In continuing the discussion on the depiction of Mother in entertainment, I’ve solicited a response from local (Utah) actress Pam Eichner. I was interested to have her discuss her role as mother in the yet to be released film Father in Israel, which had its debut at the 8th Annual LDS Film Festival back in January of this year. I’m very appreciative of Pam for having taken the time to contribute to the dialogue. Her remarks follow.
I’m Pam Eichner, a 40 something, Utah based film actress. Brent has very kindly invited me to write a guest blog on his site. Being somewhat …um, computer illiterate – he walked me through this – thanks Brent!
The topic I have been asked to write about is one very near and dear to my heart – being a mom. In particular, being a mom on film. I’ve played a weirdo mom who was ice cold to her teen-age daughter, I’ve played a trophy wife and mother who turns to substance abuse in order to cope with her inner demons and I’ve played LOTS and lots of wholesome, All American mom next door stuff! Be it in my life or on film, I love nothing more than being a mom.
Director Christian Vuissa was kind enough to offer me the role of Cindy Young in his latest movie called Father in Israel which had a its preview at the 2009 LDS Film Festival in January. (That was SO much fun!) Forgive me – I digress…. I really liked Christian Vuissa straight off the bat – so I jumped at his offer to cast me as Cindy Young.
When I read the entire script, it become hugely evident to me I was on thin ice. Not being LDS myself, I was concerned about bringing the proper dignity to Cindy, which in turn would provide the solid base needed for the main character and the surrounding family of six children to come together. As in real life, the mom in this film is the silent structure – if you will – that holds up her husband and gives her children a moral platform on which to stand and grow.
I found myself eagerly launching into a great deal of research about the Mormon faith. I surfed the Internet and found some fabulous web sites. I wanted to look into the hearts and minds of LDS women who are moms and wives. What is important to them? How would they realistically cope with the situations presented in the film? What would be strong points in Cindy’s character – what are her weaknesses? How does she truly feel about her husband, her children, her life?
I called an LDS friend of mine who invited me to attend church service with her family. She explained to me that the service I was attending was not a regular service but rather a fast Sunday service. Wow! I told my husband afterwards that I felt like a bit of a voyeur. What I heard was so intimate, so raw, so heart felt and pure. A family in the ward had just lost a gorgeous teen-aged daughter to a car accident – the father got up to speak. I felt my neck tighten and I was aware I was scarcely breathing. Some people turn only to their closest friends to have such a candid talk – here was a man willing to stand up in front of so many to share his story. It’s an image I won’t soon forget.
So by pulling together my conversations with various LDS women (bishop’s wives etc.) and my Internet reading as well as my own moral compass as a mom – I hope I brought Cindy to life in a light that gave her the appropriate mix of tenderness, playfulness, warmth and compassion that Christian’s script seemed to call for.
I was recently offered a role in a film that had some scenes that, frankly, I wouldn’t want to see if I had paid for a ticket. (blah!) So, I turned it down – without regrets. I have two sets of twins (believe me, this can’t possibly be more shocking to you than it is to me!!!) My big twins are 18 and the little ones are 5. (I know you’re wondering if I did invetro! Nope. Clearly – the fates have a grand sense of humor!) I don’t accept any roles that would embarrass my kids. I really don’t think ANY of my kids need to see my mammary glands 40 feet across on a big screen! Come to that – I don’t need it either! (Yikes – the horror!)
My hope is that my work in Father in Israel will ring true with both LDS and non LDS people alike. I thank Christian for having the insight to write such a great and central mom figure for a movie. Believe me – they are far and few in between! Let’s hope he’s started a trend.