1 Day in the Epiphany of a 21st Century Girl, who kissed a Girl ™
2017 Interview with Actor/Writer/Director/Producer Cali Lili
(2021 Update !
NOTE : Updated Oscars 2020 Contender information enclosed below as an addendum to this 2017 interview )
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Wow thanks so much ! And THANK YOU for this opportunity ! I appreciate it and so does my team ! LOL Why ???????? Whew. It was INEVITABLE. “Destined,” so to speak ( I am not “religious” … only speaking “spiritually” ) … there was NO WAY this film was not getting made.
I had and still have a burning need 2 express feelings welling up in me as a “21st Century Girl” … and what I hear from others … it was literally a “coming of age” film for me … the script was my reaction to my own “awakening” to the fact that sexism, racism and homophobia were indeed still “active” in this Century.
I had taken for granted that these “Isms” were an … “anachronism” … but upon entering the professional world of the film industry, and as I began to “navigate” the world outside University, I began to realize, to my shock, that these ugly “isms” were still a factor in some “guiding hand” / bias underlying most of society’s institutions including marriage, law, medicine, and also of course the entertainment industry.
Since then, I realize that some of those old “biases” old “paradigms” are now unconsciously incorporated into new “institutions” that were created to counter the old ones … so … even in LGBTQ and Feminist communities and organizations … we seem to have “ingested” the old patriarchy of “labelling” and “exclusionary” behaviours … the “cliques” the “hierarchies” … so … these are some of the factors I consider when telling my stories …
A super cool elderly guy who manages an lgbt owned store in West Hollywood, took me aside one day when I was shopping for stuff for the film set … and he told me in a whispered tone ” you know missy, our lgbt community can sometimes be quite racist and misogynist … ” well … to say the least, having just recently learned about my own sexuality … I had definitely idealized the LGBT community … but of course … we are PEOPLE … and humans are fallible … so… yeah … we all need to find our better angels don’t we …
A world that includes “Girl” … should be one that improves upon old models … and I feel strongly we must begin by learning from the mistakes of “HIStory” as we create “HERstory.” I have been learning this as I reflect on experiences lately … “growing up.”
I ADORE being an actor. I mean, I am BORN to be an actress. I realized however, that most actors are treated like slaves in the entertainment industry ( I am not referring to the 1 Percenters, however, they take their orders from the “powers that be” too ).
FLASHBACK : This was our heritage, as I am told that in “ye olde Hollywood” certain “Rooms 4 Rent” establishments discriminated against Actors, Jewish Persons, and LGBTQ, as well as African American Persons alike … again it’s that “exclusion” that I feel we must do our best to let go of as a culture of “humans being” … that’s what we are … “humans … being …”
Cut To : Modern Times : Still we find, actors of the female persuasion, actors of color and LGBTQ persons are often subjugated to even lower “totem pole” positions within the industry.
Flashback : I had an excruciating childhood, featuring emotional and violent abuse, but my knowledge of my “inner artist, my thirst for knowledge and passion for performance, along with my precious TEACHERS, who were angels … became my saviors. These beautiful educators guarded and guided my path during a very dark time. Their faith in me, the scholarships and awards, provided for me the “space” I needed to sprout from a seedling, who always knew my purpose.
Flash Forward : I’m “commuting” form NYC to LA for acting roles while finishing school and it’s cool … I learn that I truly belong on a film set, doing this work.
Montage : For some unknown reason, I have always “known” in my bones … that THIS is what I know, THIS is what I do … and that THIS is where my “contribution” to humanity can best be accomplished. Due to that difficult childhood, I knew : contributing to the world around me, thru my art, was my ultimate healing. In fact it was that “knowing” ( and my teachers ) that literally saved my life.
After a few initial roles as a teenager, I began to realize : most of the female roles involve degrading material. Well. After a few”offers” for roles in films that might have been somewhat lucrative, and maybe provide some professional benefits as a new actress in Hollywood … I surprise myself by turning down three roles in a row.
I could not betray my teachers, myself, or … other women in that way. Mind you , I felt this as a teenager, but that’s a response in keeping with a kid who has grown up too soon.
