All Downhill From Here

My big sister, Lynne, and I are very close -- sick, co-dependent kind of close. As a result, we love to work together. It started when we were six and eight years old, performing in musical comedies in our father's summer theatre. We did that every summer for our entire childhood.

We are creativity junkies and can't resist a project. Whether it's building a dollhouse, making fur muffs for Christmas presents for everyone we know, or shooting a movie with children under 10 who have no interest in doing a movie, we are always looking for that next endeavor that will satisfy our hunger for making art.

Twelve years ago, (but who's counting), we made a movie, "Made-Up." It was based on a one-woman play, "Two Faced," that Lynne had previously written and starred in and which I had directed. The movie version was a real family affair, directed by my husband, Tony Shalhoub. I played Lynne's part from the play and Lynne wrote in a sister part for herself.

We had so much fun! We shot it at Lynne's and her husband George's house in Boston. "Made-Up" was a mockumentary. Lynne and I had envisioned shooting it very fast, with minimal lighting and practically no technical crew. We wanted the audience to see us, the actors, also shooting the movie. In the end, we had to adapt our vision and I'm grateful that we did. We had a crew, (not huge but a real crew), who shot the movie and there was lighting, and a focus puller made sure shots were in focus.

We loved making the movie together and are very proud of it. Many critics really loved it but it never got widely distributed. This situation was very frustrating for us. Lynne's reaction was to spend the next 10 years (but who's counting) developing an Internet distribution system, Movie Meeting House.

Meanwhile, I had been busy developing a fashion accessory, "Arms Control," for older women who aren't happy with their upper arms. Basically a long glove that goes from the fingertips to the underarm, "Arms Control" permits the wearer to keep upper arms covered while coquettishly baring her shoulders and chest. All the profits would go to Gun Control organizations. One year later, (but who's counting), I had not found a manufacturer in the U.S. which, coupled with other setbacks, convinced me that I was a terrible businesswoman and had to give up. This coincided with Lynne's growing discouragement about launching Movie Meeting House. The Internet was proving to be a difficult environment for channeling our creative impulses.

Then we came up with an idea for a web series. We would use the Internet to tell the story of two old fools trying to remain relevant in the digital age. Our plot line was simple and based on our relationship: what happens to two sisters when one puts her life on hold to come to the aid of the other sister who thinks she is dying.

Lynne wanted to be the dying one because she believes life imitates art. She was afraid that if I actually ended up dying she would feel guilty for the rest of her life. And she would, I had no such qualms. So it was decided, she would be the dying one. I would be the caretaker.

This time our original dream could come true. We got to do it with virtually no crew, practically no lighting, and very, very fast. The actor you see shooting it, Joe Farina, really is. And he plays Hank and is our entire crew. In fact, Joe does everything except write it. Lynne and I write the script. We don't do improvisations. Our scenes may seem very random and a little pointless but we write them. They are intentional.

Our web series is called "All Downhill from Here." And it's all ours. There is no studio head telling us what to do or how to do it. We don't need a distributor, we don't need network approval, and we don't need big investors. All we need is an audience. At the end of the day, it's really just me and Lynne doing what we've always done -- putting on a show and hoping people watch it.

We will be promoting it on MOVIE MEETING HOUSE and I will be wearing ARMS CONTROL in every scene.

all downhill from here

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