As part of our Nonchalant Role Modal series, we sit down with legendary lesbian film maker and story teller Nicole Conn. With her brand new Lesbian Dating TV Show ‘Coming Out for Love’ just about to air this February, we just had to get the goss. Read all about Nicole’s career, what happened behind the scenes on the set of COFL, and more in our interview below.
1. So, tell us how your career started in filmmaking?
I’ve been a storyteller since the third grade – often revamping the dialogue for comic book strips to make up my own version of a visual story. I was obsessed with B/W films from the time I could watch movies. They are what informed my romantic bent and sense of high drama. I saw Desert Hearts (Donna Dietsch, Director), and the feelings I had from seeing a romantic love story between two women in a real theater on the big screen in an audience packed with lesbians completely changed me. Between the electric energy in the theatre and Helen Shaver’s brilliant performance — I knew the instant the credits began rolling that I had to do this. Make people feel like that film made me feel.
2. Now you’re at the top of your profession, what has it taken to get there, and what advice can you give our readers who would like to follow in your footsteps.
Working in this industry is 2% talent and 98% hard work with a sprinkle of luck thrown in. I tell all writers that if you’re blocking, only work on what feels comfortable. Write a sentence a day, a paragraph a day, or a page a day, and you’ll be amazed at where you are at the end of a month, a season, or a year. But you must be willing to suit up to call yourself a writer. My particular work style is based on this maxim: vomit everything out everywhere and in every outlandish way you can imagine, and then from there, you revise — a million times if need be — to get it just right.
3. What’s your thoughts on lesbian and queer representation on TV, and how has it changed over the course of your career?
Well, there was Donna Dietsch, then me, and while there are many wonderful Queer directors, I’ve pretty much made my entire career about authentic women’s stories that, at the core, have a love story between two women, whether they start out as gay, or end up discovering that they are, or they aren’t gay at all but happen to fall in love with another woman. I also have the most insanely loyal Film Family, who I’ll love until the end of time because my last three projects have been the result of community crowd-funding. When I started in the early 1990s, we all spent hours willing dramatic female TV Leads to have a “near lesbian” moment. Now, after my “15 minutes of fame” that has lasted three decades — lesbian representation is in pretty much EVERY show, whether they are a distant cousin or a key recurring character; the industry realized we had marketing dollars, and it turned things around.
4. We’d love to hear about your adventure with ‘Coming out for love’. What drove you to create this program? What were the highs and lows You have a year?
My co-producer said, “You really should do a film about the making of Coming Out For Love — no one would ever believe it in a million years.” “Oh,” I replied, “someday when I write my memoirs” (ala Helen Shaver’s character), “I will merely write a limited miniseries to exact my revenge” (hopefully with Laura Linney playing me!).” Believe me, you couldn’t make this S*** up. My daughter, Gabrielle, and I have always been fervent “Bachelor” watchers, and we were always very intensely and dramatically loyal to “our contestant.” The idea occurred to me as she asked more and more questions about why she wasn’t seeing her experience reflected (because there weren’t women dating women) that I wanted to do a lesbian dating show, but with a totally different twist. As my business partner, Brandon Amelotte, says, “It’s reality TV cut like a feature.” It’s driven by real stories and stylized like a dramatic narrative.
5. We’d love to know the process of selecting the contestants for ‘Coming out for love’
It was a VERY interesting experience. And we had a challenging time picking just 16. For those readers of yours who want to see all the 55 semi-finalists’ submission tapes, they can do so with a “Coming Out For Love Membership” for only 3.99/month.
6. Have you come up against any struggles when filmmaking for the queer community?
Yes, yes, and yes. While I’ve been extremely blessed to have crowd-sourcing and significant financial partners like Jo Millar of Just Jo Productions, who funded 85% of Coming Out For Love, finding money for the arts is one of the hardest things we have to do. It’s a constant struggle and challenge, and that’s one of the reasons I created Nicole Conn Films Global — to grow a membership that can support new lesbian films in sorely underrepresented genres, like sci-fi, action, thriller, mystery, and horror. Our goal is to be able to do a film every 18-24 months as well as to support other lesbian filmmakers and content creators.
7. What’s your thoughts on L Word Generation Q?
I’ve been so busy with my last film, More Beautiful for Having Been Broken, this show, and my next film, do we not grieve, that I’ve not had a moment to catch up on my queer content list — not even by a long shot! I still haven’t seen Portrait of a Lady on Fire — and that’s the top of my list.
8. Apart from Claire of The Moon – what is your favourite lesbian movie and why?
Claire of the Moon is NOT my favorite lesbian film! Of my features, More Beautiful For Having Been Broken feels like my most significant artistic contribution. My fave lesbian films are Entre Nous, Fire, and The Handmaiden, all of which are foreign.
9. If you could use a magic telephone to call yourself at 15 years old what would you say?
“I know you think you’re super fat, and that’s why you’ve turned semi-anorexic — because all you have heard since you were seven is that you are ‘too chunky.’ So let me tell you that who you’re going to be at 60 — is going to knock your socks off! You have an incredible life in front of you — yes, it’s filled with violent tragedy, but it’s also what’s made you the resilient survivor you are. You will have four great loves: your daughter, your son, Marina Rice Bader, and your ex-fiance. While you can’t seem to keep a relationship together, you’ll love each of your exes profoundly.”
10. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
From my agent, who believed in me: “Write the story you want to read.” Single best advice and the one I apply to everything I do. The core of the conflict and emotional drama has come from a lived experience, and that’s why I think my work resonates with so many and why my viewers watch my films over and over and OVER again — we’re talking 50, 75, a 100 times over.
11. What would you say is your proudest piece of work to date?
Besides my documentary little man, my single favorite sequence ever, from conception through to execution, would have to be the “Blue Love Dance” in More Beautiful For Having Been Broken. It took many rehearsals, shooting, and then re-editing for over 15 months to get it exactly right.
12. What plans do you have next for 2023?
Besides releasing the show, we’re scheduled to shoot my next feature in the summer. And after 22 years, Descending Thirds, my absolute favorite piece of work I have ever written, will be published.
Thanks for chatting to us Nicole, we’re excited for the show to air.
Team Nonchalant x