I was lucky that my manager ( and also my partner, Wings Hauser ) were supportive of my decision to build my own film and music studio like Charlie Chaplin did. It was a crazy idea but the best one I’ve ever had. I wrote my “WomaniFest0™” Vision Statement : “The Declaration of IndiePenDance™ feMt0™ re EVOL ution™ ” and … raised the “half a shoestring” budget.
eVe N’ god this female is not yet rated™ was outlined on a bunch of stickies. It was one of several films I had planned to create, with it’s own soundtrack. All my films have their own albums. I also secured the rights to a Zane Grey novel during this period too … and that is a project I plan in future …
Around this time I began writing more songs … I had already written like, 100 songs in various stages of completion … I am not good with math, numbers, etc … but my voice was always “burning” to sing … I mean, physically it was a burning sensation. For certain reasons connected to my abusive childhood and a violent person who was a musician / mathematician … I felt that music was not available to me … and yet songs in the form of poetry … and singing was always there just under the surface … and when that bubbled over … my healing began. That healing lit the way for me to embrace who I am.
My first “deal memo” was with an Academy Award winning producer who fell in love with my project and my work … and for whom I will always be grateful for both the support as well as the really disappointing but important lessons I learned. During that deal I realized that I know what I am doing as a producer, as well as an artist. I found myself getting yelled at by some major players in Hollywood … and LOL found myself able to yell back … LOL
We were in a co-production deal to make a film written by myself and my partner Wings Hauser. Throughout that pre-pre-production I met great people. However, as I lived through that deal, I kept hearing from my co-producer that ” I had too much power in the deal.” This was so confusing, bc we had negotiated through lawyers, a 50-50 deal. But my co-producer claimed he should have 51%. That extra 1 % would have made my choices in the destiny of the film, practically nullified. I realized, that if I did not give up that 1% … thus giving up my voice, my control on the finished project … my co-pro would not come thru with the financing as promised.
It was time to do my own thing “for reals”. That meant, taking responsibility for every aspect of the projects. I didn’t fully know what I was taking on … but somehow, I just knew that this was the right path for me … I am not certain it’s the right one for everybody … it’s really challenging …
I consider the “nuts and bolts” of my hand-made film and music – making “works” to be the work of a magical, mystical, “craftsperson” that is channeling through me, ideas and sounds, pictures… as I called it ” Pictures Words Music In Motion™ ” … something akin to “witchcraft” 😎 Same for my acting and music.
Coincidentally, in my personal life I was learning about my own sexuality, I was learning about what it means, to be ” a girl ” in the entertainment industry and in fact, the world … so … I began the fleshing out of those notes I had written on “stickies” for eVe N’ god this female is not yet rated™ and it flowed like water … the script and the songs literally poured out of me … and the rest is HERstory.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
To partially paraphrase fromscreenwriter and actor, Quinn Redeker …The film will “take you somewhere you have never been, ” … I’m pretty certain of that.
I believe the studio is worth supporting for various reasons, it’s female owned and operated, it’s “green” … and my themes always deal with social justice / earth justice topics in fun entertaining manner … This film was shot almost entirely on the water. The album was also recorded on the water. This was important for me bc … the Ocean is “temple” and “home” for me … and I am VERY concerned with preserving our waters … our coral reefs … I feel this is CRUCIAL to life on earth.
My tiny feMt0™studi0 is made from “upcycled” and “recycled” materials and in harmony with the water / nature surroundings in Venice Beach. I created Cali Lili Indies™ Pictures Words Music In Motion™ at “VenusBeach™ Cutting Edge of The Pacific™ as both a destination and state of mind. We are at the edge of the water, just a few blocks from “Hollywood.” Completely indie, self sustaining, and green.
I try to operate my little “SurfShack” feMt0™studi0 as “green” as I possibly can! All biodegradable materials in harmony with the Ocean and Marine Life all around us. I also try to serve organic lunches for crews ( unless they prefer junk food LOL which we also serve … we cater to the crews’ wishes ! but I do encourage healthy food ).
