Rolla Selbak – Kiss Her I’m Famous
Rolla Selbak is an award winning filmmaker and self confessed triple-minority in the film-making world – she’s queer, Arab-American and a woman.
If that’s not enough, she’s also a self taught auteur writing, directing and producing films that matter.
Her credits include writing and directing feature films like “Three Veils“,”Making Maya” and most recently “Kiss Her, I’m Famous” – screening at the Raindance Film Festival in London Sunday 29th September.
She sat with us to chat about her work, receiving death threats and Oprah (my doing clearly)…
Rolla, you’re self taught in writing, directing and producing. What inspired you to follow this career path?
I officially started screenwriting while I was getting my Computer Science degree in college, though I’ve always had affinity for making films.
When I was younger, I used to dress up my little siblings in outfits and make all sorts of ridiculous ‘art’ using my huge VHS recorder at the time.
Something about movies just completely enthralled me. I would get lost in the stories, and the characters especially.
My dream was to be able to create the thing that I loved most. So, here I am.
Funny enough when I was in middle school, my teachers would give me very mediocre grades on my writing. Maybe because of the stringent British school rules I had to conform to, or who knows what, but for the longest time, I thought I was a failure at writing.
I made my first short film when I was 12, ironically titled “Never Give Up”, and the rest is ‘herstory’.
You often explore sensitive topics such as religion, arranged marriages and gay women – sometimes combined in to one. Have you shocked some people?
I have received death threats before, specifically with my latest feature film, “Three Veils“, so I am no stranger to negative reaction to my work.
I just stay true to myself, and my voice, and work hard to penetrate even the most callous of minds.
The last thing I want to be is preachy.
I’m very weary of tackling controversial subjects and turning an audience off by trying to tell them what to think.
Instead it’s more important for me to present a different perspective to an audience who may have otherwise not had exposure to that point of view.
I hope I’ve been successful in opening the minds of people who may not have empathised with a certain situation or person before.
You’re adamant on producing films that matter to you – what matters the most?
To make content that audiences connect to.
Your latest project “Kiss Her I’m Famous” is screening this Sunday at London’s Raindance festival. That’s pretty special – would you call this your breakthrough moment?
(That’s very Oprah-esque, isn’t it?)
Yes, and I love Oprah! (Me too)
Well it’s no secret that Raindance has been one of my favourite film festivals of all time, even as a young filmmaker starting out.
Their curation and respect of the indie film world is something I’ve always admired. So to be part their first ever Web Fest is an absolute honour, I couldn’t be more elated.
As for what it means for me, I take it as an extra validation that KHIF is not just for a niche audience, but for all types of audiences who want to have a good time, and watch something smart and entertaining.
Or would you call the 1 million views on YouTube the breakthrough moment?
Well that certainly took me by surprise, in the most delicious way possible!
And by the way, the trailer is almost at 2 million now!
Once I posted the trailer, I woke up the next day with a few thousand views.
That, for me, was already a big deal.
I texted the cast and my friends and was saying how proud I was that we had reached 7,000 views over a weekend or something like that. The next thing I know, a week or two later, I wake up and we hit a million, just like that.
It was crazy talk!
I’m so thankful to every single 1 of those million views!
Out of all of the methods of promotion, I really feel that there is nothing more effective than word of mouth if fans really take to a certain project. I think that it’s a combination of making content that audiences are hungry for, and being in the right place and the right time.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception so far! I really couldn’t have envisioned the trailer alone gaining 2 million views.
And teaming up with TelloFilms.com and OneMoreLesbian.com as an exclusive network distributor has been a fantastic experience.
So much so, that we’re teaming up again for Season 2!
Where did your inspiration for this project come from?
With a subject such as sex tapes, I could have gone really over the top, but in the end, I believe it’s the story that grabs audiences, even if the content is primarily consumed through the web.
So it was very important for me to create characters that were interesting and a story that had a compelling arch.
Gratuity and fake publicity seem to be able to push just about anyone into the spotlight these days, so I wrote the series as a satire that tackles the phenomenon in smart and entertaining way.
What should we expect for Season 2?
In the first season, we followed Jen and Mandy as they orchestrated a fake celebrity sex tape to catapult them into the limelight.
In Season 2, the sex tape is now leaked, and they now have to navigate their newfound fame with all of its rewards and repercussions.
The very nature of their relationship comes into question as exes from the past come out of the woodwork.
We’ve got some smashing guests onboard for this season: Fawzia Mirza as Kam Kardashian, from the series Kam Kardashian, as well as a salacious appearance by Noureen DeWulf, who currently stars opposite Charlie Sheen in Anger Management.
What advice would you give triple minority women like yourself?
Let everyone around you be aware of your minority status – except for yourself.
What’s next for Rolla Selbak?
I’ve always got something up my sleeve.
I’m pitching a few TV shows at the moment, and working on a feature film.
Nothing I can divulge for now, but you know where to find me to keep up with all the fun 🙂
I’ve also got some exciting guests coming up on Grrl’s Guide To Filmmaking.
GGTF is a free, live Spreecast event that I host where I interview influential women in the filmmaking industry who are making it happen, and who hopefully inspire other budding filmmakers to do the same.
Also, for Londoners who are fans of Tracy Ryerson, she’ll be in London, along with Stamie, for an awesome event in November.
Kiss Her I’m Famous swag and sneak-peeks will be there for fans…
And there you have it folks…
If you want to catch Kiss Her I’m Famous in London, it’s playing at the Raindance Film Festival Sunday 29th September, 2013