A MAGNOLIA PICTURES RELEASE LIFE PARTNERS A film by Susanna Fogel
Starring: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, Kate McKinnon, Gabourey Sidibe Official Selection:
2014 Tribeca Film Festival
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At 29, the most long-term relationship Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gillian Jacobs) have ever been in is with each other, using their co-dependent friendship as an excuse not to venture out into the dating world alone. But when Paige meets nerdy Tim (Adam Brody) and starts to get serious for the first time, the nature of their friendship begins to shift. Fearing she’s being cast aside, Sasha tries to keep their relationship the same, but does growing up also mean growing apart?
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT – SUSANNA FOGEL
We’ve all had a best friend. Especially for women, this relationship is as intense as any romantic partnership we will ever have. She’s the person we share our innermost fears with, the person who drives us to the emergency room, the person we bring as our date to weddings. Particularly nowadays, when people are encouraged to take their time in committing romantically, these quasi-marital friendships can last well into our 20s if not 30s, and are a huge part of the Zeitgeist.
It’s surprising, then, how rarely these friendships are accurately portrayed in American films. In mainstream romantic comedies, we’re treated to the “comic relief sidekick” friend who is unflaggingly supportive of the movie’s protagonist (and overly interested in her love life). And we’ve seen the onscreen frenemy who will stop at nothing to sabotage her “best friend” through broad set pieces that sometimes literally involve hair-pulling. But what about that person you love more than anyone in the world…but still talk about behind her back and find yourself subtly one-upping when you’re feeling insecure? That person you love so much that it kills you to see her making mistakes and why doesn’t she just listen to you when you tell her how to fix her life? That person who drives you so crazy with her passive-aggressive crap that when you complain about it to the guy you’re dating, he can’t help but ask why you’re still friends with her because he just doesn’t get it? It’s that friendship my cowriter Joni and I set out to study with this film, in the tradition of films like Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking that are unparalleled in their realism about female friendship and its absurd amazingness.
Just as we believe there’s a dearth of honest films about female friendships, we also feel a need for films about gays and lesbians having relatable experiences in a diverse world. Joni and I identify differently (she’s gay, I’m straight) and we wanted to represent her community without focusing a narrative on “coming out” or emphasizing the politics of her sexuality in a way that would make the film niche. On the contrary, we wanted to universalize it. Not only did we want to show a platonic gay-straight friendship where neither character is romantically interested in the other, but in executing the script as a director, I strived for accessibility. In casting, I sought actresses who were widely known and broadly appealing to play lesbians, like Leighton Meester who lends so much credibility, nuance and heart to a role that could not be further from her role on GOSSIP GIRL. As for her straight counterpart, I tried to avoid the plight of the generic romantic comedy heroine by casting Gillian Jacobs, an actress known for her quirky personality and cult comedy fanbase.
As far as my aesthetic approach to directing this film, I aimed for a combination of real and slightly elevated. I’ve always admired directors like Cameron Crowe who combine naturalistic writing and performances with a real sense of style that lends an element of wish fulfillment, fun and entertainment. With this in mind, I tried to encourage moments of spontaneity and raw emotion, while still delivering the scripted comedy and avoiding an overly improvisational or haphazard feel. I approached production design, costume and music with this same philosophy in mind, always aiming for a combination of real and slightly elevated.
With all that said, my hope with LIFE PARTNERS is to deliver a female friendship comedy that resonates and entertains, hitting that sweet spot between a “film” and a “movie” as it explores the universal theme of friendship…along with some related themes (sexuality, women at the center of their own narrative, to name two) that deserve more of a spotlight.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz initially met in 2002 at a sketch comedy writing class in Los Angeles. The two quickly became best friends and collaborators, working primarily as writers for hire for studio projects. In spring 2011, when producer Jordana Mollick presented them with the opportunity to write a completely original piece for her one act play series, Unscreened, Fogel & Lefkowitz jumped at the chance and LIFE PARTNERS in its first iteration was born. Inspired by what the best friends went through when Lefkowitz met her future wife, they crafted a script that explored a female friendship rarely portrayed. Fogel notes, “We always like to tell stories about friendships...there aren’t a lot of comedies that feel grounded and realistic [and explore how] friendships evolve over different transitional periods...that can be as heartbreaking as a romantic breakup, but isn’t given the same airtime. That was our motivation. We always try to tell interested layered friendship stories, but most of the time on assignment, that’s not really what the studio wants, they want it either more hijinks-filled or [they want] friendships developed alongside a romance and don’t want to go into the more sincere sides of them, they just want them to be there for comic relief. We wanted to tell the story of friends that mirrors what a romantic relationship is...how you can be close, fall out, come back together, and it all feels as emotional as a romantic relationship.”
The One Act was so well received that Mollick asked Fogel & Lefkowitz if they would consider adapting it into a feature. As the group worked separately on trying to get other projects off the ground, Fogel & Lefkowitz would send drafts to Mollick and partner Brendan Bragg for notes, Mollick becoming more and more determined along the way to let nothing stop this particular project from coming to fruition.