I hope also that my film and album will inspire you to care about the world in a new way … and about yourself. I truly believe you will have FUN if you relax into the experience, bc I intended it to feel like an experience…
I know you will see some beauty, hear some cool beats and … I hope hope hope … some of the imagery andmusic might mingle with your own dreams that night …
and the next day … images and sounds might return for you as I wish them to… perhaps inspire you to treat yourself and others in an extra loving way … perhaps you might question some bit of dialogue or idea in the film… which might, I hope … inspire you to see it again …. and then see it again … perhaps a third and fourth time after that … and then … six months down the line, a year later, five years later, perhaps you might revisit the film … and in the revisiting … perhaps you might see how you have personally changed, by virtue of your own new responses to the material … and perhaps you might learn something about yourself as you see your own responses to the film change over time … always … it is my wish that when you are in that experience with my films … you are in contact with “love” and with”rhythm” …
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Ah. Great GREAT question. They work completely synergistically. They are completely inextricable from each other. That is my ethic, my method, and my sincerest wish.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I shared a bit earlier about the “stickies” … which became the script. It really was a “coming of age” bc … I found my voice as an artist in the development of the project and my feMt0™ studi0 was “built” concurrently with the development of the script and album … so … this was an organic birth … with every step of the way feeling “guided” byMy “Goddess Of Film” … “she” seemed to light the way … and along with the “Goddess of the Ocean” … it seemed really “ordained.” Again I don’t say this as a religious person … just a “spirituality” that is based in nature and “girlpower.”
When I decided the project would be an “all female crew” … I didn’t realize how many nasty responses I’d get from simply including in my adverts that we considered every resume but that we : “encouraged resume submissions from women and lgbtq communities as well as “persons of color” ( these labels bother me but we tried to communicate to applicants, that this project was supporting under-represented persons in the entertainment industry and in the world ). Well, it was amazing that some crazies wrote in to protest this little statement … WOW.
What further amazed me, was that my assumption the project would immediately find support from feminist and LGBTQ organizations was not accurate. Somehow, we have perpetuated a patriarchal exclusionary model of the universe. I write about these things in order to figure out how to contribute to the healing of these hurtful habits. I’d like to help form an economy and ecology that is nourishing for our entire planet and the one “race” “gender” to which we all belong : “living beings on mother earth.”
I believe eVe N’ god this female is not yet rated™ is possibly the first or one of the very first narrative feature motion picture productions crewed by an all female team of technicians and artists ? I haven’t definitively declared that, bc I haven’t done that heavy research on the topic … but I began blogging about it approximately late 2011 / 2012 and I do believe we inspired the current trending of “all female crews” on some projects. I am super proud we got the “Triple F rating” from Bath Film Festival, which stands for “written, directed and produced by a female” … and of course my theme deals with “girl” themes, and related themes. Our set was “magical.”
I needed two of three main characters “Miss eVening Lily / “eVe” and “doctor goddard / “god” to be in separate locations … so I had to figure out a bunch of logisitics …. and as the practicals became clear … they influenced my story-telling style and things began to flow quite easily after the “hiring” stage was completed.
The completion of the film, the shooting of the “ending scene,” was delayed by approximately 1.5 years because initially, I had the idea that I wanted an all female music team to match the all female production crew. But after a few female musicians and a female recording engineer came on board the project and experienced complications in their personal lives / professional lives, some of which were the result of conflicts with OTHER female musicians who felt challenged by the work they were doing with me ( HUGE EYEROLL HERE ) … I decided … that true diversity would include male musicians … and indeed the music backing my lyrics and vocals needs “muscularity” … why not include male team members in the music? I felt my integrity was on the line bc I had “pledged” in 2010 … to use all female crews … but … I was evolving as the project evolved … and after all, some of the male musicians were in the LGBTQ community … some were “allies” … so … that included an added “diversity” …and again … I am … “growing up… ”
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Amazingness. The few persons who have seen the film, are people who’s opinions I truly respect, and I just wanted them to be honest with me about their “experience.”
I had this idea … to ask “regular people” ( albeit people who’s ideas and intelligence / integrity I respect ) to “write mini reviews” … If you think about it … our “reviews” come from people who are seeing hundreds of films and let’s face it, they are in the biz so they often do have allegiances and “inside baseball” “inner circle” dramas LOL …
Now, I believe in art “scholarship” … film “scholarship” … I love reading or hearing from professionals who do this for a living … I truly believe in the age of “cell phone movies” and “good enough” videos on YouTube … the de-professionalization of the artist is democratizing but a bit … um … deplorable. Artists are treated badly enough … so I don’t relish any further disrespect of the professional artist, OR the professional art “scholar.”
