Sundance winner ‘SMILF’ headed to Showtime
November 6, 2015
When filmmaker Frances "Frankie" Shaw won the 2015 Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Jury Award for her nine-minute piece "SMILF," she was in Los Angeles, and working on another project.
"It was so surprising and something I wasn’t expecting," Shaw said during a telephone call to The Park Record from L.A. "They called me and asked if I could fly back, but I was shooting a pilot for a TV show and working with a minor, so we were working with her schedule."
Sundance asked Shaw to make an acceptance speech video, which was something she enjoyed doing.
"I was able to include my son Isaac Love in the video, which was great because I was inspired to start making films after he was born," she said. "It was great that he was part of the acceptance speech."
The award was just a primer for what was to come later, because "SMILF" is headed to Showtime.
The short film is about a single mother, Bridgette Bird, who, while her son is taking a nap, invites an old friend to visit, and Showtime wants to create a half-hour comedy based on the premise.
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Shaw is not only serving as an executive producer with Michael London on the project, but also writing, directing and starring in it, she said.
She is developing the show with renowned comedy duo Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky.
The initial idea for "SMILF" emerged from Shaw’s burnout as an actress.
"I was over the grind of auditioning and wanted to become staff writer on some kind of TV show," she said. "I wrote a pilot as a sample of my writing and that got into the hands of Michael London."
London called Shaw and set up a meeting.
"We sat down and I told him about my life and he told me to rewrite the script and make it more autobiographical," she said. "As I wrote it, the script turned into something that I wanted to make, rather than just write."
Shaw, who has co-starred on Spike’s "Blue Mountain State" and on ABC’s "Mixology," worked with London on tightening the script while working on another project.
That project included a scene that eventually became the "SMILF" short film.
"It was just a scene and I wanted to shoot it as a stand-alone piece, because on the page, the tone of the project was really broad and I wanted this scene to really illustrate what I wanted the tone to be," she said. "So, I decided to pay for it myself and shoot it with my friends."
Thomas Middleditch played the male lead.
"It turned out nice and I thought it worked, so I submitted it to Sundance totally on a whim," she said. "And then it got an award."
That, in turn, helped us turn "SMILF" into a show, but Shaw had already prepared to pitch her idea to network before she submitted the piece to Sundance.
"I had already written the pitch, so even if I didn’t enter into Sundance, we were still going to see if networks wanted it," she said.
A few months ago, Showtime picked it up and the work really started.
"It’s not just like it’s me and Showtime going off," Shaw said with a laugh. "There are a lot of producers involved and we had to submit and outline to them. There are eight other people who read and made notes, so it took a long time."
Those producers, in turn, gave a lot of feedback and opinions about the outline and once the outline was approved, they asked Shaw to write another script.
"I literally was sent [to write the script] three weeks ago and finished the first draft this weekend," she said.
Now, it’s a matter of waiting to see if Showtime will go forward with production.
While this was all going on, Shaw was involved with the show Mr. Robot, where she played Shayla, to rave reviews.
"I’m also currently working on another film at the moment while I’m waiting," Shaw said. "We just need to keep busy."
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