Recently, I got a chance to pose some questions to screenwriter Jen Finelli about her and Samantha Aiken‘s upcoming film I’m Having an Affair With My Wife, a romantic comedy about a Black and Asian (#blasian) married couple who become fed up with their marriage and seek out an affair, only to accidentally start an internet affair with each other. There certainly aren’t enough female driven projects out there and I’m happy to help introduce you to one of them, so check out what Jen had to say:
How did Samantha’s upcoming film come about:
I’m a heavy-set girl of mixed heritage. My producer, Sam, is a nerdy Black woman with a linguistics degree. We’re both married. To put it bluntly, we don’t see leads like ourselves in romance. We see skinny blonde singles held up as the sole ideal of beauty, and we think it’s time to stop telling young girls that’s the only desirable female self. I wrote this film because I want to see a plus-size Black girl make it in love. And, as an Asian-American, I want Asians playing non-stereotyped leads. Where are the good films about falling in love with your spouse, anyway?
We’re here because no one else is.
The #affairmovie is the upcoming #blasian romantic comedy, it’s the marriage film event of the decade, authentically and organically improving diversity in romance by asking the subtle question: what are we really married to?
Tell us a little about Samantha:
Samantha’s approach to film-making is to get on every set she can, in whatever role necessary, from extra to producer. Audio supervisor, assistant director, production coordinator, consultant, or production assistant—wherever she’s needed, she’s entrenched in the world of film technique. As primary creative she’s experimented with horror, documentary, advertising, educational shorts, and narrative film, among others; this romantic comedy is her first feature film.
Samantha’s the kind of creative who watches…she’s paying attention to the human experience. And that’s what she wants to share in film: the details, the places, the thoughts, and the people that make up the reality we’re not always paying attention to. Samantha reads Russian, Latin, and Gikuyu, and may or may not read her husband’s mind. You can read her academic works, CV, and a few of her film credits on her website, at samanthamauney.com.
How did you both get into making films? & How did the two of you start working together?
Samantha’s a professional photographer who started out, like all good creatives these days, making films with her friends in college. At one point in college, I’m just minding my own business playing a board game with some friends, and a friend of Samantha’s all living up in the apartment where I’m playing. As I remember it, he asked our gaming group if one of us would like to be murdered in his horror movie, which is actually a terribly creepy thing to ask someone you don’t know. They chose me.
So I thought this was gonna be some kind of like “grab your iPhone and film” kind of thing, and then Samantha comes in with like a professional make-up artist and giant-ass lights and this huge camera and I’m like…”what?”.
I’d literally never seen anything like that before, and I’d certainly never before been murdered in such a professional fashion, so right from that moment Samantha established herself in my head as a solid director.
What inspired you to write the script?
I’ve said it before on one of our podcasts, but I’m a professional screenwriting class taker. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars taking classes from Universities, online, buying books, etc etc. Somewhere during that process, I started writing that script. I have no idea when the idea showed up, I know I actually put fingers to keyboard during a comedy class I took, but somewhere it happened.
Here’s the thing. We write about our heroes, or the heroes we want to see. I’ve spent a long time listening to Asian creatives lament about how they can’t find lead opportunities in the US, and man, that sucks! Worse, it makes me mad to think about real people I’ve known grow up without seeing themselves as beautiful or desirable leads.
I still remember a story my pastor told us back in college, about one of the young women in his care who was deeply in love with her white boyfriend. He straight up told her he could never marry her because she was Black; in other words, she was okay for a good time but she could never make true love material. The pastor talked about how this girl said the experience made her feel ugly, like her Blackness was just ugly. Somehow, in my head that horrible story connected to film, to young girls who like romance growing up watching these skinny white singles held up as the beautiful ideal, and I started to open my eyes and notice that women around me did try to look light-skinned, and straighten their hair to look whiter, and as I began to see this I became really horrified that an entire group of people could see themselves that way. I mean, how does that affect you growing up? How does that affect how you treat other people, when you’re in a relationship? Could that make you bitter, could that make you do things you’d regret? Can it make you stronger in the end?
I want to be a part of ending the suckage.
How much of your own experience went into writing it?
A lot of marriage stuff, actually! I wouldn’t want to spoil things, but there are certainly personality factors of mine and my husbands that went into (lead characters) Lashonda and Sung-min. Marriage is hard!
Are real relationships and marriages something missing from romantic comedies?
Absolutely! How many single romance movies can you name? Now, how many married ones? Considering that 90% of people get married, and 50% end up in divorce, it seems like there’s a whole lot of “romance journey” stories not getting told after the wedding bells “happily ever after.”
Do you think it would be a more relatable genre for all audiences if there were more diversity, both in front of and behind the camera?
Are there any films you see as starting to move towards where the genre should be?
We were talking recently about the #blasian Cinderella, which is pretty neat. Peeps should Google that! On our podcast we’ll be talking about representation in romance films.
Which film-makers have been most influential to both of you?
I’m really impressed with the woman who made Babadook (writer, director Jennifer Kent) and we’ve both talked a lot about Zoe Saldana and her short film productions. We like her.
Is there anything you’ve learned so far that you would give as advice for fellow indie film-makers?
Absolutely! We’re all about helping out other peeps on the same journey. We actually have a really cool booklet we’ve made for other indie film-makers, that everyone can get here. We’ve gathered fifty+ resources that we’ve used, a lot of which are free, that we recommend, from the beginning to the end of our journey. And we’re always updating it! We also have a podcast where we shout out all the marketing resources we’re using, and debate the benefits of Hootsuite vs. Buffer, and some new free tools others may not be using like Twitshot, Roundteam, Blog2Social, and Statusbrew.
Lastly, the most important question, how can people support your film?
Glad you asked! Peeps! Guess what! People who pre-pledge early before our campaign starts can get a version of the film with downloadable commentary that other people don’t get, plus a chance to meet our actors and other film influencers in Ohio. That’s all at mysweetaffair.com/pledge. Peeps who can’t pre-pledge or donate can help us by checking out our pages and sharing us, and asking your buddies to pledge to us! Trust us, we really need that love.
A quick thanks to Jen for taking the time to have a quick chat with me over here at Film Carnage and to keep up with the film and find out even more, you can follow them on all the socials: