October 12, 2011
Shira Piven comes from a famously funny family.
The kind of family that believes teaching your toddler to swear and threaten a grown man for an online comedy skit is OK, as long as the kid is too young to remember and it results in absolute hilarity.
Groomed at her parents’ theater company, Piven Theatre Workshop, where she mingled with the likes of Joan and John Cusack, Shira had her first acting class at the age of 8, was teaching acting by 16 and directed her first production at 19.
Piven used her experience as an acting coach to help her daughter Pearl set the web ablaze with the adorably inappropriate skit seen below, which also features husband Adam McKay (director of Step Brothers and Anchorman, among others) and of course, Will Farrell.
It’s this kind of comedic imagination and brazen creativity that set Piven to co-write and direct her first feature length film, Fully Loaded, which will show at this year’s Carmel Art and Film Festival.
“In my 20s I just acted, but I always knew I wanted to direct,” Piven says, and after working at her own theater company in New York for a time she decided to make the move to Los Angeles eight years ago in order to focus on film-making.
During her first few years in L.A. she directed web comedy series and short films, that is, until Comediennes Paula Killen and Lisa Orkin approached Piven with a simply funny idea that just happened to be a true story.
The two single moms met at a small L.A. bar to brainstorm ideas for an original theater piece they wanted to perform together. But the night took a surprising turn as Paula ended up lip-locked with a perfect stranger while Lisa helplessly tagged along. The two agreed they need look no further for a story than the happenings of the night before.
They wanted Piven to develop beats and direct the semi-improv show, to which she agreed. With a much shorter rehearsal period than she was used to, the show debuted on stage at the well-known improv venue, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
It was at that time McKay attended the show his wife had been working on and suggested she pursue the story further, thinking it would lend itself well to film. That was all Piven needed to begin writing the screenplay with Killen.
“I added my directorial sense to the evolution of the screenplay,” Piven says. (Killen wrote the bulk of the script, she adds.)
The film involves a lot of discourse on the way women think about men, and what they talk about when men aren’t around. “It’s also about a woman making a decision to change the pattern of her life, the dysfunctional way she does things,” Piven adds. “Paula is making a good decision with a man for the first time in her life, and what unfolds explains why she made that decision.”
Being that the film comes directly from the actresses lives adds a kind of realism that results in a darker brand of comedy.
Cameos from Wendi Mclendon-Covey, of Reno 911 fame, Ana Gasteyer and David Koechner serve as characters in the women’s flashbacks as the film progresses, breaking up the dialogue between Orkin and Killen as they drive the “seamier” sides of L.A.
“I think of it as a veritae comedy, or dark comedy. It’s a comedy in a realistic vein. You should feel like you’re eavesdropping on lives that just happen to be funny,” Piven explains “Lisa and Paula are unique actresses who work well together. They are not Hollywood types. Their acting is very real and their comedy comes from a truthful place.”
Visit our Facebook for a chance to win tickets to this and many other events.
Fully Loaded plays Friday at 6pm in the All Saints Theater at Sunset Center. For tickets, visit www.fullyloadedthefilm.com>