Interview With Producer/Writer Christine Fry, “Byrd and the Bees”

By Ruth on January 30, 2017 in book, Interview, movie, television
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There is absolutely nothing like a strong woman. Love her or hate her, there’s rarely any in between. While there is a limitless supply of seemingly invincible women in today’s society, not all are courteous, gifted, nor risk-takers. When a woman possesses beauty, brains, talent, determination, and graciousness, that is a rare combination to find in this modern era, but Christine Fry is all that and more. I recently had the opportunity to speak with this filmmaker/author/producer/director/actress, and our conversation consisted of common sense talk about the beginnings of her career, her passion and drive for indie films, and even some bonus connections of which I was previously unaware .

RH: Where are you from originally?

CF: Spokane, Washington.

That’s cool! I am originally from Tacoma, Washington, and now I live in Yelm, Washington.

Yeah, I saw that “Yelm,” and I thought, “I know where that is.”

Then I noticed your son, Jordan Fry, who is also an actor. I hadn’t made that connection.

Yeah, we live down in California now, but my family all still lives up there in Washington, so we talk to them all the time. I was a teacher for eighteen years before I became a filmmaker.

So how did you make the jump from being in education to being an author and filmmaker?

I think it’s all a process of what is really fun and what a person really likes to do. Honestly, I love teaching. I absolutely loved my students. I was extremely blessed to be able to teach high school English, and I taught drama as well. I had grown up as an actor–in the theater, mostly–and that’s where I truly wanted to be. Then I started writing–writing poetry mostly. Then I went into the whole film thing when I moved down to California.

My son, Jordan, got a job as an actor in Tim Burton’s film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He was one of the lead actors, and we were in England for six months. So I had him and my other two kids over in England, and I really couldn’t teach that year. But it was so cool. I got to sit and talk with Richard Zanuck for hours. We’d end up at the gym at the same time. We were both swimmers, so we talked about that. And I really learned from him how to run a set. I got to sit there for six months and observe and ask questions, you know, just watch what they did. And that’s the beginning of how I learned to produce a film. I had produced, directed, and written plays for the theater.  I had been in community and school theater. So I had an idea, but there is a difference between stage and film even though it’s somewhat similar. Some things have different names, so you have to learn the language, but it’s still quite similar. So that’s how I got into the film side of this business.

I’m with you on the teaching part because I was a teacher too.

Oh, what did you teach?

I taught music mostly, and I did lots of programs. We were always doing musicals and programs, and I directed and even wrote them. So I understand what you’re talking about. Now I’m a substitute teacher. Writing and interviewing actors and filmmakers has become my passion–I always loved to write. But it’s something that just takes awhile to get going. It’s kind of the same way with film, I believe. It’s something you have to work really hard at, and there’s not always a lot of money in the beginning. 

Well, you just stay busy on a lot of projects. The cliche for a producer to say is, “I’ve got many projects in various stages of development.” But it’s absolutely, one hundred percent true. I have probably fifteen projects in various stages of development. Some of them are finished. Some of them have been aired on network television. Some of them are still on my computer, and no one has seen them. Your passion is about what you do which is an amazing concept. Doesn’t it make life so much more interesting when you like what you’re doing?

Absolutely. It’s just takes time to get things going.

Yes, it does take time. And this is how I now make my living, as a producer and a writer. But it can sometimes be hard when you’re trying to get certain projects going.

I think it’s awesome that you have kind of done it all in film–acting, producing, directing, and more. And it sounds like your time in England was where you learned so much.

Yeah, that was the thing. He gave me a nice background. But between that time and what I’m doing now, I wanted to experience all the jobs. I love to produce, direct, and write. Ultimately, I want to be a writer/producer/director on many of my shows. Not all…I don’t want to direct everything. But I wanted to start out understanding all of the positions so I knew what I could expect of my crew and the other people I’m working with. I even took some classes in editing even though I don’t want to edit–I really, really don’t want to edit! But I took some classes in editing so I would know what I could ask my editors to do. So I had a background for what I wanted. And being a teacher, you know I’m sure, I love to learn. I have never lost the love of learning. I’ve done so many things. Some of them I’ve liked. Some of them I didn’t.

Even though things are changing, I get the sense that sometimes women have to prove themselves and be stronger because men might not take them seriously as a producer or director. Has that been your experience?

