Being a multihyphenate person in the entertainment business is not usually a choice. If you are a creative you have to be a business person as well if you want your work to be seen. Even with the addition to all of the roles you play in your career, there is no such thing as an overnight success, especially when you are referring to the entertainment business. Ally Iseman might seem like an overnight success if you didn’t know her personally, which I luckily do. She has gone from acting and having roles in TV shows Criminal Minds and American Housewife to now being the creator and producer of Women in Film’s first digital series. I sat down with Ally to catch up, reflect on the past year, and learn more about this societal piece for the prestigious organization. This is the first part of a two part article covering her process of becoming a multihyphenate and the process of making Flip the Script. Sit down, relax, and learn.
You have this amazing upcoming series with Women in Film called Flip the Script, but this isn’t your first rodeo. You have done a few films from the creative side. Most notably, when you did the story and produced,“Wedlocked” which went cross country to film festivals.
Iseman: We’re actually still finishing out our festival tour for Wedlocked. We have won awards, screened at amazing festivals across the world. It’s been an incredible ride for that film for sure.
You didn’t always want to write, so what made you start? Was it an idea for a script or more out of necessity for you to create a platform for your acting?
Iseman: I resisted writing probably my whole life, I’ve been told that I should do that (write) from every angle you could think of and I was like “No, you don’t understand, this is my path”. I thought the two had to be exclusive, it had to be one thing or another. We are in this world now where sort of everybody is making their own content and it gets very diluted. In the same way that a lot of people in this country feel like you can roll out of bed and become an actor or a writer or a director with no real training. And sometimes that works for people, there are absolutely incredible talents out there. But most people have to hone skills. I was like well I didn’t go to college for writing, I didn’t do all of these things.
So what changed? What made you make the leap and start creating?
Iseman: I was woken up out of a deep sleep at about 3 o‘clock in the morning in early January of this year with this idea for my other show, Right of Passage. It literally woke me up and I had to put it on paper. I have never experienced anything like that, how it literally came through me. I was so passionate, I am so passionate about what that show is about that I have to see it through. I can’t not. Through that experience, I gained confidence with just the process of teaching myself how to write. Reading everything I could, going to classes, breaking down scripts. I’ve been teaching myself this whole year how to write so I that can do this story justice.
What was the process of writing like after resisting it for so long, was it illuminating, grueling, empowering?
Iseman: A few different things. It’s something that actors get told a lot to that we tend to brush off, but take the pressure off. Do a horrible job, go in there and suck, make a mistake, just vomit on their shoes. You are not going to s#@% out Aaron Sorkin the first time you write a script. You probably won’t the 4th time you write a script. You may never. But you will do something, at least for me, something more important, you will get to know yourself as a human being. Your perspective on the world with your own unique humor and you will develop that which will only serve you as an actor. That will only benefit you in life as general.
You mentioned going to classes and reading to learn how to write, but what other advice would you give to someone just starting to write?
Iseman: There are so many resources. Get into a writers group that keeps you accountable where you have to bring in material every 2 weeks, every 4 weeks, whatever, so you are working towards a goal. Eventually you will find yourself wanting to write. You don’t have to be amazing right now, you don’t ever have to be. Find out if you enjoy it, because you might not, which is fine.
Were you nervous as you started to write that you would have a harder time pursuing acting?
Iseman: Well they definitely feed each other and I think that has been a huge thing for me. I had this kind of all or nothing mentality, I’m very Type A in some ways (laughs). I’m this thing so there for I am doing this thing. And there is a lot of dialogue in the (entertainment) industry that supports that idea. You know, don’t have a plan B, blah blah blah. But most of the people who say not to have a plan B have other things or other sources of income that are supporting them. So plan B’s are fine, it’s all about how you deal with that.
When did you start working on Flip the Script?
Iseman: This idea for Flip the Script was just a silly little side thing. In the industry we’re finally starting to have the conversation of gender parity, talking about it, and all of these studies are coming out which is so great. But I was wondering if anything was actually changing for people in a tangible way on a daily basis, day to day in the room.
How did you go about getting the answer to that question?
Iseman: I’m a member of a couple of different industry groups so I just put an email blast out saying, “Whats going on? Anything really changing? You guys notice any difference? Share your stories with me, whats up.”
Did anyone respond?
Iseman: I got a barrage of emails back. Forty-something plus stories that showed me that nothing much is changing, and I wanted to bring light to that. I didn’t see the end game with this, I just wanted to tell these stories. And, for me, change happens when you cross the line from sympathy to empathy. For example, a lot of wonderful men that I know in this industry are unaware and don’t know they are part of the problem, and at least I can say something to them comfortably, and help them. But most people can’t and its hard to know that. So I wanted to tell these stories that came to my head, to flip the genders and all of these verbatim real life stories to change the perspective of sympathy to empathy. What if cisgendered white men were treated the same way as the rest of us?
