First, shout-out to my previous guest, Aneta Kuzma, for connecting me with Alexandra Clayton and Michal Sinnott, who you’re about to hear from today.
Personal wellness means different things to different people.
When you get to know someone, you find out there’s a lot of unpacking to do.
Alexandra and Michal met in a female filmmaking collaborative alliance, and little did they know the exciting journey it would lead them on.
Growing up, they were both raised to appreciate the value of education in different ways. Alexandra’s parents limited her exposure to media, and they carefully curated the media she did see to focus on female leaders and women in positions of power. Michal comes from a long line of travelers and sailors, which taught her the value of education through experience.
In other ways, they were different. Alexandra was emotional, and never thought of anyone as a stranger. She grew up in a household where love was expressed freely and openly, and she said hello to everybody at the grocery store. Michal, on the other hand, was introverted and learned through acting that she could express herself by pretending to feel things she wasn’t feeling; this was very liberating for her.
As multi-hyphenates – directors, producers, and actors who have also held a variety of side gigs to support themselves – they’ve most recently come together to write a screenplay and film a movie.
It was through this experience they discovered how fine is a 4-letter word.
Their movie, called “Unpacking”, is about a wellness retreat. Through their experiences, Alexandra and Michal both appreciate the importance of community and structure. At the same time, they feel there’s currently a real lack of places for people to go and find support to draw themselves out from wherever they’re stuck and get moving forward right now. The mega-wellness industry fills the gap for a more privileged set of people, but what it has to offer is simply out of reach to many others.
In a moment, when you meet Alexandra and Michal, you’ll discover how they’re out to change all that. Hear how their experience in the “indie” movie industry, where you can create your own stories and roles without pleading for the approval of gatekeepers, has inspired them to break out of the typecast and inspire others to do the same.
Alexandra’s hype song is “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer.
Michal’s hype song is “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + The Machine.
- Alexandra and Michal’s websites: https://www.alexandraclayton.com/ and https://www.michalsinnott.com/ (each includes individual social media links)
- Website for “Unpacking”: https://unpackingmovie.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unpackingmovie
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unpackingmovie
- X (formerly Twitter): https://twitter.com/unpackingmovie
Also, check out Aneta Kuzma’s appearance on Fine is a 4-Letter Word by clicking here.
Invitation from Lori:
Like the characters in Alexandra and Michal’s film, you may find yourself longing to escape from your life. Because it’s all too much and you’re questioning whether you can ever manage to overcome the crappy thoughts in your head, feelings of overwhelm, and the impossible to live up to expectations.
Don’t let those bullshit beliefs win!
Go to https://zenrabbit.com right now and download the 5 Easy Ways to Start Living The Sabbatical Life guide.
Once you read it, you’ll understand how the beliefs you’ve been programmed with since birth are holding you back and keeping you stuck. It’s only 7 pages, so it won’t take you long to get through. And the five tactics are pretty simple, but once you follow even ONE of them, you’re in for a profound change.
When you’re ready to say F*ck Being Fine, then this guide is the place to start. It’s time to create your own character and write your own story!
Lori: Hello and welcome to FINE is a 4-Letter Word. This is a first. I have two guests on the show today, Alexandra Clayton and Michal Sinnott. Welcome to the show.
Michal: Hi, Lori. Thanks for having us.
Alexandra: Hi, Lori. We’re so excited to be here today.
Lori: I’m super excited about this conversation. I don’t know where it’s going to go but I know it’s going to be good. Let’s just jump right in. Well, first of all, how we got connected. It was an intro through one of my past guests, Aneta Kuzma.
Michal: She’s so wonderful. We were so blessed to get connected to her. An amazing woman.
Lori: Crazy story about how you connected, too.
Michal: It’s true. We met at a bar I used to work at.
Alexandra: You never know. It just goes to show you never know when you’re going to meet such people.
Michal: That’s right.
Lori: Start talking to people because you don’t know what’s going to come out of it.
Michal: I met so many interesting people working in customer service. I don’t know. Ask someone how their day is and it’s amazing what opens up.
