Alicia Slimmer is an award winning independent filmmaker whose debut feature film, Creedmoria, recently took home the Industry Choice Award at the Dances with Films Festival in L.A., the very same night she also won Audience Favorite at the Brooklyn Film Festival. After debuting the work in March 2016 at the Cinequest Film Festival, she took the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature Film Comedy.
Slimmer produced and wrote Creedmoria borrowing many elements from her own life growing up in Queens, NY in the 1980s. The narrative revolves around the man ways the pivotal character of Candy manages to inject “fun” into her dysfunctional life. From Candy’s perspective, when your brother is found by a neighbor naked & drunk, you’re stuck with a caveman of a boyfriend, you have a dickhead boss, and the madness of everyday life competes with your mother’s need to appear ‘normal’, you have to peek between the cracks to find warm rays of hope. But then again, perhaps normalcy is simply a construct for other people and maybe breaking out of the institution is more important than fitting in. After years of trying to save those she loves, Candy realizes perhaps it’s time to save herself.
Critical accolades have also followed Creedmoria’s release, with The Village Voice calling it a “timeless lark: a rollicking, touching family yarn. Like John Waters, she has a sly way of mixing pathos with outlandishness; and Kadie Sutherland of the Cinequest Film Festival described it as “Breakfast Club meets Little Miss Sunshine in a brilliantly-crafted comedy that asks the question: Who wants to be normal anyway?
Starring Stef Dawson, an Australian actress best known for her role of Annie Cresta in The Hunger Games as the lead character of Candy, recently The Review had an opportunity to interview Slimmer, who lives in Brooklyn with both her daughter and her husband Clifton Leaf, the editor of Fortune Magazine.
Review: It seems like Creedmoria is a synthesis of many real life experiences and challenges that you went through growing up; and is centered around the notion that families forge the fulcrum & foundation that connects us to the world, yet in the process also sets up the parameters and boundaries that we yearn to break through in order to realize our independence. From your experience in writing & shaping this project, what do you feel the biggest obstacles are that inhibit people from fully realizing their dreams and their independence?
Alicia Slimmer: Wow. That’s such a great question. I think the biggest obstacle people face are themselves, honestly. You first need to believe you can do anything or be anyone before you set out to do it and be it. If you don’t have faith in yourself that you can do it, you won’t. Take Danny in the movie. He believes his mother never wanted him, believes he’s not loveable, probably doesn’t love himself and therefore, escapes into drugs and alcohol. He once had a dream of joining the service but losing his hearing changed those prospects. His dream has died, his confidence is nil and he has no belief things will improve. Therefore, he’s probably never going to get far. He’ll probably wind up in jail or selling drugs or his body to get by. So circumstances definitely led him to face enormous struggles and because he is who he is, he won’t believe in lofty dreams or making a dramatic change, though I think he could, it would just take enormous work to get there.
He probably needs therapy or a mentor or a girlfriend or a 12-step group—or all of the above. Until he sees himself in a new light and knows he has the ability to change, he will remain exactly where he is.
Candy, on the other hand, was born an eternal optimist and as the movie shows, no matter how the cards stack up against her, she has an indomitable spirit to break free and choose a better path, even if that path means getting out of dodge toward a better tomorrow. Thoughts are the biggest obstacle. How we think of ourselves defines our future. You either know you have the power to break free and live your most authentic life or you think you don’t.
Review: Considering that your debut short was an award-winning comedy and this debut feature film is also a comedy, who are some of the comedic influences that helped inspire and/or inform you work? And what do you feel distinguishes Creedmoria and makes it a unique experience for audiences?
Slimmer: So many people consider slapstick lowbrow comedy—not me. I think it’s the highest form! I was sick, a lot, as a kid. Nothing serious; common cold, schoolitis or avoiding-church-virus. Without fail, I would put on the TV and there would be a Jerry Lewis movie and before you know it, I’m bent over laughing and miraculously cured!
To this day, if I’m feeling blue or unwell, I can turn the TV on and stumble on a Jerry Lewis movie. My husband marvels at my luck…and my taste. But I tell you, watching Jerry Lewis conduct an invisible orchestra is my favorite medicine. My sophisticated tastes rely heavily on John Cleese performances. If I only had one movie to choose to watch for the rest of my life on a deserted island it would be A Fish Called Wanda.
I also love Nancy Meyers so much because she combines the perfect blend of comedy with drama and her movies are eye-porn. Who doesn’t want to live in Diane Keaton’s house in the Hamptons in Something’s Gotta Give or Meryl Streep’s Santa Barbara home in It’s Complicated. I aspire to that kind of movie-making. I need to up my game and shoot something in the south of France.
I think Creedmoria offers audiences something we used to get a lot more when art house theaters were thriving and that is a feel-good movie where you root for the underdog to break free of her environment while making you laugh and cry. I’m Irish so my humor tends to be a bit dark and irreverent. You’ll notice in the movie that we never linger in the pain of a moment very long and there’s quite a few heart wrenching events.
I’m not interested in staying in pain long (in the movie or in real life). If a laugh can get you out of it, lighten the mood, I’ll go for it. The other thing I think Creedmoria offers audiences is capturing the music of the day. The soundtrack is epic and it was the soundtrack of my youth. Stranger Things has been getting a lot of attention lately and I think rightfully deserved. There’s been so many shows and movies devoted to the 80s that fall short, in my mind, musically and costume-wise. Stranger Things gets it right. Spot on.
Review: Please tell me a bit about the actors and how you went about casting the film. Additionally, did your perspective about the characters evolve as you went along, necessitating revising or re-shooting any scenes; or did you pretty much stick with your final draft of the script?
Slimmer: I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but we shot the whole script and got every page on the screen. We never needed to do re-shoots and my only regret was not shooting more b-roll of establishing shots and all. I couldn’t afford a casting agent so I put free ads up wherever I could (sites like LetitCast and Backstage online). We invited actors to send in their reels and we scoured dozens and dozens of submissions for Candy and her brothers.
An actor friend of mine, Roxanne Day, came on board to help me cast and she found Stef Dawson who sent us her audition. No other reel came close to Stef’s because she shot her audition in costume and makeup and in two different locations. The production value was off the chart considering most girls taped theirs with their iPhone in their bedroom.
Then Stef sent us an email talking about how the script spoke to her on a personal level but there was one problem. We were only interested in local talent, having no money to fly actors in. Stef lived in LA and even though her audition stood high beyond the rest, we had no money to get her to New York. Lucky for us, she said she would fly in on her own dime, which she did. We screen-tested her with Steve Cavanaugh, who plays her jealous boyfriend, and we gave her the job on the spot.
Review: Feel free to add any additional thoughts on any topic that I may not have touched upon
Slimmer: I can’t tell you how stoked I am to participate in the Hell’s Half Mile Music & Film Festival. Being an indie movie that celebrates classic rock and pop from the 80s, we are so excited to be at a festival that celebrates the indie spirit of music and movies. I’m a music junkie…it’s always on when I work, when I drive, when I take the subway. I can’t wait to hear live music in Bay City. I can’t wait to visit Bay City!
We’re so honored to be chosen to kick off the festival and I just know it’s going to be the stinkin best festival ever!