Michelle Cove, director of Seeking Happily Ever After, tells Singular magazine what inspired her to dedicate two years of her life to her film project.
Two years ago, filmmakers Michelle Cove and Kerry David began making a feature-length documentary called Seeking Happily Ever After. The film is about why there are more single 30-something women in the U.S. than ever before ― and explores whether women are redefining the concept of “happily ever after.”
Although the documentary is still being edited, it’s already received major attention. The trailer was voted the “top rated” trailer at the Sundance Film Festival; it was featured on EXTRA TV; and the film’s makers are in talks with the soon-to-be-launched OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).
This winter, Cove and David will begin submitting their documentary to film festivals. Below is an interview with Boston-based director, Michelle Cove.
SingularCity spoke with Cove about the project.
SingularCity: How did you know there was a real story here?
Michelle Cove: Most of my friends were single and thirty-something, and I didn’t marry until my thirties. I was really sick of seeing the media portray single women in one of only two ways: either sad and desperate, or career-driven and uninterested in men. It was clear that there was a real opportunity to allow women to reclaim their own story and talk about what it means to be single today and whether it feels like a choice to them.
The big question was whether I could get women to drop their guard and talk about the authentic ups-and-downs of being single. There is this push in our culture of girl power and women feeling like they have to be in total control. So I didn’t know if women would drop their guard with me, a complete stranger with a camera, and be real about what it’s like to be the only single woman at the family reunion or worry about growing old alone or feeling anxious about their biological clock ticking.
If women wouldn’t do this — and if they made all their answers a quip or joke — there would be no film. But just about every single woman I interviewed allowed herself to be vulnerable and dig deep. There is going to be so much honest conversation around being single when this film is released.
SC: What was the biggest challenge of making this film?
MC: Well, there was the fact that I had never made a film before! That was pretty challenging! My background is writing and editing magazine and website articles. When I started thinking about this topic — why there so many more single women over 30 and how they feel about it — I realized that it wouldn’t work as an article. You would need to see the facial expressions of the women I interviewed and watch them work through their responses. It just had to be a documentary. And in spite of having no film school experience, I wanted to be the one to tell this story so I had to learn really fast. It was like going to an accelerated film school and there were definitely days of crying in frustration.
Don’t even talk to me about how to pick the right technology to purchase. But I did two smart things early on: I focused on accomplishing specific tasks instead of looking at the movie as an overwhelming whole. And I convinced Kerry David, award-winning producer of festival darlings “My Date with Drew” and “Like Dandelion Dust,” to sign on and teach me the ropes.
SC: What has been the biggest reward of making this film?
MC: The past two years was like going to a master class in how women make choices. I talked with some of the top experts in the world about the impact of fairytales and how financial independence has changed the way we approach relationships and whether courtship is dead and what women don’t know about their own fertility. In addition, I’ve had the chance to hear from women around the world ― Indonesia, Australia, Korea, Japan, Italy — who wrote us to say they connected with this project and want to talk about it.
SC: What was the worst part of making the film?
MC: Raising funds is no picnic! It’s also been hard to leave over 100 hours of footage on the cutting room floor. You have to be ruthless. But the good news is I transcribed the tapes and I am using many of the interviews in a self-help book to be published by Penguin publishers. It’s going to be a “feel-great guide to being single while seeking your own version of happily ever after,” so that helps.
SC: Do you talk to men in this film?
MC: Yes! We asked men what they thought about “happily ever after” and how they feel about dating single women over age 30, whether they feel pressure to marry, and what they don’t understand about dating single women. It was great because it was a real opportunity for us to sit back and listen. I love to debate and I probably would have focused on changing men’s minds had it not been for the camera in my hand reminding me that I was there to be quiet and learn. And boy did I learn from them!
SC: What is your goal with this film?
MC: My goal is to jumpstart conversations about how we make relationship choices and to encourage women to start questioning whether they want to define happily-ever-after based on a childhood fantasy or redefine it on their own terms.
SC: How can our readers see your film?
We’re currently in postproduction with plans to begin submitting Seeking Happily Ever After to festivals starting this winter. Right now, we’re working on finishing the film and building a following. This is a film that supports single people, and we hope singles will show their enthusiasm for this project by going to our website www.seekinghappilyeverafter.com and joining our mailing list. We promise not to spam and only send updates on the progression of our doc.