Lucy and Ethel were my first. Then I flirted with Saunders and French on Absolutely Fabulous until I fell head over heels for Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. This ongoing love affair with female buddy comedies inspired my best friend, June Diane Raphael, and me to write and star in our own. You’re welcome, Hollywood!
Ass Backwards is a road-trip comedy about two lovable losers who try to claim a beauty-pageant crown that eluded them as kids. The characters are loosely based on our friendship — specifically, our misguided early 20s. We met in a clown class at NYU (yep!), and a stunning co-dependence was born. If June didn’t have a boyfriend, I told her it was because she was “too strong for a man.” She believed me. When I had trouble breaking into showbiz, June told me agents were “intimidated by my talent.” I believed her. We shared everything: a water bed, Ambien, credit cards, and creditors. We thought we were doing life up Sex and the City-style. Though I don’t recall Carrie being featured in a bloated-stomach print campaign.
We embarked on indie filmmaking with the modest aspirations of total box office domination. We assumed we would write, shoot, and edit in an easy-breezy year or so, then take an extended vacay to prepare emotionally, physically, and sexually for our impending fame.
A quick timeline: We finished writing in 2006. We searched for financing until 2009, pitching everyone from an energy-drink mogul to a man who had threatened to sue us years prior. We began our 24-day shoot in 2010. With but four days to go, the movie shut down when a financier pulled out at the last minute. June and I found ourselves sitting, wigs askew, on a curb in upstate New York, splitting a Camel Ultra Light in disbelief. We assured each other this would all be sorted out in the morning. And it was. The morning of Aug. 15, two years later.
Independent filmmaking is herd. (That’s “hard” with a comedic accent for emphasis.)
During this dark two-year period, we were told, “When movies go down, they don’t come back up.” But we knew we had to finish it. The world needed to see a scene of us, bare-assed, peeing on the side of the road. However, no one wanted to invest in a half-finished film that carried debt. To deal with the disappointment, June talked me into joining a yearlong group-therapy class, and I dragged her to a couples astrological reading. (June is a Capricorn, Scorpio rising. I am the reverse. This is significant.) Our will was tested. Our friendship was tested. At points both of us wanted to give up, but the Lucy in me would say, “This Russian mobster could be our ticket! Skirt up.” Or the Ethel in June suggested a Kickstarter campaign, which we raised money on but, sadly, weren’t even famous enough to take heat for.
Seven years after we began, we cobbled together the rest of our funding and we finished the movie. The day I found out we got into Sundance, I cried so herd my phone was ruined due to water damage. That night, we sat on the curb outside my apartment splitting a skinny marg, and we realized this had been about so much more than the movie. It was about sticking with something and someone. We were on the female-buddy comedic adventure of a lifetime. (Apologies to June: The Scorpio in me selfishly cast myself as Lucy. We’ll talk about it in group therapy.)