Nicole Conn is the visual mastermind behind the video that accompanies Jen Foster's 'She' in the SHE4ME PSA video. Nicole is the heralded and award winning director of classic lesbian films Clare of the Moon, Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending.
What Marriage Equality would mean for Nicole and indeed "all of us", is "humanity acknowledging we are humans with the same rights as straight people". As Nicole puts it,
"love between any two people is acceptable and society – every soul deserves that right."
This isn't the first time two massive creative minds have worked together, Jen supplied the track Broken, written especially, for Nicole's Elena Undone soundtrack. Jen introduced Sue Melke "the most awesome producer and person on the planet and the heartbeat of the project", and after a long session at West Hollywood's iconic The Abbey, SHE4ME was borne.
What started out as just a nominal music video to the new version of the song became the PSA it is today. During conception, Sue and Nicole came up through storyline using different artistic devices such as dance to represent women's love.
The aim was to create a story and story telling that makes the message accessible to the mainstream. Using the "incredible gift from Jen Foster" to try and pay forward an "international gift of civil liberty".
Nicole and Sue pulled out all the stops to make the video happen in the large scale, celebrity endorsed way it has, calling in favours and friendships to get the all rolling.
As the cast and supporters came on board it became possible for Nicole to conceptualise fully how to hit mainstream audiences and to created a shared understanding of the "purity and innocence of love" and to start the story with a familiar childhood "best friend concept"the Used best friend concept. Once shooting began, the segments of the story line came in to place. Who couldn't champion the basic idea of "soul mates who end up marrying".
Nicole played with the idea of the traditional wedding to represent what everyone is familiar with. Self-confessed "purveyor of love and romance", for Nicole she wanted to take the story where typically the end goal is that of true love – in a union and celebrated publicly.
Nicole is quick to give much credit to the crew and actors, she says "Barbara Niven perfect in every way I know". Nicole emphasises Jen [Foster] as "so giving and willing, gracious and generous", allowing Sue and Nicole manifest on the project and go where their creativity took them – whilst being easy to work with and contributing creative ideas ensuring the three women worked well together. With the addition of Kim Rocco Shields, a "very talented and on the up" Director, the creative input was set. Altogether combining to create a "Company of people dedicated to the issue and allowed everything to be what’s best for the project."
It wasn't all smooth sailing, and whilst the rest of the cast and crew have said filming was a pain free process, much of this was down to Nicole and Sue's planning as well as keeping check of things on set to not disturb the actors.
Nicole worked with a new crew (described by Nicole Pacent and Jen Foster as a "tight" outfit) and unusually mostly "on the fly" which presented in some challenges in the tight time scales available, non consecutive shooting days and the need to capture as much footage as possible on the shooting days - following a pragmatic decision to fit logistics around availability of actors and locations.
It was the day that all the personalities supporting the cause came together and resulted in a "room filled with lots of love, creative and wonderful giving.
The elaborate wedding set up was a deliberate mechanism to "escalate the beauty of the love in the relationship, to show the world who we are" alongside the excellent performances to portray a wonderful reality and wholesomeness that the mainstream will understand. [Editor's note: it was at this point in the conversation, I recalled my wonderment that it took a fair few viewings for me to realise I had watched a whole short movie with no dialogue whatsoever and yet completely understood the meaning without questions.] Nicole puts this down to the editing process and Sue's contributions to the story building in the edit suite.
Somewhat unanticipated, the project has become a much larger manifestations it forrays into the mainstream. It's been teen tested and parent tested and received a heartfelt response. Nicole has the utmost thanks to the Love Warriors working hard to spread the word about the video (now at 149,000 views!) They are "so dedicated and devoted and committed", and their actions are "humbling, lovely and touching". Getting the word out there about the campaign to the mainstream is the key to influencing change, all involved agree. Nicole can't thank the supporters enough and says their "devotion and dedication so inspiring – truly the icing on the cake."
Our discussion ends with a final thanks to cast and crew, and the US organisation Marriage Equality, led by Bryan Silva, who provided organisation backing to the campaign.