“Catch the Fair One” premieres at Tribeca on June 13th, and Cinema Femme was fortunate to speak with co-producers Kimberly Parker (“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”) and Academy Award-Winner Mollye Asher (“Nomadland”) about their film. “Catch the Fair One” is about former pro boxer Kaylee, who infiltrates a sex trafficking ring to try and find her missing younger sister. On her search, she carries out ruthless revenge against the ring leaders. This narrative feature is directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka (“Manos Sucias”), and written by Wladyka in collaboration with breakout star Kali Reis.
How did you two get involved in this film?
KIMBERLY PARKER: I came on board after Mollye had been working with Joe, our writer/director for at least a year. The three of us plus the editor all went to the NYU grad film program. Our class has always been really tight, and known to be very collaborative and supportive of each other. We always had a really great energy. Our other classmates were working on “Judas and the Black Messiah” and of course there’s Chloé Zhao, who Mollye just won an Oscar with (for “Nomadland”).
So when Joe and Mollye called me, it was a dream. There’s a deep level of trust and respect we have for each other and a very strong moral compass that we all knew could guide the film. It was really nice to be involved in this project.
I know that this film was really a collaboration storywise. Could you talk about that process and how you fit in with that process?
MOLLYE ASHER: When I came on board, Joe had not met Kali yet. He knew the story he wanted to tell but it was a very different script. We were working the script, but then once he met Kali, she very much became part of what that story was going to be. As producers, we were very involved in the creative development. We would get drafts and we would give notes. But there definitely was a real momentum and infusion of ideas that came in when Kali came on board.
What does your work look like as producers in pre production and during the shoot? What is a day in the life like?
ASHER: We came on in development, which is the time when we’re working on the script. A lot of stuff happens all at the same time. Once you have a locked script, then you start to schedule and budget, and begin going out to cast and find financiers. With this project it was very important to Joe that Kali be the lead. For us as producers, that means that we know it’s going to be not as easy to put together the financing because it’s not a known person. But you know, that’s something Kim and I share, and why Joe wanted to work with us, is the integrity of the story and what his vision was is more important to us. You just have to work harder to find those people who want to invest in the film. We’re part of putting together the whole creative team, and that’s happening in development and pre-production. That goes along with deciding where we’re shooting. We shot in Buffalo, which is a really cinematic location.
And then we oversaw production on set. It was really important to Joe to have us be by the monitor with him. He had previously shot his first feature and then a lot of television. Going back to independent film, he really wanted that safe small space around the monitor. It was just the two of us and Joe, rather than on a TV show where there’s a ton of people and voices. Our job was then also to keep that safe space for him.
In post-production, we’re overseeing that whole work flow along with the production supervisor. We’re giving notes to Joe and the editor on the edits, and then ultimately planning the distribution and festival strategy.
PARKER: It’s so fun to produce, really. You use every skill set.
What is a typical day like on set for both of you?
PARKER: Waking up at an ungodly hour and getting to set. Honestly, a lot of the onset producing is supporting Joe’s vision, and also overseeing the physical production. We had a great production team. We do very nitty gritty stuff like approving payroll, making sure all the people are getting paid, the laws are being followed, and that the creative vision is being met.
I find that in a lot of indie producing, the real struggle is getting to be on set, and getting the project to that point. Once we’re on set, it’s just about making sure that Joe has what he needs and that we’re leading a fair and equitable project.
ASHER: That’s a good point because I feel like a lot of producing on set ends up being HR, by managing personalities and making sure it’s a smooth-sailing ship.
What kind of backgrounds do you have that led you to taking on these roles in producing? And maybe if there’s a young woman reading this who’s like, ‘I don’t know what role I fit best in, what personalities are better suited for this?’
ASHER: In my opinion, I think somebody who has the combination of being a really good listener and collaborator is suited to be a producer because that’s the creative part of working with a filmmaker. This person should also be action-oriented. As soon as there’s a problem, I’m like ‘ok, how do we fix this?’, and I find that exciting! Producers should find challenges exciting and invigorating.
PARKER: I definitely think that people who want to produce have to be self-starters. And I’m not saying you have to be type A, but it does help if you are very type A.
I wanted to talk about what is going on thematically in the film, and how you learned more and immersed yourselves in the stories that are happening, like with MMIW [Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women] and a Native lead character. Mollye, I know you worked on “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” so you may have had that as a starting point.
ASHER: I think that process starts from the very beginning. I’m working in a world that’s not my own, so my job is to work with the community and tell the story with the people, which is why it was really important that Kali was telling the story. There’s actually a shot in the film of photos of missing women, which were sent to me from people who live in Pine Ridge, where “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” was shot, after I reached out to them.
We worked with the Indigenous tribe in the area there and they were very much a part of the production. And the people in the casino in the film too were collaborators with us. We wouldn’t have been able to do some of the scenes without their support. Immersing ourselves in it is about bringing in the community and working with the community.
What did this story end up meaning to you personally, and were there parts that you could relate to?
ASHER: I have two sisters, so immediately in my gut I felt for the character and her desperation and need to go and find her sister. This goes along with the awareness that we’ve also lost a lot of Indigenous women to sex slavery. There’s an element in this.
PARKER: I personally was drawn to the themes of gendered violence. I think the way that it intersects with varying groups and socioeconomic status is universal but hyperspecific. My background, as well as that of many of my family members, unfortunately involved a lot of gendered violence that doesn’t get a happy ending or justice. I do think that there is a desire for me–as an audience member, not even a producer–to see those types of arcs on screen. It makes me feel a type of catharsis seeing someone attempt to get justice.
What advice do you have for emerging female filmmakers?
ASHER: Do not wait for permission because I think that if you do, you could be waiting forever. Maybe the construct of the industry isn’t quite right for what you’re going to do, so change it or break it down.
PARKER: I would say to trust your gut, and trust your current collaborators. If you have someone who has produced your current short films or someone who’s in your class you really trust, don’t go looking for a Hollywood producer when your collaborator is next to you. If you look at people’s careers, that’s how people come up.