Caytha Jentis, Filmmaker | Fox Meadow Films
I had the great pleasure of reconnecting with award-winning independent filmmaker, Caytha Jentis. Now living on the Upper West Side, Caytha enjoys her new freedom of city life after spending many years in Ridgewood. We immediately picked up where we left off a couple years ago and enjoyed listening to each other’s new ventures.
During my interview with Caytha, we discussed her most recent film project - a new dramatic comedy series called The Other F Word. The “F Word” in the title stands for forties and fifties – the ages of the four women in the film. The series is about friendships and finding oneself after the kids are grown and entering into this new space called mid-life. Storylines address issues like ageism, sexism, re-entering the workforce, sexuality, dating after divorce/widowhood - and much more. Caytha created characters that women could recognize as themselves (or friends) and easily relate to the storylines – and fans are raving!
Needless to say, Caytha and I had a lot to talk about – and many laughs over coffee. Caytha’s journey from mom to filmmaker will inspire you and leave you feeling fired up and ready to achieve incredible things.
Fun Never Gets Old!
The most interesting fact about your career is that you started filmmaking in your forties. Did you reinvent yourself or was this a life-long passion that was re-ignited?
It’s something in the middle. In my 20s I worked in the movie business, and when my first child was born I realized that for me, such a demanding 24/7 career did not work, so I closed the door on that chapter of my life. I never imagined I’d be a filmmaker, but when my kids got older I started writing and realized the only way that my stories would come to life was if I did it myself, so I became an accidental filmmaker.
As many women do, you left your career and decided to raise your children full time. Were you prepared for the internal push-pull relationship - the push of the demands of being a full time mom and the pull of your creative writing?
Absolutely not. I was completely blind-sided by the demands of motherhood and the bond that a mother immediately creates with her child. However after a few months as a stay-at-home mom I realized that I still wanted to work and throughout most of kids’ lives I did some sort of part time work. For the first six years I worked in outside sales for a greeting card company. My desire to write again didn’t happen until about ten years later.
Many women feel the emptiness of the career left behind and friends you once knew in that former life. Did you experience that? Was it hard to put your life on pause while others kept moving forward?
We also moved cross country right after the birth of my second child, so I left a lot behind. However, I loved being part of the Ridgewood community and there were so many opportunities for new moms to connect and the demands of motherhood took up so much time that I didn’t really have time to miss or reflect until they were older. It wasn’t hard to put that life on pause as I had a new life but found it hard to get back in.
Was there something specific – like an event or moment – when you knew you needed to honor your inner creative soul? Or was it a gradual yearning to do something more with your life?
When my kids were in middle school and I was no longer fulfilled by the part time work I was doing, I then realized I wanted more but also wanted to be part of my kids lives and reflected on my past life and started to want to write again.
Would you agree that when you are writing, it is the best expression of yourself and your time is spent in total bliss? That you are totally connected to a greater energy that you tap into and feel free?
When it’s working and I’m inspired, yes. I feel like I’m having a party in my head and can become completely consumed by the world of my stories. But when I’m blocked or stuck, it can be a very scary and dark place. That’s why so many writers drink!
We talked a lot about the side hustle of owning a business while raising a family. Can you take our readers through the process from idea to actual film – what does that actually involve and how did you find the time?
I like to say that to make a movie you have to look in the mirror everyday and say ‘what do I need to do today to move a mountain.’ When making my first film, I did try to demystify the process and look at it like a lot of volunteer work mom’s do. It’s just one big event that needs to be planned. I also know that I’m a bit OCD and that does help.
How did you get the actors and actresses for your movies? You have a great cast in all of your films.
I’ve made three features. The first was a romantic comedy called And Then Came Love that starred Vanessa Williams and Eartha Kitt, the second a romantic drama that had no names in it called The One and the third was a dark comedy called Bad Parents that starred Janeane Garofalo and Cheri Oteri. My latest project is a web series called The Other F Word that stars Steve Guttenberg and Judy Gold. I think because I write strong women and character driven stories that actors are attracted to the roles and find them relatable. There are not a lot of great roles for women, so that’s where indie filmmakers have an advantage.
What I love about your films is that you take real life stories about women and motherhood and you find the funny truth. Are your story lines based on your life or a melting pot of many?
I start with some truth, some question I want to answer, something I’m curious about and do write from what I know but they are fiction. I like to do a lot of research to be sure that what I’m writing about is universal.
Right now women are emerging in media by sharing their stories of truth – known as “truth-tellers”. I consider you one of them and instead of writing a book you create characters and story lines and tell your truth through film. Do you have one common theme about your films that seems to be consistent?
I like to write about journeys to find one’s authentic self as well as stories about being a fish out of water in one’s own world which is really an extension of the first – many of us feel like we’re strangers in our own world.
The Other F Word is based on the lives of midlife women going through major life changes. This is a powerful demographic that is not really being celebrated as it should – and you do it with such humor. Why did you feel this was important to talk about?
I think it’s important to tell all types of stories and believe that for women as with men it’s a very important time of life. Specifically for woman, our chapters are defined by our bodies and there are a lot of changes that start to happen during this time.
And what should we expect in Season 2? Season 2 will have longer episodes and will dig deeper into the characters and start to take them on their new journeys – with fits and starts…
As you know, women are the dominant force online and key influencers on social media. As a woman filmmaker, do you feel that women’s films are now being written for a stronger woman demographic to harness the power of that audience?
I think it’s starting to happen as it’s starting to be talked about that these stories have been missing.
I feel that my purpose in life is to support women through my work. As I grow and evolve, my business also shifts to meet new needs of emerging women. Your stories seem to follow a certain themed timeline or stage of life as well – I think that is actually the strength of what you offer your audience. Do you feel there is a greater purpose to your storytelling?
Like you, I like to be a connector. Through my grass roots campaign I’ve met so many women and hope to be able to share their stories and create a platform for that.
I have been in this space of full time mom and full time business owner now for 12 years. 12 years ago the term for a mom that wanted to start a business was coined “mom-preneur”. We have moved forward into this new space of women entrepreneurs that are now playing a bigger role in the marketplace and getting funded - though we still have a long way to go. How have you financially supported The Other F Word series? And what are your plans now that you have proven the show is a success?
I’m starting a crowd-funding campaign to fund Season Two (PowHER Network is now part of this project) because even given my success (the show has reached over half a million people domestically and has been an Amazon Video top web series for the third month), there are no Hollywood financers that want to back a project like this digitally. Beyond that, I’m an activator for an organization called SheEO that looks to women to create a fund to support women entrepreneurs. Women just don’t get the same opportunities that men do, and this organization is hoping to help close that gap. I’m very proud to contribute and mentor others.
As we discussed, owning your own business does not come with an owner’s manual or help desk hotline. What is the one piece of advice you could give to women that want to push reset on their life and start a venture? How do you get past the fear of something new?
First of all, be fearless. Recognize that it’s hard work. Talk to everyone in the space, do your homework and go for it with no regrets.
Jennifer Marchetti, Founder/Owner of PowHER Network and Ridgewood Moms Media Group, is an entrepreneur, “start-up junkie” and inspirational speaker. She is an online business expert, ideal marketer and a master at creating action plans for personal, professional and community growth for women. She was recently interviewed on CBS News for the power of the Ridgewood Moms community. She has also been featured on FOXNews, WB11 and featured in Parents, People, Pregnancy, BabyTalk, The Bergen Record, The Star Ledger, The Ridgewood News, The Internet Mommy and Women of Personality, received celebrity exposure and featured in over 200 print and online media outlets.