One of the films holding its world premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival this year is A Song Still Inside, the story of a father juggling the role of actor/screenwriter and stay-at-home dad while watching his actress wife enjoy greater professional success. It should come as no surprise that writer-director Gregory Collins has children of his own, and drew inspiration from his own life.
“I think in retrospect, I started writing this the night my first daughter was born,” Collins told SRQ Backlot in an interview last week.
When Collins and his wife Jenny had their first child, he was a 27-year-old budding screenwriter and she was finishing grad school to become a college professor. “I ended up picking up child care duties,” he recalls. But he notes that his story, and the one told in the movie, is not simply about a father raising a child at home, but of a father trying to work from home at the same time.
Throughout the film, the complications of working with a baby in tow become clear. The character of Mike, played by Rodrigo Lopresti, stands in for Collins’ life, while his wife Maggie, played by Susan Highsmith, is an actress whose career is progressing from embarrassing-but-lucrative fetish clips to feature film roles.
The film started to come together concretely sometime in 2011 after Collins sat down with Lopresti, a friend of his in real life before the film was made, and they shared their own insecurities. Lopresti at the time was dating another actress who was finding work nonstop while he struggled. Collins, meanwhile, was so distracted by child-rearing it was proving more challenging than he ever imagined to put together a film while taking care of a baby.
“We drank beers together and we talked about the problems of being with powerful women, which is something I know about,” Collins recounts. “Of course, women might say this is a problem of insecure men.”
Which is why Collins says the film in his eyes has two protagonists in Mike and Maggie. The mother deals with her own issues as a breadwinner who fears she isn’t there enough for her young child and frustrated husband. “I am very sympathetic to the mother, who is taking on a challenge no man can take on,” Collins said.
The film is riveting, thanks in large part to tremendous and sympathetic performances by Lopresti and Highsmith. It impressed Sarasota Film Festival programmers enough to include it in the Independent Visions Competition, a contest in which the winner will get a deal with Factory 25.
Collins is excited to premier his film here. He hasn’t been to the Sarasota festival before, but is friends with filmmakers who have come, including Onur Tukel, who made last year’s Richard’s Wedding. “Sarasota is one of the top regional festivals in the country, and it seems like a place where we will be well taken care of and won’t get lost in the shuffle,” Collins said.
He hopes the film speaks not just to stay-at-home dads or those working in film, but to any couple where both people are trying to be successful as professionals and in their family life.
A Song Still Inside premieres Wednesday, April 10 at 6:45pm and screens again Friday, April 12 at 2:30pm at the Regal Hollywood 20.