Friday, 13 May 2011

Interview with Bonnie Mae, writer and director of A Modern Pride and Prejudice


I joined the Calgary chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America just over a year ago.  One of the benefits of joining is receiving regular updates, via their website and newsletters, of what is happening in the Jane Austen world.  It was through one of these newsletters that I first learned about Bonnie Mae and her soon to be released movie A Modern Pride and Prejudice.  The movie stars Maia Petee, Caleb Grusing, Christina LaFon and Mark Mook.  Although she is in the midst of editing, she had a few minutes to spare for my questions on her soon-to-be-released film.

Samantha:  Is A Modern Pride and Prejudice your first movie?

Bonnie Mae: No, this is not my first Feature Film.  Since and before A Modern Pride and Prejudice I have directed several other films.

S:  How did you get into directing?

B:  I've been directing movies and theater since high school and it is something that I always wanted to do since I was a little girl.  Most little girls had pink rooms filled with Barbies and dress-up stuff; I had a Directors Chair, old film posters of Ron Howard, James Cameron, S.S (Steven Spielberg) and more plastered on my wall.

S:  Why did you decide to make a modern version of P&P?

B:  I have been a HUGE fan of Jane Austen since high school and really started to think about it and write it down a couple of years later. It has been a ton of years in the making. I wanted it to be modern because there were so many period adaptations and I wanted it to be fun and fresh, so I decided to make it modern, but still use the language of the period, society, estates etc...It’s a very different version :)

S: Tell me about the process of turning Jane Austen's work into a modern script?

B:  Doing the screenplay was fun because I got to insert my own modern day flare into the script. The challenge was trying to put modern day into the script but also keeping the period version of the dialogue.  I (kept asking) myself, "What Would Jane Austen Do?" The most fun of the script was the last proposal scene.  In the book they walk off and then they are married. I added my own period dialogue with an extremely intense and romantic proposal scene.  It turned out great!  We actually filmed it two different ways with and without rain...you have to wait and see what we ended up using :)

S:  What was the process for selecting your cast?

B:  The cast process was LONG.  Even though it was only six days worth of auditions and call backs we had a ton of people to audition that came from Colorado and as far as the UK.  Everyone wanted to be a part of this film and we went through thousands of auditions live and via the internet.

S:  Was one character more difficult to cast than the others?

B:  The hardest part was casting Elizabeth because I wanted a modern day girl but also someone that could do period dialogue, (be) feisty and passionate. I also wanted a girl that was the same age as the Elizabeth in the book. We ended up casting everyone the same (age) as in the book, even Darcy. I didn't plan on everyone but it just happened that way so that was pretty interesting. I was fortunate enough to have a great cast.  We had a blast on set and off set as well. There was a very abundant amount of laughing! The film is filled with a ton of Love.

S:  When do you hope to release your movie?

B:  We are hoping we can release the movie very soon but I want to post the trailer first, which I'm hoping will be done within the month of May. Keep Posted:)

S:  How can people keep posted on your movie?

B:  Find us on facebook at: www.facebook.com/AModernPrideandPrejudiceMovie or on the official website: www.janeaustensprideandprejudice.com

S:  What do you plan to work on next?

B:  I'm hoping to do Persuasion next as a part of a modern series with JA novels.
I already finished the script for "Persuasion" which is my favorite novel of JA so I'm hoping to do that JA novel next.

For right now I'm working on some other feature films and trailers that I hope to have out in the future. I've also been hired as a Director to do some local things and one Giant thing in LA which I will be a part of at the beginning of fall, if everything goes as planned.

S:  Why did you start with Pride and Prejudice?

B:  I have a ton of people ask me why I did P and P first if I love Persuasion more.  The answer is P and P is more well known and I hope to have great results from A Modern Pride and Prejudice (so I can) do "Persuasion." (Fingers and Toes Crossed).  

S:  Is there anything else you’d like to say to your readers?

B:  I also want to say Thanks to all the fans that have supported this version and this vision. I also want to give a BIG shout out THANK YOU to everyone in front of and behind the camera that worked on this film. We spent three months together and I had a blast!!

If anyone wants to send Fan Mail to any of the actors or crew they can send it to: PaperCut Studio Productions PO BOX 7069 Woodland Park CO 80863 Please send a self addressed envelope for cast pics. Thank You!




Monday, 9 May 2011

A Critical Review

I received my first bad review for my book Expectations: A Continuation of Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve been expecting it for some time, but after having my book out for over a year and a half, I was starting to think I was safe.  Wrong!  Now before I start, I must say I absolutely respect the right of the reader to post her opinion.  I’m merely exercising my right to respond.

The review was posted on amazon.com along with my book sale information.  It will stay there with my book for as long as I keep it on amazon.  I will see it any time I check my book – which I do about once a week to see if there are any new customer reviews.  I don’t wish to rewrite what the reviewer said here – feel free to check it yourself.  But the gist of it is that I write like a twelve-year old and that I probably put “Mrs.” along with my name in order to make me feel older.  I had to laugh at this.  I only wish I weren’t as old as I am!  Also, the “Mrs.” is there simply because I had to enter my title when I was filling in my information to publish. 

