With special guests “Miso” director Kelly Walker, writer/director/producer Mariah Bess, and actor/producer Alex Sgambati
Asha Dahya speaks with three women behind “Miso,” a short film about a doula-assisted, at-home abortion. The trio talk about how they want “Miso” to be an entrance point for audiences to learn about abortion doulas, abortion pills, and Plan C, the organization that gives people the information they need to safely end their own pregnancies at home. They also chat about combining advocacy and narrative, creating their ideal on-set experience, and their Oscar campaign.
“I knew that I wanted to tell a story about relationships and how people come together through these embodied processes … I wanted to show how a person moves through this moment in their life and how they connect with another person in real time.” — Mariah BessSupport the show
If you haven’t already, subscribe to our monthly newsletter where you will get each episode of the pod straight to your inbox. Learn more at reprofilm.org or at @reprofilm The rePROFilm Podcast is executive produced by mamafilm. Looking forward to bringing you our next conversation!
Asha Dahya (00:07):
Hello everyone. Happy New Year. It's January, 2023, and I cannot believe I'm even saying those words because summer in my mind and body, I'm still stuck in mid 2020. Try to make sense of what the hell is happening in the world. Well, by some magical fate, time has moved on and here we are at the start of what I hope will be a year filled with progress, activism, joy, rest, and of course some badass. Sorry. We here at Repro Film managed to take a little break for the holidays and we are excited to kick off our periodical this month with a focus on self-managed abortion. Despite Roe v. Wade being overturned in June of 2022, abortion pills have kind of revolutionized the landscape of access to abortion. With the monumental decision by the FDA to permanently allow patients to receive abortion pills by mail in the United States since December, 2021, abortion pills or medication abortion uses two kinds of pills, MPRI, stone and Misoprostol.
It is increasingly becoming a widely used and preferred method of abortion around the world, up to 10 weeks gestation as telemedicine becomes the norm. Many abortion seekers in this month's periodical, we'll be sharing some important resources about medication abortion, as well as organizations you can support and get help from if you're seeking an abortion here in the United States. We are also delighted to be showcasing our featured short film Miso, starring one of our repro film team members, Alex Gabardi, who was also a producer on the film. I had the chance to interview Alex, as well as writer and actress Mariah Bess, and director Kelly Walker about this brilliant film. Miso Follows Central character Kat, who is pregnant and doesn't want to be. Since support is scarce and options are limited, she decides to enlist the help of Sophie, a local doula played by Mariah, who aids people as they take matters into their own hands.
With Sophie's help cat manages her at-home abortion and comes into a deeper sense of personal power in the process. Miso takes a rare look at self-managed medication, abortion made from start to finish by an intersectional all women and non-binary cast crew and creative team. Miso picks up where most stories around reproductive rights leave off the abortion itself by bypassing Kat's choice and focusing on her journey. The film humanizes the process of abortion and honors the decision KA makes for herself. While highlighting through Sophie the myriad ways women and people with uteruses show up for each other. As Mariah shared in an artist's statement on the film's website, miso isn't a story of making a choice. Miso is in a study in regret and indecision and PS show that 95% of people who get abortions do not regret their decision. It's not a story of heartbreak or of a relationship gone wrong. Miso is an unapologetic abortion story. I hope you enjoyed this discussion as much as I was thrilled to conduct it. I learned so much from each of these brilliant filmmakers and it really underscores the importance of portraying abortions accurately on screen and how storytelling is a unique and powerful way of ensuring progress on abortion rights. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Kelly Walker, Mariah Bess, and Alex Sgambati.
Kelly, Alex and Mariah, thank you so much for joining me today. I am super excited to be talking with all of you. How are you all doing? First of all,
Kelly Walker (03:48):
I'm Kelly. I'm the director and editor of Miso, and I'm doing great.
Alex Sgambati (03:53):
I am Alex Sgambati. I am one of the producers and one of the actresses in Miso, and I just made myself a fantastic breakfast, late breakfast, so I feel good too. <Laugh>
Maria Bess (04:02):
Oh, so much positivity. So I'm gonna go in that direction. I'm Mariah I'm one of the actors and producers at Miso. I also wrote it and I made myself, actually, I made my partner make me a beautiful matcha latte, so I'm good too.
Asha Dahya (04:18):
<Laugh>, I love that we gotta start with nourishing our bodies and minds. So that's, that's a great way to start the day. Let's talk about the process of coming up with the story, writing the script and where it was filmed. Can you tell me about all of that? Like how did it all come together?
