I came across ‘a MUST pay attention to indie film production’ titled “7 on 10”. It is an unusual name for a film, but it isn’t the reference to basketball that intrigues me. The allure is in how 7 on 10 portrays women in ‘a not very much talked about way’. This story is told through fiction, but it is very real in portraying women being incarcerated and the effect it has on them. A main theme in “7 on 10” is how addiction/alcoholism plays a huge role in women going in and out of prison. This is not another spin on “Orange is the New Black”. It stands alone in its realism. I should also mention “7 on 10” writer and director, Samantha Levin, has an incredible resume: CSI NY, SCRUBS, The L Word, and an award winning PSA against California’s Proposition 8. Samantha is truly an inspiration and making a difference. And now writer and director Samantha Levin…
Q. Where did you come up with the script for this film/project? Tell us about your passion in writing the script, your inspiration.
Samantha: Well, alcoholism and drug addiction are issues that touch so many people’s lives. But personally, I’ve been sober for six years, that came after many years of relapsing, drunk driving incidents, living on public assistance, all the way down the line. I was finally able to really turn my life around thanks to many of the women you’ll meet in the video interviews during the campaign. But had any of those incidents landed me in prison, I can’t imagine how difficult that would have been. No support, illegal alcohol available, and then coming back out with all odds against you. These formerly incarcerated women who are now in recovery that we are showing interviews of during our campaign are in a word, badass, for being able to do what they did. The prison system is going in a direction where they are privatizing it and if prison is “for profit” then where’s the motivation for “corrections”? We need to fix this broken system.
Q. Tell us about the women’s roles in this film, what part women play in it, and why this film is different from others.
Samantha: As a woman writer and director, I can’t tell you how excited I am to tell a story that includes women from practically every demographic, race, age and even size. We have Rosie, the tough 80 year old white woman who is in prison 30 years for a crime her son committed. Mary, the lead character is no fish out of water white girl in prison. She’s an alcoholic in denial, a former teacher and basketball coach who used basketball to deal with the tough realities of the foster care system when she was a younger, and now pulls out that defense again in prison by becoming obsessed with the basketball court as a way to deal with her new reality of prison. There’s Nessy, a beautiful Latina lifer and Mary’s bunkie, who started out as a real shot caller and player, but when we meet her in the film, she’s past all that, living clean, helping other women and focusing on getting paroled. Shorty is African American, shrewd, smart, sometimes violent and Nessy’s former running buddy and now best friend in prison. There’s Amy, the smartass Jewish heroin addict who’s mouth is always getting her in trouble. I could literally go on for 13 more characters! I really tried to give each main as well as supporting character an arc of their own. I’ve always loved films that were able to do that.
The film is different in that we are doing a very real thing while making a fictional film. We are serving the population the film is about while making the film. As we get attention and financing, we will bring that to our non profit partners. We want to use formerly incarcerated women as interns and background actors, giving some of them their first paying job out of prison. The non profit we are partnered with through the campaign is called Women For Sobriety Center Inc., a sober living house for women and women with children to learn how to live without drugs and alcohol. Shirley Harris, the founder, also a formerly incarcerated woman with over 20 years in recovery has saved hundreds of lives.
Watch videos and meet some of the women who inspired this screenplay and film here.
Q. Any recent announcements about your key players, potential actors, who will play the roles and possibly fund the film after the indiegogo campaign is complete?
Samantha: We have a fantastic casting director, Melissa Delizia who worked as a casting assistant for Wendy O’Brien on films like World War Z and just started her own casting company. We do have a cast that we would love to approach, but we haven’t gotten to that phase yet. However, we certainly wouldn’t say no to the likes of Eva Mendes, Mo’nique or Wanda Sykes to fill out some of these key roles if they are listening! We are raising private equity and through the campaign have gotten some terrific leads on that. We are also talking to and looking for producers we’d like to team up with that have a good track record in independent film.
Q. Do you have an anecdote or something new to say that you have not shared on a podcast, online or interview?
Samantha: I’m not exactly sure what to say on this one! The only thing maybe that I can add is that I used to make films essentially for me. I wanted my vision out there; yes I wanted to tell stories that moved people and mattered but it was all really about me and my career. When I shifted my thinking and decided to make a film that would serve a community, not after the film was made but as I was making the film my career shifted too. When I started to see filmmaking as a service rather than a self serving endeavor, I cared a lot less about my own success and ironically my success began immediately.
Their film producers goal is to empower and help the community they represent in the film by providing jobs, visibility and support for formerly incarcerated women through every phase of their production in partnership with their two incredible non-profit affiliates: Women For Sobriety Center, Inc. (AKA – Shirley’s House) and A New Way of Life Reentry Project.