No, I have to be really honest with you. I’ve worked on many military shows. I’m a strong woman anyway, so I’m probably coming from a perspective that isn’t the same as a lot of women, but I never felt like I had to change or be any more than what I was. When I was on set, I got a lot of respect because I knew what I was doing. I think if you come in with an attitude of entitlement or not confident in your abilities, maybe you get treated differently. I don’t know ’cause that never crossed my mind. My whole life I’ve never had an issue working with men. Not one single time have I ever felt I was less or been made to feel less because I don’t feel like I’m less. Even when the entire crew was men, I always felt respected.

That’s interesting. I’m so glad you’ve had that experience, and some women do have this same positive experience as you. I hope it’s always that way for you. 

Working on military films meant I worked with lots of men and they were all from the military. They’re all trained in the military or ex-military. I was one of the only people on set–male or female–who was not military. I never felt disrespected or anything like that. They were great. They called me “ma’am,” which I really liked.

Once you made the decision to pursue film, how exactly did you start?

I was an actor in the beginning, so I got in and watched things from that side of the coin.  My son acted, so I watched him, too. Then I started working on film festivals and jumping in and doing student films behind the scenes–none of which is on my IMDB. It was jumping in with people who may or may not have had experience either. Doing it for free for awhile. Meeting people and networking. People see what you can do and they go, “Oh, I’ll hire her.” Then they ask, “Do you think you can do this?” And you’re like, “Yeah, I can do it!”  But of course you don’t have any idea! You get on and you google what the heck that job is. I’ve had people ask, “Have you ever done this before?” And I said, “Nope.” And they say, “How would you like to?” And you say, “Sure, let’s do it!” Honestly, I think a lot of people live with the fear of failure, and I don’t. I could care less if I fail. I don’t care. If I fail, I know what way not to do it next time. You just jump in.

I hear ya. I get that with people who can’t believe that I interview all these actors and ask them for interviews.

And I get that. But I think actors are just people. We’re either secure or insecure, and everyone is insecure to a degree. If you’re human, you have some insecurities. Nobody has everything together. I think it’s great that you took a chance and jumped in. And you’re being rewarded for it. It’s awesome.

LOS ANGELES – OCT 19: Christine Fry, Finola Hughes at the “The Bet” Screening at Le Femme Film Festival at Regal 14 Theaters on October 19, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA

You certainly are being rewarded for all the work you’ve done too. It sounds like you decided what you wanted to do, and you jumped in and did it and learned things along the way. And that’s the way to do it.

Now I know this interview primarily came about because of the book, so let’s talk about that. We have the movie {Byrd and the Bees}, as I’m sure you saw on IMDB, and we have some great people attached to it. And Finola {Hughes} is directing it.  I’ve done a few projects with her, and she is absolutely a brilliant director. But it’s taken a little while to get funded and to get all the pieces together. We have an amazing crew and cast, and we’re just waiting for a little bit more money before we get started.

So in the meantime, I decided I needed to write a book. I wrote the screenplay at the same time I was writing the book. One of my friends, who is also a writer, said, “Chris, can you just pick one?” So I picked the screenplay to finish first. Finola and I had worked together on another movie, so I asked her to direct it, and she said, “Heck, yeah, I’ll direct it.”  So then I wrote the book, and it seems to be getting a pretty good response. People like it.  On January 31st, we are doing one more push for this book. The kindle will be 99 cents.

business partner, Shannon Lamarche

So tell us about your production company {QOA Entertainment} and how it came about.

I had been doing stuff here and there in films, and my business partner, who is also my cousin, found a book that was really an interesting book. She said, “Hey, I know you’re a writer. What do you think about making this book into a screenplay?” And I was like, “Sure, I’ll try it. And if it sucks, we know there’s no way to go but up.” So we did, and we got some great responses. But due to circumstances beyond our control, the screenplay got shelved. Even so, we decided that we would start a production company. She does the math side, and I do the writing side. She lives in Tennessee so we don’t live near each other. But she’s from Washington also. I love indie films, and my production company has helped fuel that passion. For me, breaking into mainstream is just–I really don’t care if I ever do as long as I’m working. I work, so I’m good. {laughs}

What was the inspiration for Byrd and the Bees?

