Inside You screened at the first Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema in August, 2017. Mike Fishman sat down to talk with writer/director Heather Fink about her film.
Mike Fishman for IndependentFilmNow (IFN): Where did the idea originally come from to make a switch comedy?
Heather Fink: I had written 2 other feature scripts before Inside You and was still seeking to get my 1st feature made. I thought my script Heart Break covered a topic too commonly covered by female filmmakers. My next script, http 404 a comedy about a digital/internet apocalypse, required too big a budget and I was unsuccessful in getting funding for the film. I decided I needed to write a script that was more affordable and simple to shoot, that still portrayed my voice, carried my feminist agenda of writing strong female protagonists, writing on gender, AND still be fun. The body switch provides all of that – a really fun callback to the 80s movies I loved and grew up with, plus it mainly revolves around story and the performance of 2 characters making it much more achievable to shoot.
IFN: You managed to find a new twist on the switch comedy genre by having the two people involved not only know each other but be a couple in a relationship, allowing you to explore sexuality in a more straightforward way than we’ve seen before. Where did that come from? Was it something you had thought about before deciding to write a switch comedy or did it come out of the process of writing the screenplay?
Heather Fink: I’ve had penis envy my whole life. A curiosity about what it must be like to be a man. The stories we are told are always through a man’s eyes so I think it’s natural to want to know what it’s like. Peeing standing up seems like an amazing freedom. I find often that others reactions to my femininity to be so far removed from actually being a woman in a woman’s body. I know other women feel this way too. Like ok my boobs or butt are such a big deal to others, I could care less about them. So in a way I feel a detachment from my body, but society makes quite a big deal about it. I also don’t feel I’ve seen this movie before. I did my research and watched every body switching comedy I could get my hands on. There was only one I found that had a dating couple switch, a 90s movie from Australia, but I found it was so overwrought with gender stereotypes which is the opposite of the story I want to tell.
IFN: Another twist in the comedy is that the characters aren’t your typical male/female stereotypes. Stephanie is a tomboy who has great mechanical skills while Ryan seems to have less interest in sex and desperately wants to marry Stephanie. How did you weave that subtle messaging into your comedy?
Heather Fink: I’m glad you noticed! It was important to me, the feminist I am, to not be a hypocrite and portray their gender differences in a stereotypical way. It’s also quite true to my personal experience. I feel I’m both feminine and quite a rugged fix-things-yourself woman whose personal tastes and instincts are beyond how female characters are often portrayed. I feel there’s many women like me. As for the male lead character, my last boyfriend when I was writing the script was both masculine but at the same time cared way more about his clothes. We were always shopping for clothes and I hated it! He worked in sales and wore nice outfits, but I work on set and do heavy labor paying the bills as a union sound person/boom operator. These things are true to life, and people are more complex than how we typically see ourselves depicted in film and television.
As for the marriage thing – it’s one of the most important things I wanted to explore in the movie. I think we live in a wedding obsessed society but are extremely negative on marriage. It’s always “ugh my wife” or “the old ball n chain” – marriage is legitimately scary I think as a woman. To lose being a sexy and fun girlfriend and become a nagging burden. However the male character just loves his girlfriend and feels rejected that she doesn’t want to end up with him. I think both of these attitudes really exist amongst both men and women and are not as gender specific as stereotypes lead us to believe. We depict these differences in many ways; wardrobe, dialogue, and what’s expressed around the characters by others in the film.
IFN: You hadn’t planned on acting in the film. How did you come to star in the film as the main character? What were some of the challenges you then faced directing yourself (while giving a laugh-out-loud, clearly committed performance)?
Heather Fink: That’s right! I had cast 2 actors from LA and flew them out and put them up in NYC and then the day before shooting the lead actress had an emergency and we lost the whole shoot and retooled to shoot several months later. As I looked to re-cast the film, I had a hard time getting someone who could really nail the part who would also work for 3 weeks for scale, and do all the crazy embarrassing things in the script. Agents were not keen on some of the dirty sex jokes in the script, nor did they fully understand how their client would act in the opposite gender. I felt acting in the film would help get the movie made, and I felt that my performance in the film was a service to my dream of directing this movie and getting it made one way or the other. So, for me, being my own leading lady was all part of doing what it takes.
I don’t love acting like I did when I was younger, but I could enjoy it if it’s something interesting. I love directing – however I really hate doing both at the same time. I want to give my all to directing, and if I’m acting I want to give my all to the part. It’s simply not possible when distracted by the needs of serving the other role. You can’t fully dive into a part when you’re aware of everything else going on and paying attention to the performance of your co-star. And you are certainly pulled from the needs of the set when you are stuck in a makeup chair. I remember that we didn’t have enough time to film one of the biggest scenes in the movie, so while standing in for lighting and camera, I had the script in hand and was slashing away lines in order to make the scene shootable in the time we had. Thank you so much that you enjoyed the performance! At the end of the day I’m so glad it worked for you or anyone who enjoys the movie.
IFN: What do you think it is about switch comedies that one seems to get made every 5 years or so? Is it just the comedy of the situation or something deeper like wish fulfillment that propels interest in the idea of body swapping?
Heather Fink: I think it’s a great genre that is entirely about empathy for another viewpoint so I hope it stays alive! I’d actually love to make this movie again with a bigger budget
IFN: Inside You screened on August 6 at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. What’s next for the film?
Heather Fink: In September I’m taking the movie on a cross country screening tour at comedy theatres, cinemas, and arts centers along the way! The next screening is September 5th in NYC at the UCB East Theatre at 10:30pm. After that it’s Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Omaha, Boulder, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. (Details still being worked out for some of those cities). I’m currently also working with a digital distributor to get the movie up on one of your favorite streaming platforms, so hopefully it will be easy for everyone to see it soon. All dates and screening info will be updated at www.InsideYouMovie.com