We see those statistics every year of female directors representing a minimal percentage of big studio films compared to the amount of male directors. But we are half of the population(women), we are not even a minority in numbers.
Iseman: It’s still being dealt with at very high levels as a sort of a quota concept, it’s just absurd. But it’s only absurd from a certain perspective if you are not used to it, we have our female director we don’t need another one, etc. But no one would ever say, yeah we have our man, we have too many white guys. Sorry, we’ve reached our quota of white men, good luck. Try making your own work. That would never happen.
Then there’s the stigma of a woman could only tell a woman’s story.
Iseman: All of these double standards are quite frankly slapping you in the face. So the only way for me to show double standards like that is you have to flip it. As people we innately see things from our perspective, and that’s fine. It is really challenging to put yourself in someone’s shoes and truly see their perspective. So I just decided that I would do it for them- and use humor. I really believe this series is important that it’s not about finger pointing. Yeah it’s a boys club, but the solution to having a boy’s club is not a girl’s club. That is the exact same thing in a different way. It’s about building bridges and celebrating our allies that our doing something. It’s about making a bigger, better industry, that is very much for everybody.
That’s very much in line with what your goals are for your work in general. Building a bridge to close the gap for people to understand one another better, regardless of their backgrounds or what they have dealt with in life. To see someone for who they are and not as their label.
Iseman: Absolutely! I believe I have privilege with the color of my skin, maybe not my gender, but definitely with the color of my skin. So certain doors are going to open for me that wouldn’t for my sisters and brothers. So for me it is my job to extend my hand and bring somebody else with me through that door. I don’t want to just tell my story. I want to be a part of making opportunities for other stories to be told because thats what we do, we’ve done it forever, we just did it around campfires. Our campfire is bigger now, our cave is just a lot bigger now. We have to share all of our stories because this concept of us and them it’s an illusion. Yes, we are different, but where is the end of the circle? Everyone has a story that intersects someone else’s story and we need to see and hear all of them.
When you were creating Flip the Script, what made this all of a sudden become so special that went from being a side project to having Women in Film make it their first digital series?
Iseman: It’s so funny, I have to credit a lot of the forward mobility in the past year or so with things that probably sound a little magical. Like being woken up at 3 o’clock in the morning with an idea that I just channeled, and this was that too. I wrote these things and thought,“oh thats fun” and then there was something inside of me that was so loud and said you have to share this with Meredith (Meredith Riley Stewart) who is my producing partner on this project. I had met her (at that time) once. She had a couple episodes of her web series, Auto Correct FU showing at the same festival as Wedlocked. It was very funny, and she had been in an acting class with a friend of mine who came, and we chatted for a couple of minutes. But there was nothing exemplary or epic that happened in that conversation. Just an awesome you’re cool we will be in touch sort of thing.
When you shared the idea with Meredith it started coming together?
What I didn’t know at the time is she is on the board for the Women in Film PSA program. I didn’t know they (WIF) were looking to expand their PSA program and do a digital series. I had never done this before. I didn’t know they were trying to expand their presence online and bring in a younger membership. So I didn’t know any of this other than the voice telling me to share it with Meredith that was so strong. So I did. She loved it and told me about Women in Film and said lets go in and pitch.
Were you a member of Women in Film at the time you pitched?
Iseman: No (laughs) but I thought sure we can pitch, that would be amazing. Let’s see what happens. We pitched it and moved to the next level, and we pitched it and moved to the next level, and the next thing I know I am in this room with these incredible women at huge levels in the industry that I have so much respect for and what they’ve have accomplished in their lives. And, I’m sitting there having this conversation with these people and pitching this project that I really do believe in and can genuinely tell them that I believe my series solves their problem.
Sounds like an amazing experience!
Iseman: It was a very empowering process because I really do believe in the project, and I really felt it was a good partnership with Women in film for a few different reasons. Obviously, it’s a scary thing to align yourself with an organization that has been around so long with the prestige that they have, so it’s (series) has got to be just so. They had seen a number of things and hadn’t found the right fit for a while and luckily they felt that Flip the Script was the right thing.
Keep an eye out for the second part of the article all about the production process with, Flip the Script, coming out mid- January!
“With great power comes great responsibility”.
-Ben Parker (Spiderman)
(photos courtesy of Ally Iseman)
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