Maria Bess (04:33):
I first began writing the story in 2018, so, you know, like four years ago it started after having one of these I wanna say lightbeam, but that isn't the word, like lightning bolt moments where I was listening to a story on the radio and I learned about abortion doulas for the first time, and something just hit me and I was like, this needs to be a film. People need to know about this. I don't know about this. I don't think at that point I even knew about medication abortion. Slowly but surely after much reading and research and connecting with these beautiful people in the room, the story came to be, and I wrote it in my apartment in Hollywood originally thinking maybe the story would be sat in LA and then over time the setting evolved to Atlanta which I'm told I say that that word very strangely. So apologies to any Atlanta listeners. I'm from Southern California and we filmed it in like the Marina Marina del Ray area, and one of our producers thought
Alex Sgambati (05:45):
Moments before Covid hit <laugh>
Maria Bess (05:47):
Moments. Yes. Oh my gosh. Probably most significantly like literal seconds before lockdown. We
Kelly Walker (05:54):
Got really lucky with that. We
Alex Sgambati (05:55):
Got so lucky.
Asha Dahya (05:56):
Yeah, it's crazy to think that a lot of the films and filmmakers that I've interviewed in the past year, a lot of the films were made either just before or during Covid and that kind of factored in in a number of ways. So kudos to you all for being able to film it and finish it and get it out there. And even 2018 feels like a lifetime ago considering what just happened in the past year with abortion rights. And I love your journey, Mariah, of learning as you are going along too. So I think that's really a really great way to connect with people who also may not know about medication abortion yet and abortion doulas. So I think that's really lovely and I, and you know, the statement that you wrote about the film on the website, which I, I really loved and I wanted to ask about this upfront. You know, you say, when writing me, so I didn't want to explore the ifs and whys of abortion, which is something that is constantly debated. I wanted to tell a story of women coming together to support each other over the course of a medication abortion. In essence, I wanted to show a woman living her choice. Why was it important to share this sentiment and what are you hoping to dispel or push back against?
Maria Bess (07:04):
It's such a good question. I'm so glad you asked it. From the get, I knew that I wanted to tell a story about relationship and how people come together through these embodied processes, and I wanted the really human aspect to be there. And I also know that I didn't want to make a film about justifying a choice that can become so much the premise of a quote unquote abortion film where it's like, why is this person doing this? Who impregnated them? What's their relationship? And that felt while those stories are important and beautiful and can be really powerful, I didn't want the decision making to factor in. I wanted to show how a person moves through this moment in their life and how they connect with another person in real time. It was also very important that our film passed the Bechtel test, like we were not messing around with that.
And yeah, in terms of dispelling or pushing back against, it's just like the fact that anyone should have to justify or explain the why of this situation. I also think too, leaving it this way creates a place for viewers to kind of see themselves in the story. You know, so if the story resonates with someone, you kind of can, I don't wanna say choose your own adventure cuz that sounds kind ofra in light. But you can really interpret the story however feels right to you or resonant to you. So I think that there's just a level of resonance. It opens up by making it about being in the moment. Also, I just don't think usually when we see an abortion depicted these films, it's like a two second snap or like just a, a footnote, even though it's again, an abortion film and, you know, a medication abortion is a process that takes many hours and there's something really important I think about being in, in that encompassing experience. I hope that answered the question. I think I ping ponged a little
Asha Dahya (09:19):
<Laugh>. No ping pong away. I think that's great. I mean,
Maria Bess (09:22):
That's the only way I know how to do it. <Laugh> so gorgeous. Mariah, thank you.
Asha Dahya (09:28):
No, I think that's great. And you know, talking about the, the whys and like you said, it sets up this dichotomy of okay, well let's justify which are the good abortions and the bad abortions. Yes. Leading to more stigma. So I I really love that you shared that statement. And for, for those listening who aren't familiar with the Bechdel test, it was created by, I believe she's a comic artist named Alison Bede. And it just, it's this standard where we see a film where two female characters are talking to each other, not in relation to a man and not about a man. And so it just kind of sets up more sort of an empowering dialogue or premise. So just wanted to throw that in there. Now this next question, I feel like it's something I'm gonna be asking all my guests in every interview from now and, you know, in memoriam, unless something changes drastically in the Constitution, did you ever think Roe would be overturned in the back of your minds while making this? And what has changed about your messaging or promos since it has?
Alex Sgambati (10:26):
I think we were of different minds on this matter, but I was definitely of the mind, especially in Donald Trump's America, that anything could happen and you should prepare for the worst. So definitely when, when Camille and Mariah brought me the script, I was like, this, this could be really important if slash probably when Rose overturned. And the irony of when that decision dropped is that Mariah and I were in Bentonville, Arkansas at a film festival that specifically focuses on women's voices, women and people of color with a film about self-managed abortion the day that Roe fell. And Arkansas has a full trigger band. So we went to bed with rights and we woke up without them at a festival for women's voices with a film about self-managed abortion. So like, it couldn't have been more of an out-of-body experience and more like, sadly ironic I think.