Well, I had a dream about one of the things in the book. But instead of being about bees, it was about locust. Then I got online and researched Scotland and locust, and I found out about bees. So then I was telling my husband this dream that I had, and we were in our RV at the time driving through the Grand Canyon and Utah. We were driving through there with my mother and our dog and our three kids and guitars and all that stuff. I started telling them about my dream, and my kids kept asking, “What about this?” and so on. So we were all chatting about it. Then I took some of what we talked about and wrote a screenplay and then a book. They try to take credit for it, and I say, ‘Yeah, okay.” {laughs}

Where do things stand in terms of production for the movie?

As a producer, raising funds is one of our main jobs. We have contacts–other people who have funded our projects before. We generally go to those people and say, “We’re doing this film. Do you want to give money?” And some will and some won’t. In this day and age, there’s a lot of great locations you can go to that will give you incentives. Scotland is amazing–it’s gorgeous there. I love it. But it’s harder to get the incentives–to get the money back– than it is in Ireland. So we have moved the production to Ireland. Part of a package, when you’re trying to find money to fund a film, it doesn’t usually come from just one source. It can come from crowdfunding, private equity sources, incentives from different states or countries, an actual loan that you take out, from pre-selling. When you go to a film market, some of those films have been made already and some haven’t, but they’re still selling territory to make some more money back for the production. So we have our fingers in all of those areas. We’re hobbling together the funds that it takes to do a film. Now if you’re a studio–we’re independent–they would generally have the money they would allocate for it, and then they would want you to go to a place where you can get some incentives. But we are independent, and that’s what makes it fun. {laughs}

You just filled me in on a lot of things because you are one of the first producers I’ve really gotten to talk to. And so you’re filming it in Ireland?

Ireleland and West Virginia. Part of the story takes place in West Virginia. And we have some amazing people there. The convention bureau has been amazing to work with. They have been actively supporting the book.

This has been a two to three year process. Unfortunately, we never intended to publicize that we were shooting this film at a certain time. Several media outlets got a hold of this story several years ago and publicized that we were shooting in June, and we were like, “No, we’re not!”

I was lucky to go with my son to the Hacksaw Ridge screening in LA with Mel Gibson and Andrew Garfield.  And Mel was talking about how it took him eleven years or something to raise the money, even though he’s a big name. More often than not, it takes a lot of money to do any movie.

That is something. You definitely have expanded my knowledge on all this which is great. I don’t always get the opportunity to talk to someone on the production end. 

Thank you for having me, Ruth. I know you have lots of Hallmark readers. I would guess that many of those are fans of romantic comedy. Well, just know we plan for this romcom to be in theaters.

 

From the moment Christine and I began conversing, I knew I could relate to her on a myriad of levels. We had the “teacher thing” in common, but it goes much deeper than that. There exists within Christine that special drive that causes her to accomplish anything once she sets her mind to it. She is the absolute embodiment of the old adage, “The only time you fail is the last time you try.” She recognizes the importance of learning from her failures, and that in of itself should inspire women all over the world to be fearless like her. All too often in this business, people want the “quick fix” and the “overnight success,” but both of those myths are easily debunked and dissipated within a matter of weeks or months. I foster nothing but respect in my heart for women like Christine who not only dauntlessly enter the entertainment universe, but they labor arduously to bring their dreams to fruition. It’s not about fame and fortune; it’s about doing what you love and following the passion within your soul. Christine forsook the “safe” career of teaching, and she sprinted towards a profession that she continues to find fulfilling in spite of any pitfalls or setbacks along the way. As she is now developing something that promises to be the most massive undertaking of her career, I would invite all of you to not only check out all her links below, but be sure you take advantage of that limited-time offer on her book, Byrd and the Bees that is only being offered at the special price of 99 cents for just one more day (if you wait until February 1, you will be too late!). This is a woman who can be described as the complete package, and if she is instrumental in bringing romcom back to the cinema, I’m all for that!

FOLLOW CHRISTINE

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AND DON’T FORGET TO PICK UP BYRD & THE BEES ON AMAZON (Offer ends 1/31)

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

2 Comments

  1. Margaret Appel February 2, 2017 Reply

    Thank you for such a wonderful & inspiring article. Christine Fry is an inspiration to women and young girls everywhere. Wish we had more like her.

    • Author
      Ruth February 2, 2017 Reply

      Margaret, thank you for stopping by I agree!

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