Lori: I bet. Okay, so let’s jump in. I have a question and whoever wants to go first can answer first. What were the values and beliefs that you were raised with that contributed to you becoming who you are?
Michal: I’ll go ahead unless you want to.
Alexandra: Okay. Either way. I also just thought of something but—
Michal: You can go if you want.
Alexandra: All right. I will say I was raised with a real value of education in my family. It was sort of like a generational foundation and it was a pretty broad sense of how you could become educated. But it was just general curiosity for the world, big exploration of the world. That was something my parents really embodied in their lifestyle choices. It was something at least my dad’s parents embodied in their lifestyle choices. And I also was lucky to spend a lot of time with them growing up. I was just reflecting on this this past weekend.
I was really raised by a girl dad, and I feel so lucky for that. And my parents didn’t allow us a lot of TV or media. My mom is amazing and gave me such an intentional childhood. But my parents agreed to give us very little media when we were kids. And it wasn’t until I hit my late teens and started becoming a movie nerd that I realized how intentionally they had sculpted the little bits of media I had received to be like many female rock bands, and the movies and the TV shows that I watched, the few that I did watch, had female leaders and females in position of power. And it was always the idea that I could do anything and being a girl was badass and amazing and would never hold me back. It wasn’t until I got older that I was like, “Wow.” That was so intentional that they were showing me women in leadership positions all along and really implanting in me that my gender had no influence on my capacity for leadership and success, and I still feel so grateful for that.
Lori: Wow. That is really special and unusual.
Michal: I totally agree. I was getting teary listening to your childhood. My mom was a single parent. There was a lot more chaos in my house growing up. But my mom has an incredible sense of love. She’s one of the most loving, open, non-judgmental people I’ve ever met. And she really imbued me with a sense of love. She was very open with saying I love you. We always said that in our household. She really taught me how to love, I think, and is still that as a really big core value for me. She also really gave me a sense that I could dream and I could do anything.
We didn’t have a lot and there were a lot of challenges, but I could dream as big as I wanted and there was nothing I couldn’t do if I just put myself to doing it. I really took that with me into adulthood. Also a big sense of adventure and travel, the importance of travel. Education is also important. My mom has two master’s degrees. Education was important. And also education through travel or through experience. I come from a long line of travelers and sailors. I have ship captains in my ancestry and people that travelled great distances across different lands. The desire to go wherever was really a core value.
Also not being afraid of change. There was always change in my life. I lived in six states before I was five. I’ve never been afraid of change. Change is something that just comes very easily to me. I think that the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized what a gift that was. Because I meet people that are so afraid of things changing. Life has always changed.
Lori: That’s what life is.
Lori: There’s no way to avoid it. You can dislike it, but you can’t avoid it.
Michal: Totally. So those are all big core values that I think that I have really adopted in my life.
Lori: Very cool. Okay. Now, both of you had such fantastic values instilled in you that it seems unusual. You mentioned about being open in saying I love you. The question is actually for both of you. Does that mean that you were also encouraged to feel your emotion?
Lori: Feel and express. I’m asking because a lot of the guests I’ve talked to and a lot of people outside of my guests, that was not a thing in their house. Like, you were not allowed to have emotions. Because you weren’t allowed to have emotions, you certainly weren’t allowed to express them or even know what they were for a lot of people.
Michal: It’s a mix. My parents were together for the first seven years of my life. They did not have a good marriage and there was a lot of chaos. I think I got from experience that it wasn’t always safe to show your emotions, but my mom really combatted that. And then once my mom was just raising us, she really leaned into that. She was an actor as well and so she really encouraged us to express our emotions. It, I think, maybe was a little out of balance because of the early conditioning mixed with, “Just feel your feelings.” So I think I had to grow up and right size that, that also feelings are not facts. They can be out of bounds if you—you can’t just give in your emotions and that’s the end of it. But in terms of expressing it, it was a real gift as an actor. It’s very easy for me. I’m very in touch with my emotions and they just flow through me. So that was a real gift.
Lori: Cool. What about you, Alexandra?
