Or Die Trying executive producer Sarah Hawkins caught up with Ally Iseman, the creator of the new gender parity parody, Flip The Script.
OR DIE TRYING: Where are you from?
Ally Iseman: I am originally from Derwood, Maryland (pronounced “Merlin”, like the wizard) and yes; it is just as glamorous as it sounds.
ODT: What initially inspired you to pursue a career as a filmmaker?
AI: Storytelling is one of our species’ oldest traditions; it’s how we pass on cultural, familial, spiritual, social, and intellectual concepts from generation to generation, group to group. The tradition of gathering around a fire to hear these stories hasn’t changed; our fires have just gotten bigger. I see an incredible power within the art of media to steer culture and I see that power, that privilege, as a responsibility. A responsibility to represent, to chronicle, to guide, to explore, to engage, to make uncomfortable realities a part of our global community dialogue. I believe in the power of humor especially to bridge these imaginary walls. If we can make people laugh, we can make them listen. This is the true power of entertainment.
I am first and foremost an actor (American Housewife, Criminal Minds, Days Of Our Lives) moonlighting as a writer. I became a content creator initially out of necessity. I needed to walk away from the business of acting for a bit and was introduced via my sister, Puppett to a story that I felt very passionately needed to be told. This story turned into my first film, the award-winning LGBTQ divorce comedy Wedlocked (www.WedlockedTheMovie.com), which my good friend Christine Moore and I produced, and my sister directed. I quickly came to realize how fulfilling it is to bring something I’m passionate about from concept to completion. It not only enables me to have more creative control and be more selective with the stories I want to tell, but also provides me with the opportunity to collaborate more directly with so many incredible artists. I genuinely enjoy honing my ideas through the process of pitching and learning to work with all kinds of personalities united under a common vision. Having now come back to acting, it’s been such a treat to be able to combine my passions. My writing has changed the way I break down scripts when preparing for an audition and my work and training as an actor deeply inform my writing. Oh and it’s really, really fun.
ODT: Tell us about Flip The Script! What initially inspired the series?
AI: Flip The Script is a comedy series that does just that to the issues of gender parity. A parity parody, if you will. Season 1 focuses on the entertainment industry.
In early 2016, a number of studies were being released that gave measurable numbers to the issues of gender parity within the entertainment industry. As an active member of a few different “women in entertainment” groups, I was very happy to see this dialogue starting to gain traction on a larger scale, but I was curious to see if all of these studies, panels, interviews, and articles were having an actual impact on the day-to-day of women in the industry. I sent out an email asking just that and unfortunately received a barrage of emails recounting story after story that showed me that nothing was, in fact changing behind closed doors. I knew I wanted to add to the conversation in a non-antagonistic manner. I feel that change only comes when you bridge the gap from sympathy to empathy. Perspective is a powerful tool that can be used to frame an issue in a new light and humor is a great way to address triggering subject matter without attacking anyone.
I wanted to use the real stories I was sent because their specificity is, oddly enough, what makes them universal. While I was developing the series, a few sketches came out in a similar vein from powerhouses like Margaret Cho and the comediennes behind “Why Men Aren’t Funny.” I’m glad these were created, but with the short attention span of the world these days, I am committed to this being a series so that its impact doesn’t dissipate after the initial launch. I want to keep releasing episode after episode to keep these issues in the mainstream conversation until the series has made itself irrelevant and gender parity is no longer an issue. We would like to finish the first season focusing on the entertainment industry, but following seasons will focus on other industries, as these issues are unfortunately prevalent throughout our culture.
ODT: How has partnering with Women In Film been?
AI: Women In Film was the perfect partner for the launch of this series. With their dedication “to promoting equal opportunities for women, encouraging creative projects by women, and expanding and enhancing portrayals of women in all forms of global media” (WIF website), our missions were in perfect alignment. I had not had any prior experience with the organization before this, but while I was developing the series, a not-so-little voice inside my gut told me to “share this with Meredith.” Meredith Riley Stewart, now a very dear friend and my producing partner on the series, was at the time a woman whom I had only met once at a film festival, which both premiered Wedlocked and screened her digital comedy series Autocorrect FU. I had no idea that she was on the board of WIF’s PSA Production Program nor that WIF had been looking for a project just like this. After a series of progressively more specific and inspiring pitch meetings, Flip The Script got the green light and will now be Women In Film’s first ever digital series! The creation of this series, which addresses gender parity, provided the opportunity for WIF members on the crew to work directly with name talent and high caliber industry pros like our DP Cynthia Pusheck, ASC and our directing mentors Beth McCarthy-Miller and Jamie Babbit, thus making the production of this project a part of the solution to the very problem it addresses! I could not be more pleased with the result or more excited to see what the future will bring this partnership.