By the end of 2011, Fogel & Lefkowitz found out they had been accepted into the Sundance Labs Program, taking place in January 2012. Their experience at the Labs was invaluable. “Instead of trying to make it bigger or trying to add more sellable things,” says Lefkowitz, “they were just looking at purely the writing.” Fogel adds, “Having done so much comedy writing over the years and having been pigeon holed in that world, we got lazy about telling really earnest, emotional stories because we could write around them, joking our way through a scene and not delving into the deeper stuff. But they encouraged us to not shy away from getting deeper. [They pointed out] that we could have half the jokes we had in the script and it would still be funny...they asked questions that made us think about our own emotional psychology and that’s what makes the movie resonant, not the humor.” The Writer’s Lab was soon followed by Mollick’s acceptance into the Sundance Producer’s Lab and a stint at IFP in New York, where the trio met financiers Red Crown, and finally there was nothing standing in the way of bringing this story to life. Except for one potential hiccup. Fogel & Lefkowitz had been working on the pilot for CHASING LIFE and in early 2013 found out it would be going to series. The sane thing to do seemed to be to wait until the first season was complete and then pick LIFE PARTNERS back up, but instead the trio seized the opportunity of having a few months left and hit the ground running in pre-production.
Although LIFE PARTNERS held a reading at the Sundance Labs with a slew of well-known actors, the only cast member to cross over was Beth Dover (Jenn). Dover was originally cast because Fogel & Lefkowitz were “obsessed” with her from acclaimed comedy web series BURNING LOVE. Appreciating her ability to ground the zany and offbeat, there was no question they wanted her as a part of the team, playing the loveably difficult JENN (with two Ns).
For the rest of the casting, the team took the approach of searching for the unexpected and casting talented actors in the kind of roles they had never played before. The first actor to officially sign on was Adam Brody as TIM. Without even asking who else was attached, Brody came on board, finding himself strongly connecting to the material, “[TIM is] a goofball and not vain at all. It’s fun to get to embrace my nerdiest side and not in a self-conscious way...playing someone who isn’t overly concerned with appearance or what’s cool.” Fogel & Lefkowitz had met with Gillian Jacobs years prior for a project that ended up not getting made, but she always remained in their minds and when they met again, the choice was easy. They felt very lucky that this “Julliard trained, talented, funny actress” related to PAIGE as much as she did. Jacobs elaborates, “I saw myself in this character, the good and the bad. Some of the fights that she has with her boyfriend, her best friend, and her mom are fights that I’ve had, so I felt it was the closest to who I actually am from any of the characters I’ve played. It’s also hard to confront the parts of yourself that you don’t like, but I kind of think that’s what this whole movie is about, doing that and then growing up and really becoming an adult.” And although Jacobs and Brody had been in two previous films together, this was the first time the two would share any scenes.
When it came to Leighton Meester, Fogel & Lefkowitz had been big fans for a long time, even holding weekly GOSSIP GIRL viewings. “We always thought she was awesome and that she was a lot better than the material she was given.” They never suspected she would be on board for a small comedy, but were thrilled to discover otherwise, Meester viewing the character of SASHA as a challenge she couldn’t wait to take on, “She’s not like anything I’ve ever done. She’s...kind of a mess but in the way I am and the way anyone I know is. She’s not completely satisfied with the direction she’s taken in life, not 100% sold on any little relationship she is in. She’s kind of overly dependent on her best friend and it’s a fine line of somebody who is funny and uses humor to deflect the real situation they are in and also that weird age where you are like, am I a grown up or am I a kid? I totally ask myself that every day.”
Gabourey Sidibe came on board after being suggested by Line Producer Steak House, who has just worked with Sidibe in Los Angeles on the feature GRAVY. Sidibe too connected to the script enough to come right back out to LA from her home in New York. Fogel & Lefkowitz were thrilled to be able to show off a rarely seen side of Sidibe by placing her in the role of brassy, super confident JEN (with one n). Sidibie elaborates, “She dates a lot of girls, I think for her it’s more quantity over quality - she likes to keep busy.” Fogel & Lefkowitz’s philosophy of breaking actors out of their comfort zones continued with Abby Elliot in the role of VANESSA. Elliot met Fogel years ago at Cafe 101 for another project, and Fogel had never forgotten her natural sincerity, “Sometimes with comedians with a sketch background, it can be hard to get them to stop performing and just relate to you on a certain level, but she doesn’t have any of that, she was very easy to talk to about the emotional sides of the character and the nuances and it seemed like she was ready for something a little more grounded.” Elliot was drawn to how unlikable the character was, “[VANESSA] is the sort of person who says she is gay but then isn’t and I feel like I know people like that and people that are bothered by that...She’s not the most likeable.”
Production Designer Matt Luem primarily works in commercials and tends to only work on films when the material really means something to him. But he was signed on to work on a film with Fogel & Leftkowitz years earlier that didn’t go, so even before he received the script for LIFE PARTNERS, he had a feeling he would want to be involved. Finding that the script had a real emotion to it, it was an easy yes.