Alexandra: I think I was just an incredibly emotional child. I came into the world that way. It was loud and feeling and it was very different than how my sister had been. I had tantrums and I screamed, but I also didn’t know a stranger and wanted to say hi to everybody at the grocery store. My parents were also—they didn’t tamp that down. I think my mom—because my emotions would totally overrun me as a child and it probably took them a while, the older I’m getting and I’m watching friends deal with it, I was like, “Man, it must have been a lot for them to handle me.” And they tried to give me little tools to find ways to calm down and act more appropriately in certain situation. But they also sort of accepted that I had really high emotions that I wore on the surface. And they, I think, worked to help me find healthy ways to channel that. I just needed excessive amounts of running around and playing.
Lori: Outlets for the energy.
Alexandra: Exactly. I feel very lucky that I definitely grew up in a household where love was expressed openly and freely. And I know that is not something that had happened in the generations before. It’s something my parents were pretty intentional about. I’ve been told that I was so affectionate. I was like a cuddle bug as a kid. That broke the barrier down with my grandparents. Because every time I’d see them, I’d be like, “I love you.” How are you not supposed to tell a little two-year old or three-year old that you love them back? So that started getting them into the practice of saying “I love you” to my dad for the first time in his life.
Lori: You were a catalyst for change from early.
Alexandra: I guess that’s a really… Sure. Accept it.
Michal: I thought of other thing that was also a core value and that was a sense of something bigger than myself, like God or whatever that... For me, I was raised in a very religious household. So the God of my understanding is not the same as what I was raised with. But that sense of something that’s bigger than just me and a sense of awe and faith and things that are beyond my understanding from an intellectual standpoint. And that was really a huge value as well.
Lori: Cool. Then as you grew into adults, how did you come to discover that acting was the thing? And we didn’t say in the beginning that you both are actors… and what? Producers? How do you describe—
Michal: Creatives. An easy way to say it is a multi-hyphenate. But yeah, we’re actor, filmmakers. That’s also an easy way to put it. We wear all the hats on this film.
Lori: Right. Which we’re going to get into talking about the film. But before we got there, what was the path that led you to this place, to creating this film? I know this is a giant leap because we’re going from childhood to... We don’t need to know all the details. But what’s the overview that brought you from these—it sounds like both really amazing childhoods and with all of these great values instilled in you, and then you went, “Okay, now I’m going to share these gifts and who I’ve become with the world in this way.”
Michal: I think for me… My mom has her master’s in theater and her undergrad in theater. I actually did my first professional commercial with my mom when I was seven, something that I was the daughter and she was the mother. And that hooked me. I was a very shy child. The idea that I could sit on a couch and pretend to feel things that were not what I was feeling, I just ran with it. I thought it was the most amazing thing and I sucked it up.
It also, in a lot of ways, changed my personality, because I was very introverted and shy. And then it showed me this path of being different than I was. The joy of meshing yourself with another character, taking on someone else’s energy, that can be the safe box of space where you can do anything, and then you come out of it and you’re yourself again. It felt very empowering and I just wanted it. I just loved it from the beginning.
I acted growing up. I went to performing arts high school and I was very actively involved professionally, and also where I grew up in school. But I wasn’t planning on pursuing it as a career because my mom was a single parent and she’s also like, “I knew the struggle of how hard it is to do that with your life.” My mom didn’t pursue an acting career. She was a casting director and she was an agent and she did other things, but it was local. We never had any money. We were so poor. I was like, “That is not the path. I do not need to struggle. I am going to have a real job and I’m going to grow up and do real things, not this imaginary world.”
My senior year of high school, I had to write a play for a playwright. I was in these performing arts high school. I took a playwriting class. It was required to take the playwriting class. And the second semester of my senior year, I had to write a full-length play in order to graduate, and I was really not excited about it. I was actually annoyed that I had to write this play. But I’m also really an overachiever and a perfectionist. I wasn’t going to just dial that in. I was going to write something good. So I really worked at it even though I wanted to be at the beach.
I wrote something that ended up—I submitted it to this Young Playwrights Festival. I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. And I submitted to this festival in Richmond, Virginia, where Alexandra and I just were for a festival, actually. It was a nice little homecoming. It won this Young Playwrights Festival. I got to go away and go to this, basically, free camp. They basically put my play in this giant LORT theater. It was 1000-seat theater. There were 1000 people that came. It was this enormous, beautiful theater with equity actors doing this reading of my play.
