By Saira Toppin
Here is a treat for our readers, well, when it hits a theater near you it will be! New film, “16 to Life,” by Emmy-nominated director Becky Smith is sure to be a great family choice, or something to see with the girls. The movie is set in a burger and shake stand in a small town with actress Hallee Hirsh as our leading lady, Kate. We experience her very different 16th birthday. She gets slapped by her older sister, misses out on a “budding” birthday gift, and finally, gets her first kiss.
This independent film, produced by Waterdog Films, has a twist, a surprise, and an unexpected occurrence. It began slow, but started to pick up once the characters became more expressive. I was shocked that Renee would dare to cook the girls’ cell phones. That would cause a ruckus with any teenager I know! Later on, Louise’s son actually arrests her in front of her old flame! How embarrassing. And, who knew Russian women were so direct, and actually funny. I laughed during Tatiana’s conversation with Kate in the back of the shop. Oo, and you are going to love Candi. I won’t spoil the surprise.
Women’s Mafia: What is the message that you sought to convey to your viewers??
Becky Smith: I grew up in a small Midwestern town. I wanted to portray people in a town like that, in all their complexity. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the way the Midwest is often portrayed in movies—and the way teenage girls are often portrayed on TV and in movies. I wanted to explore the story of a young woman with unconventional ideas who loves the place she’s from but yearns to see the larger world. And I wanted to explore the delight of first love.
WM: 2. Why is 16 that age??
BS: I think girls mature at widely differing ages. Some girls get very interested in romance at a young age; others when they are much older. I remember being 16 and in a panic that someone would find out I’d never been kissed and tease me. I lied about my sexual experience at a Girl Scout camp-over. My older sister was part of it and called me out for my “made up” sexual experience. I was a conflicted teenager at 16—wanting romance, and being a bit ashamed that I wanted romance. So it seemed a subject ripe for investigation.
WM: What do you recall being the biggest issue for you at age 16??
BS: I wanted to be popular. That was very important to me—to be liked and respected by other kids. But I was bossy, opinionated, and my opinions were often radical for the place I grew up in. So my desire to be popular was a bit of a losing battle. I was pretty wrapped up in myself and pretty judgmental. Not a template for popularity!
WM: Why did you think it was important to present the “old love” / “rekindling of a flame” between Louise and Ronald even though Kate did not witness/learn from this experience??
BS: The ability to feel strongly for someone and to find that you are cared for in return is not limited to youth. I thought it would be interesting to show two very different stages of life, and how basic human desires remain the same. Older women friends of mine used to tell me that they felt very young inside, even though the mirror showed them wrinkles and age. I didn’t really understand what they meant until I was in my mid forties. Although Kate doesn’t see Louise find romance with Ronald in the movie – my idea was that we would get to see this parallel.
WM: How can the Women’s Mafia help you??
BS: I believe that “16 to Life” is a movie a wide range of women will respond to. It’s a small, independent feature, and can only survive and be seen with rigorous word-of-mouth. I think it portrays girls and women in their complexity- and with honesty and humor. It’s worth taking the time to look for – and I hope Women’s Mafia feels the same way!
Be sure to check out the website to find out when 16 to Life will be playing in a city near you! www.16tolifethemovie.org