Caytha Jentis got in touch with me after she read my blog on the “Bad Moms” movie. She too has a story. As a film maker, she also has a way to tell it. She trains her lens on what mothers do after the children have grown up and moved away. (Yes, it does happen!) That’s a seismic shift for a woman, a phase full of drama, self-discovery, and probably some hilarious false starts too. Incredibly, this rich subject matter is rarely if ever in front of the camera. Caytha aims to change that with “The Other F Word,” a comedy web series you can watch right here and right now. In fact, it’s currently an Amazon Video Direct All Star, and the number one performing short form episodic show. Caytha and I had a great talk. Highlights below!
Q: In our initial conversation you told me you’d been “blindsided by motherhood.” Would you tell me more about that?
I was raised in a progressive New York suburb in the 70’s. My education was very gender blind. Boys and girls were required to take both shop and home economics, organized sports were equally available, and our senior class President was a girl. I came of age as a first generation post-feminist, aware that I had choices thanks to my ‘older sisters’ but naïve to their real impact as a double-edged sword. Also I never really gave thought to how becoming a mother would change gender role parity, and how it would change me.
Q: What do you want to convey through your web series “The Other F Word“?
As Gail Sheehy wrote, women live lives in chapters – many defined by our bodies. As I was approaching fifty and my kids were getting older I noticed profound changes happening in my life and the lives of my friends. For many of us it was as exciting as it was frightening. A very big chapter was coming to an end, yet the next promised to be a time where we could come first – previously it was our careers, partners and children who did. But who are we now? I wanted to create a show that conveys this time of life in a relatable and entertaining way through four women friends – three who are moms – and their coming of age journey in mid-life. In crafting the stories, while their relationships with men are important, their quests to find themselves and their friendships with each other were even more important. While this sounds deep, the show has as much humor as drama. That’s my storytelling voice.
Q: What prompted you to turn it into a web series?
The second time I was blind-sided was by the ageist rejection I got from the entertainment industry as executives kept telling me that this was a show targeted to a ‘tough demographic.’ This made no sense given the large numbers and significant buying power of mid-life women. As an independent producer, I knew how to work outside the system and short form web/digital series is the new frontier embraced by the coveted millennials. I knew how to find our audience online and began a massive grass roots campaign while writing the script. I want to build the audience in hopes that bloggers like you would help to spread the word. Our stories should not be as invisible as many of us have felt at times as mothers. While short form episodic content “web series” may be new to many over 30, I believe like Facebook, the audience will “trickle up.”
Q: Can you describe the reaction that the series has received?
I am humbled and affirmed by the positive feedback to the show. Audiences of all ages – but mothers in particular – have connected with the relatable stories, the humor and universal themes. While I know it’s still an uphill battle to get industry recognition, I’m fueled by the feedback and will continue to tilt at windmills to break through that plexiglass ceiling not only for myself, but for other women who want to restart their lives – at any age!
Q: What’s the significance of the series hashtag “#NoFear”?
I believe one of the many gifts of mid-life is realizing that we care less about what others think of us and that the only thing that stands between us and a goal is our own fears. With real old age looming, it’s a time to realize that it’s now or never, and that there’s more regret in not trying than trying. To me ‘no fear’ is very personal. It’s about our own inhibitions that hold us back. I like to remind myself that if you enjoy the journey, the good news is there is no failure.
Q: How has your motherhood influenced your work?
You write what you know, and anytime I face my internal demons I remind myself that I delivered two babies – one through an emergency c-section and the other after three hours of pitocin-induced labor – it’s part of my fearless mantra – I can take on any impossible challenge.
Q: Any new projects in the works?
I’m starting to write Season Two of The Other F Word. My journey and that of the characters have really only just started. I hope that if we can aggregate a big enough audience and show the industry that this isn’t a ‘tough demographic,’ we’ll find financing – either traditionally or independently. The goal is to be in production in the spring.
Thanks so much Caytha. Women generally and mothers in particular must tell our own stories. Best of luck with the series. Readers, go watch ‘em and share ‘em with your friends! That’ll show the suits in programming that mothers with older children ARE a valuable media consumer group that deserves attention.
‘Til next time,
Your (Wo)Man in Washington