The experience of up to that point had only just been internalized a character, I’ve never sat and watched my work through others, and had that out of body experience of seeing my words through someone else. The experience of seeing that on stage made me realize that I had to do this with my life. It was this real eureka moment and I never looked back. I just was like, “This is what I’m supposed to do.”
Then I majored in theater. I ended up transferring to a different school that had a better theater program. I went to New York and pursued a career. Then eventually, I got, I don’t know, frustrated a little bit with the pickings when you’re a new actor. Maybe you get a line on Law and Order. You’re not getting like the juicy parts. A lot of parts, it was up against me and a star in my 20s. And the stars were getting it always, of course, because there are names. So I started writing out of necessity in order to create my work. And then I just realized over time that I’m more than just an actor, I’m a storyteller, and that I have these stories that I want to tell and they continue to grow.
Lori: Isn’t that how Sylvester Stallone started writing and started getting acting? Because he couldn’t get the part so he started writing his own parts, essentially.
Michal: Yes. Alexandra and I actually ran up the Rocky steps also. We were in Philly about a month ago in another festival for our film. Me and Alexandra and Jessica who played Jackie in the film ran up the steps and did the whole Rocky—
Lori: That’s awesome. I want to I want to hear from you, Alexandra. I want to also make a comment in the call about your film. When you were a child and being able to step out of your shyness when you were playing somebody else, that reminds me—I don’t know if the book actually came up. But we were talking about this on another recent episode I recorded. There’s a book by Todd Herman called the Alter Ego Effect. In it, he talks about how to create an alter ego to help yourself primarily in business, but really, in life. He talked a little bit about how Beyonce has done this. I can’t remember. There was a basketball player he was talking about in it, I don’t remember which one, that when they step on the stage, they are not themselves, they have to become someone else to play that part. He was saying, “Then when the criticism comes”—which it will. When you’re stepping out and putting yourself out there, there’s going to be that—“it helps deflect it a little bit. Because it’s not you. They’re criticizing the alter ego.”
Michal: That’s true. I think I did that with every part. It wasn’t one alter ego, but it’s I love diving into all the aspects of playing a character. How does this person dress? What do they think about? It feels like it’s successful if you’re having the thoughts of the character. I can literally depart from myself and really be in another headspace. I think that’s so joyful to come out of it and you feel like very refreshed.
Lori: Alexandra, have you had similar experiences? What was your entrée into the world?
Alexandra: Rare is it that I have a true out-of-body experience where I’m so in something. But I have definitely experienced that. I think from early on as a child, I also was pretty performative. And I loved just trying to stretch myself in those ways.
We moved when I was in middle school. Then middle school and high school, I became increasingly shy to explore that part of myself, and I got really into the visual arts and really into photography. I think I’ve always been a learned by doing person. My self-education has always been like, “I need to sit in a library and read books about this.” I’m like, “I need to try to make it with myself—every little piece of it.”
So I started trying to make films in my, I guess, teenage years, then more seriously through community college in my early 20s. Just felt a calling to storytelling and didn’t know which lens.
Was that going to be as a director or writer or an actor? I think there will always be a part of me that is an actor. But each of those roles, I think, I can find different parts of them at every different age I am through life. I’ve definitely dipped in and out of all of them and probably will continue to do that.
I think that was always. It was started working in indie film and learning from my own experiences and taking note of the things I liked and didn’t like. Then I was lucky to find two women in my pretty early years in New York who also wanted to write and make content for themselves, and we made a web series together. We lived together for two years and we wrote a web series for ourselves and filmed it in our apartment. It was our version of film school without going to film school, because we just tried out all the pieces, kinds of collaboration, and learned a lot from doing that.
Lori: It’s so cool that we now have the opportunity that you don’t have to wait for someone to pick you, that we can create our own stuff and create a web series. Back in the day, when I was in school, there was no web so you couldn’t do that. But it’s so awesome that now you can have the creative freedom to create whatever you want without having to be chosen by whoever the special choosing people are. I don’t have to be hired by a radio station to have my own show. Here we are doing it. The same with making movies and films and putting them out there. Because you could always really make your own film but the outlet for sharing it didn’t exist the way it does now.