Costume Designer Courtney Hoffman was recommended by Riva Marker from Red Crown, and after reading the script, she couldn’t wait to get started, finding she connected to it on a whole other level, “I’m pretty much PAIGE. I’ve lived that exact story with that set of characters and having that co-dependent friendship, the lesbian scene, and the characters… I felt like I knew everybody and as a designer I had been doing a lot of stuff with teenagers and then geriatrics, and I was sort of wanting to visually tell a story of me and my peers, my generation, I was drawn to all of these things. Having that type of friend that brings that vibrancy in your life is the type of thing where no matter how great of a boyfriend you have, it’s never going to be replaceable. I loved that part of the story.”
Hoffman’s SASHA to her PAIGE, Jo Lampert of the band AVAN LAVA, actually surprised her in town during the shoot and ended up with a cameo in the “sword fighting” scene. With each main character having upwards of 30 changes over the course of the year when the movie takes place, Hoffman found you have to know each character intimately in order to maintain that consistency.
“Leighton especially was really fun to transform from this gossip girl to someone who was representative of the lesbian community and who wasn’t passing as a lipstick lesbian. She doesn’t have a lot of money, she is thrift shopping her stuff or is inheriting it from different people or had it since college and I think making that evident was incredibly important, so we did that. Everything she wears is from a thrift shop or borrowed - it was a beg borrow and steal kind of movie.” On PAIGE:
“Your mid to late 20s are such a hard time to dress yourself because you don’t have the money to be the professional you want to be but you need to look professional and that’s something PAIGE has really nailed that SASHA hasn’t figured out. PAIGE is really reveling in being this young lawyer on a career path, and even in her casual wear, you see that.” The rest of the team came together quickly but efficiently and in April 2013, the 19-day shoot began. Set in Minneapolis, LIFE PARTNERS was shot entirely on the east side of LA, primarily in Glendale and Eagle Rock.
The strong relationship between Leftowitz, Fogel and Mollick extended to their cast and crew, their relaxed professionalism creating a sense of ease and comfort for anyone on set. Fogel’s supportive and good-natured attitude as a director proved incredibly impactful. Meester elaborates, “She’s really ahead of what a lot of people are capable of at her age and especially for somebody who is directing their first feature, I’ve never seen someone be so humble and confident, creative, in tune, and collaborative.” Jacobs adds, “It’s one of the calmest sets I’ve ever been on and for a first time director, that’s really an accomplishment. Everyone seems happy to be at work every day and everything went smoothly. I’ve worked on a lot of movies this size where that is not the case and I think Susanna sets the tone, so it’s been really great.”
Even when Meester & Jacobs had an evening shoot in an unheated pool, playful shrieking and humming the Super Mario Brothers theme took the place of any potential complaining. Their immediate bond didn’t go unnoticed. “With this the friendship connection between the girls is so important, you’re kind of just taking a gamble,” says Fogel. “You have meetings with each one and if you feel like they would like each other, you just roll the dice on that, but we’re glad they ended up really clicking and becoming friends.” Lefkowitz continues, “I’m sure by the last day they were speaking another language. On day one, everyone was a little nervous and tense but seriously, by day two, they were humping each other before every take, we were like ‘WHAT is happening?’ - we’re just so lucky we found two people with such an odd sense of humor, like Gillian would come to set in a tree costume and they would make crazy videos, they just thought the same weird things were funny and made the same weird voices when they would rehearse their scenes. They related to each other in that weird way and that’s just luck that they were both the same brand of abnormal.” Jacobs adds, “This movie is all about our friendship and you don’t really know when you meet each other what you’re actually like and turns out she’s a freak like me, so it’s been awesome...we both realized we were goofy weirdoes early on. It’s fun to have someone like that, where you can be as weird as you want to be. The whole crew was kind of like that on this film so it was a fun, silly environment for us.” Brody agrees, “With independent film, there is a communal experience. You end up bonding, you end up becoming sort of a unit. It feels like you’re all pitching in together.”
The last day of shooting, which took place at Griffith Park, production bought a food truck for the crew and Brody brought in more cupcakes from his favorite bakery than a small independent film crew could possibly eat. It is worth noting not a cast or crew member was absent at the wrap party where karaoke was involved and shirts featuring an inside joke from set printed on the front were disseminated among the group.
Heading towards the film’s festival run, Fogel & Lefkowitz ruminate on how far they have come. “There’s so much that we reflect on and write about that comes from our friendship and how much we’ve changed over the years,” says Fogel. “We always mine our own lives and experiences for stories, but when we met we were both so different. Joni wasn’t out of the closet yet and I was a weird insecure pretentious indie rock person. We evolved into grownups together and we will continue to do that over the next few decades. Having met right after college and now being in our 30s and making this big leap to this next phase of our careers is exciting to do together.”
