Written by Liz Samuel, directed by Shaina Feinberg
By GWEN OREL
The rabbit came out of a bush, right where an actor rabbit was scheduled to come out a
few days later when they shot the film.
“I’m not kidding you, when we did the location scout where the bunny would come out a few days later, I was walking my dog and felt this warmth on my chest,” said Liz Samuel, the writer/director/star of the web series “Momtress.”
“I said out loud, ‘I love you so much, Mom. I miss you.’ The bunny came out of the bush were the director said it would.
“If this is not a sign…it was life imitating art imitating life.”
She called her director and said, “My mom just blessed the film.”
The pilot for “Momtress” debuted at the Montclair Film Festival in 2017.
This past December, “Momtress” episodes (there are now four) won best dramedy in a festival with NYWIFT (New York Women in Film and Television) and Go Indie TV. The pilot will be screened in March at the Garden State Film Festival.
For a few weeks, all four episodes can be seen at NYWIFT online.
Being validated by NYWIFT was “ahhhhhh, it was everything,” said Samuel. “It was announced to thousands of my peers. Sarah Jessica Parker was on a panel!”
For Samuel it was also important that her show was recognized as a dramedy, because she wanted to create a series that had depth and heart as well as comedy.
“It is aimed at parents, men and women, especially parents with preteen children and aging parents,” she said. “It’s a series about a suburban mom trying to juggle parenting and her acting career, while also dealing with aging and a recent loss.”
Samuel had been an actress and producer in her 20s, but sidelined her career to be a mom. Then she lost her own mother, who had been her biggest cheerleader.
“I used to call her after every audition,” she said. Her husband wasn’t as interested in the minutiae of her day, and her children had their own things to deal with.
“I felt I had this relatable story for parents trying to follow their dreams and do the things they love, and work, while dealing with loss,” Samuel said. “I was suddenly responsible for my dad. And my kids need me, but my husband’s traveling.”
She began working on it in the spring of 2016.
One year to the day when she lost her mom, the bunny came out of the bush.
The episodes are five minutes each, but on the NYWIFT site they’re spliced together to make one long episode.
Samuel would love to see television pick up the series (although she realizes the format would have to change).
She had interest from a big Hollywood director this summer, who ended up passing because she wasn’t a “big enough influencer” on Instagram.
For awhile, Samuel tried to grow her platform, then decided that really isn’t what the show is about anyway.
“For people who do watch it, I feel like I get amazing responses,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I want someone in Montclair in the industry to watch it and go, ‘wait a second! There’s something there!’ and get in touch with me.”