But I did feel it was cool to ask “people” for their “mini reviews” during this early stage …here are some of the quotes … with more on the way … ( they remain anonymous out of respect for them and for the project in its early stages of distribution )
A.K : “Wow. Every minute is engaging. It really (draws) you into the experience …just incredibly engaging from start to finish. You are both sympathetic and conflicted as a character. At times I go , hell yes ! You are so right. And at other times I go, un, whoah. Take a step back. It is awesome ! It also gives you time to just reflect on things … I have to admit, I really wasn’t sure what to expect or if I would find the film engaging or relatable, but it was both ! … You wanted to know how it made me feel. Well. I think I ran the gambit. It is a sexy film. The tension, the beauty, the music. All of it together makes for a very sensual experience. So if you aren’t paying attention to the intellectual side and just letting the film set the mood, it does that. Of course, that only really lasts for the first 30 minutes or so. After that, the conflict changes a little, it becomes grittier and more real and less sexy and more awkward. Like watching two people fight at a restaurant. You don’t really want to interfere, but you also don’t really want to stop watching. Sometimes I felt lost in a good way …and other times in a bad way. But I felt empathy for both characters, and at each step I was curious as to what would come next … (and) the soundtrack is just killer. We loved it. There is something there for everyone. ”
M.K : ” … i felt like I had to talk to somebody about this film … but I was just watching it alone … so I talked to my dog about it … ”
H.H.S : ” this is a real cinema experience … it’s not trying to be a “feminist” or “lgbt” themed film … but so fitting that it is all that too … it takes those themes to a whole other level into cinematic innovation and disruption … it’s unusual in LGBTQIA material in that it deals with bi-sexual and poly-amory themes too …this is a new voice, an auteur pushing the boundaries of cinematic art “
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Hmmm. It has confirmed my highest wishes for my “baby” project … my first … of course I wished for comments like these … not really just an “ego” thing ( tho yeah it feels good lol ) but it feels as though I “communicated” thru the medium of film and music … and I wished to communicate ! … so that feels awesome …
My point of view, such as it is … is usually about discovery. So my pov is expressed in the making of my art … although my characters are not always “me” … I am exploring ideas and in fact, my characters speak through me … I am feeling more like I am channeling their voices.
Once my art is out there … it’s like my “baby” is taking her “baby steps” and while I definitely am a “jaguar” when it comes to protecting my art and my team … my baby … ( jaguar mothers are VERY protective grrrrr….. )
I am quite interested in allowing the audience to embrace and experience whatever it is they will experience … bc I have experienced audience members telling me stuff I hadn’t dreamed of … bc my projects elicited something in THEM …. and THAT is really fascinating for me to hear !!!!!
Not many people have seen the film, but those who have, are people I truly respect. Their enjoyment and delight and their unexpected comments about the film has nourished me.
I am SO pumped to share the film with TONS more … I am REALLY stoked to hear about people’s experiences!
As my team and I weigh options for distribution … we are interested in opening up opportunities for sharing the film with as wide an audience as possible … I also do need to make sure that the film earns something … bc I am working as a professional artist and doing so independently of corporate. I am grassroots, sustainable and “fiercely indie” I like to say. Additionally my “green” / “water-based” studio requires upkeep AND I PAY my crews … nobody works for free on my projects … my budgets are modest but crews are paid.
One of my mottos is “HandMade 2 Make A Difference™” and I have put the blood, guts and sweat into that statement… so … yeah … I really have made this film in order to hopefully”make a difference” … I really wish for as many girls, women, LGBTQ communities, global communities, allies / men … and humanities / democracy – minded individuals as possible, worldwide, to see and hear the experience of this film … and I wish for it to “spark” feelings, thoughts, ideas, action, and dialogue …
I am already working on my next film …. so I want to spark a dialogue with our audience … ASAP … bc I want to share some ideas … and at this critical time in the 21st Century … I feel a true URGENCY about sharing these ideas ASAP ! So … when you see this film, hear this album … you are in “dialogue” with me / us for the next one … and you are supporting this new concept of a “film and music studio ” … literally “supporting the arts by sustaining the artist ” … and I believe in that … buying from the artist and sustaining artists … I really need that kind of support from the audience …
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Film Festival Directors !