ODT: Congratulations on premiering at the Crystal+Lucy Awards on June 13th! What conversation are you hoping to spark with your premiere?
AI: The cultural conversation needs to grow and our social norms need to evolve just like we have. Sensitivity and awareness are strengths. I’d like us to be able to acknowledge our differences without letting them divide us. My hope is for the series to successfully draw attention to the very specific moments of unconscious bias women and other marginalized groups incur on a daily basis. I want to invite those involved in these exchanges to realize what it feels like so that they will be more conscious of how they choose to show up with their peers. I’m glad to see the reception this show is getting with women (from early pre-screenings), but I do hope that it resonates just as much with our male allies and other men within the industry. I’d love to see Flip The Script become a tool to help empower those affected to speak out in the moment, not from a place of victimhood or anger, but rather inviting their peers to see things from a new perspective.
ODT: What do you think is the most effective way of changing the systemic gender gap in the film and television industry?
AI: Systemic is the key word here. There isn’t any one thing, but rather an ongoing, evolving system of changes that must be implemented and constantly adapted. True change is not a band-aid quick fix. These issues are pervasive and interwoven throughout the structure of the industry and society itself, like the roots of a tree, and those roots are what need to be addressed just as much as the tree itself. Top to bottom and bottom to top changes need to be implemented. Common social ideas of gender roles, masculine and feminine, weaknesses and strengths, need to be examined and turned inside out. The false belief that success is a finite resource breeds a culture of fear. Many people in positions of power may be worried that their jobs are at risk. Many people who are just trying to break in to the industry might be worried that their chances will shrink if special attention needs to be paid for a period of time to groups they aren’t a part of. Our responsibility in this industry is to accurately and authentically reflect the world that we’re in and we are not currently doing that. These truths are uncomfortable, but uncomfortable is what we need to be if things are going to change. They’re called growing “pains” for a reason.
The entire system and the way it functions needs to change. Is that scary? Yes, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all be working together to do it. Starting in school, support and opportunities need to be available equally so that resumes can be built and experience gathered. Companies and executives need to seek out authentic voices that might be different from their own and not makes hires “because they remind me of myself at that age.” The industry has commonly been referred to as a “Boys Club” and I do not feel that the solution is the creation of a “Girls Club.” The entire social feeling around the concept of “different” needs to shift. Our differences are exciting and need to be celebrated. In nature, monocultures die off. What do we think will happen to ours?
Anger from marginalized groups is understandable, but if that’s the energy we infuse this conversation with, I can’t see how anything will change. When’s the last time you wanted to listen to someone who was attacking you? Those who feel attacked will defend, not grow. It’s time to invite change. That’s why it is important to me to use comedy to address these issues in this series.
ODT: Any advice you would give young women pursuing similar career paths?
AI: Know why you’re doing this and be proud of that whatever it is. Don’t be married to one path. Don’t think you know what it’s going to look like. Don’t think there’s some place, some destination you are trying to get to. Let’s get real hippy-dippy for a minute: the journey is the destination. Truly. Life is simply a series a moments, of choices. If you are not happy, change the way you’re going about things or change what you’re going about. The only things you control in your life are the choices you make and the way you choose to experience the events that occur along your journey. No one else gets to decide how you feel about yourself or what you’re doing.
Know this in the core of your being: You are an insignificant creature of infinite value in this universe. If you can wrap your heart around that seeming contradiction and carry it with you, it will deeply impact the way you approach your life, your art, and your relationships. And really, that’s all any of this is about anyways.
ODT: What dream(s) are you most fighting for?
AI: Mostly the ones in which I can fly and communicate telepathically with animals.
ODT: Where can we find out more about Flip The Script and your work?