During the filming of my second feature film And While We Were Here, which hits theaters on September 13th, I was eight months pregnant with my second child. Despite my girth, my collapsed arches and my insatiable hunger, I found running around on the cobbled streets of Ischia while filming this tiny movie to be a much more relaxing experience than sitting on a couch watching movies. Every day I had to focus on the story, work with actors and plan and re-plan my shots according to the relentless Italian light. All of these things proved to be great distractions from some of the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy, while the excitement of pregnancy was a great diversion from many of the unproductive anxieties and unchangeable tribulations of no-budget filmmaking and before I knew it I had both a baby to nurture and a film in post-production.
I should preface this by saying that this wasn't my first rodeo. I actually directed my first short film when I was eight months pregnant and edited it with my firstborn on my breast and it's no coincidence that I've found myself on the set or in some kind of fervent pre-production during three full-term pregnancies.
Upon seeing my first positive pregnancy test I became almost instantaneously fueled by a desire to leave a legacy for my as-yet-unborn child. The idea of bringing a human into the world motivated me to kick my dreams into overdrive. In doing so I launched my career, while also discovering that pregnancy doesn't have to be a painful, boring and interminable period of waiting. Of course there are moments when it feels like it's never going to end, but, for me, filling those moments with artistic expression and practical tasks helped them to be few and far between. It's the ultimate multi-tasking experience.
While filming And While We Were Here there were people who looked at me like I was crazy. I could almost hear the disparaging thoughts running through their minds, "That girl should be eating ice cream with her feet up, not squeezing into grottos and climbing cliffs." At them I wanted to shout: pregnancy is a personal journey and I'm eating plenty of gelato, thank you very much! I also experienced the flip side of the judgmental coin in the form of one interloper who claimed I was moving too fast. At first I thought he was concerned about me or the health of my baby, but I soon came to realize that he had some misguided notion that pregnant women in their third trimester have the energy of three people and that I should slow down for the sake of those around me. To him I wanted to say: "You, sir, have obviously never made a baby or a film!" But I kept my mouth shut and kept doing what I thought was best for me, my unborn child and my film, which is to love what I do and do what I love.
As And While We Were Here streams on multiple video platforms and heads for a limited theatrical release, I swell with pride at the thought that my son was there with me every step of the way, eating copious amounts of pizza and being an integral part of a film that I am very excited to share with the world. And there's no doubt in my mind that creating gratifying work makes me a better mother. I've now shot three feature films and birthed three children and I certainly hope that the two processes are not inextricably linked because I've got some more film projects coming up and three is my limit on children.
And While We Were Here opens in theaters on September 13. It's available on VOD.