But I think in the wake of Rose fall, we've just put the pedal to the medal. We were doing the film festival circuit and we were like, this message needs to be amplified. You know, the fact that Mariah and Camille and I didn't know what abortion du lose were or about the safety and efficacy of self-managed abortion, and, and Kelly's shaking her head too, like, we're all people who live in Los Angeles and New York, we, we have access to a lot of that information being in liberal circles. So if we don't have that information, it's likely a lot of people don't. And we wanted to democratize that and get that out as quickly as possible. So we put it out very briefly. And then we are also partner partnering with the National Partnership of Women and Families to, to bring it to Congress in February and March of next year. And are considering doing a college tour as well with the film to just try to get it out and get that information out there as much as possible.
Asha Dahya (12:16):
Amazing. I love that there's this big sense of agency and cat situation where she made this decision and now she's able to get the support she needs and move on with her life. In real life, this is not always the case with many abortion seekers. What kind of barriers do many people come up against that listeners should know about and you know, that you've been researching and talking about in in promo for the film?
Alex Sgambati (12:42):
Yeah, there's so many, unfortunately barriers that people can come up against. And, and that being said, they're also really incredible advocacy organiza organizations that people can reach out to if they need financial assistance, that they need assistance traveling from state to state. But for example, in Arkansas, the state we were just talking about, you can face up to 10 years in prison or fines up to a hundred thousand dollars for getting an abortion, which is wild. And there are 13 states, including Texas and Mississippi, where there are total abortion bans. Georgia bans abortion at six weeks. So there are financial barriers, there are emotional barriers with the kinds of protestors that one might see outside of an abortion clinic. But yeah, one might have to travel from the state that they're living in to a pro-choice state nearby. And that means getting a hotel, getting transportation, maybe getting childcare.
And if you have, you know, if you're living in a situation where you have an abusive partner or you are a minor and you've got parents, that can be a really difficult situation to break away from in order to pursue an abortion. So, you know, I I would say I would caution anyone that says that, well, abortion is still legal in the United States, that's still accessible. I would say that you're not really considering that for those who are lower income or, or have a lot of barriers and restrictions, it's not really feasible unless they get aid. So I don't think that it's truly legal in the United States if it, it's, you know what I mean? I don't know if I'm expressing that correctly, but
Kelly Walker (14:14):
Yeah, and I think also it's like, and also to get aid, there needs to be people to aid them. So that that's where like volunteers come into such importance as well is, and there are so many places where you can volunteer to be the person that picks them up from the train or the airport, you know, and takes 'em to their hotel minds, their other children while they go in for a procedure. And to me that's just like, I think that that awareness too is so to people that do have privilege, like, what can you do to help? There's so many things.
Alex Sgambati (14:41):
Asha Dahya (14:42):
Yeah. I think you've hit on an important point there, Kelly, that you know, someone minding someone's children, 60% of abortion seekers are already parents and that's the majority in the United States and probably in other countries as well. And so that's something important that isn't talked about enough, but I I, I see more of that dialogue now, which is, is really, really great. Abortion on film and TV has not always been portrayed in the most accurate or realistic way, which is also very frustrating because, you know, what we see on TV can impact what happens in policy and in culture, but Misa really pushes through that and isn't afraid to show the nuance, the pain, the humor, what the process of having a self-managed abortion at home feels like. You know, you, you weren't afraid to go there in a sense. Why do you think accuracy in abortion portrayals on screen is important and how can it impact the way society thinks and how policy is made?
Kelly Walker (15:35):
I even go back to like the way we saw pregnancy for so long and birthing the baby on screen and how so much mis misinformation now that we're at an age where our friends are having kids and I'm like, wait, what happened? This happened that happened. Like how am I 30 something years old? Not aware of that. So I think for us it was like really important that we honored as much reality, but staying in that balance of not being gratuitous. Cause I also think a lot of film uses art to push a boundary, especially when it becomes, when it comes to like pain and pleasure. And I think that's also very dangerous. So we, I mean I, at least I, I I think we all did, but I talked to people that have had, you know, used plot plan c had an at-home abortion, what was their experiences?
And it ranged from like, it was, you know, painless. It was, you know, just a little minor, you know, minor discomfort to that was the worst pain of my life. Mm-Hmm. So trying to like strike a balance between those, you know, those two honest experiences and, and not cutting away but not staying for too long as well. And that was huge in our editing, was knowing when to get out of those scenes when Kat is in pain. Cuz we had a lot, poor Alex, she had to go through it. Like a lot of footage to play with was in it.
Asha Dahya (16:56):
Great. Good job. Alex felt your pain, right? So
Kelly Walker (17:00):
Good. I know every so painful Good doing the ke <laugh> ke of
Asha Dahya (17:06):
Kelly Walker (17:07):
Asha Dahya (17:08):
Kelly Walker (17:09):
Yeah. So yeah, I just think it's like, it's like you wanna tell everyone's story, but at the end of the day you can only tell one story at a time. So it's like making that decision of like, what is cat's experience and then honoring her experience versus a collective.
Asha Dahya (17:24):
Yeah, I think it, it really underscores the idea that making a policy or a blanket statement about abortion is just never gonna accurately represent every single abortion secret. Because like you said, they, they could be so different, they're so nuanced and layered and everyone's body is different. And so yeah, I really love that it's about Kat's journey and, and what people can interpret from that. I I really love the, when Kat and her doula are lying on the floor eating popsicles, you know, we've gone through this journey of like the pain and the oh, what's gonna happen? Is she okay? And then, you know, they're having a bit of, they're having a sugar hit and then they start to laugh with each other. There's this sense of a weight being lifted. Would you say that's an accurate description and and what did this scene signify? Like why was it chosen to be included?
Kelly Walker (18:13):
We're all looking at you Mariah <laugh>.
Maria Bess (18:16):
Yeah, I mean it's all of our favorite. It it's our, it's the moment that to, to me and I think to us just encapsula encapsulates miso. I mean, it's our poster. Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think it is that relief that catharsis, that moment of, you know, we've, we've gone through something together and it's, it's like a big breath and I'm really obsessed with that space between you know, things that feel heavier or more complicated but also like painfully hilarious and relieving and human. And I just think that moment is so connective and juicy and it was the last moment that we shot. So not only were these characters having that catharsis and that connection, it was, you know, like we'd, we'd made it through our brutal two days of filming and Alex and I, in the bodies of Pat and Sophie were also getting to experience that
Alex Sgambati (19:23):
Too. When I read the script for the first time, that line normal's a myth absolutely floored me that I just like, I get choked up talking about it even now because I think that's kind of this thesis of the film. Mariah was talking earlier about the fact that we don't go into why Cat makes this decision. And the idea there I think is that we don't need to know all opportunities are all experiences are welcome and any choice you make if you're from making it for yourself that's a good choice. And, and the end normal's a myth I think speaks to all feelings are welcome. You don't know what it's gonna be like. No one knows like it what it's gonna be like to have an abortion until it happens to them. And it's a deeply human experience and, and however you feel is okay, I think is what the end of the film says. So. Well then, Ryan, thank you for wrapping the film up that way.
Kelly Walker (20:11):
Yes, absolutely. I mean, yeah, that was, when I read that part in the script, I was like, I have to get this job. I will do anything to get this job. Cuz it was, it was just such a beautiful, I think also for me it was also like, if you think about the first time these two women are in this room together, there's like space between them and it's this uncomfortable conversation about bagels. And if you go from that in under, you know, I mean for a day in, in their lives, you go from where they are at the end holding hands on the floor, authentically laughing. I just think it's such a beautiful tale of, of female companionship.
Maria Bess (20:45):
Mm. And I I love Kelly. That's so beautiful when you say that. It makes me think of the fact that, yeah, it's literally in the same spot in the apartment where they met. Like they're in the entryway together, but they've arrived in a different place. So just finding some layers even today, <laugh>,
Asha Dahya (21:03):
I love it. It gives me, gives me goosebumps just hearing you all talk about it. And yeah, the symbolic significance of these scenes and these moments I think is really important and also disruptive. I mean, one of the things that I think storytelling does is disrupt this notion that there's a one size fits all experience. And I think film has a really powerful way of, of dispelling those myths. So kudos to you all and amazing performances and direction as well of, of this film. I love that Miso is predominantly made by an intersectional all women and non-binary cast crew and creative team. Tell me more about this and, you know, how did you, you know, this is obviously intentional and, and why, why does this matter in the filmmaking world? If we can get into that mindset for a second?
Kelly Walker (21:54):
I loved what you said yesterday, Alex, that was, do you, I don't know if you remember, we were talking about this yesterday and something, whatever you were saying, I was just like, my mind was blown by it.
Alex Sgambati (22:02):
Oh, thank you. Yeah, I think we were really intentional. First of all, I'm predominantly an actor. Actors don't have until they're quite famous, a largest sphere of influence in this industry. But I, along with everyone on our team is really passionate about intersectional feminism. And because we had an opportunity to hire people, we wanted to, in our small sphere of influence, see a Hollywood that we would like to see going forward or make, make a small stamp. And so we reached out to people for recommendations and we were specific that we wanted women and non-binary or women identifying and non-binary people specifically a very diverse group of people and our crew. And oftentimes people would send us, you know, cis white men and we would ask them to think again and they would be like, oh, you know, that's quite difficult. And then two seconds later they would have a list of people and it was just a matter of reflecting for a second and like, oh, actually I do know this one person. And and you know, also wanna make a point that we did pay everyone. We thought that that was very important as well. But yeah, I think it's just a matter of if this is something that you believe in, take that extra step past what is given to you first or what's easiest to, to really make it happen and give people those opportunities and, and see them grow in their careers.
Kelly Walker (23:25):
I think also being a film about abortion, I think it was really important for us to skew in this direction versus having, cause I, I, I like to have a balanced set gender, diverse wise, but for something like this, it was like, no, I want people in the room that can put themselves in this position in a way that, you know, assist white man may most likely can't, he might have an imagination, but it can only go so far. And I think you felt it in the scenes where Kat is passing, passing a pregnancy there, it's, you could feel the collective, the understanding, the silent understanding between us all in that space was like, I've never experienced anything like that and I don't know if I ever will again.
Alex Sgambati (24:05):
Yeah, it was like a, a reverence. I mean, I don't mean to sound all flowery, but that's kind of how I always do <laugh>. This space that we had for two days, that felt like a space out of time and there was a reverence in that space for the fact that we weren't just making a story that had our own IGOs attached to it, but that we were telling a story that was really the story of many other women and people with uteruses. And we wanted to pay homage to them and respect them. And it was a very quiet set, but it wasn't a sad set at the same time.
Kelly Walker (24:37):
Beautiful way to put it. Yes.
Asha Dahya (24:39):
Excuse me. Goosebumps just thinking about like the atmosphere that you would've created and also matching that with the significance of the message and the story. So that's really, really beautiful. May we see more sets in Hollywood be different and more diverse like this? I mean, I've heard from a number of filmmakers where they're, you know, relying on people to cast and they get the same kinds of thing, like the same kind of headshots, the same kind of recommendations. Like, no, go back and find a, find a more diverse cast. And it doesn't have to be a straight white dude for this character, and it is possible is is the message. And so I really love that and a great way to encourage filmmakers to think about no matter what level you're at in your career, there's a there's an impact that you can make even in your, you know, the project that you're working on, the influence that you have.
So kudos to all of you for doing that. So as we record this interview, it's early December, 2022 the Magic of Podcasting <laugh>, but <laugh> at the time this is being released, of course, it it's January, 2023 and you may have some exciting news to share about me. So, which we're gonna keep you updated on, on our social media accounts, in the show notes, all of that good stuff. But what can you tell us about your Oscar's campaign? Where is it in the process and the significance of potentially seeing a short film about abortion be considered for an Academy Award nomination? Like, tell me about all those exciting things.
Maria Bess (26:06):
Yeah, it is absolutely a bonkers whirlwind thing to be talking about. Basically our goal with this film, you know, it's, it's twofold. One, we really wanna capture this intimate, relational moment in a powerful, relatable way. And also we wanna share this, like we wanna scream it from the hilltops, that's a butchering of the phrase, but the idea is we wanna get as many eyes as possible on this piece. We wanna reach as many people because we wanna be a part of creating change for good. And the Oscars is just a really exciting way to potentially do that. But this experience has been really wild. I mean, if nothing else, it's an experience for us to shed light on the cause to connect with people and media and discuss abortion broadly, boldly, wildly compassionately. So yeah, right now we're in the shortlist phase of the campaign. We should know by January whether we're nominated, but, you know, regardless of outcomes, it's been a really cool, informative experience. And then along with that, you know, we're doing amazing work with the National Partnership for Women and Families. In the new year we'll likely be having an event on the Hill, which is insane. So again, and like Alex talked about the college tour, our goal is for people to see it. I think. I think that sums it up.
Kelly Walker (27:46):
And what's incredible is I first met with you guys, you were talking about these lofty goals, <laugh>
Maria Bess (27:52):
Yeah, that's true. They're
Kelly Walker (27:55):
By George. They did it like <laugh>, they actually did it. It's so inspiring and like incredible to get to watch that, you know, right. By you guys. So I'm, I'm just very appreciative.
