Most Expensive Items Women Buy Are Fridges, Not Cars: 'Queenpins' Directors
Filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly talk about their Kristen Bell- and Kirby Howell-Baptiste-starrer movie.
Ahead of the release of the new Hollywood comedy movie 'Queenpins', starring Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, filmmaker-couple Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly share why they chose to explore a real-life coupon scam that happened in Phoenix, Arizona and how their lead women characters were written differently.
Tell us a bit about Queenpins. What was the thought behind it?
Gita: We kept looking for a story that we would be able to resonate with and we stumbled across a coupon blog, just a very brief write-up about two women who had counterfeited coupons and ended up as part of this $40 billion coupon scam – very limited details, and we reached out to a detective in Phoenix, Arizona, and he started giving us more information on the story. We realised we were so drawn to this story because it was connecting with us.
Aron: Yeah, I think, for years, we would try to get movies with bigger budgets off the ground and we were told that we didn’t have enough value within the industry to do it in these meetings and they would say to your face, “well, you don’t have any value” and then we found this story and we ended up writing the story of these two women who feel undervalued, who you know, discovered this coupon scam and it helps them give them this loophole around the system that’s holding them back so they can find happiness and success, and we didn’t really understand at first that they were so connected to us but after we realised that we are kind of channeling that feeling into our characters.
There have been so many films on scams and on the other end of the spectrum – the bored housewife, looking for a way to, you know, cut out the boredom is a bit of a done to death stereotype. So, how did you really strike that balance and develop your characters?
Gita: Well, the good news is this is the first coupon movie out there. There hasn’t been a movie focused on coupon so that was definitely very unique, and the storyline for Kristen Bell isn’t that she is bored, it’s that she has lost herself. She has had a tragedy in her life and she is trying to figure out what brings her joy, what brings her happiness and how can she find worth for herself. You know, Kye and Jojo are characters in the script, are undervalued and discounted very much like a coupon. And the theme of that idea is trying to understand how you can bring value to yourself by trying to find a loophole to give yourself enough of an opportunity to succeed.
Aron: But Kristen Bell’s character is actually this real, she plays a former Olympian and she’s you know, everything she does, she does to the extreme. So, when she takes on coupons, like, she does that to the extreme as well. So, we feel like, every step of the way, we are looking to sort of upend those cliches that maybe have been done before.
Gita: Maybe a cliché in Queenpins that we really did not want to do – that are in other comedies – is that in any movie a lot of times in a comedy...
Aron: Friendships and buddy comedies
Gita: Yeah, that the two friends end up having a huge blowout fight and then that’s what brings them together and they succeed and Aron and I were talking about it, you know, we’re husband and wife and we are also best friends and also I have a number of girlfriends that I’ve never had big blow up fights with but there have certainly been a number of big obstacles put in your way that we have to overcome so we really didn't want to make this all about the cat fight or anything like that, but really about real, actual obstacles and how two empowered women can overcome those obstacles and succeed.
In comedy, it’s very, very difficult to portray empowered women because a lot of cliches, like you said, and stereotypes tend to play out. So how did you really ensure that your women characters stayed empowered throughout the film?
Gita: Yeah, well first thing was to find their voice. What was going to give them an ounce of power, so they have to figure out this coupon scam, and that’s what makes them realise that they have a chance at something in this world to succeed.
But once they’re succeeding, first of all what they’re doing is also helping so many other people in the country; They’re allowing families to buy diapers cheaper and all of these other products that they may not have been able to afford at a discount price, so that’s the one thing that also like when you’re doing good and you’re giving back and you’re also getting and receiving something in return which is like that joy and even you feel empowered too.
Aron: Like in their minds, they are a little like Robinhood where they are sort of stealing from the rich, these corporations, and then turning around and giving them to people that are struggling at a discount price. So, they feel very, like they feel like they’re doing good even when they are breaking laws but both characters are also just very driven, you know, they’re best friends but they’re both very ambitious and business savvy and we in no way wanted to make them people that didn’t know you know how to handle money and something like that, although, you know, it’s different when you have more money than you dreamed of, like, then what do you do with that. Like, one thing that I thought was interesting that we realised when we were researching the script is a lot of the most expensive things out there you could buy if you just had endless amounts of money are always aimed towards men, you know, it’s always sports cars and things like that and when you look at what is aimed towards women it’s like
Gita: A fancy stove...
We literally looked into research and saw that the most expensive items purchased by women were fridges, stoves, washing machines and we were like that is not gonna happen in our story. We are gonna have them buy the fanciest cars, get on a fancy jet plane, eat at the fanciest restaurants like we are gonna have our women live the lives they want to live.
How do you divide the directing chores?
Aron: Oh, really, we don’t. Our job is to really be one unit together and one director together but to provide like a really full perspective between the two of us.
Gita: Yeah, I mean, you know, there is a handful of married couples that write and direct together and part of our process, we like to joke is, is a bit like marriage therapy. Because when we start writing our scripts, you know, we’re coming from two very different perspectives, so we have to sit down and really work to agree on what we’re actually making. Once we agree and we have it in a script form we really love it: it makes the directing process that much easier because we have now gone exhaustively through all of the creative details of what we want to actually capture on camera.
Aron: And the script is our merged vision so know we have that and then how do you execute and turn it in a movie.
So, Queenpins is releasing in India as well so how excited are the both of you about that?
Gita: Yeah, I mean I am super proud and excited because so much of my work I’ve always wanted to be seen not just in the US but also globally. Also my family is from India and I want them to be able to experience the stories that we tell together in India and I hope it resonates and you know we hope to build a great audience base in India that wants to see more of our films, the films we have done in the past and the films we are gonna do in the future and we are excited to find ways to collaborate with Indian studios and filmmakers and come up with great stories and continue to resonate across audiences.
Aron: And Gita has brought me to India a couple of times and something that really stuck out to me because I grew up just loving movies, was how much people there loved movies and going to the movies and you know it’s such a movie-loving culture that to me I really connected with that and so we were so excited to think that our movie will be available in India and people could see it in India.
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