YES PLEASE !!!!!!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
LOVE ! and AMPLIFICATION ! and SHARING through purchasing my films, albums, merch … and telling others about it please … encouraging Audiences to BUY from the Artist instead of expecting our work for free … after all … a movie / album can be played over and over … and you purchase it once … why not purchase it and support an artist who works toward a better world ? I really do believe … if we lose artists to poverty or indifference … if we ignore the artist … we nail the coffin of our own cultures. We need artists like oxygen and so often, they are victims of the worst cultural tendencies …. the canaries in the coal mine … look at all the authoritarian governments who sacrifice the artist … an artist disrupts our assumptions … and that’s both healing and crucial.
We have gotten used to “free music ” and “free movies” … well .. the corporations who are “gatekeepers” of what’s in movie theater and on tv / on the radio … they are not working for free … but very often artists are … and independent artists are ” an endangered species” … I’m not kidding. Let’s pay the artist, let’s keep her alive … our lives depend on it.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
This is a critical time in History and HERstory … please everybody … SHOULDER to SHOULDER we MUST overcome autocracy and BUILD DEMOCRACY TOGETHER … this is IT .. this is THAT TIME and every moment matters.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We are working on the next project in the slate …
Now laying down new demos for the next album and I am in pre-rewrites on the next script.
I have sometimes considered it a “trilogy” … but each project is really its own universe … so that might be confusing … it’s more like, each project is organically “flowing” into the next … and each one is very much interconnected … which is fitting … bc … we are all dreaming together … and the movies, the music, allow us to hold hands, share some time together, feel the rhythm, move together … and dance.
Cali Lili skipped several grades (having been tested as reading at college level in grade school) took her first college course in the entire works of Shakespeare, at age 13, never graduated high-school, never even went to a prom, was swooped up, landing at NYU, then completed her Masters’ Degree on full scholarship with awards / stellar reviews for early works.
Cali is told that she was born “early” and “on the water.” Her love of body surfing, all things “ocean” and all marine life, especially dolphins, has proven to her that this must be true.
Having experienced an extremely difficult childhood “on land,” she does not revisit childhood memories and often speaks out against all forms of abuse.
Born of multi-cultural heritage, Cali is keenly aware and concerned with what she sees as a form of “tribalism” too often employed as “nationalism.” Cali writes about these issues and acts accordingly when it comes to her public image.
Cali adores being an actor and takes that craft very seriously, but found herself turning down 3 acting offers, that she felt were disempowering to women, in order to “turn up” what she calls fempower (TM) by scraping together “half a shoestring budget” to build her “green” “off-grid,” upcycled “floating” “surfshack” feMt0 (TM) studi0 at the Venice Beach Canals in Los Angeles, California where she makes “Signature” auteur Motion Pictures, Albums and Books, with “ToyBoxTechnologies” (TM) “HandMade2MakeADifference” (TM).
Based on the quality of her work as an artist, and her uncompromising dedication to excellence, she then raised modest financing for her upcoming Slate of Motion Pictures, Albums, and Books.
She works from the Cutting Edge Of The Pacific ” (TM) Venus Beach (TM) at The Cali Lili Indies (TM) ” where she stays “afloat” connected with her love and devotion to “rippling waters of the world,” the “mother / sister ocean” energy, so inspiring to her work and life, in order to make social justice themed films, albums, and books.
Cali’s degree included extensive studies in anthropology as well as performance techniques from all over the globe. She holds an added background of intense New York studies in dance /choreography.
She is proud to share her deep connection with “Mother Africa” and is greatly inspired by African culture, the cultures of Oceania, and that of her other diverse intercultural studies.
Cali Lili :
“We all originate from one mother in Africa, the Ocean is our collective unconscious, so let us honor each other, our mutual mother, our waters, and our blue mothership, earth. In doing so, we save ourselves. ” …