday?

Tara Hall: Well, I hope first and foremost that they are entertained. I also hope that they look at their own gender roles, and their partener's gender roles, and they see the complexities of it. And not so much the black and white, here's where I am, here's where you are kind of thing...But that they see the blending, and the crossover. I wouldn't necessarily say that I am a masculine or feminine person. But there are elements of both in who I am. I think that line is getting very blurred. I think that is something we should look at. I think there are people who like to think that they are one or the other. Or they try to project one or the other. A girly girl or a macho guy. There are always those people that try, and end up stereotyping themselves in that way.

Is Envy in any kind of competition at the FirstGlance 15?

Tara Hall: There is a competition. Part of it is a popularity contest. The audience can vote for their favorite films. You can win based on audience favorites. But there are other categories, and I believe there is a category for films that are actually shot in Philadelphia. I think there are films from all over the world. That's the impression that I got. That films from all over were chosen, but then there was a category just for Philadelphia productions.

Well, good luck. And we'll talk with you when you get back to Los Angeles.

Tara Hall: Thank you!

Envy screens this Saturday, November 10th, in the afternoon. To buy your tickets: CLICK HERE

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange