Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) will have her directorial debut with Lifetime’s Story of a Girl, based on the novel of the same name by Sara Zarr airing Sunday, July 23.
The feature film is a powerful coming-of-age story about a teen who must deal with the ramifications of a sex video that goes viral. Segwick’s husband, Kevin Bacon, stars along with Ryann Shane and Sosie Bacon.
I had the chance to sit down with Sedgwick at the ATX Festival to talk about Story of a Girl and what the future holds for the talented new director.
Sedgwick bought the book in 2007, not only because it was brilliantly written.
"I thought it was love stories about families, that's just my thing. I think we all come from complicated, crazy &ndash in their own way – families, and we're just a product of our upbringing. We have to work really hard against all those things we learned in childhood and later on, you know? I'm fascinated with it."
It wasn't only that it was the Story of a Girl she loved, but that being a girl growing up is "really f**cking hard." Add to that the aspects of sexuality, rewriting your own story, taking control of your own narrative and forgiveness, and it was a story she couldn't pass up.
"I liked the story first and foremost, and I thought the characters were so well drawn," Sedgwick added. "You practically just had to pluck it out and write it. It was not difficult to translate into a film."
While Sedgwick has wanted to share her love of the book with an audience since she bought the book in 2007, she was not always on board to direct. Initially, Laurie Collyer was attached to direct. They kept getting close, but not close enough.
Throughout, though, Sedgwick never wavered in her desire to see the project through. She has always produced female-centric work, but never something teen focused. "I just remember that being such a sh*tty time for me," she shared.
"I am also a really firm believer that we process what we're going through in our lives through art, so I think it's really important for teenage girls to see themselves reflected back to themselves and all their struggles and choices that they make.
"You may agree or not agree with the choices, but at least you see yourself out there. What I was seeing were Twilight and Shopaholic and Easy A. I grew up with ABC Afterschool Specials, and they were f*cking brilliant. They talked about growing up, and they talked about cutting, and they talked about divorce, and they talked about sex.
"You know, I really learned a lot, and I processed a lot watching those things, so it felt like a moral imperative for me."
Of course, what people wanted to hear about were the "explosions" Story of a Girl would deliver.
Sedgwick assured them her film would deliver. "Explosions? There are like five! There are five explosions here. There's the father and the daughter and the yelling and then the mother not seeing the daughter and father not seeing the daughter and the daughter sticking up for herself and the daughter breaking down. I mean, to me, they're emotional explosions, but they're big."
The filmmaking journey was frustrating, leading to bouts of crankiness and bitterness, but every couple years, Sedgwick would pick it back up again. That's how she discovered Lifetime's Broad Focus Initiative, a mandate to hire more female directors.
It came to her like pennies from heaven on a TV screen in Lifetime's waiting room while she waited to pitch herself as a producer of female-driven content. "You know, I always said I'd never direct, and my husband was always like, 'You should direct, you really have to.'"
Despite her hesitation, when she walked into Tanya Lopez's office at Lifetime, she asked about the Broad Focus Initiative. "She said, 'If you have an independent film or a passion project that you want to get made, let us see it.' And I thought, Aaah! 'Story of a Girl! I have the script, and I want to direct it.'
"And I was like, 'Who said that? Oh my God.' Because I thought I'm never going to direct. I won't be any good at it. I'm not a visual person, and blah, blah, blah. I'd been telling myself all these stories that aren't true.
"And so, literally, at that moment, I couldn't believe it came out of my mouth. But then I gave them the script, and they said we love the script, and we want you to make this and gave me a bunch of money and sent me off to make it with no caveat, no nothing. They were like angels."
It wasn't always a family affair, but she had always had husband Kevin Bacon in mind as Michael, especially when they were trying to get it made as an independent feature. She made it sound like she had to beg, but he appears to be having quite a good time with the role, as you'll see when you watch.
Of course, he told her if his schedule permitted he'd love to do it. Daughter, Sosie, got her part as Stacey because Sedgwick's co-executive producer and good friend, Emily Bickford Lansbury, suggested it.
But the family connections didn't stop there, because Sedwick's son, Travis, also got involved. The young musician, who had written a few music cues for TV shows, asked if he could write some cues for the film. "I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be a really hard conversation. I'm so not looking forward to this.' I didn't think he was up to the task. I just didn't.
"He's in his 20s, and he's been a musician his whole life, but I don't know. I don't know what I thought. But I listened to them, and they blew me away. They haunted me, and they stayed with me. I thought, 'Let's give it a shot. Let's do this.' And he did a magnificent job."
Of course, now she hopes to work with her family a lot more in the future, knowing it may have been a one-time dream of a lifetime project. She laughed, "Of course, who can get Sosie Bacon? She's just exploding. I'm not going to be able to afford her!"
From her real family to her on-screen family, Sedgwick didn't leave anyone out of Story of a Girl. Jon Tenney, who played her husband on The Closer, has the role of Deanna's complicated father, Ray.
"Jon couldn't be more supportive and love me more if we were related. He also had just dropped off his only daughter to college days before we started shooting," Sedgwick said knowingly. "I said, this is gonna be good for my soup of sadness and despair and longing for your daughter. And what comes out of him. Wasn't he magnificent?"
While some people might find directing those they love in an emotionally charged production challenging, it wasn't so with Sedgwick. "I found it so easy, I can't even begin to tell you. It unfolded with such ease and grace for me, much more so than as an actor. As an actor, I find myself bucking up against stuff all the time.
"As a director, it was like ease and grace filled my days. Even when it was raining and we had to get this shot in an hour – somehow, I just had this faith that it was all going to work out, and it did."
Sedgwick inadvertently prepared for the film for ten years. She was in pre-production for months, she got an extraordinary DP, and a great, mostly female team. Sedgwick gave many behind the scenes players an opportunity to go to the next level on Story of a Girl, and their appetites for success matched her desire to do a "killer job."
Directing, it turns out, comes naturally for Sedgwick. The most difficult part was the prep because she wasn't sure she could do it. "But once we got on set, I knew I could do this. I had been preparing for this my whole life. I've been acting since I was 12, you know?
"I've watched. I've always watched everything, what all the departments do and how to make a cohesive group because that's such a huge part of being a director. Everyone's making the same movie, has the same clarity of vision – of your vision.
"How do you bring everyone on board, like make it infectious, like we're all just going to f*cking kill and die for this, just do a great job? And everyone has skin in the game. I think that's how you get the best work out of people. And tell them what a great job they're doing all the time."
Now that Sedgwick is wet behind the ears, she's not going to stop. She already has two more books in mind for future films she'd like to direct. "It's funny, every film I've ever produced has been from a book. So it's interesting that's what I'm doing right now, and I'm looking at a television thing. I just cannot wait to direct again. I'm just chomping at the bit."
With her vast talent in front of the screen and producing, it was only a matter of time before she took a chance directing. Make sure you tune into Story of a Girl on Lifetime Sunday, June 23 at 8/7c.
It's a poignant look at a family in crisis and how a girl finds her way through a very traumatic time told with the touch of a woman we've come to know very well.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA Member), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.