Alexandra: I’ll be honest, part of the commitment in making indie work is it’s a very different lifestyle. It’s not Hollywood glamorous, we’re not rolling in the money. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of different hats and drudgery. Sometimes our creations reach a frustratingly small amount of eyes. But there is the gift of freedom and growth and expression that if you set yourself on a more traditional studio track and you’re working as a PA and you’re working as this—I don’t know. Neither path is for everyone and each path really has its merits. I can’t imagine having taken another path because I just am too hungry to be trying out my own stuff. I just never had the patience, I think.
Not to say, I’ve stepped into all of those other worlds in small ways as part of my support jobs over the years. But I don’t want to wait decades to get these opportunities I want. Because I also think I’m, again, a “learn by doing” person. And I don’t want to wait and make just one movie, I want to make many. Because every experience, I’m gaining insight into what I like and what I don’t like and what I want to say and how I want to say it and how I want to communicate. It’s a lifestyle. It’s like a lifestyle choice.
Lori: And that’s what it comes back to is everybody has to find what works for them and step into that. Whether it’s the traditional path, if you will, or the indie path, or whatever it is, or a combination, it’s about figuring out what works for you and then going all into that. Because, as I’ve talked about many times, life is an experiment and an experience and an adventure. That’s what we’re all doing here.
Michal: And if you’re not having fun doing it, then maybe you look at that. It’s happening right now. It’s not somewhere else, it’s not in the future. It’s right now. It took me a long time to really know that. I really was a future-centric person where I was always getting to the next level. I don’t know. I feel very lucky to be largely present these days, where I’m really enjoying my life right now. It doesn’t matter if I’m not where I want to be because where I am is really great, too.
Lori: I love that. I love that. Let’s go into—well, that leads into the film and the characters in the film. Talk about how you two came together to create this work.
Michal: Alexandra and I met in a female filmmaking collaborative alliance in New York City about eight years ago. We both were multi hyphenates.
Lori: That’s a new term, I think, for a lot of people. If you’re not in the art world or the filmmaking world, I’ve never heard it before.
Michal: Oftentimes, there’s people that are behind the camera and there’s people in front of the camera. But we were interested in both. We are interested in creating the content and also being in it.
Alexandra: I just want to give a definition to that word. Imagine someone saying—because I feel like you too, it could be—like I’m a vet tech, but I’m also a jazz singer, but I’m also... It’s all the slashes. If you put your life together by multiple pieces or you have multiple jobs or different skillsets, but they all play a role in your life, that’s the multi hyphenate. It’s the slash, slash, slash.
Michal: I think it also even speaks to a way of thinking about the world in general. I feel like up until very recently, we’ve been in this binary world where it’s this or that. And now, I think, we’re moving into a period of the world where it’s not one thing, it can be both. It’s so much more liberating and freeing to be in that space where you can be more than one thing. You don’t have to be just the vet tech because you are also a jazz singer. It’s a place to be because there’s different facets to us. So we don’t have to just be in one role.
Alexandra: Right. Well, humans have always been that even if there wasn’t that term to describe it, because you could have somebody who is a parent and a vet tech and jazz singer. I think what’s changing more is the integration of it, of seeing yourself as a full and integrated person, as opposed to I do all of these things but they’re all separate pieces in my life. Like each one is kept compartmentalized.
Michal: Right. Also, I think, even the idea of moving out of an individual mindset to a community mindset. The world is in chaos right now. The idea that thinking each person is right and that’s their way versus what is best for the community, we’ve got to transcend thinking of things in one binary this or that, right and wrong. We have to transcend that on a global level, I think. There’s far reaches for that idea of the multi hyphenate.
