I’ve always been a woman who liked to think herself in control of her own destiny. What I found, though, was that in order to collaborate with destiny, I had to collaborate with other women.
I am a writer by vocation; I write because I don’t have any other choice. Writing is often stiflingly noncollaborative, which is especially ironic for me, a person who thrives on social contact. When I was writing my first novel, Sister Mischief, I had just moved from New York to San Francisco; I was lonely and bewildered, and the practice of inventing four girlfriends on an adventure almost seemed to replace the real girlfriend adventure I had left somewhere on the streets of Brooklyn. I cherish the conversations the novel eventually generated, but I left the process of writing it hungry for an artistic medium more conducive to conversation itself.
With this I began the creation of my first feature film, Farah Goes Bang, which follows a twentysomething woman, Farah Mahtab, who tries to lose her virginity as she campaigns with her two best friends for presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. My best friend, sometime roommate, and longtime artistic collaborator, Meera Menon, and I had been talking about moviemaking for a long time. We met when she acted in my first play in 2003, our sophomore year of college, collaborated on several short films and created a relationship in which we could always rely on each other for artistic support. I came to realize that my relationship with Meera was actually the most influential artistic relationship I’d ever had--that not only had knowing her quite made me a better artist, but that I wanted to get behind all her projects. We both agreed that we shared a "bottom line about women and art."
On a beach in Venice, I took out my notebook and we hashed out the first outline of Farah Goes Bang, and over three weeks in a coffee shop in Berkeley, we wrote the first draft. Within a month, we were in too deep to go back. We had set out to write a comedy about a girl struggling to lose her virginity; we’d lived the process, but the films we saw told only the stories of male desire. Our idea was simple: we wanted to tell a diverse, powerful, and hilarious story not about desirable women, but about a woman’s desire.
I recount all of this to emphasize how authentic it feels to Meera and I to be making a film about women actively pursuing an objective, an agenda, and a destiny, about women who support and inspire each other to "Do Something" and "Be Somebody." This ethos of female collaboration pervades every aspect of Farah Goes Bang, from the road-trip buddy story our heroines Farah, K.J., and Roopa enact, to the close personal and professional relationships we have with our core crew, to the rapport we’re building with and between our stars, Nikohl Boosheri, Kandis Erickson, and Kiran Deol, to the way we relate to other women filmmakers.
We live in a society that tells us that female ambition is a zero-sum game: that there are only so many rungs on the ladder for women, so we have to knock each other down in order to reach them. This, we believe centrally, is a myth. Meera and I have seen too many times the destructive power of female competition, and we insist upon female collaboration as its antidote. We want to provide great jobs, above the line and behind the camera, for women. In front of the camera, we want to give smart, talented actresses roles beyond those of girlfriends, wives, and accessories. We’re not just artists anymore: we now co-own a woman-powered business that creates jobs and values its employees.