ABOUT THE CAST LEIGHTON MEESTER – Sasha
Leighton Meestercan currently be seen in Warner Brothers’ The Judge with Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall. She recently finished a critically acclaimed Broadway run of the John Steinbeck play Of Mice and Men with James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. Her career first blossomed in regional theatre before she received critical acclaim for her portrayal of “Blair Waldorf” on the hit show “Gossip Girl.” Also a singer/songwriter, she starred opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong and has just released a new album Heartstrings.
GILLIAN JACOBS – Paige
A natural talent, with a striking presence and undeniable energy, Gillian Jacobs is one of Hollywood's most vibrant young actresses.
Jacobs will soon begin production on the sixth season of the critically acclaimed comedy COMMUNITY which was just picked up by Yahoo! for 13-episodes. She was nominated for a Broadcast Television Journalists Association award in the category of "Best Comedy Supporting Actress" on behalf of her performance on the show. Additionally, the show won a Broadcast Television Journalists Association award in the category of "Best Comedy Series" in 2012.
Making its debut at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, Jacobs stars in the film LIFE PARTNERS, opposite Leighton Meester and Adam Brody. The film follows a co-dependent friendship between two very different girls - type-A Paige (Jacobs) and lesbian slacker Sasha (Meester) who have made a pact that Paige won't get married until Sasha has the same legal right. All is fine until Paige meets Tim (Brody), a young and charming doctor and as this relationship heats up, Paige and Sasha have to learn how to work Tim into their friendship. Magnolia Pictures will release the film on iTunes/VOD on November 6, 2014 and in theaters December 5, 2014.
Earlier this year, Jacobs wrapped production on the drama BLACK AND WHITE opposite Kevin Costner and Octovia Spencer. Premiering at the 2014 Toronto Film festival, the film written and directed by Mike Bender, centers on an attorney (Costner) who battles for custody of his granddaughter after the girl's black grandmother demands the child be put under the care of her father, a drug addict whose negligence may have caused the death of the attorney's wife. Jacobs plays the role of the girlfriend to Costner's best friend, played by Bill Burr. Other cast members include Anthony Mackie and Jennifer Ethl. The film is scheduled to be released by Relativity by the end of 2014.
Jacobs will also be seen in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2. The Steve Pink-directed sequel stars Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Adam Scott and her former COMMUNITY co-star Chevy Chase. The Paramount comedy is scheduled to be released February 20, 2015.
On the small screen, she will next be seen on the fourth season of the HBO hit series GIRLS which will return in 2015. Jacobs plays a multimedia artist who doesn't agree with Hannah's (Lena Dunham) interpretations about art and challenges her ideas. Her 5 episode arc is set to begin in February 2015.
Jacobs will also star opposite Paul Rust in the new Judd Apatow television comedy series, LOVE. LOVE follows Mickey (Jacobs) and Gus (Rust) as they navigate the exhilaration and humiliations of intimacy, commitment, and other things they are hoping to avoid. The series has been picked up for two seasons and will be released on Netflix. Season 1 will debut in 2016.
Jacobs makes her directorial debut with an untitled documentary short film about Grace Hopper, the computer scientist and high-ranking naval officer. The short will be released on Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website by February 2015 as part of the "Signals" docuseries, where filmmakers use data analytics to explore stories across political, economic, science, lifestyle and sports domains.
She recently wrapped production on the new Blumhouse Production thriller, VISIONS opposite Isla Fisher and Anson Mount, as well as the comedy DEAN, directed and starring comedian Demetri Martin. DEAN follows Dean (Martin) who impulsively leaves his home and recently bereaved father (Kevin Kline) and meets quirky, free-spirited Nicky (Jacobs). She also recently finished filming BROTHERS IN LAW which is produced by Lorne Michaels, starring opposite Taran Killam and Ruth Wilson, as well as NO WAY JOSE, a coming-of-middle-age comedy directed by Adam Goldberg.
Her other film credits include THE LOOKALIKE, WALK OF SHAME, THE BIG ASK, BAD MILO!, THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, HELENA FROM THE WEDDING, Richard Kelly's THE BOX, CHOKE, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and won a Special Jury Prize for "Best Ensemble Cast" and GARDENS OF THE. Additional credits include the Yahoo! webseries TINY COMMANDO created by Ed Helms and co-starring Zachary Levi and TIM AND ERIC's BEDTIME STORIES.
Her theater credits include Phillip Seymour Hoffman's THE LITTLE FLOWER OF EAST ORANGE opposite Ellen Burstyn and Michael Shannon at the Public Theater, A FEMININE ENDING at the Playwrights Theater and Adam Rapp's CAGELOVE at the Rattlestick Theater.
Jacobs received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at The Julliard School.
ADAM BRODY – Tim
A dynamic young actor, Adam Brody has crafted a distinguished career in film and television and is quickly becoming one of the finest young actors to hit the big screen.
