Exclusive: ‘Good Hair’ Creators Fray Forde and Catherine Dee Holly Return with Indie Film “Pop-Pop is Dead”
Millennial couple Layla (Catherine Dee Holly) and Desi (Fray Forde) vacate Los Angeles living for a three-day trip to Layla’s hometown of Gaffney, S.C. after she get’s word that her Pop-Pop passed away. Let’s just say this isn’t your average family.
Fray Forde and Catherine Dee Holly- a couple from seemingly opposite worlds but not quite, are chasing their Hollywood dreams one kick a** independent film at a time. Together the curly-haired duo, formed Coki productions named after their beloved pomeranian. What a lucky dog!
Fray and Holly birthed the creation of “Good Hair,” a film centering a couple blessed with massive manes that are in a never-ending feud over “conditioner.” The production was selected by comedic veteran Kevin Hart to screen at the world’s largest comedy festival, Just for Laughs in Montreal, Canada.
Following the film’s success, the stakes are high, but according to the pair, that’s a good thing. Coki Productions is releasing their second project on Aug. 29. called “Pop-Pop is Dead,” which was inspired after both South Carolina natives suffered a few family losses. The chaos surrounding the deaths somehow brought laughter into the atmosphere, causing the two to write a script.
“With the movie, we wanted to flip some of those Southern funeral tropes on their heads. The first thing we did was skip the funeral altogether. We wanted to do something more interesting,” says Fray. Their version of a wake involves a wild party with unlimited Moonshine. Now that sounds like a plan!
Fraye and Holly spoke with Ndlyss to give us the inside scoop on their new film, the nightmares of crowdfunding, and dissected a few dreadful Southern stereotypes.
How did you two connect to establish Coki Productions?
Catherine: We met on a film set in South Carolina. We are both from South Carolina but didn’t know [each] other when we lived there. I had just moved back from [Los Angeles] and my friend asked me to co-direct a short [film]. Fray was one of the replacement actors for one of the actors that had dropped out. The relationship didn’t begin there. We [started] dating after we both ended up in Atlanta. From there, we sat down to make something and in the process of that we realized we liked each other more as friends – 6 months later we [produced] our film “Good Hair.” That’s how Coki Productions was formed. We named it after our dog, Coki. [chuckles]
“Pop-Pop is Dead” is the polar opposite of “Good hair,” which shows range within your directorial skills. What spurred the inspiration to pen this narrative?
Fray: After we finished “Good Hair” we were kind of spinning our wheels a lot, trying to figure out where to go next. While we were on the film festival circuit, we dealt with some losses in our family. We saw how crazy it made everybody. It was the most emotional stakes we had ever seen and we saw comedy in it. We started writing from there and then it grew into sort of a love letter to our hometowns and the South.
Americans seem to harbor some very strange beliefs and priorities in connection with funerals. What are your thoughts?
Catherine: I don’t think we celebrate, at least, not where I’m from. I do think it’s a big ordeal and multiple-day thing. It’s very rooted in Southern Baptist religion. It’s usually a church ceremony and a receiving of friends where people come into your home and bring you food for days at a time. The appropriate behavior is to “ball your eyes out.” I’ve always felt a lot of pressure going to Southern funerals because I had a thing where I didn’t like crying in public. It upset my family that I wouldn’t cry at funerals. It was definitely expected. You’re the first person to ask us this question. Pretty cool!
Following the critical acclaim of “Good Hair,” are the expectations absurdly high for “Pop-Pop is Dead?”
Catherine: Totally! We question that all the time and we’re always like, “Is this one a piece of sh*t and we just don’t know it?” This move is very similar because Fray and I are doing what we do best, which is playing a couple. Besides that, thematically nothing else is really similar in this film. We forced ourselves into this big premiere so clearly we like putting the stakes high. We just pray we don’t drown- that’s the motto. [burst of laughter]
Fray: “Good Hair” is a very simple story about a couple that focuses on conditioner. This time we wanted to go bigger; it’s more of an ensemble cast where we focus on other characters outside of ourselves. It does feel like the stakes are high but we like the stakes being higher, it’s more fun.
What prompted the decision to integrate yourselves into the story opposed to casting other actors to play the lead roles?
Fray: Our dream is to have a TV show that focuses on a couple, admittedly us. I think we might be narcissistic. [laughs] Essentially, what we’re trying to do with our films is show that we can carry this kind of story format over multiple storylines.
Catherine: And [show that] we’re good at multiple lengths because “Good Hair” runs 24 minutes, which is kind of like our dream 22-ish-minute pilot. “Pop-Pop is Dead” is 60 minutes, which is our dream TV-movie pilot for a 1-hour dramedy. These stories felt so personal to us as well. With “Good Hair,” that situation of a couple picking hair condition so seriously… that only happens to me and Fray. After we made the film, we realized how universal that was when I had so many women come up to me and say, “I have to scream at him about my conditioner all the time!” It’s not that specific, but at the time, we felt like we were the only ones that could play that role.
