Before You Know It
Directed by Hannah Pearl Utt

Saturday, May 4, 4:30 p.m., Clairidge 1
Sunday May 5, 5:30 p.m.,
Clairidge 4, 486 Bloomfield Ave.

Q&A with writer/director/star Hannah Pearl Utt and writer/star Jen Tullock.

For Montclair Local

The idea for “Before You Know It,’’ a quirky film that shows twice this weekend at MFF, began a decade ago.  

Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock were 20-somethings sharing a therapist who were both trying out for acting parts that neither of them ever liked.

So, here’s the idea:  A pair of sisters finds out that their long-dead mother is alive — and starring in a TV soap opera.

It took 10 years for that notion to come to life as a feature film, with Broadway/film/television star Mandy Patinkin, veteran film star Judith Light, and Alec Baldwin.

“There was a lot we had to learn as writers, and a lot we had to learn about ourselves,” said Utt, who wrote and directed the film, based on an original idea of Tullock’s.

The two are still friends and fellow travelers on the rocky path to emotional adulthood.

“Before You Know It” is set in Greenwich Village, where the sisters live in a house above a small theater with their failed playwright father ( Patinkin), who is endlessly trying to stage his own work.  The film has a “theater nerd, New York-y sensibility,” Utt said. But it was workshopped into existence in the West, at Sundance Film Institute in Utah, where it also had its festival premiere last winter.





It was at Sundance that she met Light, who along with being a film star is also a former star of the daytime soap opera “One Life to Live.”

That’s also where she met Patinkin and Baldwin, who plays a narcissistic psychologist who talks over patients and seduces their parents.

In press notes for the film, Utt describes how her own father’s personality “filled every room to bursting,” and nfluenced her own relationships with men and women.

Hannah Pearl Utt and Mandy Patinkin. COURTESY MONTCLAIR FILM FESTIVAL

But “Before You Know It” is not a chick flick. Utt said the film had a strong response from “intense bro’s” at Sundance.

“Maybe because we offer a diversity of dysfunction?” she said, with a laugh. And, she added, early response has been strong across different age groups.

“I am naturally attracted by teen-agers and adults who act like teenagers,” said Utt, who plays the younger, but more sober-minded sister in the film. “Jen [Tullock, who plays the ditzier sister] is really drawn to older people.” That younger people loves the film, Utt said, is “a huge compliment because they are smarter than the rest of us.”