So what does it mean to write like a twelve-year old?  This is the question that keeps spinning around my head.  Does it mean I did not include sex, swearing or tragedy?  I did this on purpose as I wanted to write in Jane Austen’s style.  Did I do a bad job of writing in regency style?  This is quite possible.  I did my best by reading Jane Austen’s books continually as I wrote and watching movie adaptations of her work.  Is my grammar poor?  Another possibility as I did the editing myself with some help from friends and family.  I’m certainly a product of the whole-language movement.  I go by what sounds good and have difficulty picking out parts of a sentence.  I hope I can afford an editor next time.  Have I been reading too many picture books to my children?  Another possibility. 

Ironically, my most recently published book, Subgirl, is written from the point of view of a twelve-year-old.  I had an editor say she didn’t believe the narrator was twelve, so I reworked my book, hoping to make it sound like it was written by a twelve-year-old.  In the end, this criticism is not very helpful.  There are too many possibilities.

In defense of the comment that I should spend time refining my writing processes, I must say that I've been working on this since I could hold a pencil.  I studied journalism and professional writing for two years at college and have been writing and honing my skills in the fifteen years since.  I majored in English at University, am part of a writers group, read constantly, and attend any writing event I can.  I really want to become a better writer.  I have embraced the suggestions I’ve had from other writers, friends and family in regards to my writing. 

My introverted instinct was to keep the review to myself and not mention it to anyone.  I thought maybe no one would see it.  But after half a day of this, I decided I should at least tell my husband.  Then I thought I’d mention it on Twitter – most of the people there don’t know me personally, so it seemed rather anonymous.  But I kept feeling this burning shame and discomfort so I decided to post it on Facebook.  Why not let my friends give me their opinion on the article?  Definitely a good decision.  Somehow, the kind and encouraging words of my friends, assuring me I have a gift and should ignore the review and keep writing, have given me the courage to keep writing. 

I hope this might help any other writers faced with a negative review.  There is the temptation to believe bad reviews are the truth and good reviews are written just to be nice.  Emily Bront—Ď kept her critical reviews in her desk at all times.  I will not be doing this.  I don’t think it would be helpful.  The pain of negative words has faded over the week and I have been able to put it into perspective.  I just think of all the books I’ve loved that others haven’t and vice versa.  Writing is very subjective and a bad review can be seen as a way to get the conversation started.  I'd love to hear about anyone else's experience in this regard.  Just post a comment.  I'll read it!   

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Austenland?

I returned last night from a glorious trip to Southern California, expressly to visit Disneyland with my family.  We had sunshine every day and we wore shorts and sandals!  I didn’t write a thing and only checked my email and Twitter twice!  What a treat after the longest winter I can remember here in Alberta.  My kids, who are six and three, had a blast and we were able to get full value out of our five-day park hopper. 

My daughter, who has loved Princess Aurora since the day she first set eyes on her lovely pink dress, tried all week to find her at the park.  We went three times to the Princess Fantasy Faire, watched the Royal Princess Ceremony thrice and stood in line two times to meet the princesses – but only Princesses Tia, Ariel and Belle could be reached for photos and autographs. 

Finally, on day five, we returned to the Princess area.  We asked which princesses were available and found the same three.  We went to watch the Ceremony AGAIN and while we were waiting, “J” approached a young man in prince attire and asked if he could take her to Sleeping Beauty.  He couldn’t then as she was “taking tea”, but after much persuasion, he promised “J” she would come out for autographs after the ceremony.  We waited the thirty minutes and then the show began.  “J” watched desperately and positioned herself beside the princess for the one time she descends from the stage – during the maypole dance.  She walked beside the princess and told her she was her favourite and asked if she could sign her book.  The princess said yes, but I worried it was just a ploy to keep a young girl from crying.

The ceremony ended and the princesses disappeared behind the set.  We waited with bated breath.  Then “J” approached another lady who was part of the show and she said she would get Princess Aurora.  “J” was elated, but I worried as the minutes ticked by.  Then the castle door opened and out came. . . Snow White.  Hmm.  Closer, but not quite and then. . . Sleeping Beauty!  “J” ran to greet her and said “Do you remember me?”  Sleeping Beauty said “Of course!”  She signed “J”’s book, posed for a picture, talked prettily, and gave her a hug.  My little girl was overjoyed, her face a shining orb.  It was, indeed, the best part of her trip.

I couldn’t help but notice, with my Austen-shaped mind, how much I enjoyed the rides dedicated to Disney movies – especially Peter Pan, Snow White, Pirates of the Caribbean and Sleeping Beauty’s castle.  I loved how Storyland looks like a little English village.  I delighted in becoming a part of the story.  And I wondered – wouldn’t it be grand to have a Jane Austen-land?  You could dress up in Regency garb, ride a carriage around Pemberley, waltz with Henry Tilney, share a sisterly chat with Elinor Dashwood, break for tea with Fanny Price, stoke a fire and just stare and stare at the beautiful clothes and antiques.  Well, maybe that is a North American idea, but I’m certain we could all enjoy ourselves, imagining we’d met the real Jane Austen and all of her fabulous characters.  Which one would you wait all day to meet?