Award-winning filmmaker Caytha Jentis, who has written four feature films including “Bad Parents”, which stars Janeane Garofalo and Cheri Oteri, is the writer, creator and producer of “The Other F Word.” She told The Girlfriend that she felt compelled to do the series after realizing that there were no other shows out there that depicted this key period in a woman’s life. She set out to change that and we are so glad she did!
How did you come up with the idea for TOFW? What roadblocks/obstacles have you come across in trying to get TOFW off the ground and widely distributed?
In her bestselling book “Passages,” Gail Sheehy wrote about how women live life in chapters. I was approaching 50; my children were coming of age, and I realized that I was about to enter that dreaded next chapter of life It was as thrilling as it was depressing. I celebrated the last 40 days of my 40s in my own Eat, Pray, Love manner. I actively strived to make each day special and connected with as many meaningful people from my past. I then adopted a “no fear, no regrets” attitude to enter my life’s next stage.
It was bittersweet that my children were now grown, and I felt a huge void, but it was also finally ME time. I was ready for new adventures. However, like the young women on “Girls,” who struggled to find themselves, I was as confused as they were by the existential “Who am I?” and the “Now What?” of mid-life.
I learned I was not alone. Many of my friends were also grappling with this, and I discovered many websites, magazines and blogs write about mid-life and the associated dramatic changes — good, bad and ugly. It was clear we have a lot to talk about and that our story is very different than previous generations.
I also realized that while there have been shows about women friends during most of the other stages of life, there was no episodic show that depicted this experience. Regarding roadblocks, I think that advertisers who have long overlooked this demographic are finally waking up to the fact that 45+ aged women control most of the wealth in this country and make most of the major buying decisions. They’re hungry for shows that engage and validate them, but as an untested tv writer I had to initially prove the concept with a web series to show there is indeed an audience for a show like this.”
We are invisible. But, we must and can persevere — no fear, no regrets.
I realized like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” I had the power all the time, and that the best way to get this show to its (under-served) audience, and to tell it honestly, was to produce it independently and then partner with the mid-life websites and digital magazines that are already connecting with this audience in print narrative form.
In a lot of ways, TOFW is a celebration of female friendship. Is it important for the show to celebrate this?
Absolutely. It was very important to me to create a series that celebrated the importance of female friendship, a show that wasn’t primarily driven by the search of finding Mr. Right like a “Sex and the City” but by finding ourselves.
What would you say about the importance of friends after age 50?
At this stage of my life, my friendships — both male and female — bonds are stronger than ever. We don’t take these connections for granted. We don’t judge the way we might’ve when younger. I like to joke that if “first impressions matter most”, we are way beyond that so our friends love us for exactly who we are. The armor comes down. We have gratitude. While I am happily married, my friends are as important to me as my family is, especially now that I am less in the trenches of motherhood. Our friends are our community and it’s so important to have that in our lives — women who are there for us always and unconditionally … there are so many forms of love and think as we age, we see that more clearly. And I believe it’s important to strive to have both old and new and young and old friends. I like to say it’s much more fun to color with the crayon box of 64 than 8. Anthropologically that’s how we’ve lived and it’s important to create that “family” to fight the isolation that current society fosters.
Do you feel you’ve had to reinvent yourself again and again in order to stay relevant, for lack of a better word, and how have you done that?
I feel like I’m constantly reinventing and evolving and that’s something all women do. We are defined much more than men by our bodies that force us to reinvent. As a writer, I am a very curious person so am drawn to the unknown and understanding it. Specifically, to the series and my own journey, I truly see 50 as the ultimate life call to action. It’s when as women we truly feel like we are able to live for ourselves … vs for our parents, bosses, spouse and children. This is when coming of age really happens — which is as daunting as it is thrilling. But how we answer that call has to be deeply personal — what’s good for my neighbor or my Facebook friend is not necessarily the right fit for me and we have to realize this and embark on our individual reinvention with no judgment.
What’s so great — and maybe not so great — about being an American woman in her 50s?
In film school, we learn that structurally in a script around page 50 the hero says “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” It’s when the hero takes action in the story. I feel that is what happens to us at 50. But for story heroes and real-life heroes, once we accept the call to action, the stakes get higher. While we are indeed aging and have to accept and embrace that, we are aging differently and living longer than previous generations and many gatekeepers are not accepting this truth and ageism is the last prejudice to truly “come out of the closet.” That said, I’m optimistic that we will break through that glass ceiling soon — especially if we do it together. It won’t be long until we are recognized as the cool kids, and I do hear that from my millennial friends — many do look up to us and look forward to being us.
To watch episodes one and two of “The Other F Word,” go here.
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