Caytha Jentis' upcoming film Bad Parents is not the first satirical film about league sports, but it is certainly the first black comedy to focus on the insane species of parent known collectively as the soccer mom.
Based in New Jersey where league soccer occupies the minds of thousands of kids and their parents each year, Bad Parents is the result of Jentis' own personal experiences as a "snack mom" for her daughter's highly competitive league.
In the film, Janeane Garofalo — looking more comfortable on camera than ever — plays an otherwise un-crazy housewife named Kathy who succumbs to the temptations and mind games of the other soccer moms in her daughter's league. Obsessing over their children's placement on the 'A' team and eventual play time on the field leads some parents to drastic insane actions.
Originally written for the stage under the title It's All for the Kids, the film, which stars Garofalo, Cheri Oteri, Christopher Titus, Ben Bailey (the host of Cash Cab!) and even one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, maintains its quick-paced, monologue-heavy feel of the original in the new screenplay.
We talked with Jentis about her impressive cast and the transition from stage to screen before her arrival to our fair city for this week's Austin Film Festival. Here, she will be screening the film twice and appearing on a panel about marketing your indie film.
CultureMap: Since Bad Parents is based on your own stage show, what was it like transitioning the medium from stage to screen? Besides the title, how much did the story have to change in order to fit the new format?
Caytha Jentis: I tried to stay as true to the play as possible, and we shot a good half hour more footage than we needed so we could decide what translated best to screen in the editing process. There was a lot of more dialogue, and I allowed the actors opportunities to go off script and just be funny. I also wrote some additional scenes as characters needed to be expanded and developed, especially with such a great cast. Lastly, in the play, there are no kids (which is part of the irony), but we did have to show the kids in the movie.
CM: What was the impetus for writing the play in the first place? Have you had any angry parents contact you after they saw themselves in your characters or plot lines?
CJ: I jokingly say that the script was part of my 12 Step Program. As a sports parent — my daughter is now a college athlete — I knew our behavior was comedy fodder, but it was important to me to also examine the why versus the what we do and not make it a sit-com. I channeled the works of Samuel Beckett and Edward Albee for inspiration. Sports parents get the joke; it's very "inside," and I don't get on a soap box or anything. But it's satire. I hope to make people laugh as well as look inside what we are, at times, doing to our children.
CM: Are you still based in New Jersey? How much did the location influence the making of the movie?
CJ: Yes, I still live in New Jersey. Fortunately, I didn't have to sell my house after the screening of the film! The locale didn't influence the movie per se. It just made it easier to produce. I believe our story is universal, [because] we don't establish exactly where the movie takes place.
CM: You gathered maybe the most impressive cast of comedy stars for this film. How did you assemble them all?
CJ: I was so fortunate to get such a great cast! My casting director is really terrific. And I think the actors responded to the multi-dimensional, well-developed characters. There are not a lot of meaty roles for women in their late 30s or 40s. And I believe they found the script funny and could relate to the story.
CM: You mentioned you're on an AFF panel for marketing yourself as a filmmaker. How important would you say that funding your own movies has been in your process? And do you consider yourself primarily a writer/director, or first a producer?
CJ: I consider myself a filmmaker and a storyteller. I believe that the beginning, raising funds and the end-marketing are all part of storytelling. That said, I guess I would consider myself a creative producer in that I'm good at making high quality movies with an easy-to-identify audience on a shoestring budget.
CM: What else are you doing while at AFF, and during your time in Austin? Do you know the area at all?
CJ: I have never been to Austin before and I am sooooooo excited! I've heard nothing but great things about the city. What am I doing besides seeing great films and going to great parties and seminars? Eating! Everyone always raves about the food there!
Caytha Jentis will be at both screenings of Bad Parents at the Austin Film Festival. The first is at the Bob Bullock IMAX Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 9:45 p.m. The second is at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.