Adam can currently be seen in Whit Stillman’s Cosmopolitan pilot for Amazon. He plays one of the leads along with Chloe Sevigny and Dree Hemingway. In theaters now, Adam can been seen in the comedy Think Like A Man Too with Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, and Taraji P. Henson. On TV this year, Adam was most recently seen playing hilarious guest star roles on FX’s critically acclaimed series The League and on New Girl playing Zoey Deschanel’s ex-boyfriend. Also in film, Adam can soon be seen in Life Partners alongside Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs, which premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Adam can most recently seen starring in Some Girl(s), adapted by Neil LaBute from his play of the same name, and also stars Emily Watson, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Mia Maestro, and Jennifer Morrison; in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace, portraying Harry Reems, with Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, and James Franco; David Talbert’s Baggage Claim with Paula Patton, Taye Diggs, Djimon Hounsou; and in Rob Meltzer’s Welcome to the Jungle.
Moviegoers have seen Brody star in Damsels in Distress, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and The Oranges. Damsels in Distress is the critically acclaimed film from writer/director Whit Stillman, with Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Aubrey Plaza, and Megalyn Echikunwoke. In The Oranges, directed by Julian Farino from Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss’ screenplay, Mr. Brody is part of an ensemble that includes Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Alia Shawkat, Leighton Meester, Oliver Platt, and Allison Janney.The film premiered at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. He appeared as Bobby Moyohan’s brother in the comedy Revenge for Jolly opposite Kristen Wiig and Oscar Isaac among many, many other films. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World follows a man on a quest to find his high school sweetheart as an asteroid quickly nears Earth. Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley star in the film as well.
Past film credits include Jon Kasdan’s In the Land of Women, opposite Meg Ryan and Kristen Stewart; Wes Craven’s Scream 4; Kevin Smith’s Cop Out; Galt Niederhoffer’s The Romantics;Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body, written by Diablo Cody; Boaz Yakin’s Death in Love, withJosh Lucas, Lukas Haas, and Jacqueline Bisset; Gregg Araki’s Smiley Face, with Anna Faris; David Wain’s The Ten; Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking; Gore Verbinski’s smash The Ring; and Doug Liman’s blockbuster Mr. & Mrs. Smith, alongside Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Mr. Brody memorably starred as Seth Cohen on the popular television series The O.C., the pilot episode of which was directed by Doug Liman. His television work also includes recurring roles on Once and Again and Gilmore Girls; and standout guest turns on Judging Amy, Family Law, and Smallville.
MARK FEUERSTEIN – Casey
Mark grew up in New York City where he attended P.S. 158 and The Dalton School. After graduating from Princeton University, he received a Fulbright Scholarship and studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, while also studying Clowning at Le Ecole Philippe Gaulier.
Mark made his Broadway debut in Alfred Uhry’s Tony Award Winning play, “The Last Night of Ballyhoo.” His television credits include Aaron Sorkin’s THE WEST WING, Ed Zwick’s ONCE AND AGAIN, 3LBS.” and GOOD MORNING, MIAMI.” Mark co-starred opposite Penelope Cruz in WOMAN ON TOP, Albert Brooks in THE MUSE, Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones in RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, Mel Gibson in WHAT WOMEN WANT, Toni Colette and Cameron Diaz in IN HER SHOES, and Daniel Craig in DEFIANCE.
Mark has three films awaiting release, including Joss Whedon’s IN YOUR EYES, LIFE PARTNERS, and LARRY GAYE: RENEGADE MALE FLIGHT ATTENDANT in which Mark plays the title character. Mark appears in the latter film opposite Stanley Tucci, Marcia Gay Harden, Molly Shannon, Taye Diggs, Henry Winkler, Rebecca Romijn, Danny Pudi, Jayma Mays, Rosanna Arquette and Jason Alexander among others.
Mark stars in the hit series ROYAL PAINS that soon begins shooting its sixth season on the USA Network.
Although Mark shoots ROYAL PAINS on Strong Island in New York, he and his wife Dana are full-time residents of the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles along with their three creative, happy and loving (but-don't-grab-a-crayon-out-of-their-hands) kids Lila, Frisco and Addie.
ABBY ELLIOT – Vanessa
Abby Elliott is an actress and writer, most recently known for her work on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE along with her appearances on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER and 2 BROKE GIRLS. Abby joined the cast of SNL in the 2008-09 season from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, the improv/sketch theater co-founded by SNL alumni Amy Poehler, where she trained and performed in both their New York and Los Angeles theaters. In addition, Abby trained with LA's Groundlings Theater.
Abby has dazzled SNL audiences with uncanny impressions of Angelina Jolie, Rachel Maddow, and Sarah McLachlan. She has also appeared in many television shows such as KING OF THE HILL, CHRISSY: PLAIN AND SIMPLE, MINORITEAM and YOU’VE REACHED THE ELLIOTTS.
Originally from Wilton, Connecticut, Abby is the daughter of Chris Elliott, a regular cast member during the 1994-95 season, making her the first second-generation SNL cast member. Abby ended her tenure at SNL after the 2011-2012 season. Abby has also made several recent appearances on the big screen. In 2011 Abby starred in NO STRINGS ATTACHED alongside Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher; as well as HIGH ROAD with Ed Helms, Lizzy Caplan, and Rob Riggle. Most recently she was seen in FUN SIZE with Victoria Justice, Johnny Knoxville and Thomas Mann. Abby is currently developing a half-hour show at MTV for herself to star in.
