In this interview, I talk with co-writer/actor Brie Eley, who discusses how the film came to be, the serendipitous way the film came together, and Hollywood’s issues with non-diverse rom-coms. You can watch the trailer within this post or at the film’s Facebook page and Marele Entertainment’s website.
How did Marele Entertainment come about?
Essentially, it was myself and my friend Charisse Woodall. She and I were both living in New York and decided to come out to LA to do a one-week introduction to casting directors, agents and managers. After the program was over, most of the people went back to New York, but she and I decided to stay…we were talking back and forth, exchanging ideas, and we were like, “We should actually get something going here.” So, she had already had the company in New York and we decided to essentially create the West Coast branch and take it from there…This project was our first foray into a short film.
I read on the website that the company aims to reflect diversity. A couple of other companies and organizations like Ava DuVernay’s AFFRM and Charles King’s MACRO seem to be doing similar work. You guys, all together, seem to be forging a new path in Hollywood. What do you think about the fact that there seems to be a new path being created in the industry when it comes to portraying different sides to America?
I love it. I think it’s a natural progression in terms of the fact that we now have more ways than ever to create content, and because advertisers are now seeing that there’s value in that diversity, it’s now shifting into a demand for it and a natural interest in creating more of it. I feel like what’s so great about AFFRM is that you have someone who is at the top of their class encouraging up-and-comers to go out and tell their story. You have someone like Viola Davis who started JuVee Productions, who’s now saying, “I want to create different stories from what I’ve even have had a chance to act in.” It’s really inspiring and it makes me want to go and [make projects] even more, even if it’s on a much smaller scale.
In Blind Date Rules, you play Michelle. What can you tell me about your character?
She is the unlucky-in-love friend of Tonya [Stephanie Minchew], [and] is still trying to go out there and keep being set up on these blind dates. And even though each is worse than the last one, she’s…trying to search for that perfect Prince Charming ending, but ends up with a frog.
This film has a multicultural cast and women at every level; what was it like working on this film?
I was staying in Houston last summer for three months, and…I started reaching out, and my friend told me about Short Films Texas, and it has listings of places where actors and directors can submit to be in short projects. [Co-writer] Angela [Bennett], at the time…had started the very first scene, the cafe scene…with just Michelle and Tanya. I replied to [her listing]…and I drove up, met the team, it was a lot of fun, and as I was driving back, I was thinking this could play really nicely into another full story. You could actually show the date, you could show her giving another chance to Kevin [Mike Spara], who’s our main guy…I called her and said, “Hey, do you want to actually do this film?”
Together, she and I wrote out the story and…we started interviewing directors. Through recommendations, we found Christine Chen. She’s been working with her company, Moth to Flame Productions in Austin for a couple of years…They had just come back from Louisiana, where they were really successful with their film A Bird’s Nest, and she understood the script and the style we were trying to go for. She got the comedy of it.
So now we had a really promising young director, who happened to be female, happened to be Asian-American, stepping up. She brought all of her people with her from Austin, so we had a great DP, sound guys, and all of a sudden, just organically, we were filling out this really awesome crew. …Even though we weren’t looking for this to happen, she naturally found a mixture of people behind and in front of the camera who were diverse and from all across the spectrum, which was really great to see come together.
The fact that as a black woman, you are playing this character in a rom-com, usually and sadly, Hollywood still doesn’t have a wide-range of people playing the lead in rom-coms; it’s usually a white actress. How does it feel that just on that level, this film is breaking boundaries as far as rom-coms go?
I think it’s fun. …Love just doesn’t have to be one race, and it was a chance for me to show my abilities as a comedian and an actress. …I think the biggest thing is that the story can be anyone’s story. You don’t have to be white to fall in love, you don’t have to be black to fall in love, you don’t just have to find love with other black people, which I think is something that happens [in films] sometimes, like…we’re just going to sleep with each other. No; we try different things along the way, so why not [show] that in the film?
…I hope that [the film] gives someone else the idea of “I could put this put this person in this kind of world some day in the future, in my own stuff.” Sometimes, people need to see [a story] one way, before they can figure out that [stories] can be something else…like you had to have Jackie Robinson before [people] could be like, “Oh, we could have people like Jackie Robinson on the national scene.” Or like Halle Berry, who can play [diverse characters]. Until you have seen that, I don’t think other people have creatively thought of it that way.
When and where can audiences view Blind Date Rules?
Right now, the trailer’s up on Facebook and our website. We’re actively presenting it to festivals across the country and internationally. Believe you me, as soon as I get a notification of one, I’m going to be sharing it…We’re going to keep putting it out there.
When the film is shown to audiences, what do you hope they take away from it?
That love is universal. Everyone’s trying—sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. I hope they enjoy it and laugh and relate to how embarrassing it can be to put yourself out there. That’s what I’ve heard about a lot from people who’ve watched the trailer. People are like, “I know that moment when you’re cringing and you’re trying to be so impressive. Just don’t do it.” Or when you’re on a date and there’s obviously no spark and you still have to try to muster through it. People seem to really have fun with that.
Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed.