With imagination and tenacity award-winning director, writer and actress Christina Morales Hemenway has been living true to her artistic voice since bribing the neighborhood kids to be in her productions in Ann Arbor. While in high school she earned a full scholarship to study with world famous mime, Marcel Marceau. She later continued her artistic development at California Institute of the Arts earning a BFA in Performance.
Since then she has written and directed several shorts, music videos, and four feature films: Autumn Leaves, Dreammaker, Naked Angel and the upcoming romantic comedy, Bride+1. Dreammaker won the Audience Choice Award and/or Best Feature film in every festival in which it has played with screenings in Los Angeles, Chicago, Louisville, Ann Arbor and Rome, Italy. The films were distributed nationwide and can be found online.
Christina, who spends her time in Michigan and L.A., is Ann Arbor this weekend for the premiere of her latest feature, “Bride +1,” a hilarious romantic comedy with a fabulous cast. The movie premieres on Saturday at Michigan Theatre.
WLAA recently talked with Morales Hemenway about growing up in Ann Arbor, her writing process and her latest film.
You grew up in Ann Arbor. What high school did you attend?
“I went to both Pioneer and Community high schools. I was lucky enough to be part of their dual-enrollment program. My dad was the gym teacher at Community High School and was known for wearing the Elmo t-shirts. Since he was a teacher at Community I got to know about the program before anyone else did and was one of the first guinea pigs.”
You graduated in 1988. Which school is on your diploma?
“Well, there is a little bit of a debate. Both schools say that I graduated from their schools (laughing). I have diplomas from both and I’m proud of both of them.”
You pretty much did everything with “Bride +1.” What were all the hats you wore for this project?
“Yeah, I wrote it, directed it, produced it and acted in it. I also did the editing and swept the floors. But we also had a very talented team of people who worked really hard on this. I was the driving force for a talented team.”
After you wrote this what is the first phone call you made – what’s the next step after you’ve written the story?
“I have two silent partners in Dancingstar Productions so that was the first call to see if I was actually going to take on this project. I fund-raised little by little so there were a lot of phone calls. We had to fund-raise every step of the way. A lot of friends gave me a little bit of money so that was a big help. Raising the funds is usually the next step.”
How important is it to you that you have control over certain aspects of the project, especially the production side?
“If someone wanted to give me a million bucks to do the movie their way I would have said, sure. If I could have been just behind the camera instead of behind and in front, absolutely I would have taken the million bucks. But that’s not usually how it happens.”
Of all the roles you play which is your favorite?
“Writing and directing. I really like directing. I grew up singing and dancing and acting and enjoyed it quite a bit, but I was missing being a part of some of the other creative aspects. And when I started writing and directing I knew that was my niche. I still enjoy the other parts but my real passion is in the writing and directing.”
Have you directed other projects than the ones you have written?
“Yes, I have been guest directing on other people’s projects. I am very open to directing other projects.”
What is your writing process?
“There are times in the writing process where I put it down and say I have to live a little bit to finish this. Some projects I write from beginning to end. Others I write the end first or the middle and work that way. I have some things where I started writing and realize I need more life experiences in order to figure this out. Bride +1 came together pretty quickly.
What was the inspiration for Bride +1?
“The inspiration was two girl friends of mine were in relationships with men who said they wanted children and then when it came down to it they didn’t really want children and it was too late for my friends. I was really mad about this. Because I had children I was even more upset than they were. I channeled that energy into writing this script. I also had recently started dating and I didn’t know a thing about online dating so I included a few of my tragedies.”
This isn’t your first time at the famous Michigan Theatre?
“No, this is my fourth feature film and two other ones premiered at Michigan Theatre. Dreammaker in 2005 and Naked Angel in 2009.”
How true was Bride +1 to the original when you were finally done with it?
“It was surprisingly close. Usually there is a script that I write, a script that I direct and a script that I edit. This one stayed pretty true to the original. I like to give my actors a chance to improvise. We will do a few takes as written and then let them take a shot at it in a different way. Sometimes the most fun takes happen that way.”
What are the funds raised at the Michigan Theatre going towards?
“The money raised will go to the deferment of the actors. I’m very lucky that I met these veteran actors who came on board for next to nothing in the hope that there eventually will be something. In order for us to release nationally we have to pay those deferments.”
What is next for Bride +1?
“We will be doing an industry screening in Los Angeles at the end of May. We have several distributors interested so we need to decide which way to go with that. Then we decide which festivals to go to and when we release it.”