In American literature, film, and television, the relationship between mothers and daughters is often characterized as fraught with angst and conflict. Despite the strength of the mother-daughter bond, anything and everything from mother-daughter rivalry to outrageous and even physical fights has seen the film-studio light.
Gayle Kirschenbaum, Emmy-award winning director of numerous television shows and an award-winning documentary about her dog, has gone a step further. She’s directed a short comedic award-winning film called “My Nose,” which touches humorously and bitter-sweetly, on the love-hate triangle between herself, her mom, and…her nose.
It was so well-received that now Gayle’s directing a feature-length version of it called “My Nose: The Bigger Version,” for which she’s raising the finishing funds on Kickstarter. The feature film delves deeply into the issues of a highly charged mother—daughter relationship and the transformation from Mommie Dearest to Dear Mom, from hatred to love. It’s unflinchingly honest about this relationship…as is Gayle.
Therapy Soup co-writer, C.R. (who coincidentally, is a daughter and has a nose) interviewed Gayle:
Welcome, Gayle. We loved My Nose and are really excited about the debut of My Nose: The Bigger Version. It’s message is all the more clear because it uses humor to illustrate the conflict (albeit a loving conflict), between you and your mom. Does the humor carry through to your real-life relationship?
Yes, absolutely! Humor is a big part of my life. My father had a very dry sense of humor—so dry he would have waitresses in tears because they didn’t realizing he was kidding. My mother’s sense of humor and quick wit emerged later in life. Oddly enough, I often see the humor in tragedy. I’m a firm believer that laughter is healing.
One day I could not find my grandmother’s jewelry, which I inherited. I looked everywhere including the safe deposit box. I called my mother and she went right to her role of the accuser. “You lose everything. What’s wrong with you?” Essentially, it was the usual rant about how I’m so flawed. It got to the point where when I called her, she would just hang up the phone on me. I didn’t take this to heart because this is what I expect from her in these situations.
By the end of the day, I opened a box I had overlooked and there was my grandmother’s jewelry. I immediately called my mother and she spoke to me like we were girlfriends, “Gayle, you don’t know how many times that happens to me.” I said to her, “Mom, I just want to thank you for all your love and support you gave me today.” She started to laugh. She realized she was anything but loving and supportive and was able to laugh at herself.
And we can both see lots of humor in similar situations. We enjoy traveling together and have a light heart about many things; I’ve inherited her adventurous spirit. When we are not annoying each other, we are enjoying each other.
That’s an insight that definitely rings some bells. We assume you and your mother sat down together to look at the rushes or at least the edited version. What does your mother think of the films? Has seeing herself on film changed her opinion of herself? Her opinion of you? Of your relationship?
I will respond regarding My Nose first which is the short film. That film is complete and has played worldwide in festivals and was recently released at Indieflix.
Mom loves the film. Even though the press was not favorable towards her. The lead line into the story on the cover of the Washington Post was something like: If you have a mother like Gayle Kirschenbaum you better get yourself into psychotherapy. My mother read this and said, “Great. I’m on the cover of the Washington Post. Bad press is better than no press.”
She has looked at some of the footage for My Nose: The Bigger Version which we have been shooting for 8 years and her comments are about how much older she looks. I have to admit I have the same sentiments about myself. It’s not easy watching yourself age on camera.
You both are pretty brave! But let’s save the rest for Part II, coming soon.
About Gayle: Gayle Kirschenbaum is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, producer and media personality. In addition to the My Nose short and feature films (and seminar), Kirschenbaum directed the film A Dog’s Life: A Dogamentary, which premiered on HBO. She created and was the executive producer of several “little people” shows for TLC and Discovery Health. She also created and co-hosted the podcast series On the Trail with Gayle. She’s also starring in a production on a food and culture show called Melting Pot, plus lots more. She has been featured in media including The New York Times, NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s Early Show, Fox TV, Oxygen TV, the Ladies Home Journal, Washington Post, O Magazine, Howard Stern, CBC Radio, and BBC radio.