Alexandra: You’re right. It’s a recent evolution. Because I will say even in my early 20s, I’ve been working as a photographer for over 10 years as a job outside of my film career. And I use a separate name for my photography business so that I don’t show up on Google as both. And I had a lot. Even just with an acting website early on, and I had a writing credit, and I was starting to direct. I got so much professional advice from people further along to not tell people I did more than one thing, tell them I only did this because they take me less seriously, they wouldn’t actually be good at it. How can you really be good at more than one thing? If you’re not just a photographer, how do I trust you? If you’re not just an actor or you’re not just a director, how do I trust you? That is really in the last handful of years that I think all of those skills really speak to each other and inform each other and make my work so much stronger than the other one. But that embracing that on a larger cultural scale is new. It’s so nice to not have to have the separation anymore. And I’m like, “There’s two different names and websites now.”
Lori: Right. Then which one is the real you?
Michal: Right. Being an actor will help inform you of how to speak to an actor as a director and being a director will help you to know how—I don’t know. They go hand in hand. But for so many years, it was you’re a dilettante if you’re not one thing. I think it took me a long time to own being a writer for that reason because I wanted to hold on to the fact that I felt like I’m an actor. People are like, “But you’re a writer, too.” And I’m like, “No, I’m not.” And they’re like, “Well, you’re writing things. What is the definition of writer? You’re clearly a writer.” But I think that was societal, too. It was this idea that you had to choose. Why do you have to choose? Why can’t you be all of these things and be drawn towards them for different periods or paths as you go?
Lori: Okay. I’m back to the original question of how this film came to be.
Alexandra: That’s hard.
Michal: We found an affinity for each other, and we said like, “We should make something together.” Speaking of multi hyphenates, one of my side hustle jobs is I was a flight attendant. And I love to being a flight attendant. It was a lot of fun. And yes, I also kept that. I never posted pictures online because I didn’t want people to think of me as a flight attendant. I was an actor and a filmmaker. It’s that hidden part of me. But I got to see the world that way. I traveled quite a bit. I could travel for free. I went to Bali the year before we made this, and I really just fell in love with the island and just the people, and I thought it’d be a great place to make a film.
So I came back and I left a message for Alexandra. I said, “I think we should go on this filmmaking adventure and we should propose to our friends and colleagues to pay their own way and join us and make a collaborative project. We ended up writing an e-mail to 40 people and basically being like, “Are you creatively hungry? Go on this adventure. Tell us what you want to do in making a film. Maybe it’ll turn out great, maybe it won’t, but it’ll be an adventure and it won’t cost you that much. It’s like the cost of a vacation. So, come.” Of the 40, 15 people said yes. And they got to say how they wanted to work on it. And that was the beginning of this journey four years ago.
Lori: That’s so cool. So it took four years. You hear sometimes of films taking much longer, and I’m sure it felt longer to you when you were living through it. But it seems like four years, maybe, looking back, isn’t that long.
Michal: Yes. It’s short, actually, considering how long it sometimes takes to make them.
Alexandra: Normally, you have a lot leading up to a film, like years of pre-production, and we did not have that. We had less than from inception to go into film. Idea, inception to go into film, I think it was eight months.
Michal: Nine months, something like that.
Lori: Then you filmed it in—what did you say, 10 days?
Alexandra: 13 days, which is really wild for a feature. We also knew we’d have no chance for reshoots. We hadn’t seen any locations ahead of getting there. There was a lot of—
Michal: Outside of the ambiguous thing.
Michal: Wild on the fly elements that we just have to roll with.
Lori: Talk about adventure.
Alexandra: It was a very juicy challenge. It was not without nights where—I don’t know. But I kept being like, “This is so wild. I’m in Bali. Maybe I’m awake at 4:00 am but I’m getting to make a feature.” And there’s all these people that are showing up for it. It was not hard to pour energy into it because it did feel like just such an exciting, unique opportunity to have.
Lori: Part of the reason why you are now here on FINE is a 4-Letter Word is because the whole premise of this film is that the characters thought they were fine, said they were fine. They were not fine. Now, first of all—we’re just keeping my listeners in suspense of what the film is called.
Alexandra: It’s called Unpacking.
Michal: All the ways you can think of that word.
Alexandra: You can call it an Unpacking movie. All right.
Lori: Let’s say that again.
Alexandra: Outside plug. You can follow, it’s unpackingmovie.com on Instagram.
