Filmmaker Spotlight: Interview with Monique Sorgen
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get into filmmaking?
I grew up in San Francisco in a multicultural hippie house. My mom is from France and my dad was a civil rights attorney so their friends were from around the world and every culture and class level, which made for a very creative environment, and also a lot of opportunities for me and my sister to put on shows for our parents' friends. I moved to LA when I was 17 to be a freshman at UCLA where I studied theater, film, and television. That was great because being in the center of Hollywood, I was able to do some very high-level internships, and by the time I graduated I knew more about show business then most people would. Then I directed a one-act play that was a big success, and I was recommended to be the assistant director on a much bigger play which starred Laura San Giacomo and was directed buy an outside director named Kim Friedman. Kim Friedman turned out to be a television director, and since I was graduating and she liked my work on her play, she hired me as her assistant, as she went off to direct shows like Star Trek and a bunch of sitcoms starring LL Cool J and Alfonso Ribiero. I learned everything I needed to know about directing at a professional level from watching her on these sets.
Why did you make your film?
The inspiration for “Sorry, Not Sorry" also goes back to my college years. I was keeping a journal and I became aware of the poem “This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams in my freshman year English lit class. It immediately became a favorite poem and I wrote it in my journal, and next to it I wrote “This would make a great short film." Mind you, I had never made a film in my life at that point. Then in December of 2017 I was reading back through my college journal to see how much I had changed and I came across that page and the whole story for the film came to me instantly, in a flash. It was like a time capsule, where my past self had sent a message to my future self, and here I was receiving it. Through making the film, I realized that what I loved about the poem-- besides how short and concise it was to say so much in so few words-- was the cynical approach it took to being in a relationship. So many people have this romantic view of what it's supposed to be, but more often than not the reality is it's hard and people don't communicate well, and they end up taking each other for granted. I'm an optimist though, and I feel like pointing it out and building awareness of it is what will help us overcome it and do better.
What was your favorite part about making the film?
My favorite part of making this film was at 4 in the morning when we had just finished shooting and wrapping. I felt this exhilaration that everyone had fun and we got all the pieces we needed to cut together and amazing story. Everyone on set was so positive and we had such a sense of accomplishment. I couldn't even get to sleep afterwards I was so excited.
The most challenging part of production was finding a location that worked for the story within my budget in Los Angeles. Everyone in LA is super savvy about filmmaking and they always assume that if you're making a film it means you have money. So they try to extort you to some degree. But my budget was low and I only had $500 for the set, and I needed a kitchen that had a view on the living room and a back door you could go through to get outside; and I was dead set on having an interesting color like green or possibly turquoise to contrast with the plums and create the color scheme I thought would convey the dark comedy tone. In the end, I found a nice kitchen that I could afford but the cabinets were white. So I convinced the person who lived there that she should let me paint the cabinets in this room green. That was one of my biggest producing achievements ever.
What did you learn while making it?
You learn something different on every film you work on, but on this one I think I learned the most about editing. One thing I've learned is that with a few exceptions, if you can make it shorter it's better. That means killing your darlings a lot of times. But also I learned a lot about not needing boring parts, like when the person walks from one room to the other. You can just show them leaving one room and they can show up in the other. You don't have to show the whole walk. Audiences are used to it, and they understand the geography.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?
For a comedy my main concern is always first and foremost that they get a good laugh. I also try to hide meaning in my comedies, and I hope people don't dismiss the deeper meaning just because they're laughing. In the end, my biggest hope is that people will enjoy it so much, that they share it with their friends.
What are you working on next?
I always have a lot of projects on my plate, but right now the one I'm most excited about is a feature film that I'm working on with Jessica Oyelowo, who plays Abby in “Sorry, Not Sorry." It's an ensemble piece about women having a midlife crisis, and she would star in it. It's something we think is Covid-19 friendly, because it has a small cast, not a lot of extras, and it takes place mostly outdoors in the wilderness.
Where can we follow your work?
I'm the only Monique Sorgen on Google so up-to-the-minute updates can be found simply by googling my name. I am also on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo; but the most well curated place to follow me is on my website www.MoniqueSorgen.com (and from there you can sign up for my mailing list too).
Anything else you’d like to add?
I'm so happy should be able to share this work with the Female Voices Rock audience, and I'm grateful to the Female Voices Rock crew for finding a fun way to showcase the works of up-and-coming filmmakers during this difficult time.