“A supermarket transforms into a universe about pregnancy when a preoccupied woman dashes in and discovers she's pregnant with no way out." To anyone who unfortunate enough to land in this situation, it probably sounds like a nightmare. But in her short film Supermarket, filmmaker Rhonda Mitrani intends to turn unplanned pregnancy into a delightful and impacting comedy.
“As soon as I started to develop the idea into a script, I got pregnant, which was kind of a surprise. So there was indeed a moment of creation for this story,” Mitrani says with a laugh. For the filmmaker, the idea came in a burst of inspiration.
“I remember writing the story down quickly on a sheet of paper, and I could have tucked it away, but this one stuck,” she explains. “It happened right after I decided to take a break from film work and focus only on the children — funny how that happens. After that, I knew I had to give the story structure, and I wrote the narrative using the five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance.
“When you have a baby, there is a particular part of you that dies, even though the greatest, most powerful feelings of love happen almost simultaneously,” she says.
The reality of pregnancy is part of why her short doubles as a satire on the pregnancy industry. She offers a list of the ways that life seemed to bombard her and further inspire the short: “Receiving a flood of parenting magazines in my mailbox in what seemed like seconds after I took a pregnancy test; the daily unsolicited advice; discovering articles that encourage a culture of anxiety over the dos and don’ts; listening to other women’s absurd experiences... the list goes on.
“But the tipping point,” she explains, “was when I was told by my doctors and later by birthing centers that I couldn’t try for a natural birth because of changes in the law. The law has since reverted back, but I believe it did help c-section rates spike for Florida.”
Still, giving birth wasn’t as tough as making the film, Mitrani jokes. "It was my first fiction shoot as director, and it was superintense, but I can’t begin to tell you how professional and talented the Miami production crew is — admittedly, especially the ones who are old and dear friends! They had my back, and I felt very lucky.
“Someone asked me at one point why I couldn't have done something less complicated — two people and a simple location. Instead, I had to re-dress aisles of a supermarket and convince an entire cast and crew from Miami and New York to work four long nights with me. You can see what an incredible shoot we had just by the look of the film.”
As for working in Miami as a filmmaker, Mitrani had a lot of support from the growing art scene here. “It’s been great to watch it grow and be an active participant, and there are more grants for film, some that didn’t even exist before I shot Supermarket,” she explains. In offering advice to other filmmakers, she adds, “Go to indie film events — by Filmgate, Borscht, Miami Filmmakers Collective, Miami Film Development Fund, and even the Screening Room, to name a few — because you will meet the locals who are supporting one another. Between grants and finding a crew, you have a good chance of shooting your next film.”
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Mitrani also worked with the Women’s Fund on this project, which she says is doing incredible work. “They are onboard as a fiscal sponsor, and we have already planned a first screening together, with a panel discussion to follow. I don't know of a film that pokes fun at the pregnancy industry the way this one does. There is The Business of Being Born [produced by] Ricki Lake, which I loved, but that was a documentary.”
Ultimately, the maker of Supermarket has turned to Kickstarter and crowdfunding for the final stretch of postproduction. That includes visual effects, sound editing and mixing, color correction, final mix, and festival applications. “I aim to give this film a healthy festival life, share it with organizations working with first-time parents, and distribute the film on different platforms,” Mitrani says, and she hopes that, with outreach, the work helps birthing centers and hospitals work together “to achieve a delivery process that’s personal to mothers and reasonable in its approach to safety.”
“I hope that when women (and their partners) make decisions about what is best for their body and for their baby, that they truly listen to themselves first — follow their intuition. This film is a reminder that pregnant women are not alone in their experiences, and maybe they will start talking about it more often, which would instigate a positive change.”