Alex Sgambati (28:08):
Well, it's been a team effort, appreciative a hundred percent of the way. I feel like we have the greatest group of people that we've worked with, including Kelly, who we doggedly pursued to be our director because we think she's absolutely fabulous.
Maria Bess (28:20):
And she is.
Alex Sgambati (28:22):
Yes. And everyone's been really integral.
Asha Dahya (28:24):
And a follow up question about that that I have is how does an Oscar's campaign come about? Like, do you decide, okay, we want to potentially submit this to be on the short list? Like how is it, do you initiate that? Do you have to hire a publicist? Do you have to pay? Like how does that all come together? Just since we're on the topic, I I'd love to know, I'm sure listeners would be curious to know about how, how these films come together when it's not, you know, one of those major nominated films that we often see.
Alex Sgambati (28:53):
I think that we were really intentional in, in wanting to be as ambitious as possible with this film, especially considering the messaging and also knowing that like, I don't know, the tendency could be to raise your hand second, and I wanted us to raise our hand first. So we had a conversation with Adam Siegel, who was a contact of one of our producers, Camille about what he thought about the film. He's the guy when it comes to academy shorts and he's a publicist. He's the guy for Academy shorts. We just wanted to hop on the phone out of curiosity to see what he thought, if you had any advice for us, et cetera, et cetera. And he was very adamant that he thought that this film could be a contender, which kind of shifted for us our, we were interested in maybe pursuing an Oscar's to, okay, we absolutely have to do this, or we'll feel we've shot ourselves in the foot.
Maria Bess (29:46):
Yeah, it lit a fire. It
Alex Sgambati (29:47):
Lit a fire. <Laugh>. Yes. So you're like, okay, so we hired Adam and now we're, we're in the campaign process for the pursuing being on the shortlist. And we'll see where we go from there.
Asha Dahya (30:00):
And so the short list is what happens before they release the actual list of nominations, final nominations,
Alex Sgambati (30:06):
Correct, yes. It's the 10. It's it's announced on December 21st. It's the 10 films that may go on to one of the five nomination slots for the Oscars.
Maria Bess (30:16):
Yeah, yeah. It's a huge learning process for us when you're on the outside being like, Oscars, Emmys, those things are so fancy. And then when you're actually getting and there, you're like, oh my God. They call it a campaign for,
Alex Sgambati (30:32):
For a reason. Yeah.
Maria Bess (30:33):
But it's, it's really fascinating.
Alex Sgambati (30:37):
And then the nuts and bolts of like the nominate or the n the qualification process is you either have to win a specific award at one of the Oscar's qualifying film festivals, or you have to play the film for a week in one of, I think five major cities in the United States that they enumerate New York, la I think San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, something like that. So we did the latter and we showed the film in Lemley Theaters here in LA for a week. And that's how we were able to qualify. And we've been campaigning ever since.
Asha Dahya (31:08):
And how much money does it cost, I guess, or how much money have you had to pay or set aside so far? This is getting to the nuts and bolts of it now, like, you know, what, what should people, if you know, people are in this situation, they wanna consider this, like what, what are they looking at potentially
Maria Bess (31:25):
If nothing else? This process has been scrappy as hell and I have loved every minute of it because I think scrappy is something that I am, but something I never like really see myself as. I think Alex really, you have so much scrappyness too that I love or so much fire, which makes sense at being a Sagittarius. The budgets we initially received were much higher than it, our budget was for the film itself. Oh wow. So when we looked at those numbers, we were like, Jo, the floor, how, how do people do this? Yeah. And in the process we were able to find a number that was doable for us, you know, a number that to us was like massive and intimidating, but in the grand scheme of what people put forth to plug a film was like drop in the bucket. And then, yeah,
Alex Sgambati (32:19):
A lot of the films that are being put forth for campaigns that usually have the kind of funds, the astronomical kind of funds to run a Fullthroated Academy campaign are being distributed by the New York Times as like a New York Times op doc or H B O. And so they've got the major weight of a corporation behind them to be able to just kind of throw 'em on the at, you know, billboards and what have you. And and often those films also have celebrities, not always, but often. And in our case, we are independent to the core. Our film is very independently made. You know, Mariah and I are producers for the first time. So our budget I would say is far, far less, but we're trying to make every dollar that was donated to us or that we were able to source count for Sure. Anything that we can do ourselves, we've been doing it ourselves and learning a lot of these stories.
Maria Bess (33:07):
Yes, we have. Yeah. Yep.