BETH DOVER – Jenn
Beth Dover is an actress/writer most recently seen on the popular digital series, BURNING LOVE and Adult Swim’s NEWSREADERS (she’s currently shooting its second season). She's died horrible deaths on CRIMINAL MINDS and also in the movie THE TEN. Other credits include CHILDRENS HOSPITAL, DADS and PARTY DOWN.
GABOUREY SIDIBE – Jen
Gabourey Sidibe was a student pursuing a degree in psychology when she was cast as the lead role “Precious,” in Lee Daniels’s film PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE.
For her role as ‘Precious,’ Gabourey received an Academy Award® and Golden Globe® nomination for Best Actress. Gabourey was awarded both The Film Independent INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARD and the NAACP Image Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. She also garnered Best Actress nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts. The National Board of Review awarded her with the Breakthrough Performance Award and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival honored Gabourey with the Vanguard Award for “taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film.”
About her breakthrough performance, renowned film critic Roger Ebert stated, “The film is a tribute to Sidibe's ability to engage our empathy. Her work is still another demonstration of the mystery of some actors, who evoke feelings in ways beyond words and techniques. She so completely creates the Precious character that you rather wonder if she's very much like her. You meet Sidibe, who is engaging, outgoing and 10 years older than her character, and you're almost startled. She's not at all like Precious, but in her first performance, she not only understands this character but also knows how to make her attract the sympathy of her teacher, the social worker -- and ourselves. I don't know how she does it but there you are.”
Gabourey starred in the fourth season of the Golden Globe nominated Showtime series THE BIG C opposite Laura Linney. For her role as ‘Andrea’ Gabourey was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. She was most recently seen in the third installment of Ryan Murphy’s hit series AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN.
Gabourey starred in Universal’s action-comedy film TOWER HEIST opposite Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy for director Brett Ratner. She also made a standout cameo appearance in Martin McDonagh’s SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS and starred in Victoria Mahoney’s independent film YELLING TO THE SKY, which premiered at Berlinale Film Festival.
Gabourey will next be seen in Gregg Araki’s WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD opposite Shailene Woodley as well as the independent dark comedy GRAVY opposite Sarah Silverman directed by James Roday, and the ensemble comedy LIE PARTNERS opposite Gillian Jacobs and Leighton Meester.
In 2010, Gabourey had the distinct honor of hosting SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS SUSANNA FOGEL – Director
Susanna began writing and directing short films as a teenager, premiering her first two, FOR REAL and WORDS OF WISDOM, at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1995 and 1997. After graduating from Columbia University in 2002, Susanna moved to Los Angeles and met writing partner Joni Lefkowitz, with whom she has written several scripts for film and television including the 2008 shot HBO pilot THE WASHINGTONIENNE (which they also executive produced alongside Sarah Jessica Parker). That year, she also directed their original web series for Warner Brothers Joni and Susanna, in which they costarred.
Susanna recently directed her first feature, LIFE PARTNERS (a fellowship project of the 2012 Sundance Screenwriters and Producers Labs) and currently serves as co-creator and Executive Producer of CHASING LIFE, a television series for Lionsgate and ABC Family that will premiere in June 2014.
SUSANNA FOGEL and JONI LEFKOWITZ – Writers
Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz are Los Angeles based writers who have coauthored several projects for film and television since they met in 2002.
Among their first were two comedy pilots for HBO: PILLS dealt with a group of friends in their late 20s addicted to various prescription medications, while THE WASHINGTONIENNE focused on a hedonistic New York girl infiltrating the stodgy Capitol Hill scene at their height of election fervor in 2008. THE WASHINGTONIENNE was produced that year, with Susanna and Joni serving as Executive Producers alongside Sarah Jessica Parker. They subsequently developed a comedy with NBC entitled DON’T TELL HER I SAID THIS, which focused on the backbiting nature of female friendships, and they are presently writing a pilot for Sony Pictures Television based on a comic book series by Julia Wertz. Half-animated, half-live-action, THE MUSEUM OF MISTAKES examines the artistic dreams and burgeoning alcoholism of a 28-year-old comic book artist living in San Francisco with a hoarder mother and heroin-addicted brother.
Susanna and Joni have also worked extensively in the studio feature world. Most notably, they adapted the book of essays WHAT WAS I THINKING? for Lynda Obst Productions and New Line Cinema into a comedy that finds four women examining their romantic regrets during a ski weekend. They also adapted two classic 1980s films: a reimagining of the cult musical TEEN WITCH for MGM and an updated take on the classic teen-girl-virginity drama LITTLE DARLINGS for producer JJ Abrams and Paramount Pictures.
