A screenplay by Robin Rose Singer, a North Stonington native, is selected for NYC competition
Robin Rose Singer, who grew up in North Stonington, has had good luck when it comes to submitting her work to New York City film competitions.
In 2015, her first film, “Aphasia,” which she wrote, produced and acted in, was chosen to be part of the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.
This year, her script “Maturity” was selected as one of two finalists in a screenwriting contest held by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. The contest asked for screenplays for or about women.
When she learned “Maturity” was selected from more than 300 submissions, Singer says, “I was shocked. I had never written television before. I actually wrote this script for the competition because I didn’t have a piece ready to submit.”
She adds, “TV’s a cool process because, hopefully, as long as the show keeps going, you always have more episodes, so you don’t have to tie everything up. You can leave cliffhangers, there can be things that aren’t fully solved … I actually really liked the freedom of television. I had a really good time.”
Singer’s screenplay is about a Midwestern nurse who had just started working at a Bronx senior living facility. The other finalist, Patty Carey’s “Half-Life,” deals with a mother trying to restart her stalled writing career.
Over the summer, the two scripts were turned into films by a women-led crew of students from the Feirstein School.
The results air at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday on NYC Life, which is part of the city’s official broadcast network. They can be seen on demand after that at nyc.gov/GreenlightHer.
Not only can viewers watch the two finalist movies online, but they can also vote through midnight Jan. 27 on which one they’d like to see made into a four-episode series.
In “Maturity,” a nurse at a senior housing facility has to contend with a tough supervisor and senior residents who “are not above a little good-natured hazing,” as the publicity about the piece notes. Singer turns up in the show, too, portraying the main character’s sister.
The idea for “Maturity” came to Singer when she visited Connecticut after her grandmother had a small stroke. She was expecting to see her grandmother in bad shape.
“But she was full of life, already on the mend, telling us all these crazy stories about, you know, sometime she went to Cuba in the ’50s and some men she had met down there. (Singer laughs.) She’s normally a very buttoned-up person, so I was kind of shocked. It was fun to see her that way and fun to get to know her that way,” she says.
“It just occurred to me, maybe a lot of people, especially with the technological gap in communication, maybe a lot of people don’t get to see their grandparents that way or aren’t appreciating the older generation this way — as full, fun, charismatic, funny people. I just wanted to create a world that honored that.”
Singer notes that the show is dedicated to the memory of her grandmother who inspired it, Helene Lavigueur. She died a month before the pilot was filmed, but Singer says, “She’s still a part of it in spirit.”
Singer was on set for the filming of “Maturity” and was very involved. She hopes the show gets four more episodes, and she’d like to continue in TV beyond that. She is planning, for instance, to apply for NBC’s Female Forward, an initiative to train and hire female directors in television.
Singer graduated from Wheeler High School in 1999, and she earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature from New York University. She found herself, though, drawn to acting, eventually expanding into writing, directing and producing as well.
She has been involved in a lot of projects in all those areas.
In 2016, for instance, her script “The Lions of Mesopotamia” was among the Top 50 for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship (selected by Oscars voters from nearly 7,000 submissions) and was one of eight projects workshopped at NY Stage and Film.
She co-directed a short documentary about New York homelessness titled “Home Street Home” with Tyler Hollinger. She acted in the short “Compatability” and the TV pilot “Man-Babies.”
She is in the process of writing a film set in Panama, which is where her parents, Stacey and Arthur Singer, now live.
As for the competition that “Maturity” is part of, it’s part of an initiative aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of women in the film, TV and theater industries. Announced by MOME in 2016, the initiative marks the first time a municipal entity has taken on gender inequity in these fields, according to the organization. It’ll all in line with one of the main goals of MOME, which is encouraging greater inclusion across all sectors of the entertainment industry.
This initiative, it should be noted, started a long time before the current call for more career opportunities for women that came about in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood.
Julie Menin, who is the Media and Entertainment Commmissioner, said in a statement, “It has never been more important to expand opportunities for women in the television and film industries … We remain intent on providing pathways to leadership for women in the filmed entertainment industries, which is why this is just one among ambitious programs we’ve launched to address gender inequity on and off the camera. The more women’s stories get ‘greenlit,’ the more we’ll see the industry’s culture change.”
Singer says Menin “has been so forward-thinking. She was really excited to bring this program to the city. We have received so much support.”
When they held a screening of the final product, audience members included renowned filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, who is on the advisory board for the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.
Serving as executive producers on the two projects are Jonathan Wacks, founding director of the Feirstein School, and Jamie Zelermyer, former vice president of physical production at Focus Features/Rogue Pictures.
As she continues her very active schedule of writing, directing, producing and acting, Singer says, “It’s busy. I think I’m just piling more things onto the plate rather than taking anything away. (She laughs.) I can’t quite stop, I guess. I relay love what I do.”
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