Valerie Breiman wrote and directed "Love and Sex." At the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, it was one of the festival's biggest hits. It was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay.
"Love and Sex" is an independent romantic comedy about Kate Welles, a neurotic writer, and her journalistic review of her past sexual encounters for a trendy magazine.
Melt: How did you get started in acting, writing and directing?
VB: I was a journalism major originally in San Francisco, but I always wanted to write and direct. I was also interested in acting, and went to the Young Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. I thought I would come to L.A., and become an actress. I started acting and that sort of took over. I did that for five years.
I realized I hadn't been writing, so I collected all these bad audition scripts that I've had over the years. I sort of taught myself how to write through those and reading some Syd Field books. I wrote my first script, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World."
I ended up getting really lucky and getting it to a producer who gave it to Paramount, then Paramount bought it. I quit acting after that. That was sort of the beginning of it all.
Melt: What made you want to write and direct movies? And why did you want to write and direct vs. only write?
VB: My mom used to take me to three films a week when I was growing up and I kind of got it in my head I wanted to make movies somehow. I always just assumed that it would happen, and I knew the directing thing wasn't something you leaped into.
I got my first directing job, not too long after I sold that (first) script. I had given it as a sample to some super ultra low-budget producer, who remembered the script and he called me one day. He asked if I could think of an idea that took place on a cruise ship with fifty beauty queens because he had this opportunity with this investor to make a movie for ninety thousand dollars. I pitched the most horrible idea and we ended up shooting this entire feature film in six days on a boat. It was my first movie, and that was sort of the beginning of the directing.
When I wrote "Love and Sex" I just knew that this one was one I was going to keep for myself and direct it, no matter how long it would take, no matter what would happen. Fortunately, people were interested in the script, so that really launched the directing side of things.
Melt: Before the success of "Love and Sex" did you have to deal with any sort of rejection?
VB: Tons. Huge amounts. Everything was rejection. First of all, even when things happen, and you option things, none of the movies were ever made. I would write specs and some would sell and some wouldn't. And then acting, of course, was nothing but one big, giant ball of rejection.
Melt: How did you keep yourself afloat?
VB: I have my good core group of friends, some of whom are filmmakers, and you talk a lot and you vent a lot. It's really important to vent and get it out and not get bitter, and sort of see it with a sense of humor. It took awhile, but now I've learned to see everything as just a game and I've chosen this game to play and the game is hard.
You just got to have a really good sense of humor about it and not take every rejection in a personal way. That took years too. You realize that it really has nothing to do with you at all, it's all entirely connected to how difficult it is in this business. Everybody has a hard time. Yes, some people get lucky here and there. Luck does play into it, but you have to stick around long enough for the luck to work and to come your way. It's an endless battle of working on your mind and making sure rejection doesn't take you down emotionally.
Melt: What's it like being a woman writer and director?
VB: It's interesting. I'm so used to being the only woman in a room. You get so used to it that you almost feel like you're a man.
I used to sort of wonder if it was the woman thing that made it so hard or the just the first time director thing. I have to conclude that if you're a woman or a man being a first time director, you have so many obstacles. So many people are thinking you don't know what you're doing and you have so many people fighting you and making it so difficult. I realized that the female aspect probably has next to nothing to do with the struggle.
Melt: What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned in the industry?
VB: If you're a writer, just keep on writing. It's the only thing that keeps me sane. I see writing as the generator of everything. You create something from nothing and that is such an empowering feeling, not just creatively, but, just in your life. Keep on writing, no matter how difficult it gets, no matter how hopeless it seems. That's the thing, not giving it up, not letting the obstacles take you down.
Melt: Do you have any advice to newcomers? How would you suggest they go about marketing themselves and getting their work out there?
VB: It's about being tenacious and just getting anyone and everyone to read your material. Do you best to find people who know people. There's no easy way to do it. But the more people that read it, the better, no matter who they are.
Samantha Plotkin is an award-winning playwright, screenplay writer, and freelance journalist. She earned her Master's degree in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California. Her articles have been published and reprinted in magazines and webzines nationwide.
Her homepage is located at
© Melt Magazine 2002