They are currently preparing to make their first two independent films, with Susanna directing and Joni producing. The first is LIFE PARTNERS, a comedy about two best friends – one gay, one straight – who find their friendship put to the test when the straight girl heads down the road to marriage despite her promise to wait for gay rights legislation. Based on their 2011 play of the same name, LIFE PARTNERS was a fellowship project at the 2012 Sundance Screenwriters Lab. The second, IT IS WHAT IT IS, is an ensemble coming-of-age comedy set to star Evan Rachel Wood that will be produced by Gina Kwon and executive produced by Miguel Arteta.
JORDANA MOLLICK – Producer
Jordana Mollick began her career in Theater in New York and later transitioned into film by working at the Endeavor Agency and then as the film development executive for writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Rounders, Runaway Jury, Ocean’s 13). She then moved to Los Angeles where she lives currently and formed her own literary management and production company with producing partner Brendan Bragg called Black Sheep Management and Productions, which aimed to develop and produce a diverse slate of films and manage a carefully curated array of writers and directors.
In May of 2013, Black Sheep merged with Haven Entertainment, which is a dynamic entertainment company that has gained recognition by producing award-winning documentary and narrative feature films; representing top writers, directors, animators and improvisers; and working with brands to develop cutting edge digital content . Jordana created the Unscreened play series, an annual development and presentation of four world-premiere short plays by some of Hollywood’s fastest-rising screenwriters and television writers featuring a multi-star cast. Through this annual project, Jordana has produced work written and directed by Leslye Headland, Dahvi Waller, John Whittington, Michelle Morgan, Will Graham, Susanna Fogel & Joni Lefkowitz, and Robbie Pickering, among others.
Most recently under Haven, Jordana produced the feature film LIFE PARTNERS directed by Susanna Fogel and starring Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, and Adam Brody for which Jordana was a 2012 Creative Producing fellow with the Sundance Institute and is now a Sundance Alumni. LIFE PARTNERS premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and originated as a short play in Unscreened. Under Haven, she is also producing Beth Schacter’s feature film A Virgin Mary, which will star Abigail Breslin, Addison McQuigg’s SONATA starring Zachary Quinto, HOOKING UP starring Ray Liotta and Maika Monroe, and MANTIVITIES starring Chris Pine. Jordana’s next film is HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS with Red Crown, and Michael Showalter is directing.
BRENDAN BRAGG - Producer
Brendan Bragg started his career working as an assistant at Outlaw Productions under prolific producers Bobby Newmyer and Jeffrey Silver (Sex, Lies & Videotape, Training Day). Following that he was a creative executive at Integrated Films & Management where he helped develop the thrillers A Haunting In Connecticut and Borderland before becoming the president of production at RightOff Entertainment where he oversaw the supernatural horror film The Echo.
In 2009, he partnered with Jordana Mollick to form Black Sheep Management & Productions where their goal was to develop a slate of films ranging from studio to independent and managing a carefully curated array of writers and directors. In May of 2013, Black Sheep merged with Haven Entertainment, which is a dynamic entertainment company that has gained recognition by producing award-winning documentary and narrative feature films; representing top writers, directors, animators and improvisers; and working with brands to develop cutting edge digital content. Most recently, Brendan produced the feature film Life Partners, directed by Susanna Fogel and starring Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacons and Adam Brody, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. In 2014, Brendan executive produced the independent comedy Night Owls, directed by Charles Hood and starring Adam Pally, Rosa Salazar and Peter Krause. Under Haven, Brendan is producing Under The Influence starring Maika Monroe, Mantivities starring Chris Pine and Beth Schacter’s A Virgin Mary.
DANIELA TAPLIN LUNDBERG – Producer
Daniela Taplin Lundberg is a co-founding partner of Red Crown Productions, the banner she established in 2010 with Daniel Crown following seven incredibly successful years as a founder and partner of the independent production company Plum Pictures.
She has produced over 20 films, including The Kids Are All Right, written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo, The Romantics, starring Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel, and Anna Paquin, as well as The Winning Season, released by Lionsgate Films and starring Sam Rockwell, Emma Roberts and Rooney Mara. She was also a producer on the anthology film New York, I Love You, featuring short films directed by Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner, Mira Nair, Allen Hughes, and Yvan Attal. She also produced The Baxter starring Michael Showalter, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Williams, and Justin Theroux, released by IFC Films.
With Red Crown, she produced last year's critically acclaimed What Maisie Knew starring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. She is currently producing Cary Fukunaga's African child soldier film BEASTS OF NO NATION as well as the upcoming THE FAMILY FANG, which will be directed by Jason Bateman and will star Bateman and Nicole Kidman. Lundberg is in development on an adaptation of the children’s book series School of Fear as well an adaptation of the NY Times bestseller American Wife. Lundberg is producing the screen adaptation of the famed children’s book series Choose Your Own Adventure which is currently set at Fox with the John Davis Company and is slated as a tentpole for the studio.
Lundberg lives in New York City with her husband and three children. She is a graduate of Princeton University. In 2012 Hollywood Reporter named her one of 11 “Producers to know” and the NY Times deemed her a “power sibling” along with her sister, Sylvana Durrett.