“Pop-Pop is Dead” was so personal to my family and roots. I felt like I could trust myself the most with the part if that makes sense.”
How do you both manage to act and direct at the same time while maintaining quality?
Fray: Usually, you’re writing it and your like, “We can do this!” Then you get on set, and you’re like, “Why did we think we could do this?” “Good Hair” was harder because we had never made a film before. That was a steep learning curve on our end. This time, we came in more prepared because we knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. We did 4 months of pre-production. Our producer, Andrew B., was there through the entire process. When we were in scenes together, he was the guy behind the monitor making sure we captured the thing we intended from the beginning.
What are the biggest challenges with crowdfunding your films and has the process altered your perception about getting financed?
Catherine: We hate crowdfunding! It’s very challenging and we’re not very good at it. We still haven’t cracked it. Now, that’s not to take away from everyone who did show support to us because we did raise money. Although, we raised nowhere near the overall budget of the film. However, it was helpful and appreciated. We started to get into the system of private investors and have had executive producers who’ve come on board. That’s how we’ve made the majority of our budget. We were totally more successful with finding people who really believe in us and have a couple thousand dollars to put behind the passion projects.
“I find it difficult trying to get people to support your art, especially with money. It’s hard because there are a lot of other important things going on in the world.”
Atlanta is reported to now be the home of a $7 billion dollar film industry, how has your experience been working in what’s considered to be the “New Hollywood?”
Fray: There is no way in the world we could have made this film in Los Angeles or New York. We shot the film in Gaffney, South Carolina at Catherine’s childhood home, but the entire cast and crew was from Atlanta. We stayed in Airbnb’s with air mattresses everywhere… that wouldn’t happen in Los Angeles. There’s more community support here. [One thing] about Atlanta is that everyone’s hungry right now and willing to put the time in. You just don’t see that anywhere else.
Take a listen to the “Pop-Pop’s Dead” full soundtrack featuring songs from Jenna Desmond, Susto and Babe Club, Matthew Lohan from Dyado, and the High Divers.
NiteLite Pictures unleashes Coronavirus Positivity Initiative
In response to a real demand from its broadcast, Web and distribution partners, as well as charities seeking support, award-winning, Los Angeles-based production company NiteLite Pictures has unveiled the Coronavirus Positivity Initiative, a worldwide effort to create programming that promotes togetherness, community and celebrates the human spirit during the global lockdown.
Under the banner of the Coronavirus Positivity Initiative, the company is launching a series of programs that spotlight the heroes on the front lines, inspiring individuals from around the world, and comedy shows that take a lighter look at life during the pandemic. All the programs will feature real people from around the globe in an effort to help bring audiences closer together.
“This is truly a unique time in the world’s history,” comments NiteLite producer Ari Wilhelm.
“While everyone is doing their part to help keep family and communities safe, there is a need for entertainment content like never before, and specifically relevant, uplifting content that is understanding and respectful of the situation we are all living.”
NiteLite is working closely on the initiative with its UK sales agent Meredith Coral of Lost Art Television to develop programming content tailored to viewing audiences and requested by broadcasters and media platforms during this time.
“NiteLite is responding to broadcasters’ needs and the audiences desires for not only new content, but relevant content to their current situation,” adds NiteLite executive producer Harry Lowell.
“We’re developing heartwarming and comedy programming that connects to people’s lives during this new norm, while devising production solutions to deliver shows in a matter of days, not months, both remotely and safely.”
The entertainment hub will produce “self quarantine-based” content designed to resonate and connect to audiences. The company’s homebound, creative teams are currently developing engaging programming that can be produced quickly and remotely, while under stay at home orders.
Oscilloscope’s ‘THE INFILTRATORS’ headed to Virtual Cinema next month
Official 2019 Sundance Film Festival selection, THE INFILTRATORS is a [chilling documentary chronicling the lives] of young immigrants who are detained by Border Patrol and thrown into for-profit detention center— on purpose.
Marco and Viri are members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a group of radical DREAMers who are on a mission to stop unjust deportations.
The film will be available via Virtual Cinema starting May 1 and VOD starting June 2.
The cast of ABC’s “The Baker and the Beauty” talks Latina Inclusion, Immigration, and Marital Trends
Descending to ABC spring 2020, rom-com series “The Baker and the Beauty” will premiere on the small screen this April. The show centers around Daniel Garcia, who’s working at his family’s bakery. When he meets the A-list superstar Noa Hamilton during a night out, his life gets thrown into the spotlight. Can this unlikely pairing navigate the fame, and their families differences?
NDLYSS caught up with the cast at SCAD’s 2020 aTVFest to get the behind-the-scene scoop on the upcoming show. Press Play!
Additional camera personnel: Jeqhari Miles for NDLYSS
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