Asha Dahya (33:09):
<Laugh>, I mean, what a story it just in that in itself, like independent filmmakers going up against these massive networks and studios and budgets and you're able to get as far as you have. So as far as you have so far and potentially further. I mean, that in itself is really encouraging and exciting to see. And I hope all, all indie filmmakers will never, ever count themselves out. Like it's, it's possible. You know, I think that's really important.
Maria Bess (33:34):
I love that. I think a big thing too, just in the vein of this scrappiness has been lots of conversations between Alex, Camille and I being like, okay, we gotta put our social self aside and like put the people pleasing aside and just say the thing and do the thing. Cuz ultimately end of day, the worst response we ever will get is no response or no. But it definitely has been a masterclass in aiming high, doing away with any ego-based fears and seeing where the chips lie and then interpreting what next steps are from there or the chips fall.
Kelly Walker (34:14):
That's great for taking to your next thing in life as well. Like you, whatever happens from this, like you, you now have that superpower, which is so difficult to get to that, that idea of like being brave enough to hear or no. So that's awesome.
Asha Dahya (34:28):
Yeah, I love this. I feel like we should do at some point in the future, near future apart two of this conversation, I'm like, alright, so let's do a debrief was
Alex Sgambati (34:39):
Have two statues, <laugh>.
Maria Bess (34:41):
Yeah, totally. Obviously,
Alex Sgambati (34:43):
Asha Dahya (34:45):
Manifesting, manifesting. Well, I'm very, very excited for you all and we cannot wait to hear updates. But let's go back to, just before we wrap up, I wanna ask you, you know, given the current landscape of reproductive rights and in injustice right now, what do you hope the impact of Misa will be going forward? Regardless of campaigns or awards you know, the impact is the most important thing as you as you've been saying. What kind of role do you envision it playing in the ongoing discussion about abortion in America?
Alex Sgambati (35:13):
I hope that this can be an advocacy piece. I hope that people learn about plan C, for example, plan c peil.org, who edited our end credits. They have a, an abortion report card on their website. And you can go there and see who different providers are of medication, abortion, what it would cost what they think of that company, how quickly that medication can get to you. I think just us being able to disseminate this information as much as possible. And then also story changes minds by working through people's hearts. So my hope is that we can bring it to Congress as we're going to do with national partnership and then also hopefully with other opportunities and anyone who might be on the fence can see this very human story and hopefully be moved enough to say whatever my previous opinions were about abortion now it's been made more specific and human to me and maybe I, maybe I have space to think something differently than I did before.
Maria Bess (36:10):
Love it. Wow, that's so beautiful.
Kelly Walker (36:12):
<Laugh> what she said. Yeah.
Asha Dahya (36:15):
Yeah. That was really well put. Well, aside from the ongoing Oscars campaign, what is next for me? So, and for each of you individually, where can we follow your work? Where can we stay in touch?
Kelly Walker (36:24):
My Instagram is girl down under U N D A. I'm Ozzy, even though I don't sound like it. Ah,
Asha Dahya (36:31):
Me too. I wondering.
Maria Bess (36:34):
I know, I was like Kelly doing really well, staying in her. I know.
Asha Dahya (36:39):
Under the radar there. <Laugh>. Yeah,
Kelly Walker (36:42):
I'm predominantly writing at the moment. I have a couple scripts that are now kind of out circulating. Then I have a, a film I'm attached to direct that's kind of in a similar spaces, Misa, where it's about in the 1950s during the war, women were, when some women that got pregnant that were not married or in relationships were forced to give up their children forced into adoption. So it's almost this like antithesis of what's happening now. It's like women that wanted to keep their babies, they were taken from them. Mm-Hmm. Here we're women that don't wanna keep their babies are not having that choice. So it's just, and it's another world of looking at choices that were, you know, weren't able for women. And and kind of telling that story through the power of art, kinda like how Alex said. So that's called Geraldine and I'm very excited about that one.
Asha Dahya (37:26):
I can't wait to see that. Please keep us updated on that project. Yeah,
Maria Bess (37:29):
She's so good.
Asha Dahya (37:31):
I recently read a book side note called the Girls Who Went Away and it's about that period of time where they shipped off girls to these Catholic maternity homes. And that's what this
Kelly Walker (37:40):
Is about. It's,
Asha Dahya (37:41):
Oh, I love that.
