The Joy of Making Films with your Spouse

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From a writer/producer/actor married to a writer/producer/actor…

Making a film is like having a baby… so, shouldn’t pre-production be like making love? Nope, it doesn’t work that way. But it is a spectacular bonding experience. Like camp. Or war.

(@JennicaRenee & @RyanSchwartzman after receiving the BEST FEATURE Award at Film Fest Twain Harte, post ceremony. Instagram.)

(@JennicaRenee & @RyanSchwartzman after receiving the BEST FEATURE Award at Film Fest Twain Harte, post ceremony. Instagram.)

My husband Ryan and I write together, produce together, and are often awarded the opportunity to act together. An important step in collaborating successfully is learning each other’s strengths. It doesn’t hurt to be self-aware and able to have honest discussion without hurt feelings. Hurt feelings are ok sometimes, just say so when it happens. That’s also a general rule for marriage, good thing we are actively working on these things! Ryan and I come up with concepts or ideas we want to explore and then Ryan, on his own, generally comes back with wonderful ideas that are super creative and fun… it goes on like this until things are written and then I start knocking down the fun by editing out and editing out. Ryan is good at coming up with the big picture. I am good at editing out, refining, and finding business opportunities. But we’re both good at taking credit for each other’s work. It’s a delicate balance.

Here are a few tips on keeping that delicate balance, things that have worked for us:

(@JennicaRenee & @RyanSchwartzman working hard on a project together…while watching “House of Cards”)

(@JennicaRenee & @RyanSchwartzman working hard on a project together…while watching “House of Cards”)

1. Set aside time to work specifically on the project.

Sometimes I’m jazzed about an idea, but if Ryan just got home from work or is washing the dishes, this isn’t the best place to start an open and free creative discussion. A few minutes here and there are fine, but if the communication isn’t scheduled, then there is room for possible discord regarding other constraints that will bleed into the discussion.

Schwartzman. Hi, Amy Argyle.)

(Table read with the cast of #ParkersAnchor – written & produced by Ryan & Jennica Schwartzman. Hi, Amy Argyle.)

2. Be open to everything upon first review.

I may not love Ryan’s idea of a single camera comedy sitcom about blah blah blah because it would be too costly to blah blah blah (this is what I hear when he talks), but saying or even seeming put off by his idea will shut down the heart of the project. Being open at first glance gives US an opportunity to get past the -maybe- issues and get to the parts we both love. I can bring up issues at the end of the discussion and we can address them together once we’ve really begun a positive dialogue.

MITB 2-5

(Regular film contributors- members of #BrotherhoodPictures & #PurposePictures at The Little Brother Sight & Sound Office, filming a Kickstarter video together – @JennicaRenee Instagram)

3. Don’t discuss the projects with a third party without your partner.

I am guilty of this. I will bring ideas to conversation with my brother, Marc Hampson, who happens to be a Director with whom we often work. But when I do, Marc has ideas and I take them back to my writing partner- already sold on Marc’s thoughts- and then my allegiances are crossed. I already liked this idea Marc and I worked out, now I just need to convince Ryan… that’s not a healthy writing partner perspective. WE can take ideas to a third party for discussion, but I’ve closed the door on my partner unknowingly when I positively agree to new ideas without his perspective.

This doesn’t just apply to writing. This applies to Producing and especially acting. There are many more cooks in those kitchens, but we need to make time for each other and discuss and share often in order to make it work.

(Ryan & Jennica after the wrap party for the second feature they wrote/produced/and starred in together - @JennicaRenee Instagram)

(Ryan & Jennica after the wrap party for the second feature they wrote/produced/and starred in together – @JennicaRenee Instagram)

Communication is the key to any marriage, partnership, or friendship. Keeping communication open and an open mind can lead to many exciting avenues.

My husband and I have successfully written, produced, and starred in several films and are working on more. It takes a special relationship to keep up that kind of constant interaction, but you can do it.

There is no joy like seeing your movie/baby grow up. You both have so much of yourselves in this project and see so much of your love flourish as it makes its way out into the world. I cannot express in words my pure JOY in this life choice. So, please try it. See if and how it works for you. It’ll make you a better partner, lover, friend- and you’ll be that much more excited to be standing right next to your loved one on stage saying THANK YOU to everyone that supported you on this incredibly difficult journey.

MITB 2-9

(Working with my spouse…He looks at me like this ALL THE TIME.)

Jennica Schwartzman

About Jennica Schwartzman

Jennica Schwartzman is an actress/writer/producer that loves tackling a project from idea to distribution. She works alongside her husband and business partner, Ryan Schwartzman, also known for his legendary movie-night cuddles. Ryan & Jennica have been invited to speak on “Micro-Budget Filmmaking” for the International Family Film Festival road scholars program (several years running) and at Offshoot Film Festival (2014), they have been invited to speak on industry panels, and Jennica has been published in the Producer’s Guild Magazine “Produced By.” The Schwartzmans work on passion projects in their small office in Hollywood. They have collected TOP awards from Big Bear Lake Int’l Film Fest, Eureka Springs Indie Fest, Film Fest Twain Harte, Worldfest Houston, Offshoot Film Festival, The Int’l Family Film Fest, & the highest honor from The Dove Foundation. Ryan & Jennica have a toddler, who doesn’t quite understand what they do but seems very supportive. @JennicaRenee @PurposePictures