The indie film “Bellyfruit” comes across like the work of a seasoned filmmaker with years of big screen experience. But, in fact, it is the directorial debut of actress Kerri Lee Green. However, Green is no new-comer to the trials and tribulations of movie-making. She, literally, grew up on film and is all too aware of the pitfalls surrounding the production of Hollywood celluloid. ^ Green is best known as the fresh-scrubbed teen actress who had leading roles in such ’80s hits as “Goonies” and “Lucas”, in which she co-starred with Charlie Sheen and Corey Haim. ^ But, as co-founder of an organization called Independent Women Artists, she has been making a significant contribution to the advancement of women in film and the arts for several years. ^ With “Bellyfruit,” Green is making an important statement about the plight of urban teen mothers, and not just another mindless Hollywood romp.
[ How did you become interested in this topic of teenage mothers living in the innercity? ] ^ After college I got a job working with homeless youth with Covenant House of California. Whenever we came across a homeless mother and her baby(s) it was very difficult to find a placement for them. Several years later, when Bonnie Dickenson (Bellyfruit Producer and Actress) and I were founding Independent Women Artists, I met another woman, Amy Stuart, who was founding Gramercy Court Housing, a home for young single mothers in crisis. This house included parenting classes, day-care, job training, on-site social workers, and is incredible. We decided our first project would benefit this new home, and that became “Bellyfruit” the play.
[ Did you do anything in the way of research for this project? ] ^ All the writers had personal experience teaching teen mothers, and I did with homeless teen mothers. In addition we did statistical and psychological research of the population.
[ Do you feel that the teen pregnancy problem is going to get a lot worse? ] ^ Not if “Bellyfruit” is shown in every high school in America…
[ Agreed. But failing that, do you see things getting worse? Are teens any more educated (and smarter) about sex than they were in years passed? ] ^ I can’t predict if it will get worse, although I hope it doesn’t. I believe a lot of the abstinence, safe sex campaigns are beginning to make an impact on certain teens. However, as we know, (as “Bellyfruit” explored) teen pregnancy is not only an education issue, it is also a poverty issue, and an emotional one. Kids who feel like they have nothing in this world, and no hopes for the future — college or an exciting career or other ways to create a strong self image — often look to early parenthood as a way to become someone important, and to fulfill loneliness, etc. But then when the reality of what it takes to be a parent becomes clear, and when some of these teen parents are incapable of doing the job (I say some because there are many young mothers balancing school, home, work, AND motherhood…I don’t know how they do it, they are incredible) but for the ones who are too young, with no support, no emotional maturity, etc. the scenario becomes tragic for all involved. Poverty is the biggest factor in teen pregnancy. (87% of teen mothers are poor).
[ Did you have any directorial experience prior to “Bellyfruit”? ] ^ No, only directing the play.
[ Did you treat the way you put the film together as an entirely separate entity from the play? Or was the structure of the film pretty close to the way you approached the play? ] ^ Both the play and the film had the three separate but related stories which wove together. But the play has a more abstract structure, relying mostly on monologues with a chorus and performance pieces and a song, etc. The film is more classically narrative. The play is beautifully written, and I’m told is published by Applause Theater Books.
[ How did you prepare for the task of constructing a full-length feature film? ] ^ Prozac. Just kidding. 1)I agonized over the screen-play. 2)We fund-raised and got some grants, and got as much free stuff as possible. 3)I story-boarded the entire film with my incredible D.P. Peter Calvin. 4)I was luckily supported by great producers (Bonnie Dickenson and Robert Bauer) and a wonderful crew and an amazing cast.
[ Have you experienced any prejudicial treatment as a female filmmaker in Hollywood? ] ^ Because we did “Bellyfruit” independently I was free to pursue my own “female” vision of things, with budgetary and time constraints replacing the political and commercial restraints of “Hollywood”. It’s always a trade off.
[ How do you think your experience as an actress figured into your filmmaking process? ] ^ It was really the biggest preparation I did. I was at home on the set, and had a great rapport with the actors.
[ You have some very talented young actors in the movie. Was it difficult finding actresses who could play these roles so convincingly? ] ^ Of course. We were very particular about the acting style and talent of who we hired. I also think we got lucky as hell, because for some of them it was their first film. I’m really proud of the cast because it was a really difficult shoot (long late hours, and a crazy schedule) and they did a phenomonal job.
[ What did Producers Bonnie Dickenson and Robert Bauer bring to the film? ] ^ Bonnie is a terrific creative Producer, with great ideas, and she never let me waiver from my vision. (Plus she gave a brilliant performance.) Bobby was like the steam roller who had the experience and the force to get the production up on its feet. He also is infuriatingly able to make anyone laugh even in the most heinous of circumstances which was a miracle considering our overworked and underpaid crew. Both are extremely talented people whose creative and production input were vital to every aspect of the film.
[ As you said, Bonnie Dickenson was also great in the film. Were you tempted to appear in “Bellyfruit” as well? ] ^ Nope. Never. Although I had to join a loop-group for one of the party scenes, so I’m kind of in it…sort of.
[ What did you learn from making “Bellyfruit”? ] ^ Plan meticulously, even though the plan will most definitely change.Always trust your instincts. I learned to always have your producer wear a short leopard mini skirt whenshooting on an illegal location.
[ What are your upcoming projects? ] ^ A feature film called “Dr. Schwartz” ( a romantic comedy) and a one hour dramatic TV series about innercity youth.
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