Tribeca 2018: Evan Jonigkeit & Zosia Mamet Talk Fabled

Zosia Mamet as ALICE in FABLED.
Zosia Mamet as ALICE in FABLED. Photo credit: Matthew Schroeder.

Evan Jonigkeit and Zosia Mamet sat down with Cultured Vultures during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival to discuss the premiere of the Refinery29 produced Fabled.

Thanks for joining us today. How are things treating you?
Zosia Mamet: Good!

Evan Jonigkeit: Great. So far, the festival has been a lot of fun.

How has it been with your own pilot appearing and also being on the jury?
Zosia Mamet: It’s been good. Today is my day off as a juror and then I go back to it tomorrow. I’ve never been on a jury before. It’s been really cool and I really like it. Evan has his TV show, Sweetbitter, premiering on Thursday. We feel really lucky to be so entrenched in the Tribeca family this year.

After The Boy Downstairs premiered last year?
Zosia Mamet: Yeah, and we had a short film premiere the year before.

Three years in a row!
Zosia Mamet: Three years in a row! Tribeca Strong!

Congrats on the world premiere of Fabled at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Where did the idea come from?
Zosia Mamet: Evan and I, about five years ago when we started dating, were on a road trip to Vermont. It’s about a six hour drive. I had seen a postcard of a drawing of Dorothy and Alice with Dinah and Toto by their side and sitting on a curb. The caption said, “Girl, I’ve seen some weird shit.” We started talking about what happens to these characters after the story is over. What would happen if their worlds collided? We were really intrigued by this idea. We started to build out this concept of Fabled as an anthology series. Evan came across a bunch of research about how exceptionally marginalized the female characters, technically heroines, of these classic tropes were. That’s where Fabled was born from.

Then you have Emma Swan brought on board to direct.
Evan Jonigkeit: Yes, Jen Morrison. She has a film called Sun Dogs, which Jen and I had talked about for quite a long period of time. In that process, I got to know her as a filmmaker. She’s incredibly articulate. She’s really smart and has a really good mind for storytelling. We were trying to make this as much of a female filmmaking family as possible. We really wanted a female at the helm of it. When we were thinking of female directors —any director, really— Jen was at the top of our list. We just reached out and had some mutual friends, she was immediately hooked on it, on board and excited to dive in with us.

Does being husband and wife make it easier to work together?
Zosia Mamet: We met working together. We did a play together over five years ago now called Really Really. I think doing a play is one of the more intense ways to work together. It was pretty dark subject matter and dealt with rape and class. It was a real intense experience but in a wonderful way. We fell in love doing that play.

Evan Jonigkeit: We’ve worked together many times since. We really, really enjoy it. We love developing things together. We love talking about stories. I think that’s why we’re both filmmakers and actors. We love telling stories and love the process. When we get to share it with one another, it makes it more fun.

Zosia Mamet: I think also, obviously, the more intimately you get to know each other, the more of a shorthand that it creates. I love working with Evan as a director and a writer. I think he knows me so inside and out that he has a wonderful way of getting direction across to me or trying to parlay something that he meant in his script. That’s what you get from being husband and wife when you work together.

How often do you turn to your father for advice on any writing projects or anything?
Zosia Mamet: Never. We keep it separate.

Do you have a favorite fairytale?
Evan Jonigkeit: It’s so fun because we’re so entrenched in them now and we’ve sort of really investigated quite a bit of them.

Zosia Mamet: I feel like if we say, they’ll get mad at us.

Evan Jonigkeit: I know! (Laughs) There are some really interesting ones. I really like Iron John, which is a lesser known fairytale that talks about a pure heart and gives a person a second chance. That would be probably mine currently but it vacillates from day to day based on the retelling of whatever fairy tale we’re doing that has the most substance to it for us to be able to play with the female versions that we’re creating.

Zosia Mamet: We’ve been working on building up the anthology series and passing around log lines so they’ve been in our head a lot recently. One that we had sort of a hard time cracking a little bit, I would say, is The Little Mermaid. I’m pretty fascinated by that one. When you break it down when you’re trying to switch to the female perspective and you realize that this story is about a girl having to give up her voice to get a man. That to me is pretty rough. They’re all special and incredible especially the more that you delve into them and look into them from other perspectives.

Evan Jonigkeit: Part of the reason that we wanted to do what we’re doing with Fabled was that a lot of them sort of prop up the patriarchy. If you’re telling a young child a lot of these fairy tales and you’re not sort of putting any context or asking whether or not this is right and you’re just telling these stories, they are a little dangerous. That’s what led us to retelling them. That’s what the thing was. Once we started diving into the investigation and picking them apart was how positive is the messaging. Some of them have glaring holes in them and even though they’re fun because they’re all magical, they aren’t necessarily all positive.

Zosia Mamet: We were at a dinner when we were really sort of in the trenches of trying to get this off the ground with Refinery29. I was telling a friend of ours who has three daughters. She got so excited. She said, “You know, when I read my daughters books at night, when I read them fairy tales, I change the ending because I don’t want them to live in world of imagination where finding the love of a man brings them happiness.” I was like, oh, we’re doing the right thing here. This is cool. Okay.

What is it that you consider when taking on projects?
Zosia Mamet: I like to look for something that is as different a role as what I’ve done before. That’s what gets me excited as an actor. I also think particularly now more than ever, I want to make sure the project as a whole and the female character has something to say and serves the story in a way that is important or interesting. Sometimes, I’ll read something —I’ll call them furniture roles— when it’s like the girlfriend or the sister that she kind of here for exposition where it doesn’t serve a purpose. I try to avoid those.

Evan Jonigkeit: For me, one of the things that got me into acting, producing, and writing was a pretty simple idea of does this make them feel less lonely. So that’s where I approach things from a producing and writing standpoint. If it’s not, are you doing something good for the world? Last year, we produced a benefit for the ACLU. Are we doing something to contribute to society and helping bring people together or not? That’s sort of my basic mantra about it.

What’s the current status with regards to the series getting picked up?
Evan Jonigkeit: That’s the goal and the hope. We have a number of iterations of the project that we’ve been developing with Refinery29. One of those is a continuation of this anthology series in which these individual pieces sort of seam together in hopefully nuanced ways. The piece that is premiering here at Tribeca is a piece called Anodyne, the Alice and Dorothy script. We have also built out into a series that has a life of its own with those two characters that we continue to follow.

Zosia Mamet: Evan’s written a pretty exciting bad-ass continuation for Alice and Dorothy on subsequent adventures for an Anodyne series that we’re very excited about. It all sort of remains to be seen.

I watched the pilot and it got me interested.
Zosia Mamet: Good!

Evan Jonigkeit: Thank you!

I want to see what happens next.
Evan Jonigkeit: Awesome!

Zosia Mamet: You might be able to, hopefully.

Thank you and congrats on the pilot.
Evan Jonigkeit: Thank you.

Zosia Mamet: Thank you. We’re so happy that you liked it though.

The pilot episode of Fabled, Anodyne, premiered during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in the Tribeca TV program.

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