Kelly Walker (37:42):
Inspired by God. Yes. Oh my gosh, I can't believe you've read it. That's amazing. Wait
Asha Dahya (37:45):
Maria Bess (37:46):
That story, Cal
Kelly Walker (37:47):
Oh, about the book and how it, yes. Yeah. So I was is this the one where I was, I was up for the, I pitched a couple times and and she's very spiritual. I'm very spiritual. We very, we connected on that first and foremost. And then I think it was me and a couple other directors that were in the running and at night she was thinking like, what do I, who do I go with? Like, I like Kelly, but Kelly doesn't have the credits that the other directors have. Like, I've only had one feature under my belt. So then she's kind of mulling it over. It's like middle of the night a book flies off her bookcase and she's like, that's weird. It like slides down the hallway, she goes and grabs it. It's the book that you just mentioned, the woman that, the woman that went away. And it was like, that was when she was thinking about me. And there she was like, all right, that's the answer. And she,
Asha Dahya (38:32):
Oh my gosh.
Kelly Walker (38:33):
Alex Sgambati (38:34):
All my body's
Maria Bess (38:36):
A good story.
Kelly Walker (38:38):
I know it's ka so
Maria Bess (38:39):
You get a ghost story when you listen to this podcast too.
Asha Dahya (38:43):
Kelly Walker (38:43):
And Ka Kat, who's the writer producer of it, she says like, Geraldine is the main character. So she talks to her and she comes through and like guides her and, and it's like, Geraldine is not one specific woman from that time, but a a many, many souls that kind of come in and I'm just like, sign me up. <Laugh>.
Asha Dahya (39:02):
Kelly Walker (39:03):
Yeah. but that's me,
Asha Dahya (39:05):
Mariah, Alex, tell me, what's that? What's next? Are you gonna be donning the zombie attire? Alex?
Alex Sgambati (39:10):
I actually just finished my last three episodes of The Walking Dead, which were the last three episodes of the series, actually. They've just wrapped everything up. Yeah, so I I do meet an untimely end in the series finale, which I can say now because it's aired. But it was really fun and very gory and the, and I loved every minute of it. And then I also have a film that is in post-production right now that was executive produced by the Russa Brothers, which feels very fancy to say called Some Things More than One Thing, don't know when that's gonna come out. And other than that, always auditioning life of an actor.
Maria Bess (39:47):
Yeah. Well that leaves me I have a few ideas that are very much in like ger of an idea phase and I'm tinkering away with those one for a short one, maybe for a feature. And outside of that, so much of life has just been consumed by this amazing project and everything we're trying to do with it. But then further outside of that, I'm a life coach and I work with mainly women in that capacity. So ev I like to say everything that I do artistically, spiritually, otherwise is connected to relationships and deep connections. So that's pretty much what's going on with me. And I guess my Instagram, if you wanna be one of my, I don't know, 500 followers is king Mariah.
Asha Dahya (40:39):
Love it. Yeah. I can see that relationship thread throughout all the things that you're doing. So it's all related. And if people wanna follow the journey of Miso going forward, what's the website? What's the, what are the Instagram handles that they should pay attention to?
Alex Sgambati (40:52):
We kept it so simple. Instagram and Facebook are miso short film and the website is meso short film.com. Miso is like the soup. M i s so,
Maria Bess (41:01):
And also like Misa Prosol,
Alex Sgambati (41:02):
The medicine that we talked about. <Laugh>. Yes, <laugh>.
Asha Dahya (41:06):
Well ladies, thank you so much for joining me today. It has been a pleasure learning about your process, the message, and just the bold and unapologetic way you're going about sharing this abortion story and wanting to share it with as many people around the world with this Oscar's campaign. So I'm really, really in admiration of you all and, and thank you for taking the time to chat with me today.
Alex Sgambati (41:30):
Thank you so much, Asha. You're a queen. We were so happy to talk to you. Thank you so much. This was so fun. We're
Kelly Walker (41:36):
All the kind of same kind of people. That's good, good vibes up in here.
Asha Dahya (41:40):
And just for people, because you can't see this when you listen to it, we are all wearing great shirts that are kind of like <laugh> meshing well together.
Kelly Walker (41:48):
Asha Dahya (41:52):
Okay. Now that you've heard this interview run, don't walk to watch me. So@Reprofilm.Com, during the month of January, we'll be keeping you updated on the Filmmakers Academy Awards campaign and journey, as this would be so huge to see a short film about abortion, make it to such a globally recognized platform. Don't forget to check out the rest of our resources and links relating to self-managed abortion. In this month's periodical, knowledge is power. And in this landscape that we're living in, knowledge is also an act of resistance. The Repro Film Podcast is executive produced by mamafilm hosted and produced by me, Asher Dahya, edited by Kylie Brown, with original music by ParisJane and Marrice Anthony The Periodical is programmed by Neha Aziz and written by Emily Christensen. Alex Gabardi is our social media manager and Rebecca Sosa is our distribution and impact strategist.