I started this blog so I could share my opinions on things that I love, but it’s grown into so much more. And one of the things that amazes me most is the incredible people I get to talk to because of that decision. This week, I had the pleasure of talking to Jessica Martin, a writer, director, producer, and actress whose current project is Abby and Tabby: Alone in the Desert, an upcoming sci-fi comedy that resembles a modern day Thelma and Louise. The ladies involved explain it best:
What struck me most about Abby and Tabby was the idea of unity. I feel like every day I see at least one post where women tear each other down, and it’s really upsetting because that is what society has taught us to do for so long. Songs, shows, movies, celebrity scandals and more; most of us grew up hearing and seeing women at each other’s throats. Like it’s some sort of a contest. So whenever I see anything that breaks that stereotype, I can’t help but be excited for it. But Abby and Tabby does more than just showcase women lifting each other up. They support each other in the face of abuse.
I asked Martin how the idea developed, and why the story was one she felt needed to be told.
“The story for Abby and Tabby had a long and winding road. It actually originated from a different project. Ashley (Abby) and I did a scene in acting class that had this amazing relationship between our two characters. It was one that you don’t see very often: one of female friendship, mutual respect, and altruism. I expanded that scene into a VR series, but quickly realized how costly it would be to make. So I decided to take the same relationship and sci-fi element, and transplant them into a feature film. The final story component was making it a comedy. It was easy to come up with ideas for a drama, but I’m not sure that’s what our world needs right now. That’s when I had the idea to make it kind of a buddy, road trip movie. Well, it’s primarily a comedy, but there are some heavy issues we’re dealing with. The sci-fi elements with Tabby’s character are a metaphor for abuse to mirror the very real spousal abuse Abby is experiencing.
But above all else, I wanted to tell a story about women helping women. I’m constantly amazed by how women across cultural barriers will have an instant impulse to help another woman in need. I wanted to celebrate that.”
Martin also highly recommends hanging onto all ideas. You never know when they might come in handy!
Abby and Tabby showcases women helping women both on screen and behind the scenes. Over 50% of their crew will consist of women, something Martin was very conscious of. And rightfully so. There are many amazing female characters, or stories about women out there. But so many of them are written and/or directed by a man. It’s a little hard to feel inspired when you’re lacking the real life role models. And Martin wants to make it very clear that there is no lack of talent out there.
“I made a point to try to find female crew members first. Once I put some feelers out, I was overwhelmed by how many incredible and extremely qualified women are out there. So any arguments I hear that there aren’t enough women to hire, I can send them an actual list of women to contact.
Doing research watching other films, I’m even more excited to have several woman on board to contribute to a strong female gaze. Any time I watch a scene with female nudity or sexuality, I can tell right away if it was directed by a man or not. We are so used to seeing the world through a male gaze, that most people aren’t even familiar with the term. This may be a very small film in the scheme of things, but I’m glad that it can be part of the changing tide of female-centric cinema.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. And Martin’s philosophy is one that we should all adapt. Steps in the right direction, no matter how small or large you think they may be, are important and impactful. You never know what a film, book, or random act of kindness can set in motion. It’s why each one is so vital. And that’s what brought me to my next question.
If you read my blog regularly, you’ll have read the frankly harrowing statistics of women in the film industry. The lack of female writers and directors is really quite offensive, especially considering, as Martin points out, there are plenty of qualified candidates out there. So as the director and one of the writers, I had to ask. What advice does she have? The answer I received was not only insightful, but empowering.
“Just do it. The only person who will give you permission to do this is yourself. And don’t worry about it being perfect. Nothing about writing, acting, or making a film will be perfect. Everything will go wrong. You’ll get rejected a million times. But if this is something you are truly passionate about, you’ll learn how to weather the storm. Failure will make you better and tougher, and you’ll appreciate your successes even more.
And for women- we need strength in numbers. We need to show how many of us there are who can do the things they say we cannot do. That means make stuff. Make stuff about women. Support and promote other women. Be intersectional with your feminism. We’re all in this together.”
The more I talked with Martin, the more I wanted to see Abby and Tabby brought to life. You can check out their page, where they currently have a campaign going to help raise funds! Feel free to help get this female-driven sci-fi comedy on the road (no pun intended) by either contributing or by sharing their story! Martin said it best. We’re all in this together.
As always, thanks for reading! And a special thank you to Jessica Martin and the Abby and Tabby team for reaching out! I can’t wait to see what’s to come!
Sincerely, Fiction’s Mistress