Lori: I’m going to have that in the show notes as well, a link to it. How did the characters come to be? How did this come to be the theme of Unpacking?
Alexandra: First, we settled on the wellness retreat concept. And from there, Michal and I, both in our own growth journeys have found just the importance of community and structure. And I think that we—Michal’s husband, Joseph, is our third writer on this—all really felt there’s a real lack of this in American society right now, places for people to go and find support and draw themselves out of wherever they’re stuck and get moving forward and what has filled in that gap for, I mean, definitely a more privileged set of people, but is the wellness industry. And it’s a mega industry. It’s also a pay to play industry. Like, “I’m stuck, I need something to move me forward. I’m going to sign up to go here to have this person pull me out of whatever I’m doing.” And there’s a lot of promises sold for very—that was our thing, reset your soul in a week. I’m like, “Is that possible?” Of course, that’s not possible. But what is possible is to plant the seeds of change and shake off whatever habits or patterns you’ve been in to start the ball rolling in a new direction. That was the foundation of what we wanted to explore with the whole on the film. Then each character has their own path in that journey and cycle of what they’re trying to shake off, what’s held them back in life, what they’re trying to get real about, how they’re trying to sort of—
Lori: Stepping to the next version of themselves.
Alexandra: Yes. Evolve.
Lori: Okay. I had the pleasure of watching the film. For anybody who’s listening, you can go to the link in the show notes, in the website Alexandra just mentioned, and you can watch it there, right?
Michal: You can’t watch it yet.
Lori: Oh, you can’t watch it there? Okay.
Alexandra: Just the trailer. We’re really looking for distribution. We’ve been in a ton of film festivals. And we hope it’s out on streamers soon, but right now it’s just film festivals. But you can follow it, check out the trailer, get the tone.
Lori: But if you go to the website, you can see what film festivals you can go to to see it.
Michal: Yes. We’ve been on the festival circuit for about a year. We might have a handful of others. We’re not sure yet. We don’t have anything upcoming. But they do pop up. We have a bit of submissions that are still out that we might get into. But we’re definitely focused on the next—with indie films, that’s the path. You go on the festival circuit, you build a buzz, and then you get picked up by some sort of distribution platform. It will be somewhere within the year but we don’t know—
Lori: For anybody who’s listening, if you have connections in the distribution side of things, reach out because this film needs to be seen by more people.
Alexandra: Thank you. We really feel that. Anytime it gets an audience, there’s like a beautiful resonance and really interesting conversations that come from it. So we know there’s a place for it.
Michal: And we know it’ll find its audience. We’re not sure how that’s going to roll out yet.
Lori: Okay. I mean, this is totally random question and I’m just thinking as we’re talking here. Could you do your own distribution, like a pay to watch it kind of thing behind—what are those platforms that you can pay?
Michal: Sure. That’s always an option.
Alexandra: It’s the last resort.
Lori: It’s the last resort? Okay. I don’t know. I’m just—
Michal: It’s still early in that process. So we’re trying to go the more traditional model of making the money back from having made it, rather than five cents here from each viewer, which is what the model is. But we know, ultimately, we’re not going to not have it out there. We will if we have to, but... And no one will be the wiser. They’ll just be able to stream it. We are waiting because we’re waiting for that deal.
Lori: Gotcha. All right. It’s the timing. We’re sending energy to that. And it’s coming. It’s already here. Awesome. What is next then? That’s the focus, is finding distribution. Are you doing cold calls? What are you doing?
Michal: We have a sales agency that’s wrapping it. They’re taking it to all the film markets. So they’re going to the American Film Market, it’s called AFM, in November. We’re about to launch a new trailer that we’re really excited about. We feel it really sits with the tone and feel of the film. So we’re excited for people to see that. They go to about five film markets a year all over the world. There’s one in Venezuela, there’s one in Tokyo. They’re all over the world. They can sell it by territory. Maybe we’ll get distribution first in Japan, and then maybe we’ll get distribution in Spain. And then it will roll out in different countries. That’s what they’re working on. We’re lucky to not have to do cold calls. But it always helps to have connections. And you never know if you meet someone at Netflix or one that’s like, “I want to see your movie,” and “This is great.” It definitely is who you know. So we’re happy to have anyone reach out if they’re interested.