RIVA MARKER – Producer
Riva Marker is the President of Production for Red Crown Productions. In 2010, with Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Daniel Crown, she helped launch the development and finance entity, and produced the acclaimed WHAT MAISIE KNEW under this banner. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and received praise from critics and audiences alike.
With Red Crown, Marker is currently in production on Cary Fukunaga's BEASTS OF NO NATION, which will star Idris Elba and films in Ghana. Later this summer, she'll also produce THE FAMILY FANG based on the NYT bestseller, to star Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman, and which Bateman is directing. Marker is developing an adaptation of the children’s book series SCHOOL OF FEAR, as well as an adaptation of the NY Times bestseller AMERICAN WIFE. Prior to Red Crown, Marker worked with Plum Pictures for five years, managing post-production and co-producing a number of successful titles, among them she was an executive producer on the Academy-Award nominated THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. Marker is thrilled to be part of the producing team behind Susanna Fogel's LIFE PARTNERS and looks forward to collaborating with these partners in the future.
In 2009, Marker was honored with a Young Alumni Achievement Award by her alma mater, Pennsylvania State University, and she was recently selected by Variety as one of Hollywood's New Leaders "35 under 35".
DANIEL CROWN – Executive Producer
After 15 years in the exhibition business, Daniel Crown sold his theater circuit in 2007 and began investing in and producing independent films. In 2010, Daniel founded Red Crown Productions with his partner, Daniela Taplin Lundberg. In May 2013, Red Crown released their latest film WHAT MAISIE KNEW starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgard, and Steve Coogan.
Daniel currently serves on the Board of Lincoln Center, Lenox Hill Hospital, Connecticut Public Broadcasting, The Jerusalem Foundation, The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, The Lollipop Theater Network and the Mount Sinai Children’s Center Foundation. A native of Chicago, Daniel has been a resident of New York for more than 25 years where he and his wife, Ellen, are the proud parents of four children.
PETER TOUCHE - Executive Producer
Peter has spent most of his life in London with production finance positions at BBC Television Drama and the Walt Disney Company then in film finance, first as Finance Director of Grosvenor Park and then as Operations Director of Ingenious Media, which is the UK’s foremost media investment company. In all, he has been involved in over $5 billion of film and television production, including such films as: The Golden Compass, Amazing Grace, Vera Drake, Scoop, The Last King of Scotland, This Is England, Kingdom of Heaven and Cold Mountain.
In 2008 he moved with his family to New Mexico and established Sandia Media, where he has executive produced or produced a number of feature films, including: Goats starring David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival; Frank starring Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhall which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival; and The Odd Way Home starring Rumer Willis and Chris Marquette, which will be released in the summer of 2014.
ANNE O’SHEA – Executive Producer
In 1996, Anne O’Sheafounded Minerva Productions as a not-for-profit to give women more opportunities in theatre both in front of and behind the footlights. It was also intended to focus on women's and children's issues. In 2009, Minerva Productions, LLC was formed in collaboration with Brian Quattrini and together dove into the film world. They immediately achieved success with the Golden Globe Winning and Oscar Nominated film, The Kids Are All Right, starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Minerva is pleased to be premiering Life Partners at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Minerva is currently in production on a documentary, Raisin’ Cain: A History of Cain’s Ballroom that chronicles the history of the legendary ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In addition, Minerva is in post-production on Unreachable by Conventional Means, a story that follows a recent college graduate (Josh Brener) who is forced to sell marijuana after losing his job, The Little Firemen, a documentary following young boys as they work as life savers along a treacherous mountain road in Peru and finally, the finale to the 1991 film, Shuttlecock starring Alan Bates that was never finished due to his death. The same actors that blessed the screen 23 years ago will be reprising their roles, a time lapse that has never been done before. Sins Of A Father is in its final editing and set to premiere later this year.
Minerva’s past films include K.I.T., What Maisie Knew, Girl Most Likely, Any Day Now, Goats, The Whistleblower and Another Happy Day.
KIRAN PALLEGADDA – Editor
Kiran Pallegadda attended film school at USC and has worked as an associate editor and first assistant editor on numerous movies, including Crazy Heart, Public Enemies and The Avengers. He's edited two films that are 2013 and 2014 Tribeca Film Festival selections: The Pretty One, starring Zoe Kazan and Jake Johnson, and also Life Partners, starring Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs and Adam Brody. Kiran also edited the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival selection American Heist, starring Adrien Brody and Hayden Christensen. In addition, he was an IFP and Film Independent Project Involve Fellow.
BRIAN BURGOYNE – Cinematographer
Philadelphia native Brian Burgoyne first fell in love with cinema when his father took him to a special screening of Lawrence of Arabia which also got him interested in pursuing Cinematography. He attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and earned his Master's Degree in Cinematography at AFI. He has worked extensively in film and television, including the shows “After Lately,” “The Writer's Room” and more, and films including Sex Ed directed by Isaac Feder, Hello My Name Is Doris directed by Michael Showalter, and Life Partners.
CREDITS Sandia Media and Minerva Productions present a Haven Entertainment and Red Crown Production “LIFE PARTNERS”