Interview with Jordan Fassina, Writer and Protagonist of That Thing I Had That One Time
That Thing I Had That One Time tells the story of a woman trying to decide how to handle an unwanted pregnancy. What led you to decide to write and star in this film?
That Thing is completely based on my personal experience of going through an abortion in the US. I grappled internally for a while whether to write, let alone produce, the film, but there were a few key motivators that pushed me to commit to it.
One: I was tired of letting the negativity of the experience weigh me down. In part, I began writing it purely as a creative outlet to cope with any lingering pain, resentment, and hurt left in me. There were times I cried while I was writing. At other times, I felt empowered. Sometimes the writing resembled an open letter (OJ Reyes, the director, had to cut a few pieces of dialogue that were verging on melodrama). Writing, co-producing, and being able to play out my own personal story is an incredibly therapeutic experience for me, though my overall intention is to create a piece that women can relate to and empathize with. It’s important to me that women feel connected to my story. It is such a bittersweet and beautiful feeling that I get to turn my pain into art and have it be shared and understood by people who can empathize.
Which leads me to two: I wanted women worldwide who have experienced the same situation to watch That Thing and be able to feel a sense of comfort, unification, and an understanding that no, you are not alone. It pains me that abortion is such a universally felt experience but so neglectfully discussed. 1 in 4 women will experience abortion in their lifetime—why is there so little emotional or intellectual understanding about the process? Why is there so little support? Why is there so much shame and blaming surrounding a woman’s right to choose? I’m hoping to open an honest dialogue on abortion whilst simultaneously comforting the women that feel alone or misunderstood in their own experience.
For all the attention abortion gets in the political discourse in the US and around the world, there aren’t a lot of films made about this topic. Why do you think that is?
The stigma surrounding abortion. People are incredibly quick to demonize and condemn abortion and are so unwilling to actually understand, to educate themselves on and empathize with abortion. There’s such a deep-rooted, internalized disgust for abortion in the US and, more generally, women having the ability to choose the course of their lives.
Abortion attacks these archaic ideologies and threatens old patriarchal systems that have been in place for millennia, and the mechanisms used to enforce these ideologies have shamed and silenced women since the dawn of time.
I can’t act like I haven’t been worried about the public reaction. Whilst I feel an internal duty to tell my story, I am bracing myself for any negative backlash once the film is out and circulating. Thankfully, I haven’t received any negative reactions thus far, but I am realistic enough to expect it eventually from those who do not agree.
You successfully completed a Seed & Spark crowdfunding campaign. What did that experience teach you about funding a film? What advice would you give other filmmakers who are trying to get their projects funded?
Do not be shy! This is YOUR work and YOUR art. Be as loud, vocal, and persistent as possible. Post on every platform as often as permits (enough to be visual but not to be verging on spam), be creative (I made a few videos individually and collaboratively with OJ to push the campaign), cater to particular platforms—what you write for your Instagram following may not work for your facebook following, exhaust every network possible (old work friends/workplace facebook groups, school groups, teachers from old schools, acting connections you may have, and so forth), and do not be afraid to message individually! Sending personal messages gets people more inclined to check out what you’re doing.
Also, NEVER assume. I got contributions from people from my first high school who were in the grade below me or people I haven’t talked to in years! It was humbling and very touching.
What made you choose Seed & Spark, and what was your experience working with them like?
It was actually OJ’s idea to use Seed & Spark. He informed me they are more indie film & TV project oriented and the community and those that frequent the site are incredibly supportive of projects. We got a few follows, contributions, and messages from others on the site who were also campaigning for their own project to assure us they supported the mission. It’s a wonderfully supportive network. Also, they have little incentives like if you I reach I think 250 followers, they help out with film festival submissions and so forth.
I really enjoyed the experience with Seed & Spark. I searched around a lot for other projects and followed other projects too and, oh my, it is so beautiful and wonderful how much creativity, passion, and drive there is in the world. Artists will never cease to amaze me. It was an inspiring experience.
Your film is currently in production. How far into it are you, and what have you learned about the filmmaking process from working on That Thing?
We were originally supposed to have concluded filming by September 26, but due to some issues with location and scheduling, we have had to postpone until early November. One thing I’ve learned is you need to be adaptable because things might not always go exactly as you planned. There are so many variables and factors that go into (indie) filmmaking, and the picture in your head is not always going to be manifested perfectly. You need to learn to go with it. OJ has a quote, “come to me with solutions, not problems,” and I’m quickly learning that you can’t dwell, just work to fix it.
Also this is my first time being BEHIND as opposed to in front of the camera and being a part of production, and I absolutely love it. One of my biggest qualms with acting is that it’s a lot of waiting for someone to say yes, but being in control of the production of art itself is such a deeply rewarding and rich feeling.
Even though you wrote the script and have a starring role, you are working with Dominican American director OJ Reyes on the film. How do you both collaborate in order to blend your visions of the story into the final product?
OJ is one of my favorite people and a person I have an immense magnitude of respect and love for. One of the things I admire about him most is his work ethic—I’ve never seen someone work so hard or so diligently toward their goals. He’s much more pragmatic than me; I tend to be more idealistic I think, so he’s great at bringing me back down to earth when needed but he also keeps my creative vision in mind. I need to work on that. He’s great at getting what I’m saying, no matter how convoluted, and being able to physically produce it, or if it’s not possible due to budget or some other factor, the closest thing possible.
The main team (myself, OJ, producer Bobby McGruther and director of photography Jon Reino) also keep an open flow of communication and work collaboratively on aspects of the project. It’s so important to keep everyone informed and to enforce mutual respect for each others’ opinions and roles in the group. For instance, whilst I may be the writer and have a vision for a location for a certain scene, the others who have more technical expertise may assure me this is not possible, and we will then work together on a solution that will suffice.
When do you think the film will be finished, and what are your hopes for its trajectory? What strategies will you use to make sure audiences get to watch it?
I’m hoping the film will be fully finished by late November/early December. My aim is to make a global impact and to invite honest conversation about the emotional, spiritual, and mental hardships of abortion in juxtaposition with the condemnation and ignorance surrounding abortion. I also know I have done my job if a woman feels even a moment’s peace watching the film. I’ve had a few women reach out to me expressing they have gone through the same thing and that it means something to them that I am speaking out about it, and that has really, truly touched my heart and given me a sense of purpose and comfort that is inexplicable.
I’m also aiming for multiple submissions to film festivals or potential screenings. I’m currently in discussion with Women in Film Tasmania (my home state!) to collaborate on an Australian debut of the film followed by a Q&A panel regarding the film after. I believe this is going to be one of the greatest tools to ensure a large group of people can view and receive the message at once. Our next goal is to work on publicity. I want to gain as much traction on that front as possible.
As a 22 year old filmmaker, it’s very courageous of you to take on a film of this magnitude. What advice do you have for young women filmmakers like yourself seeking to bring stories to the screen?
You are enough. Your ideas, your creativity, your passion, your idealism, your intuition, your intelligence, your mind is enough. You have all the tools within yourself to do and create whatever your mind’s eye can perceive. You do not have to wait for this or that to happen, to “perfect” something or for the “right” time to go out there and do what you want to do. Just trust yourself and take the leap. Make mistakes. Get back up. Rethink it. Go back to the drawing board. Listen to yourself. And never give up. You are enough and you have always been enough, and that idea alone will take you farther than you can imagine.
Be sure to check out the film’s Instagram or the Seed&Spark campaign to find more information. Follow Jordan on Instagram and visit her profile to learn more about her. You can learn more about Alexandra by checking out her profile.