Alexandra: We’re just putting that out there. You never know who’s going to be—
Lori: What’s next?
Michal: We’re working on another project together. It’s also Alexandra, Joseph, and I, the three writers on Unpacking, we’re working on another story. It’s the same writing team. Alexandra is going to direct it. I’m excited. I don’t know. What else do you want to say about it, Alexandra?
Alexandra: It’s also an ensemble. It’s more comedy than drama, I think, this time but also in the dramedy zone. And we’ll have another interesting location.
Lori: I can hardly wait. Because that’s the other thing, is that the film was good in and of itself. And then on top of it, you have beautiful scenery.
Michal: Yes. So it’ll be the same thing. It’ll be that same awkward, earnest kind of cringe comedy, but also you go on this heartfelt journey. All of those are—I don’t know. They’re hallmarks, I guess, of at least the kind of films we want to make together. They’re largely somewhat of hallmarks, I think, of us individually as well, although we have other films that don’t quite sit in that same space.
Lori: You just said hallmark and it made me think of the Hallmark Channel. And that is not at all what your film is like.
Michal: No. It’s not that.
Alexandra: I think the people will feel a lot more authentic feeling women.
Lori: Right. Anybody who’s listening to this, F bombs is not a problem for them.
Alexandra: I’m more I think like stories—these are actually women you would meet and recognize yourself in, and it’s not picture perfect.
Lori: Right. This is story that you can relate to, as opposed to some kind of fantasy out of a romance novel. I’ve seen this before 700 times, and it’s a fairy tale.
Michal: It’s very authentic.
Lori: Authentic is the right word. That word gets thrown around a lot and kind of loses its meaning too, but it really is in this case.
Alexandra: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Lori: All right. Well, this has been so fun. I know we went a little bit longer than we normally do for a show. I hope, as a listener, you’re still here because it is totally worth the extra time to be here. If someone wants to get in touch with you about distribution or, I don’t know, anything else we’ve talked about today, what’s the best way for them to reach either or both of you?
Michal: Well, they could DM us on Instagram. It’s just Michal Sinott. Or Alexandra will give her Instagram.
Alexandra: I’m Xan Clayton. I use Instagram way more than I should. I will get back to you the same day.
Michal: I think they can also contact us through unpackingmovie.com There’s a channel to e-mail us that way, too. So go to the website.
Lori: Okay, cool. I will put links to all of that in the show notes to make it really easy for people.
Lori: Wait. You know what I didn’t ask you? I almost forgot. What’s your hype song? That’s my question. At the end, for everyone. I got carried away and I almost forgot. Geez.
Michal: I don’t know if I have one, but right now, I’ve been thinking a lot because I’m in this big transition. I just sold my house and I just bought a new one. Anyway, I’m very excited. Life is going very well right now for me. It is The Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine.
Lori: Love it. Okay.
Alexandra: Mine too. I was back and forth because I’m changing it all the time. But something that constantly makes my mixes, especially if I’m needing to hype myself up, is Donna Summer’s I Feel Love.
Lori: That’s so perfect. That goes back to what you were saying in the beginning about your family. I love it.
Michal: I’m going to go listen to that when I finish today.
Alexandra: It’s got a really punching beat to it where you really start moving your body.
Lori: It’s running in my head right now. Both of them. It’s kind of a weird mix.
Michal: What’s yours, Lori?
Lori: Mine is Carrie Underwood’s Champion.
Michal: I love that.
Alexandra: That’s good. That’s a good one.
Lori: But I also have an entire playlist, but that’s the one that every time I hear it, I’m like, “All right, I can’t sit still.”
Michal: That’s great.
Alexandra: I got to follow your playlist.
Lori: I need to create one. Everybody who has been on the show has said I need to create something in Spotify. It hasn’t been at the top of the priority list, but it is something I would like to do.
All right. Now we can depart. Thank you so much for joining me today, Alexandra, Michal on FINE is a 4-Letter Word.
Michal: Thank you, Lori.
Alexandra: Thank you, Lori. Bye.